Sunday 07/10/2016 by phishnet

A JEWEL IN HARTFORD’S FOUL DOMAIN…

[Editor's Note: We'd like to welcome guest contributor David Goldstein for this recap.]

For individuals of a heady persuasion, the Summer of 1995 was a morass of mixed emotions, to say the least. Uniformly excellent Phish concerts dovetailed with uniformly awful Grateful Dead ones; the now infamous “tour from hell” that culminated in the only possible way it could have. But for the rock starved kids of Connecticut, 1995 was also notable for another type of live music milestone; The Meadows Music Theatre in Hartford was officially open for business. Epic drives to outdoor sheds in New Jersey or Massachusetts were no longer entirely necessary; now Nutmeg State high schoolers had a parking lot of their very own in which to get into Zima-fueled fist fights before Dave Matthews shows. I was 16 years old at the time and felt like I spent every weekend there camped out on the lawn catching up on the classic rock cannon; The Allman Brothers, Santana, Doobies, Steve Miller Band, and every post-Jerry incarnation of The Dead imaginable, including the first Furtherfest, which left me permanently scarred because not only did I watch the entire show next to a hippie mom intent on sharing bowls with her 9-year-old son, but Mickey Hart “rapped” Fire on the Mountain.

Phish has played The Meadows (or Xfinity Theatre if you prefer) only five nights since it first opened, and none since 2010, which is somewhat surprising given its southern New England location. Yours truly skipped the ’00 weekend to attend a wedding, and passed on the 2010 shows to “volunteer” at a craft beer festival; it’s no exaggeration to say that many a Nugget Nectar was spilled in shock when every wook in the house received the exact same text message stating they just missed their favorite band encoring with “Tweezer Reprise,” TWICE! But I did manage to attend the 8/14/09 Hartford show, which between a large concentration of Gamehendge rarities, “Reba”-fied “Down With Disease” and a “Psycho Killer” bustout folded into a fantastic “Ghost,” is a legitimate contender for a Top 20 show of 3.0.

We have a saying in Connecticut; “When New England Brewing Company advertises the availability of Double Fuzzy Ducks IPA, you proceed to acquire said IPA, preferably in large brown jugs that can be transported to a parking lot for purposes of consumption.” My party did exactly this, and arrived on lot at4:45 on what can best be described as a pleasantly gray day. There was no sun to speak of, but at 65 degrees and a slight breeze, there was also none of the oppressive heat associated with summer Phish, and save a brief squall that brought back Jones Beach 2013 nightmares, the rain held off. Furthermore, unlike the lot scene in Great Woods and/or SPAC, it was not imperative that one restrict their alcohol consumption to the red Solo cup; lot security was friendly with exposed bottles and cans in abundance, and Shakedown was en route to the venue and easily accessible. I kept bumping into high school friends from twenty years ago that hadn’t seen a Phish show since the last time they played Hartford, and there’s something oddly comforting in knowing that after all those years, Trey and the boys are still the best way to blow it out on a Saturday night in Connecticut.

The festivities kicked off at 8:10 with “Pigtail,” the jaunty C major rocker last witnessed in Minnesota that serves to screw up everyone’s opener call while being considerably catchy and highly reminiscent of another C major jam I wouldn’t mind seeing revived, “Energy.” Competent versions of “Moma Dance” and “Birds of a Feather” gave way to the rarely seen “Meat,” an early set highlight. This “Meat” benefitted from extensive use of Trey’s Echoplex effect, and a general degree of added funk; let’s call it dry aged with caramelized onions and a dollop of blue cheese if you will. My buddy was quick to call it “the best version of that song I’ve ever heard, man,” and while its hardly a tune of which I can recall standout performances at will, he may not be wrong. “Vultures” is never unwelcome the one or two times it surfaces in a year, but I still used it as a bathroom break because I know what “Vultures” sounds like, and the aforementioned Double IPAs weren’t going to drain themselves. “Free” was completely fine, albeit more memorable for me dropping my five-dollar pretzel, leaving a forlorn puddle of honey mustard in its salty wake.

Here’s a fun fact about “Let Me Lie;” the Bar 17 version on Spotify is actually labeled as “Let Me Die.” Really! And it is indeed necessary to distinguish it by versions as Trey Anastasio has recorded the song for three separate albums; Phish’s Party Time, Trey’s Bar 17, and the heavily produced Trey solo album Traveler, notable for containing husky backing vocals from The National’s Matt Berninger, as if adding a dose of Brooklyn indie-rock gloom was the final key to unleashing its full potential. Phish played “Let Me Lie” in Hartford for the first time in nearly six years, and this fact didn’t make Trey’s ode to therapeutic biking suck any less. “Halley’s Comet” was “Halley’s,” and “Julius” contained an initially raunchy edge that had many thinking it was actually “La Grange,” in addition to extra torrents of Page organ to close out a relatively short first set. Or so we had assumed. “You Enjoy Myself” hasn’t been taken for a first set spin since 2014, and this one featured instrument switching during the improv jam; Phish’s currently preferred method of getting instantly wacky. Mike had already exhibited his rock guitar chops during Friday night’s “Cities,” so he opted for Page’s clavinet tonight, while the latter took over on bass, exhibiting a bent knee pose and finger picking ability that Geddy Lee would no doubt appreciate. Trey plays the Marimba Lumina to justify its existence, and the groove was surprisingly supple; a fine example of how the instincts of schooled musicians can still make them sound highly skilled on instruments not necessarily their own.

