Hampton ’09: A Retrospective

3.8.09 - Hampton (Unknown)

As 2010 has quietly crept into March, this coming weekend represents the one year anniversary of Phish’s Hampton reunion. The dates of March 6, 7, and 8, 2009, will live forever in Phish history as the time things came back together again, for the second time. Reunited for the first time in five years in their adopted home of Hampton Coliseum, one of the live music’s most intimate arenas, everything we once loved sprang to life again. Unlike the lackluster comeback run over 2002-2003, these shows translated far better, and were much more focused and precise. Both the band and the crowd had the venue bursting at the seams with palpable energy. Hampton’s three-night showcase served as the perfect lauchpad for 2009. And when the opening notes of “Fluffhead” creaked out of the rafters of The Mothership, we were on our way home again.

Over the three-part dream, Phish played for nearly ten hours, running through no less than 84 songs of their notoriously vast catalog. From the very beginning of 2009, beginning with “Fluffhead,” and “Divided Sky,” one sensed things would be different this time around. Focused far more on composition and precision than jamming, the band got back to basics at Hampton, a trend that characterized the entire year for Phish. Without getting too crazy or improvisational, Hampton set up the rest of 2009, just as 2009 set up 2010; both periods representing building blocks towards high-level musical proficiency without too many risks. In essence, one can see the Hampton reunion as microcosm of 2009, a lot of structured playing leading to more adventure by the end.

Hampton (J.Volckhausen)

But more than any other shows in 2009, Hampton carried the vibe of a Phish recital. After a five year absence, every time the band played another song, whether “Guelah Papyrus” or “Tweezer,” it felt like we were being reacquainted to an old friend. This feeling resonated with everybody in the building, creating one of the purest vibes of any Phish show in memory. Everyone there knew exactly why they had made the trip, and everywhere you looked there was another friend, many you hadn’t seen in half a decade. In the end, Hampton felt like one big family reunion.

Hampton literally brought back that indescribable feeling I’d forgotten. Sure, I had memories to last a lifetime, but memories, however strong don’t recreate that special feeling inside of you. And when Phish dropped the opening licks of “Tweezer” in the second set of their comeback show, that feeling flooded my soul like Victoria Falls. My heart felt like it would pound right out my chest – it was all happening again – five years later, we were living and breathing “Tweezer” again! That tangible cocktail of adrenaline with a splash of bliss rushed up from the toes, through the heart, and spiked right into the brain. It was heaven on earth; we were finally at a Phish show again.

Hampton (M. Yates)

And throughout the weekend, the shows couldn’t have provided more fun and exaltation, regardless of the tame musical quality in retrospect. Phish played, and nothing else mattered. Clearly rehearsed and polished, the band played with a certain urgency and energy that was often lacking in the post-hiatus years, providing a feeling of musical purity many fans hadn’t felt in a long time. It didn’t matter that the music wasn’t adventurous, that’s not what Hampton was about. Hampton ’09 celebrated all that Phish once was, an unheralded legacy in modern rock and roll. A massive “Welcome Back” for the band and fans alike, and just hearing live Phish at all provided all the magic anyone needed. But by the third night, the band grew more comfortable and threw down quite an impressive show, including the one truly memorable jam of the weekend, “Down With Disease.”

And within one year, look how far we’ve come. As we enter 2010 on the heels of a spectacular New Years’ Run, the band, themselves have begun talking about reinventing Phish. In an interview with The Dartmouth Independent, on the brink of his solo tour, Mike prognosticated on Phish’s future:

Eventually, I think the idea is not just to keep playing old songs but really for Phish to reinvent ourselves just like we’re trying to reinvent the other aspects of our careers and find the uncharted territory. There’s been talk about trying to find ways to record differently than we have before and write differently, so that’s what excites me – the different possibilities.

With statements like these, it seems like Mike and the boys may be ready to enter that elusive “next phase” of their career we’ve been hypothesizing about. Phish have reinvented their sound multiple times throughout their career, continually changing their focus and direction, always shifting their way into uncharted territory. This quotation from Gordon all but confirms the theory that 2009 was but a building block for all that is to come. What excites Mike, and likely the rest of the band, is the same things that excite us – “the different possibilities.”

