Hartford Comes Alive

8.11.09 (C.Smith)

8.11.09 Chicago (C.Smith)

In a show strewn with Gamehendge allusions and non-stop awing improv, Phish wove one of their finest tales of the summer, tapping into the band’s age-old mythology throughout the entire evening.  The second set was a crystal river of creativity, taking us for a thrilling ride through the annals of Phish history.

Opening the show with a string of songs that could easily have been plucked from a late-‘80s setlist, Phish bursted off the starting block with “Punch,” “AC/DC Bag,” “NICU,” and “Forbin’s > Mockingbird.”  With an 8:00 pm ticket time that bled into darkness, we had ourselves a rare two-set outdoor show with no sunlight, providing the feel of two more serious sets.  Taking a dramatic tone early, Phish lashed through one of their best openers on the way to a second song “Bag” that popped with energy and stepped in some brief funk before ending in it’s classic guitar shrill.  But the most poignant first-set moment came after “NICU” as the band made the long-awaited drop into “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent.”  After sound-checking the song at The Gorge, we knew it was a matter of time before the band unveiled the Gamehendge saga for the first time in the modern era.  Clearly well-rehearsed, Phish moved through the tale with a methodical precision, as Mike’s bass forged the path up the mountain.  Yet, as the time came for the anticipated new-school narration, the band moved cleanly into an impeccable version of the elusive “Famous Mockingbird” allowing their playing to do all the talking necessary.

8.11.09 (C.Smith)

8.11.09 (C.Smith)

Concluding the opening segment of the set with the return of the their iconic tale, the entire venue was buzzing as the band dropped into the first “Birds” of tour.  Phish attacked the piece with the proper ferocity that often lacks with more standard versions.  With machine-gun accuracy, Trey led the band- chugging like pistons- through a nasty excursion that broke structure with some high-octane improv within a darker musical canvas.  The second-leg bust of of the Ghost-era song came in shredding fashion, juxtaposing the ’98 vibe with the Gamehendge-laced opening.

Complementing “Birds,” as the other stellar first-set chunk of improv, was a delicate and extensive “Stash.”  Bookending  an organically grown melodic segment with fluid sections of darkness, this version capped a second leg that featured exclusively standout explorations of the murky jam.

The Gorge (G.Lucas)

The Gorge (G.Lucas)

With the New England crowd floating at setbreak amidst an incredibly lax venue, everyone could sense an impending bomb coming in the second set.  But what form it would take was anyone’s guess.  When the band came out with “Down With Disease,” everyone sensed an impending journey, but little did we know that by the time we caught our breath, one of the greatest Phish sets of the tour would be over and our band’s revered history would be revitalized in a Phishy adventure for the ages.

As we exited the composition of “Disease,” the band dove into another stunning second-set opener, bursting with original ideas strung naturally together, upping the psychedelic ante with each musical shift.  Slowly delving into more transcendent territory, Phish continued to bring the music outwards in a stylistic journey that immediately leapt to the forefront of their most emotive and poignant jams of the summer.  Knitting a delicate web of psychedelia out of their anthemic vehicle, Phish carefully crafted an introspective tour highlight.  As the band wound the jam down, they landed in more Gamehendge culture with a ripping version of “Wilson.”  While not always suited for the second-set, it worked perfectly within the context of this show, giving the audience a raging landing point for some out-there improvisation.

Shoreline (W.Rogell)

Shoreline (W.Rogell)

A set that flowed flawlessly, both musically and energetically, rolled surprisingly into a mid-set “Slave”- once again illustrating that any set-list conventions are out the window.  Placed under the mid-set spotlight, Phish molded an awe-inspiring piece that carried over the aura they had left in “Disease.” Fishman’s accented and gentle drumming meticulously framed the jam, while Page, Mike, and Trey wove their congruent offerings into a path of wonder.  This “Slave” was another second-leg version of a song that fully realized its essence; a majestic centerpiece of a set that wasn’t about to slow down.

Maintaining the upbeat and magical feel that had defined the set thus far, the band opened up another tour-highlight in a courageous “Piper.”  The most thematically developed version thus far in 3.0, this “Piper” saw the band undertake a full-on engagement, connected by a string of percussive segments that seamlessly built into one of the most exploratory jams of the night.  Landing in a section led by Trey’s quirky note-bending- a la Alpine’s version- the band’s musical reaction time was negligible as they continued to stretch out their excursion with uptempo rhythms.  The band was simply feeling it all night long, seamlessly segueing into “Water In the Sky” out of the wild escapade.  Its odd placement was supplanted by the fact that the band naturally ended up in the song, and it flowed seamlessly out of their virtuoso playing.

Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

Ending the segment, the band soaked up enthusiastic appreciation for the non-stop joy-ride we were amidst, but before we got a chance to revel in any grandeur, the band brought everyone’s focus sternly back to the stage with the opening chords of “Ghost.”  Finally revisiting the song that blew up at Red Rocks- it did so again- but in a wholly different fashion.  While Morrison’s highlight was defined by a looser, wide open rhythmic canvas, last night’s “Ghost” went for the jugular in a more guitar-rock rendition that brought fiery, rather than laid-back energy to the set.  Taking the rugged version to a ripping, yet linear, peak, at the top of the jam Trey slammed into some hard rhythm chops that within seconds transformed into Talking Head’s “Psycho Killer.”

Shoreline (S.Weiand)

Shoreline (S.Weiand)

Oddly enough, the song had played over the PA shortly before the show, and many fans had sung along with the house music.  Without knowing for sure, everyone had a hunch the band either heard or found out about the goings on and wove the nugget of the evening into their show.  Carrying an increase in adrenaline for everyone in the venue, the band crushed the cover, but just as it seemed they would sit into the song’s grooves, they dwindled their music into an amalgam of digital effects, creating a bizarre, and interesting musical texture.  Sticking with the odd soundscape, Trey took his guitar off and joked about dancing to this weird music, poking fun at someone’s continual front-row gyrations.  At this point, Trey’s joke got carried away as both he and Fishman took turns dancing to the layers of effects, while Mike and Page laughingly looked on.  After spending a few minutes bantering and dancing, Trey leaned to the mic and opened Phish’s lyric-poem, “Catapult.”  Always saved for innovative musical passages, Trey deemed this the right time to bring out yet another quirky piece of Phish culture, but the most epic bust out was yet to come.

Red Rocks (D.Vann)

Red Rocks (D.Vann)

Using the sustained musical pattern to connect pieces the of music, Trey turned his banter to the days of his youth- days before cell phones and DVDs.  Mocking our overly digital age, Trey continued, saying that he didn’t have video games as a kid- and he was around for the invention of Pong.  Continuing his assessment of present-day culture, Trey noted that no one any longer reads books.  With perfect timing, the band made the chord change into “Icculus.”  As they vamped over the chord progression, Trey continued his diatribe, telling people to break from technology, commanding people put down their “fucking iPhones and “DVDs” and to “Read…the…book!”  In a stirring rendition of the band’s legendary “non-song,” they announced that the spirit of Phish is alive and well, visiting their great and knowledgeable prophet for the time in ten years-since Oswego’s memorable final set.  Cementing the show’s special significance in the band’s increasingly memorable late-summer run of ‘09, this night had turned readicculus!

Sliding back into the digitally-looped theme from earlier, the band counted off the beginning to the only song that could have ended such a Phishy affair- “You Enjoy Myself.”  The band played an immaculate composed section and into the funk, but as Mike and Trey hopped off the trampolines to start the jam, Trey took off his guitar and decided to put his dancing shoes instead of playing, quasi-popping to a Mike-led groove.  In a small travesty, the guitar never came back into play and the likely-last “YEM” of summer fizzled without ever really happening.  It was for sure going to be a blowout to end all blowouts- capping a massively triumphant set- it had to be.  But it wasn’t.  Perhaps there was curfew issues, but I had heard they had none.  We will never know, but the expected groove-clinic was left for another day- and in all probability- another tour.

But with a show that carried such power and improvisational peaks, there were copious memories to go around.  This was one of those nights where things just clicked from note one, leaving us with a show that certainly  stands among the best of tour.  Bring on Merriweather for the last Saturday night of summer.

I: Punch You in the Eye, AC/DC Bag, NICU, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird, Birds Of A Feather, Lawn Boy, Stash, I Didn’t Know, Middle Of The Road, Character Zero

II: Down With Disease > Wilson > Slave To The Traffic Light, Piper > Water In The Sky, Ghost > Psycho Killer > Catapult > Icculus > You Enjoy Myself

E: While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Tags: ,

399 Responses to “Hartford Comes Alive”

  1. Mr. Completely Says:

    if I got to pick 5 songs for phish to play, Waves would be one of them.

    i know most people don’t rate it that high, but for me it’s the sole modern version of the classic phish approach to conceptual psychedelia. really a masterpiece song.

  2. whole tour! Says:

    7 different types of b-low

    ‘new crystals of snow’

  3. whole tour! Says:

    waves has always been top of my list since i first saw it greensboro 03.
    caught that excellent atlanta 03 version.
    then they dropped it in knoxville….to my delight.

