a Project of the Mockingbird Foundation

Performances Song History

Tower Jam

Music: Phish

Vocals: Instrumental

Debut: 2003-08-02

Historian: Elayne Best

The Tower Jam
© Isadora Bullock

IT was Phish’s third festival at the decomissioned Loring Air Force Base in Limestone, ME. Loring Air Force Base has history of UFO encounters (October 27-28, 1975). The “Tower Jam” on 8/2/03, gave those at Loring another Close Encounter of the Third Kind.

By the summer of 2003, Phish had formed a special relationship with the caretakers of Loring, and were able to obtain more access to the onsite facilities and buildings. The mission was clear, “Our intent is all for your delight” and the “Tower Jam” achieved the goal.

Watching Phish play from the top of the abandoned control tower was an out of this world experience. Earlier in the evening, Phish had treated fans to a dark jam sandwiched between “Waves” and “David Bowie”. The “Tower Jam” picked up and advanced where they had left off stepping into the portal of the next dimension. The control tower beaconed those near and far. In the moment, it seemed to signal even those from beyond planet Earth.

As if in a lucid dream, Phish continued improvising on the most menacing abstract planes, creating music that transcended beyond anything one could hope for from a song-based jam.  Delving deep into the cavern of experimental sound, the band raged an hour of music that defined dark psychedelic rock.  The band stood as small silhouettes, as smoke, light and sound poured from atop the tower. 

In the midst of the mothership connection, white rolls of fabric were dropped, covering the tower. Three dancers from the Bay Area’s Project Bandaloop began performing acrobatics at the top, and then they began to gradually descend in front of projected patterns. The band was able to match the jam to the rhythmic motions of the dancers. This was accomplished via ground based video cameras and tiny television monitors on top of the tower. Amorphously improvising amidst their own sonic art installation, Phish had once again outdone themselves; leaving behind them a trail of smoke and light in the night sky.

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LINDERAMA65 I have a great video of the Tower Jam (first two minutes shakey, then great). Using binoculars and positioned nicely in family camping, we watched them set up all day, including a point where I was signing to someone on top of the tower as he was looking at me with binoculars. We tried to spread the word to people at the end of 3rd set that a tower jam (4th set) was going to happen. People looked at us as if we were speaking in tongues. My daughter (about 3 at the time and featured in the IT DVD booklet by Bob's big boy, had fallen asleep during 2nd set. We wheeled the sleeping beauty over in front of the tower and upon the first note struck, we awoke, watched the whole thing, oohed and ahhhed at the repellers, then passed out. That was a great jambient hour!
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