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. Mr. Completely Says:

    thx f0ol! great link, that guys channel has more

  2. BTB Says:

    WOW – great link.

    It’s great to see the boys having that much fun. If they have fun – we have fun. All we need is a harpua on one of these final two shows and we’re closing a book on Summer 09 that nobody thought possible.

    Welcome back Phish, you’re blowing us away…

  3. TBA Says:

    Miner,
    Many a web woven willingly and wonderfully wheeling whole worlds of wisdom with willingness.

    I like your reviews cause you are getting onto it, but somtimes one can lose control of the hose. I love the ove the top style you have after a good show like last night though. It’s like the way Johnny Most used to call the Celtics. We want to know who the good guys are after a show like last night, and we want to read about the incredible improv and freshness of the show. You deliver that Miner, but every song, every show can’t be perfect. But last night was pretty darn close.

    As for Trey putting down the guitar. If one were to use a sports analogy; last night Trey pulled off a Bird game 6, 86 Finals. He owned it and everything his guitar could reach. He put down the guitar, because game over, the boys had a 50 pt. lead, it was time for Phish humor time.

    Look at the Beatles, they craved humor to derive their creativity and melody. Phish needs it too. And The Psycho Killer from Ghost was A+ Phish as was The Forbins. I think Trey doing stand up, and seeing Fish come out of his shell a bit, and go crazy like days of old, that shit is priceless.

    You can’t get better than last night in many ways. Yes Trey was probably tired by the time YEM came to fruition, but even though he had a bit of a hand cramp it semed at the start, he shook it off, and rocked hard. The trampoline segement itself, Christ the poor dude is 44, I’ve seen ‘Tana put down the guitar many shows and finish on conga or morrocos. Sometimes it’s just time.

    The rest of the show was played to near perfection. Anyone have a better Forbins>Mockingbird save maybe all the way back to Towner or the Front. Talk about on point, a description that took hold after the Jones run into a stellar Great woods. Then Alpine closed it as good as it gets. RR’s lived up to the hype. Finally, last night was a blow out. If an NBA game they would have a 150 point outburst.

    Phish is now and again the best rock group playing music on the planet earth, and Trey is a top five musician not to mention guitarist.

    If you want to see great Phish, bettre hurry up as Tomorrow never Knows.

    Life is good.

    T

  4. treece Says:

    Last night was the Shiz-Nit! That shooting star during the YEM jam was a kiss from the heavens. Couldn’t make it to MPP tonight, so we had to sell our tickets. I think that pretty much guarantees a Harpua tonight for all of you down in MD. See you all @ SPAC!!!

  5. Mr.Miner Says:

    Last night was pretty perfect

  6. Pence Says:

    Ive tried to tell Trey since the Forbins was shelved, to forget the narration. Its not important really. Its just to epic of a song to be put off like that.

  7. TBA Says:

    PS The fact people even compare Gorge to last night just shows how subjective it all is. I thought the Gorge was not all that, but good. Then I thought last night was crackling with energy and day to night from the Gorge. But others feel opposite. A perfect example why we all must have open minds. I was next to these “kids” about 24-25 and I was with an old school friend from way way back, and we all bonded, which was cool, although security kicked every beautiful dancing girl out. Still, i felt like I was hanging with my younger brother, if I had one :<), and it was classic silliness. Still, ratio needs to improve. Sorry, but sometimes beautiful dancing women make it easier to freak, since it's not just all guys going crazy. But with a show like last night, it all goes out the window, everyone just needs to be family, get goofy, respect each other, but also goof around.

    I thought the crowd was a very good crowd in many ways, as everyone semed to respect space, but at the same time dance everywhere. we were close and some phish parents were able to walk right up to the rail, and everyone behaved while still going crazy. Great crowd, and even though I do like a bit of an aisle to walk through, security could be a bit looser with dancing females.

    Say what you want, just telling it the way it is. I am for more women at phish shows, not to hit on, but to balance the karma, and provide all sides of the spectrum. But like The Who, Phish will always be a guys band, with the wives going I don't understand in many BUT NOT ALL house holds. But just like football, some women love it. Still facts are facts, look at the ratio, and all the guys blowing off steam sans wife. The funny part are the Cougars. When did phish start appealing to Cougars :<)

    Life is f###### weird, yet beautiful. Embrace chaos.

  8. Mr. Completely Says:

    forbin’s and mockingbird really are great, my favorite GH rarities, super cool to hear it

  9. jay Says:

    Well put TBA! Enjoyed your post very much.

  10. jay Says:

    We are so lucky to be alive and witnessing this (in person or not). Magic is happening right now and it is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. It has been pure joy to see them 13 times this year including Hampton, Asheville, and Red Rocks. Been seeing Phish for 20 years and this year I have been the most happy. We are all witnesses to some of the most amazing music being played by anyone anywhere at anytime. We are witnessing the best musicians paying the best music right now. No one even comes close. I am extraordinarily blessed.

