As promised, I’m back with some breakdown of the third night before I give a more general overview of this weekend’s sublime and encouraging family reunion. Over the next few weeks, I will be delving into specifics of Hampton, while also addressing some comments on this site. I will try to set the record straight as to the meaning of Hampton’09, because it seems that a few people absolutely missed it; that being said, back to night three.
The culmination of the band’s scripted weekend was another Phish marathon that completed their run through the classic Phish canon. Beginning with “Sanity,” Trey toyed with the lyrics as a means of comedic self-reference. Emphasizing the phrases “I lost my mind just a couple of times” and “I don’t need a place to hide,” he proclaimed his personal revival. As the band began with a vengeance, everyone knew it would be a special night. In the most exciting first set of the weekend, the band slaughtered more of their classic and complex compositions. A tight return of “Foam” showed off the band’s polished chops and gave a retro glimpse into to an earlier time when they attacked their compositions with no abandon. And, again, that time is now.
The ensuing “Bathtub Gin” was an emotive welcome home to all of the Phish crowd, as the soaring melodies and locked thematic jamming brought a unbridled level of pure joy and energy to the arena. With the impending realization that Phish is as excited to be back as we were, everything seemed to click into place. Tucked in the middle of five of the band’s most classic songs was the long awaited debut of “Undermind.” A indiscernible crunchy groove quickly morphed into the band’s title track of their last album, and was used to introduce the new Phish. “Relocated, not retired/Reprimanded and rewired…Reinvented, Redefined…” Bringing amazing energy from the crowd, the band moved from the verses into a new dancy jam- something always welcome on Phish tour.
In the middle of the set came a furious and evil rendition of another tough composition, “My Friend, My Friend.” This crisp version of this song sounded like 1993 when the hit every single note with zest. Definitely one of the high points of the set, the menacing Rift classic paired up with its album-mate and led directly into a scorching “Maze.” The band played incredibly well throughout this set, with a tightness and urgency that had been absent during loose playing of 2.0.
As the third two-hour first set wound down, the band ripped into a three song combination that brought the house down. “Tube,” “Cars, Trucks, and Busses,” and “Free” instantly enhanced an all-out dance party into a staright up bash. The first asteroid crash of the last five years sent an instant shot of adrenaline to the crowd, who were enthralled to be dancing so hard again. This effect lasted throughout a standout “C, T, & B,” highlighting Page’s masterful work all weekend, and into a concise, yet bombastic “Free.” Ending with the energetic “Frankenstein,” complete with Page on “keytar,” the band punctuated another sixteen songs and two hours of pristine Phish.
But when the second set got underway, Phish began to get back to business as usual. Using clearly scripted setlists all weekend long, the band lined up a hallowed collection of Phish songs for the ideal reunion run. However, the quality of jamming, albeit tight as all get out, was mostly concise, and was structured within the framework of songs. The surface that was scratched by night two’s “Rock and Roll” was dug into more deeply into by the twenty-two minute set-opening “Down With Disease.” Starting by surfing the psychedelic wave of the song’s million-dollar melody, the band shredded the feel-good “composed jam” before entering into free flowing improv. In some truly exploratory playing, the entire band took the music far away from “Disease” into a slowly moving realm where the band fused into one being. Tapping into the their ethos, Phish created the only open-ended and extended jam of the weekend, sliding back into form with one of their classic vehicles. Like a return to a secret cave we hadn’t visited in years, being smack dab in the middle of true Phish improv was an overwhelming feeling of soulful happiness. Listening to the band combine their spontaneous ideas in a coherent and engaging way, the missing piece of the weekend had now been completed.
In a three-night Phish suite comprised of their most hallowed songs, the reunion was specifically about the Phishy vibe returning to the world. The band and crowd were able to reconnect with the spirit and energy that defined Phish’s scene in the early to mid-‘90s. Nostalgic, yet simultaneously forward looking, the weekend provided the community with a massive trampoline to launch our trajectory into this summer and beyond. Phish wasn’t out to play thirty minute jams this weekend; that was clearly not the point- it was far more about the intangible aspects of the weekend that will never be heard on tape. But with this “Disease,” the band sent the message, “Yes, we can still get as deep as ever, so watch out this summer!” Everyone in the venue got the message loud and clear, and hopefully those listening at home did as well. Sure, Phish could have come out and played four song sets- no question- but that was not the intention of the weekend. Instead of being focused on deep musical exploration, Hampton represented a magical celebration of Phish and their return to our everyday consciousness as well as their own.
Following their deepest excursion, the band continued into the most flowing set of the weekend with a gorgeous “Seven Below.” After the two uplifting improvisational pieces, Phish made a sublime stop in a precisely played “Horse > Silent.” Managing to fit in nearly every classic song into their twelve hour, eighty-eight song weekend, by the time this point in the set came, one could virtually predict the that would follow- but how they would fit together was something no one could know.
The opening licks of “Twist,” one of the band biggest 2.0 vehicles, infused some more modern Phish into an old-school themed run. Trey led the band through this jam using the dirtiest, most beautiful uncompressed tone. As soon the jam grew out of the darkness into an alien-ambient texture, the band entered some of the most impressive music of the weekend. As the improv reached it’s deepest point, they coyly slid into the elusive “2001” that had been hinted at throughout the previous few sets.
As the beat started, The Mothership was cleared for liftoff, and we collectively blasted off into chapter three with crisp, strapping grooves that were like candy for everyone’s minds. Taking the space-aged cover through a short and intense incarnation, the emotions flooding the moment were totally overwhelming; a cohesion of our collective consciousness. At, arguably, the highest point of the weekend, the band made a huge drop into “Moma Dance,” all but imploding the minds of everyone in the room. Bringing memories of the big “Black-Eyed” back in 1997, swank molasses grooves filled the room. “Twist > 2001 > Moma”- like something out of a Phish comic book- simply unreal!
With their second nod to The Beatles in as many nights, Phish busted out a stirring rendition of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” that featired a colossal Trey solo before ending their weekend with the most majestic combination possible of “Velvet Sea” and “Slave.” Bringing a cathartic culmination to the greatest weekend of our lives, the delicate “Slave” jam whispered in our hearts of the soulful connection between, the band, the cosmos, and ourselves. As “Reprise” closed the ecncore amidst an flurry of massive baloons, things felt amazing again.
We have finally arrived. All weekend long, Phish reminded us why they are the greatest band on the planet. And with nothing but bright skies ahead, the world is back to the way they should be- with a happy and scorching Phish. As summer tour is only months away, and west coast dates on the horizon, things couldn’t look better. As any one of the 13,000 people that walked out of our sacred venue with shit-eating grins could tell you, “The magic is back.”
MINER UPDATE: I got stuck in Newark, NJ tonight, so didn’t have access to downloads yet. I will be putting regular tracked AUDs of the weekend up this week. Cheers, everyone! It’s ON!