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

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399 Responses to “Hartford Comes Alive”

  1. JP Says:

    Does this show feel more like 94 or West Coast 3.0?

  2. uncle matty Says:

    ^^ enough with all the sbd quality bitching. the sdbs sound better than any tape of any live band ever with the exception being a few languedoc(sp) ones and some of those old (may 77) betty boards. i mean – are you kidding????? did you even pay for them anyway- or did your friend hook you up for free? c’mon dude. i dont even see what all the bitching was from 1st leg? me personally- i never recall being very excited about living life in XLII hell. get a grip.

    incredible looking show last night!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. jay Says:

    sound like high energy east cost 3.0. In your face melting east coast crunchyness.

  4. JP Says:

    If you have to add a splash of 1.0 to conctoct east coast 3.0, esp last night, what year would you spike Hartford with? 96 anyone…. remain in light!! Father of BOAF!!

  5. whole tour! Says:

    the icculus could be from 94….minus the iphones 🙂

  6. SJC Says:

    I’m speechless. Butter said it, you knew something about this show was going to be special after a 4 for 5 gamehenge kicks it off. Deep space (holy Piper!), the Trey shreds, great dance grooves, was really feeling Fish last night. Truly one for the ages. As always, Miner you nailed it again (though I really dug the YEM).

  7. Stupendous Says:

    where does one download the show from last night?? Dying to hear
    im getting caught up listening to Toyota now…meh

  8. Phish...Yup Says:

    What an epic show. Off to MPP where hopefully the fellas are feeling the raging energy from last night again tonight.

  9. Nissl Says:

    Yes, mixes were poor on day 1. But I like last night’s show mix better than most of the 2003 mixes, which was not true earlier in the tour. I mean I haven’t listened in a while but Mike is way too quiet and Trey is totally piercing in many 2003 sbd’s. (Haven’t heard the remixed re-releases of things like 2/28 and 7/29 though).

    No, this does not sound as good as say ALO, but they were setup with special equipment for that tour IIRC. No, this does not sound as good as live. What does? The air and venue acoustics significantly impact the sound.

    As for rig, I spent a couple weeks nerding out on audiophile forums a couple years ago (so some info here may be slightly dated). The cheapest way I found to get close to concert sound, and I use the term “cheapest” loosely:

    1. Good headphones are cheaper than good speakers. Worth going to an audiophile store to experiment and paying $100-200 for a pair online. headfi is a good site with recs. Roughly speaking, Grado are generally considered the best “rock” phones. Sennheiser classical, AKG/Sony drum and bass. Need closed phones for work, AT are pretty good and Senn 280 are ok but lacking by comparison with the open cans.

    Grado 60-80 give you a great tight punchy sense that is miles better than store headphones but a little muffled
    Grado 125 adds treble detail, bass a little lower though
    Grado 225 adds thick punchy bass and still doesn’t require tons of amplification <- I own these
    didn't go above that, I ain't rich

    If you're going for speakers instead, the ~$200 Klipsch set on Amazon is a really good deal, slighly boomy base and recessed mids but only noticeable if you're anal. Otherwise, get ready to drop $1k for a marked improvement.

    2. With this level of headphones, you want a bit of amplification, I run my headphones out of the aforementioned klipsch system. Average/ poor sound card or other underpowered device will make things sound flat but it's not too bad until you get into the high end ($400+) phones which take lots of juice. Portable mini amps are sold by hobbyists at places like headfi and they work great but its a pita to lug around yet another piece of equipment. Grado, Senn 280 or AT900 is the best I have found if you need to run out of an ipod. Prepare for slightly tinny mids and weak bass in that case.

    3. The biggest key, turn that shit up to concert volume. Sounds flat otherwise. There's some explanation with volumes and frequencies but I'm not the guy to ask.

  10. jay Says:


  11. JP Says:

    @ uncle matty

    i know, you are right. I remember feeling so totally excited after a fantastic 7.20.99 show in Toronto (mentioned here recently in terms of Misty Mountain Hop) when I met a guy in the parking lot who told me he “might” be able to get me a CD of the show in a few months. Phish makes you want to have it all! We are definitely spoiled.

    BTW – can we get a petition to livephish going to release more archive shows from 99? I mean, is 7.10.99 the only 99 available??!

  12. mrfergie Says:

    For 3 years I have been unable to explain the power of Phish to my fiance. She tried to listen to some shows on disc, but never really got it. Last night I had the pleasure of taking her to the show. Within minutes of the PYITE opener she was totally into it. During Mockingbird she looked at me and said “I love this!”. As we were walking out I asked her what she thought overall, and I think her response sums up the show perfectly:
    “That was epic”

  13. Nissl Says:

    Argh, I can’t believe the site ate my whole writeup. Ok, let’s do this again.