Hampton (Unknown)

A year ago, the heavens opened and brought back our dreamland; Gamehendge made a leap from our collective consciousness back into reality, all within one magical weekend. The music is all relative at this point, because what I remember more than anything is the energy, the feelings, and the emotions. I remember the faces, the friends, and the elation. Once I think about the shows, I recall what went down, but that weekend was far bigger than the music. Hampton brought a community back together; a community that had been dispersed for five years; a community united by the power of Phish. When I think of the music, I remember its tight and precise quality more than specifics themselves, as any musical achievements that took place in Hampton would soon be eclipsed in June. But everyone was surprised at how together they sounded, despite their well-publicized rehearsals, especially juxtaposed with our last memories from Coventry. The weekend became nothing short of enchanted, with nary a negative atom in the air. And after the third night, while walking back to the hotel, I glanced over my shoulder to the glowing panels of the retro space-aged coliseum, thinking, “So this is where it all begins again.” And so it did.

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Jam of the Day:

Down With Disease > Seven Below ” 3.8.09 II

The jam of Hampton’s reunion weekend.

[audio:http://phishthoughts.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/2.02-Down-With-Disease.mp3,http://phishthoughts.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/2.03-Seven-Below.mp3]

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Hampton (Photo: Jeff Kravitz / insidecelebpics)

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

2.4.93 Providence Performing Arts Center, Providence, RI < Megaupload

Colorado '93 Poster

The second show of ’93 goes out via reader request to Jack G. Check it out. Included is the debut of “Sample In a Jar.” My desktop has gone from infected to fuct, so not torrents today. (Keep your torrents seeding as much as possible for the next couple days, as my computer won’t be seeding anything for a second.)

I. Axilla, Foam, Bouncing Around the Room, Maze, Fast Enough for You, All Things Reconsidered, Stash, The Lizards, Sample in a Jar*, Glide, Run Like an Antelope

II: Chalk Dust Torture, The Wedge, Mike’s Song > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > The Man Who Stepped Into YesterdayWeekapaug Groove, Lawn Boy, Uncle Pen, Big Ball Jam, Hold Your Head Up > Lengthwise > Hold Your Head Up, Harry Hood, Cavern >

E: Amazing Grace**, Good Times Bad Times

*Debut

** w/o microphones

Source: AKG 451

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950 Responses to “Hampton ’09: A Retrospective”

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  1. garretc Says:

    Wow, those are some marvelous pictures on this here blog post! They almost overshadow the marvelous article… Nicely done Mr. Miner!

    So strange to think that, just a year ago such a monumental moment in band history occurred, and I didn’t even care at the time! Even just a year ago Phish was little more than a blip on my radar screen… And now look at me! Posting on a blog!

    Haha, right on right on…

  2. garretc Says:

    Oh yeah, which brings up a question: Mr. Miner, where do you get all the awesome Phish pictures you post on here? Is there some sort of website resource I can access with these photos or do you just google really determinedly?

  3. My name is Mike's Song Says:

    Lovely piece and I can’t believe it’s been a year! Actually a year or more seems about right given all the action Phish has packed into it. Thanks to you and your crew, I listened to all three Hampton shows via no spoilers and had a really special home experience. My heart broke loose over and over. Thanks miner.

  4. freshtracks420 Says:

    Looks like there’s just one more hurdle to jump for the Telluride shows to be officially on. The second-to-last one was taken care of yesterday. I’m pretty sure that the last meeting is supposed to take place in the next couple of weeks…pretty exciting stuff!!!!!

  5. In Flagrante Delicto Says:

    Well said, Minor. 3/6-8/2009 will always hold a special place in the pantheon of shows I have been fortunate enough to attend. And you are correct: it wasn’t about the music (which was solid), it was about the community coming together again. The Hampton shows were like having sex again after a 5 year break. It wasn’t the best it had ever been, but you were reminded once again why you spend so much time and energy pursuing it. And you knew it would only get better with some practice. It seemed like not one single person in that room would choose to be anywhere else in the world. Thank god for the the Ticketmaster gods. Hampton possibly would have been the most painful show to miss, ever. It was magic.