  4. Mugician Says:

    Waves is an incredible song. The one from IT blows my mind, and of course it goes into my favorite version of Bowie. Actually, now that I think about it, a lot of my favorite versions of songs are from IT… hmm…

  5. Mugician Says:

    I guess I talk about IT a lot here huh?

  6. whole tour! Says:

    i just love the chord changes in the jam. trey always rocks that shit hardcore.

  7. whole tour! Says:

    summer 2003 was all ‘it’ 🙂
    great tour!

  8. Mr. Completely Says:

    IT’s worth revisiting regularly

    the chord changes! the big one! after the trills that are like sonar echoes! it’s like…a…a…big wave crashing down all around you or something!!!

    seriously, i get that excited just hearing it in my head. i have it bad, people.

    (“it says i choo-choo-choose you…and it has a picture of a train!!“)

  9. whole tour! Says:

    night folks

  10. Mr. Completely Says:

    i need sleep too…waiting for torrent

  11. Nissl Says:

    “not sure i’m gonna buy tonight’s soundboard.”

    My advice, don’t bother unless you want a 3.0 version of one of the first set bustouts. Set I almost no jamming anywhere. Listened to most of set II and encore. The band is bringing solid energy, but things are just a bit flat, show doesn’t really get there. Average-great, tight short Tweezer that never leaves the launch pad, energetic Taste with a off-ending, solid version of Alaska, skip, then some glimpses during some sections of an interesting but scattered 46 Days, very nice Oh Sweet Nuthin, and a 3.0 average Hood with a couple ouchy flubs. I guess people liked the encore but for me it doesn’t hold a candle to the same thing from a week ago on 8/8.

    It’s not worst ever, just towards the bottom for this leg. There’s some stiff competition.

    I can already see >Party Time> happening in the middle of some 2nd set madness btw. Instant bustout.

  12. Mugician Says:

    I’d have to agree that IT is worth revisiting regularly. It’d be cool to have a dedicated conversation about IT. Maybe on one of Miner’s off days during the coming off-season (or so we think) he can write up in a series about IT. Speaking of which, who here was at IT?

  13. whole tour! Says:

    thanks for the heads up
    the bust outs look great, but i’ll just get the aud tomorrow.

    alright, now i’m really off to sleep.

  14. whole tour! Says:

    ^ saw 8 shows summer 2003, including ‘it’

  15. Nissl Says:

    “summer 2003 was all ‘it’ ”

    We shan’t discuss Gorge 1 or Raleigh from that summer. Or AV I guess.
    I’ve always thought summer ’03 was underrated, but it was the only tour I did most of so I’m in no position to talk.

    “Speaking of which, who here was at IT?”

    I was at also at IT. Got screwed on traffic and missed the Tower Jam because I absolutely had to sleep, saw the rest although my memory is a bit impaired in parts. Very nice summation of the summer. There are some great versions but as an ’03 tour dude I always take the position that IT gets overrated compared to the rest of the tour. DC 1-3, Charlotte, Pitt, Camden 1&2, etc. In particular I feel like DC and Charlotte are always overlooked.

  16. schplack Says:

    DC Tube was a MEGA tube in 04…I remember coming back from the restroom just as things were getting crucial…unfortunately, I have since accidentally dumped all my music and DC shows of ’03 and ’04 are amongst the few I cannot find…any tips?

  17. Gus Says:

    oh my god I love how much you can hear the crowd in icculus when Trey says ‘when was the last time on if you picked up a fucking book?’. They cheer so loud and it’s amazing!!!

  18. RunawayJim Says:

    Your reviews are usually right on, but I have to disagree with your thoughts on the Hartford YEM. Sure, Trey didn’t finish the jam with his guitar, but the song was solid and did not simply “fizzle” as you suggest. They ended the show with a killer vocal jam that had everyone present in complete awe. The guy next to me turned to me and said “I think we can all just leave now, that was the perfect ending to the show, the encore is just not necessary here”. I agreed with that sentiment (though I will never leave my seat until the encore is over). They nailed the song and the vocal jam at the end.

    While I don’t know if they were up against a curfew (I don’t think there was one, otherwise, they wouldn’t have started 45 min late, later than I’ve ever seen them start), the stage was full of stage hands during the encore ready to do their thing, almost as if the band was being kicked off.

    But not mentioning that psychedelic vocal jam that goes with all the crazy psychedelic improv that went on through the night was a mistake. It was a perfect ending to an amazing set.

  19. cottle Says:

    I’m with you on the YEM, RJ…While it might not stand out on an all-YEM mix CD, it was well-executed, well-placed as the set closer, and Mike shined throughout.