    The sbds at the start of leg 1 were poor. These are much better and imo much better than most of 2003. Trey sounds piercing and Mike is way too low on many of those shows. I have not heard the remastered re-releases, though. 8/14/09 IMO sounds close to as good as the average LP (1-20) release. I am very happy with that

    No, this is not as good as ALO, but they had special recording equipment for that. No, this is not as good as live, but then the air and venue acoustics alter the sound in ways that cannot be easily reproduced.

    (Audio rig writeup coming… paranoid after my last one got posted so I’ll just post this first.)

  14. JP Says:

    all-time best Bag? For my 2 cents = 9.14.99

  15. whole tour! Says:

    where can i get a PBA card?
    get out of jail free card? wtf? lol

  16. SinVin Says:

    Just feels like the most significant show since Cypress to me. Just think about it….taking 5 years off, first tour back, and the first show that will be talked about years from now. So old school but still new…so Phish. The “Stash” for me was a pure highlight. Band just gels, all have space to create their part of the soundscape, out there but still in the groove. “Birds” is a rager, real nice work by Trey in this. Shoot, even “Zero” is nice.

    Second set is just simply….Phish! Gives me the goosebumps listening right now. The “Ghost>Psycho Killer>Catapalt>Icculus>YEM” ….I mean what else needs to be said? Really? So much fun energy….see you folks in Indio!

  17. whole tour! Says:

    msg 97 has an all time ‘bag’ fo sho

  18. JP Says:

    Ok, let the battle begin: 8.7.09 vs 8.14.09!

  19. JP Says:

    whole tour – totally, my # 2 is def 12 30 97 – I want to buy that track only but can’t – is there anything approaching that bag in the rest of the show?

  20. whole tour! Says:

    both are excellent for obvious reasons

  21. Stupendous Says:

    The wait for NS is killing me!!!!!!!

  22. JP Says:

    Awesome post SinVin – very cool that phish can just do this at will seemingly! 3.0 is clearly heading in the right direction.

    Hope MPP pholks get another throwdown tonight – do not lose faith!

    Was in the lawn at the summer 99 show – awesome Mikes with Sweet Emotion jam – wish I had been ini the bowl!

  23. JP Says:

    u r right whole tour, in some ways is this a good ol’ fashioned west vs east battle? Very different sound and jamming style from one to the other it seems (haven’t heard 8.14) – a different sense of exploration?

    MPP – S&SS?

  24. Nissl Says:

    Audio setup:

    I spent a few weeks nerding out to audiophile forums a couple years back. Some of this info may be slightly dated but the big manufacturers don’t change their lines that quickly. Headfi is the forum you want to visit.

    1. Headphones are the cheaper way to replicate concert sound. If you want speakers, the ~$200 Klipsch set on Amazon is a steal. Slightly boomy bass and recessed mids, but you won’t notice unless you’re really anal. If you want a real upgrade from that, get ready to drop $1k

    As far as headphones, Grados are the classic rock phones. What most rock reviewers use according to scuttlebutt. However they are open and are not good for work. Other stereotypes, Sennheiser = classical/neutral, AKG/Sony = drum and bass.

    Grado 60/80: much better punchiness and mids/highs compared to similarly priced cans. Detail is slightly lacking, bass is a little low, highs a little over the top.
    Grado 125: better mid/high detail, but bass still lacking
    Grado 225: nice tight punchy bass
    I did not go higher than this, I ain’t rich

    Want in-ear phones that will work great with an ipod, shures and etymotics are the brands to go with. Those lines have changed/improved a lot, go check headfi for the latest.

    Want over-ear phones, audio-technica is far and away the best for the price imo. Boutique Japanese brand, no refunds! Senn HD280 is a good cheap intro into the world of good headphones though. With any closed phones you give up some airiness in the sound, it is a real tradeoff.

    Make sure to burn-in your headphones by leaving on some music with nice bass at a loud (not too loud!) volume for a couple days. This loosens up (things?) and makes the bass really come into focus on high-end phones.

    2. Amplify, amplify. Good headphones like juice. Lower impedance phones get away with less amplification so read the specs. AT are particularly forgiving. My Grados still sound very good out of an ipod but not as good as out of a better setup and if you go up the headphone line from there you really need an amp. Personally I run them out of the Klipsch system mentioned above and it’s quite good. The better soundcards aren’t bad, however prepare to suffer noticeably out of an ipod or even worse a generic laptop sound card. There are portable mini-amps made by hobbyists for sale at places like headfi and they work well, but it’s one more thing to lug around and the informal market is a bit of a pain to interface with. Your call.

    3. Crank that shit to concert volume! Not only does it make things more salient, but there is some interaction with volumes and frequencies that I don’t fully understand. You want things at the same volume as the mixer, which is going to be close to concert volume in this case.

  25. JP Says:

    I am more on the ambient explorations tip than the raging 94 style – 8.14.09 looks more on the straighter edge rocker style (with obvious total fun goodness if you were there) … love that they are this dynamic!

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