  11. JP Says:

    Some really excellent posts today – I totally agree with jay and others who seem awestruck by just how hard and how fast phish is back in full dominance mode – is it great to be a phan right now or what???

    When do you think the rest of the world finally breaks down and admits that vermont’s phinest are actually pure 100% musical genius??? Come on now, as many have said, no one is even close!

    Thank god for livephish!

  12. JP Says:

    more MPP guesses – Limb by limb, fee, and frankenstein! Axilla II opener. Unless they go with that 20 minute Stealing Time rager I am hoping for.

    Anyone think we get a siket song before summer closes?

  13. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    JP, i’m totally hoping for that 20 minute stealing time too! hopefully followed by ASIHTOS

  14. Mr. Completely Says:

    Stealing Time > Whats The Use > Ocean Sing

    NONE MORE BLACK

  15. JP Says:

    I am totally down with you both – I would d/l that immediately, for some reason, holding off a little on 8.14.09 for the moment. 2 shows left.

    SS&S would seal the deal for me (assuming our predictions come true!)

  16. jay Says:

    I think there will be a Tweezer and Mikes tonight. Boogie on tonight as well.

  17. JP Says:

    yup – agree on both jay.

    summer 99 they put a lovely Sweet Emotion jam in the Mikes.

  18. JP Says:

    Whoops – meant Tweezer and Mikes – not feeling the boogie on 🙂

  19. MakisupaSecurity Says:

    Wow, wow, WOW. No not World of Warcraft, I’m talking about this friggin show man, I didn’t think they would ever be served up like this again.

    Great Woods was my last show, and while still excellent, it was sorely lacking in what I was looking for. This show delivered with a sauteed scallops appetiser, 4 course meal, and vanilla dessert.

    Miiner is right about the late opener making for an uncharacteristic but very welcome dark first set. By the end of it I forgot we had a whole second set waiting for us. Good stuff.

    I wont get into too much gushing, but a few thoughts:

    Slave was definately a dig at the HORRIBLE traffic control in downtown Hartford and around the venue. The police shut off a traffic light we were sitting at and made us sit there for almost 15 minutes. Seems like 2 hours when you are dying to get into the venue. There was a lot entrance right up ahead but nobody was pulling in. When we were finally able to move, with a gesture from us asking if it was ok to enter, they stood there and nodded. So WHY DIDN”T THEY FLAG MORE CARS IN? Lazy and unattentive, thats why.

    I thought the lot scene was decent, very lax on the alcohol. People were walking around with beer bottles, something unheard of at Great Woods.

    HOLY CRAP the nitrous though! We walked over a bridge to get back to our car and there must have been 5 or 6 tanks all along the bridge. Balloons everywhere. I want to say it kills the lot vibe but SO many kids were lining up for their hippie crack. I’m all set.

    Anyway, we got the Birds I predicted, but no Runaway Jim. I know someone confidently predicted Forbins and Icculus, props to you!

    The jams had me in their spell for every song, Stash was beautiful, Piper was way way sick, Ghost delivered, Psycho Killer was such a fun treat.

    And I have to say I’m all about the return of the sillyness. Fish played a mean vacuum. I’m glad they skipped the HYHU, although I do love the bowing. Was Trey and Fish’s crazy dance really a jab at someone dancing in the front row? And I liked Trey taking a moment to put the guitar down and dance with us for a bit. Am I the only one that see’s it that way? People seem to get panicky but I was happy to have Trey bust a move with us.

    And how about that rare, rare moment where the lawn crowd got a special treat that the pavillion kids missed out on? Yup I’m talking about the shooting star during the YEM vocal jam. That was just perfectly divine. It was a good size one too, just made the whole night surreal.

    Thanks again Miner for your steller reviews, I couldnt wait to see what you had to say after I witnessed one of the greatest shows on Earth. you called it. Good stuff

  20. MakisupaSecurity Says:

    P. S.

    Read the BOOK

  21. Brian Says:

    hopefully it isn’t a faux pas to troll for tickets here, but..

    any extras for SPAC?? A bud is riding with me and has no ticket…I’m nervous about finding one there.

    also Hartford sets are sick. can’t wait to hear this one!

  22. andrewrose Says:

    I can’t believe I fucking missed Psycho Killer.

  23. Ocelot42 Says:

    Well, that’s a different opener.

  24. BrandonKayda Says:

    Oh man…..This second set will go down as one of the greats (ALL-TIME) There is not one downpoint.

    This Piper was great, the funk Twist-esque (MPP Big Twist tonight) jam was hot. Slave was sublime, Disease was perfect. EVERYTHING WAS PERFORMED FLAWLESSLY.

    This whole show is a highlight. I would do a big detailed summary but I’m sure Wax covered it for me. 🙂

    ABSOLUTELY STELLAR. Best show of 3.0 by a LONG shot.

    WOW.

  25. Invictat Says:

    I can't believe I fucking missed Psycho Killer.; I can't believe I fucking missed Psycho Killer.;;

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