  6. BabyBigPerm Says:

    Man, a year has flown by so fast. Just reading this gave me chills. It was such a great weekend. I can still vividly remember dancing my ass of in a mix of astonishment, excitement, and pure joy. Felt like a reward. Not sure for what, but it seemed like the universe was saying, “hey buddy, things are good, have faith (lowercase ‘f’) and enjoy”. I think the first night for me is the most memorable concert experience I have ever had. It had been so long, and my musical tastes lead me on a different journey. Almost as if I had taken a hiatus from them.

    But when they came back and we got tickets (thank goodness) it was ON. My work productively was probably a -15. Below 0. Couldn’t concentrate, and was just clocking in and ingesting everything Phish once again. Sorry boss.

    Thanks guys.

  7. sumodie Says:

    ‘community’ is def the word/theme that comes to mind when i reflect on phish 09.

    enjoy the day!

  8. Readicculus Says:

    I attended this show and remeber Fishman messing up the lyrics and timing of Sample. It was such a small place and the Amazing Grace was good but people never shut up.

  9. Angryjoggerz Says:

    http://www.telluridenews.com/articles/2010/03/03/news/doc4b8f1b4dd1022963309591.txt

    Mornin all. Not sure if you’ve all seen this, looks promising. Now if we could just get the rest of those dates….

  10. Angryjoggerz Says:

    Oh, and Greyboy Allstars the night before would make for one funk-ay weekend. Not looking likely for me, but will certainly be a “moment” of the summer. Chances are they would play a really awesome show the night after Teluride, ha.

  11. Willowed Says:

    Morning All,
    I am sitting here in my jammies crying like a little baby. This article made me very emotional Miner. I thanks you.
    Remeber the three things you need every day for a full life:
    Laugh
    Cry
    Think
    Thanks for bringing these great feelings and emotions back boys.

  12. JerZ Says:

    I have seen some awesome openers in my day, but none of them did for me what that Fluffhead did. It ignited my soul. I hope I never forget the way that I felt when those opening licks of Fluffhead started.

  13. SillyWilly Says:

    Morning, all!

    woke up from a dream that I was at a Phish show, to a post by Mr. Miner that gave me the chills.

    2010 is going to be awesome.

    hope everyone’s morning is going well.

  14. SillyWilly Says:

    by the way, the last 12 months have been the best year of my life. I feel as if i’ve found myself.

    When I look back 30 or 40 years from now, this past year will be where it all changed for me.

    I graduated college, I started law school, and I discovered a passion for a band and its community.

    Thank you, Mr. Miner, thank you BlackBoarders, and thank you, Phish

  15. Little Buddy Says:

    Wow! This got me pretty emotional too. Ya know – I always say that, outside of the birth of my child and my wedding day, Big Cypress was the best experience of my life. However, as I reflect back on a year ago I think that perhaps Hampton ’09 might actually overtake Big Cypress in my minds eye and in my heart. This probably sounds like crazy talk to most, but it isn’t really about how the music was played. By the time Hampton rolled around so much had changed in life. I became a husband and a father, and I (as we all did) had five years to reflect back on the 100 or so shows and experiences that made up my Phishing life, and to try to sort out why these shows were so damn important to the nature of my own being.

    I guess what I am saying is that at Hampton I truly new what I was there for. I was ultimately appreciative to take part in the reunion. I savored every moment. Every song they sung was my favorite tune again. I was so overcome with emotion during the first set of the reunion that I was just frozen. I couldn’t speak, couldn’t think, and couldn’t dance – all I could do was soak it in with tears streaming down my face and be thankful for all that I have, including Phish.

    Amen, Miner! Thanks for what you do!

