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. Neemor Says:

    jay-place pretty much did explode. It was dope. It was funny because that pre-show music nod over the PA made me comment that they are probably going to break it out. I was one of the one’s singing to the Psycho Killer Ques ca se.

    I thought someone might’ve mentioned by now, but…
    During the YEM vocal jam, with Kuroda’s lights in full effect, a shooting star – I fucking kid you not – fell right over top of the venue right at the stage. It was a capper on a night full of crazy twists and turns.

    I see shows sober now, so to feel like I was in the middle of a full-blown acid trip last night speaks volumes.

    I almost would’ve listed the second set as Icculus>Catapult> Icculus. But anyways, the dancing, the vacuum, the trampolines, narration about the fucking book, a relaxed police force, a chill crowd, a perfect night, shooting stars….

    This show was one for the ages.
    I’m really glad it wasn’t SCI.

  2. Neemor Says:

    This one should be put on DVD. You can’t really put into words what Trey and Fish dancing looked like and how hilarious some of their banter and showmanship was last night.
    Clearly I’m gushing, but from my vantage point, this was top three for me.

    It FELT like they never really sank their teeth into the jams as they did out West. Some were nice and infectious, but not earth-shattering.

    To me, musically, the Gorge 8/7 still stands on top…

    But for pure character at a show (which is probably why I ended up getting hooked on this band) Hartford has been firmly placed on the map. 6/30,7/1/00 and 8/14/09 live in infamy.

  3. dubdrop Says:

    Absolutely amazing show last night. I def put it up there with 7/31 and 8/7.

    Sorry I missed you Mr. Minor…we’ll have to catch up at SPAC.

  4. Mr. Completely Says:

    incredible that they are capable of two such divergent masterpieces one week apart!!!!!! Two Friday shows that are so “apples and oranges” that it has to just come down to preferences – I am a jam guy so I wouldn’t trade 8.7 for last night, but I am still insanely jealous of everyone who was there.

    8.8 Rock & Roll jam continues to rock my world, too – drove to Eugene and back yesterday and raged it twice – ay caramba – then spun a bunch of Gorge jams for the old school Deadhead crowd down there, and they went fucking bananas for it.

    @Robear – it will be a difficult sales job to the spousal unit but I would be pleased to conspire with you on the subject, even if it a quixotic quest. after the triumph at the gorge, practicalities of nighttime childcare are really the only remaining hurdle to overcome, I think

    tyler23rh at comcast dot net if you’d like to discuss it

  5. Chuck D Says:

    The first set is full of special moments and the second is just pure joy straight through. Bag is sweet, CFA>FFM obvious reasons, birds rages, MOTR is played better than a few nights ago. Slave and Piper both have some real nice improv, the segue into WITS, Ghost is HUGE then just a little psycho killer to blow the roof, Trey is hilarious during catapult and icculus. Read Icculus.

    I think its my favorite start to finish show of the summer. Also probably has some of the best single moments. Undoubtedly a keeper.

  6. Stupendous Says:


  7. Chuck D Says:

    The second set is 10 songs and only one pause in music… its no 4 song set, but I’ll take it

  8. pd Says:

    do not sleep on the psychedelic nature of the jams in this show.

  9. stevejones Says:

    i nearly dented the roof of the pavillion at launch of psychokiller

  10. jdub Says:

    @nemoor, how’d it go last night getting in, everything gelled so well all night i assumed you rolled in. READ ICCULUS is a must read

  11. butter Says:


  12. Mugician Says:

    Listening to last night now.

  13. butter Says:

    after no narration during col>mock, i really thought it would be some time before it happenned. Turns out it was about an hour!!!!

  14. jdub Says:


    The Show was a pure psychedelic masterpiece. That was the beauty of the whole thing

    Brilliant bits psyche at its best

  15. jdub Says:

    IT’s in the book

  16. butter Says:

    last nights piper moved me more than any version i’ve ever seen/heard.

  17. Mugician Says:

    Wow. Forbin just dropped. Fucking epic.

  18. Nissl Says:

    “do not sleep on the psychedelic nature of the jams in this show.”

    Yup, very good stuff all over. No single song I would call jam of tour, but lots of top-10 quality stuff throughout Stash, Ghost, Piper, etc.

  19. Neemor Says:

    Yesterday couldn’t have been better. I left home at 3, got there at four, left to get beer because there was no traffic at all, no one really there yet and it was hot.
    But seriously folks, a shooting star.

    I just went on another site and two or three others noted it as well.

    During the YEM vocal jam.

    A shooting star shooting directly over the stage. It was Read Icculus.

    I’m so glad last night was.

  20. Neemor Says:

    Weird, Butter. The Piper I saw at Burgettstown did that to me, also.
    It’s like I never “got IT” until then.
    I think they are connecting with thier fans right now more than ever.

  21. Mugician Says:


    I remember seeing the boys take the stage on Thursday at RR, I almost teared up. I guess I have a pretty strong emotional connection to this band, because I just listened to the ending ascending line of Mockingbird, and I almost started tearing up. So beautiful. I am so proud of this band. The efforts they’ve made to continue pursuing their love of music are nothing short of earth shaking. It is awe inspiring.

  22. Mugician Says:

    So what does everyone think of Trey’s new tone these days? So much cleaner, sharper.

    Much less room for mistakes. I have mixed feelings. I love his new tone at times, but I feel an itch every time he goes to really shred. The Mesas provide so much more headroom for him, he can’t really get down and dirty in the way he used to with the Fender… Mixed feelings.

  23. jdub Says:

    This was a deep show with so many layers it’s pure joy to think about. I will definitely break this show down at some point soon and share my experience.

    hope you all do the same..

  24. butter Says:

    “I think they are connecting with thier fans right now more than ever.”
    i agree Neemor

    @Mugician – i second that emotion

    one of the bro’s i went to the show with was at his 200+show and said the first four songs were his favorite start to a show ever. The other bro i went with saw no 2.0 Phish and was nervous going in, needless to say he got his cap peeled and said they really seemed like they are having fun again.

  25. Neemor Says:

    Between the epic lightning storm centered over the venue in Noblesville and this Shooting star (that wasn’t just your average shooting start mind you-it had flares splitting off of it-looked like it was the space shuttle crashing to earth while deconstructing and flaring across the sky), I’m pretty sure God loves Phish.
    Or Icculus, depending on with creator you tend to put stock in.

    I remarked back in June quite a bit that I would know that they’re back when they break out Catapult.

    It has come full circle. And in my home state, nonetheless.

    So glad to be around to see this band.

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