  20. cottle Says:

    NOOOICE!!!! Halleys!

  21. Kevin Says:

    Apologize for posting like 14 times from my blackberry. I’m not sure what happened there…

  22. andrewrose Says:

    Well, until we wait for the Miner post, I can shed some more light on the SPAC show. Due to a ridiculous turn of luck, I had a seat in the pit, and this was my first show since Coventry. Five years and a day since my last, and 15 years + a bit since my first. The last *great* shows I saw also happened to be at SPAC back on 6.19 and 6.20 of 2004. You pretty much knew it was going to be a special show given the venue. But when just around official showtime the sky unexpectedly opened up and drenched the lawn for about 20 minutes after the long HOT day, suddenly there was a bit of old school magic in the air. Great energy.

    To me SPAC was very much a bookend to the Hampton shows, and a mini wrap up of what 2009 Phish has been about. It became apparent to me pretty quickly (ok, after the rush of the Llama opener and the very hot Moma), that this band is as comfortable in their skin as they’ve ever been. Older, wiser, and totally no-fucking-pressure. I had a blast cheering Trey on through the tough sections of Guyute, and when he would nail one of its peaks that was almost enough for me in terms of emotional gratification. Yes, for some reason, Guyute was a tear jerker for me. I guess it was all sinking in by that point. Ok, so it was my first 3.0 show, but still; you can sense in the boys a kind of mature earnestness to the playing that really transcends any song choice, or what have you.

    At any rate, the first set from that point on was very much a a tight nod to old school classic Phish. Bowie, Cavern, Golgi, Antelope all in the same first set really tells a story here. But so does the fact that they threw Ocelot in with that bunch. Terrific tune, and I consider myself lucky that the new tunes I saw are some of my faves. Aside from the Moma Dance (which is a must hear for the “wow, Trey, you hit that note good” precedent it set for the show) the Antelope raged old school as well. I love that they’ve injected this tune with some of it’s 92-93 tension and energy.

    And there was great tension and energy in the room all night. The Rock n’ Roll, in particular, seemed to me at the time to be one of the best versions they’ve ever done in terms of the composed song itself. From Page’s vocal delivery, to Trey’s chk-chk chords and his soloing, to the crowd vibe throughout the chorus, this Rock n’ Roll owned like a Rock n’ Roll.

    But it was the Backwards Down the Number Line that opened the second set which had me leaping and dancing and grinning and getting drenched in hose–and is certainly one the best jams I’ve heard in 2009. It went a lot of places, with a lot of focus, a lot of groove, a lot of glory, and a lot of soul. It also melted seamlessly into Twenty Years Later, which as one of the crunchier new tunes fit nicely in terms of the pace (20 minutes into the set). Still wish they’d jam out Halley’s again, but I’m not going to complain about hearing it!

    Tha Harpua->Jimmy meditates->Kissed a Girl->Harpua was also pretty damn old school. Trey got very earnest and seemed to use the narration to not only thank everyone (in Saratoga, where’s he lived in recent years, everyone on tour, etc), but also to kind of allude to the past five years, and the past 25, and kind of tie it all up in an honest but hopeful way. And hey, if Trey’s taking tips from Mike and sitting down on that meditation cushion and practicing, I am all for that. The perfect foil to the heartfelt Harpua (which featured some lovely flourishes by Mike, btw) was of course a little Henrietta action, complete with stage laps and high fives. Trey just had a shit-eating grin on his face behind the drums the whole damn time. Musically, the second half of Harpua was delivered more powerfully than any I can remember.

    The YEM was gorgeous, nailed, and kind of wrapped up some of the really hot Trey peaks we heard in Moma and RnR.

    And what an encore. I’ve Been Around rules, and I don’t think anyone saw Highway to Hell coming. It threw down on us!

    Can’t make it to Indio. Maybe see you at MSG in December? Here’s hoping.

  23. cottle Says:

    Andrew – Excellent wrapup. Wish I could have pulled the last one to make it a hat trick, but no such luck. Here’s to holding out for some Right Coast Fall tour dates.

  24. Jep Says:

    Was a kick-ass show but I disagree with two things Miner said:

    -Since their reunion they haven’t been able to nail Stash the way they used to…the composed part is awesome but when it get to Trey’s solo and everything builds up, tension, Trey can’t finish it. They’re not getting the tension-RELEASE like they did in say A Live One…they need to work on that.

    -I thought YEM without a guitar solo was just as good! It’s cool for them to mix it up, let Mike take the big spotlight

Leave a Reply