  16. albert walker Says:

    My own hard living caused me to get extremely jaded towards the music around 98
    When I got Hampton preorder I knew I had to go but going to hippy shows was in the distant past
    This yuppie had not gotten his dance moves out in ages
    For all I knew I’d just be annoyed and leave

    Opening notes of fluff changed everything
    Instantly transported to my pre jaded college dropout years I was showered with those feelings I forgot

    Coming back home from a self imposed exile
    Allowing myself to love the music once again

    Would have never guessed the boys being part of my life again and its been great
    The catalyst these shows became will never be forgotten

    Great write up miner

    Train comin in
    Laterz kids

  17. albert walker Says:

    Those statements mike made about reinvention are the things this kid has heard in ages

  18. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    great post today, Miner. Hard to believe after everything that happened in 2009 that one year ago we were ending five phishless years. I’m glad that I have already forgotten what it feels like to live in a world without phish.

    the DWD>-7 was when I knew this was going to be more than a nostalgic reunion tour. it wasn’t the most exploratory jam but at the time it signified that they weren’t just going to give a recital (as Miner so eloquently put it) but that they would be actively engaging their music once again.

    Phish on!

  19. lastwaltzer Says:

    I wont forget sitting in my apartment listening to the no spoilers recording and hearing fluffhead pour out of my speakers along with that roar and what a roar it was.

  20. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    im glad you put up the DWD today… i feel like this dwd goes overlooked as possibly the best dwd jam of 2009 and one of the top jams of any song in 09. i remember a discussion coming up about what the best dwd of 2009 was, and a few different late summer and fall tour versions were mentioned but not hampton.

  21. JerZ Says:

    AlbertWalker- I totally feel you. By the late 90’s, shows became just what I did rather than the passion that they used to be. I was so jaded that I took all of 2.0 off, and had no interest.

    Hampton changed all that. I felt like the kid taking the train into the city for my first NY show again. Phish felt big, and my spirit was no longer the critical spirit that hard living had allowed for it to become.

    I also got married during the haitus (which sounds like a pretty common theme on this board) and to be able to experience Phish with my wife for the first time made Hampton even more special.

    Like everyone else has said- Hampton was bigger than the music- so was Red Rocks for that matter

  22. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    from that mike gordon article on phish’s plans – “It hasn’t been planned, but if i had to guess we’ll probably do some stuff in the summer”

    hasn’t been planned??

  23. BTB Says:

    To Cactus’s comment…

    It is essential that they keep moving forward and reinvent themselves.

    Also, I may be alone on this, but after listening to all the new material live, I think FAULTY PLAN is one of the top PH tunes created since 2.0.

  24. BigNasty Says:

    Morning all

    From a recent Mike interview re: the March tour…

    “We’re also recording everything from the tour and decide what to release through live downloads. Plus that opens up an interesting opportunity to take some jams and moments, not even songs, just some spontaneous stuff that might happen, which is always my favorite stuff anyway, and piece it together.”

    Sounds pretty sweet!

    Read more: http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=907188&category=ARTS&TextPage=2#ixzz0hDOwyUOk

  25. verno329 Says:

    I have been waiting for this article to pop up. What a glorious weekend! Certainly the peak of my Phish experience, not musically, but exactly what Miner is talking about. The reunion of phans from around the nation getting back together for the most joyous of occasions. What I remember so vividly is the change in atmosphere from the first night to the second. The first night there seemed to be this odd tension in the air. Not a negative form of tension, more like the unknown aspect of the event. What would the band play? How would they sound? How do I fit in this scene after nearly 6 years (skipped 2004)? Will it be the same? So many unknowns.

    And then after the first night was over and done with, the collective energy in the room the next night was so relaxed. We got to see that our boys were back and sounded great and treated us to sets that never seemed to end. Every song was my favorite tune. I found out that I still belonged here. All of the tension was gone. Now it was time for some pure unadulterated fun! Hell, we even had the wave going before night 2!

    Over the weekend I’m gonna have myself a Hampton listening party. I spun those 3 shows for what seemed like months after March 9th but haven’t gone back in a while. This is gonna be fun again! And there are still not enough words to thank my brother Soulish for scoring us the tickets. You’ll never have to get me another present the rest of my life!

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