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. Robear Says:

    I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that this new sound not only borders on transcendant, but it will be around for awhile!@#$! The jams space continues to grow and expand each show. These guys apparently groove really well with sobriety, and are loving it! Two more nights on this run? Three nights for Halloween? I think the band is as excited for the ‘next show’ as we are right now.

    Mr. C, let’s work on the Halloween thing for you and yours. I still need to address a night time sitter. I’m likely bringing my son, who needs someone with him at all times.

  2. JP Says:

    Wow Nissl – you know your sh*t clearly – thanks.

  3. soam Says:

    Last night was the one I been waiting for–that fuckin show was the tits-Holy Shit-Punch>Bag and FORBIN’S-mother of god-

  4. Les Says:

    @JP-I think S&SS is a good call for tonight.

  5. whole tour! Says:

    yeah…very different
    the gorge gets a nod for the most epic improv of 09
    and hartford gets a serious bustout/rager nod.

    gorge improv still takes the cake with the on the fly melodic/theme jamming.

  6. JP Says:

    It is so hard not to want every show – whole tour, did you get the entire summer run? Can’t wait for 8!

  7. jay Says:

    fishman’s drumming throughout this past show has been spot on perfect.

  8. whole tour! Says:

    yep….every show. been too good to miss.
    the seed planted at hampton is now an oak tree.

  9. JP Says:

    I like that these two shows happened only 1 week apart! Watch out for phish on phridays!

    Roggae or SS&S has to happen tonight. Along with Reba and Mikes. Don’t worry MPP, hold your head up.

  10. Robear Says:

    After all this crazy east coast highway driving, I could love me some ‘Cars, Trucks, and Busses’

  11. soam Says:

    just fuckin sick-that is why I still go to shows..8-14-09

  12. JP Says:

    Nice call on the oak tree – very cool. new and old all wrapped into one.

  13. Robear Says:

    Just went under that exact sign on the Jersey turnpike. I’m feelin’ it a bit now!

  14. JP Says:

    nice call on the fishman appreciation. I try hard to zone in on fishman during shows – he is so present that in some ways he can vanish – a total force. Still amazes me that these are only 4 people.

  15. JP Says:

    Robear – you went under an exit with “oak tree” in it?

  16. JP Says:

    Contact – not my favorite in the least, but…

  17. Robear Says:

    Full on dancing by Trey and Fishman last night. And a vacuum solo? Crowd appreciation night! I sense the heat coming tonight, too.

  18. JP Says:

    wrapping up a VERY succesnd leg baby!

  19. JP Says:

    can’t type – 2nd leg!!!!! MPP and SPAC will be just as sweet. Def Twist at SPAC to compare to 04!

  20. Robear Says:

    ^funny, a ‘CTB sign.

  21. JP Says:

    have a great day everyone and enjoy MPP bound – watch those cops, usually some real hard heads keeping law and order there.

    3.0!!!!!

  22. Nissl Says:

    Yep, that was my first thought last night – Fish is really playing well now. He sounds much more distinct in this mix.

    Just finished up the show, what a great one. Will probably listen to 8/7 a little more in the long run for the jams but that’s just down to taste.

    No problem on the audio advice, happy to answer any additional specific questions anyone may have (though I will be in and out all day) but what I posted is pretty much the limits of my knowledge.

    P.S. Anyone seen the flaming lips lately and if so how are they? They are playing a $6 show at the local racetrack and I’m thinking of dropping but I was kind of tired of them after show #4, didn’t like the newer material as much and Wayne’s constant monologues about Bush were really tiresome.

  23. CJ Says:

    Waaallfreeedo.

  24. Robear Says:

    JP, stop by the WW booth!

  25. jay Says:

    loving this Piper!!! Fishman just owns it. Follow me boys!!

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