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:

    depending on *which creator

  2. pd Says:

    listening now- this disease jam brings me back to the jones beach reba

  3. shaftytim Says:

    competing narratives:

    What I had described as a “drive for the ages” actually turned out to be a show for the ages. I was ambivalent to the idea of even going last night, and I blew out a tire en route and missed the first three songs of the show, but upon my entrance they struck up “Col. Forbin’s Ascent” (a tune I’d been “chasing” for 15 years- my first one) and what ensued was a poetic show, the likes of which I’m not sure I’ve ever seen before.

    The Stash in the first set was sick, very danceable, and the Birds was better than is to be expected. But the second set had a poetic strain running throughout- an overt narrative that tied the songs together and the playing was outstanding. The Piper was the most far-out and exploratory thing Phish has played since returning- and hearkened back, after a serious Tweezer teaser, to the ‘Guy Forget’ from 2000. Even the Water in The Sky, almost entirely out of place aside from providing some comic relief, or a foil if you will, played into the hands of the “Ghost”- reminding us this life is but a vapor, ephemeral, and what’s left doesn’t leave a trace. Overt life and death, and after-death, narratives strewn throughout an amazing set- the Icculus being the crowning cherry on top.

    In terms of Phishology the stunning achievement was to take “disease>wilson>slave” (all songs with a somewhat oppressive subtext) and lift that up into “Piper”- an impressive change of perspective. The Piper, mythologically, leads the rats (tour rats if you will) out of the city by way of his magical tune. In this sense the rats are ‘slaves’ to the tune itself, but they’re also happy to go along. There was something to be read-between-the-lines in this juxtaposition, and remember, ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’!

    Eventually this all wound up into Icculus (the obvious connection between ghost>psychokiller needs no further reflection) the highest high in terms of Phish Mythology, or Phishology as I have referred to it. This was the answer, or maybe YEM was the answer- really the whole 2nd set reads like an answer, straight out of the book. The was one of those fairy-taleesque shows that happens very rarely and when you least expect it. Truly an epic for 3.0 or any era (yes the jams were that good).

    peace out phannerz.

  4. Stupendous Says:

    Bowie from Darrien LAke is Special Sauce Sickness!!!!

  5. Stupendous Says:

    sounds like you werent late you were just in time

  6. snigglebeach Says:

    Wow, Shaftytim, thats quite a read between the lines connection. i did not see that until u said it but i get it.

    Did u figure that out while tripping??

  7. Mr. Completely Says:

    @shaftytim – a profound and welcome analysis! thanks!

  8. Neemor Says:

    Well put, Shafty. Interesting way of looking at some of the juxtapositions.

    Phishology, huh? Icculus>YEM. Boy man, GOG shit. interesting.

    Was the second set from last night Phish’s Story of Life?

  9. Neemor Says:

    GOG? huh.

  10. Neemor Says:

    Someone needs to analyze that and > essay form it.

  11. Mr.Miner Says:

    pd- was thinking of you last night during psych killer….throwback to when we met at Dayton ’97 🙂

  12. Pence Says:

    Holy fuck, I just listened to the Psycho killer drop, total trey move. He had no concern about anyone following, he saw the opportunity and took it. That move was my all time dream to hear at a phish show, im sorry i missed but glad that it happened. Thank you phish.

  13. Pence Says:

    @shaftytim. dead on broham. what a story

  14. snigglebeach Says:

    Just had to pass this along, apparently 1 night after Phish in darien secret service moved in…..

    President Barack Obama and his staff are currently on the road discussing his new health care plan. The Antibalas Horns are along for the ride and, according to a note forwarded by the group’s management, “providing President Obama with funky intros, funky outros…and playing out would be hecklers.” Last night, Obama’s team held court at Darien Center, NY’s Darien Lake Theme Park Resort (yes, the same park where Phish performed).

    Below is a list of shows where The Antibalas Horns will perform as part of Obama’s campaign

    Aug 14 Noblesville, IN—Verizon Wireless Music Center
    Aug 16 Tinley Park, IL—First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre
    Aug 17 Clarkston, MI—DTE Energy Music Theatre
    Aug 18 St. Paul, MN—Xcel Energy Center
    Aug 20 Milwaukee, WI—Marcus Amphitheatre
    Sept 3 Cincinnati, OH—PNC Pavilion at Riverbend
    Sept 4 Charlotte, NC—Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
    Sept 5 Sunrise, FL—BankAtlantic Center

  15. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    very cool show last night. sounds like it was the most fun show to be at. but musically i still say RR2 and gorge1 were definitely better.

  16. whole tour! Says:


  17. Mr. Completely Says:

    Obama with Antibalas – fucking high-larious

  18. Mr. Completely Says:

    yeah even if they don’t really blow up either of these last two, and I suspect they’ll nuke at least one pretty hard, this Hartford madness – really some serious Phishyness – cements this 2nd leg of summer pretty firmly in the OMFG category I think

    and I’m glad, glad, glad that Phish is alive
    and I’m glad, glad, glad that we’ve arrived

  19. sumodie Says:

    thought all the gamehenge songs were very well played. perhaps one of the strongest set 1’s of tour even though there was not huge long jam.stash jam great but dont think it was very long. mockingbird was gorgeous & i really dug mike’s middle of the road.

    didnt think set 2 started epically. dwd was great but short. wilson surprised me -i was looking dor the deeper stuff. slave began the set upswing, though not as good as out west beautiful tempo though. water again threw me abit, but ghost dropped and the remaining show crackled and sizzled all the way -all epic allthe way. the shorter ghost grooved hard, and yem to me was the smoothest one to my ears yet in 09, even if trey never continued the ending jam. his goofy dane bits were priceless! icculus was fantastically good,catapultt too. encore was the perfect choice. sure there was a grinding moment, but trey’s soloing was gorgeous. what a night!

  20. Mr. Completely Says:

    @sumodie – stash about as long as the Gorge, not a fat one like RR

  21. DaNcInG fOoL Says:


  22. Hunter Says:

    Thanks for the video link, Dancing Fool! Great footage and sound!

  23. DaNcInG fOoL Says:


  24. pd Says:

    miner! it was a time turns elastic moment.. 12 years folded back upon itself and i could see our younger selves raging the nutter.

    had my eye out for you but didn’t make it into the pav til start of 2nd set.
    will be at SPAC..

  25. snigglebeach Says:

    i wonder if last night’s epic show, has anything to due with Spac tiks tripling in price on stubhub since i checked on wednesday???

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