The word that kept coming to my mind to describe this first set would be ‘textbook;’ albeit a very interesting textbook that you save from your college Poly Sci course and keep on your bookshelf to look intelligent, like The Federalist Papers or de Tocqueville’s Democracy In America.

In Phish 3.0, “Down With Disease” is as ubiquitous a second set opener as “Scarlet Begonias” was for the Dead throughout the 80’s. While I can’t help but wonder if it would kill them to place it somewhere else from time to time, it’s seldom less than fantastic, and Hartford’s version was a show highlight. Clocking in at 19 minutes, it has a 2016 cousin in the Wrigley Field “Disease,” as both feature dark jamming in E minor, and the heady rush of driving down a darkened Autobahn at an unsafe speed. The jam was anchored by Trey playing a sinister six note melody, exhibiting excellent use of both space and patience, before ripping off torrents of showy notes towards the song’s conclusion. My only written notes for the ensuing “Sand” consisted of me writing the word “CLAV” three times in ALL CAPS letters. When Page stands up, we get down, and what this “Sand” may have lacked in length, it more than made up for by being a straight-ahead funk bomb.

Prior to this evening, I had seen Phish play “Tela” exactly once, on November 24, 1998 in New Haven, CT; an evening also notable for an encore in which The Dude of Life spontaneously added lyrics to “Tweezer Reprise.” I considered myself lucky as many of my friends had never seen “Tela” at all, and didn’t exactly appreciate how Trey basically played the opening riff at the second Wrigley Field show before opting for “Divided Sky” instead. I can think of roughly twenty close friends in attendance at Hartford who got their first “Tela” last night, and it was played flawlessly, which is seldom a given with that song.

So at this point we’re roughly 40 minutes into a very solid second set, and Phish should by every measure want to blow the roof off with a monster “Carini.” However, this one petered out with a Trey ripcord after a mere seven minutes, despite a particularly playful composed section with added Fishman howling and Trey tacking on “yes he did!” to the ends of the verses. “Twenty Years Later” sounds fantastic closing Joy, but I contend it’s still never really found a comfortable footing in a Phish set (Reading ’13 excepted), and the ensuing “Antelope” was Type-I standard to a tee, if tightly played. “Backwards Down the Number Line” has somehow morphed into Trey’s answer to “Sugar Magnolia;” a bouncy set closer that’s as affable as a golden retriever and even more eager to please; at this point even the most curmudgeonly of Jaded Vets has to garner some kind of enjoyment from it, and this was an excellent version with an unusually quiet mid-section giving way to the expected trilling at the end.

While there was little in this Phish show that scaled the staggering heights of the tour best “Ghost” >”Light” combo from the evening prior, any show with a first set “YEM,” 19 minute “Down With Disease” and friggin’ “Tela” steers clear of the dreaded Saturday Night Special tag fairly easily. I’d have gladly swapped out “Twenty Years Later” for another ten minutes of “Carini,” but a high level of effort was clearly evident throughout, something that could not necessarily be said for last weekend, and that’s even before you factor in the beautiful buzz of a “Lizards,” “Loving Cup” encore. And leaving the lot was somewhat more simple than it had been at Great Woods, aided in no small part by our particularly aggressive driver whose post-show ritual involves blasting the Hamilton soundtrack at ear rupturing volume with the windows down, treating sloppy wooks with the same disdain that Hamilton once had for the British infantry.

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Comments

, comment by J_D_G
J_D_G Terrific recap, David!
, comment by jaylimmo
jaylimmo Many more recaps from this guy please ok thanx
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS extremely well-written review.

When criticisms are laced with humor and perspective, they go down smoothly. There were many years of Phish presented here in this singular show review.

Agree with the call on the previous night's Ghost> Light. I don't agree with your feeling on Let Me Lie, as I would literally pay to have the opportunity to beg Trey to substitute with this tune, or Anything But Me, or Friday, or Nothing or ANYTHING in favor of The Line.

So happy that the '15 hangover seems to be over.

Thank you again.
, comment by Gretzky99
Gretzky99 Can anyone tell what song was being played at 9:04 last night? My baby boy was born less than hour away
, comment by dUb138
dUb138 Really good recap. Finally some perspective and humor as compared to the standard negative setlist walk through. I'd like to hear more of your reviews. Thanks.
, comment by bill__the__butcher
bill__the__butcher @Gretzky99 said:
Can anyone tell what song was being played at 9:04 last night? My baby boy was born less than hour away
Congrats!!!! I'd say Haleys Comet or Julius.
, comment by elwoodbud
elwoodbud Gretzky99: Haley's Comet was played from 9:00 to 9:06.
, comment by bushwood_a_dump
bushwood_a_dump Great review. thanks. Much more of my style; not the Relix intern, jam band run-down approach where standard readings are epic and everything is served with extra mustard.
, comment by Hambrownie
Hambrownie Here is a full version of You Enjoy Myself from Hartford last night.

, comment by lizards95
lizards95 Couldn't said it better- keep it rolling boys!
, comment by Gretzky99
Gretzky99 Haley's? That's pretty cool. Traveling from the far beyond to come to earth. He's a healthy baby. Thanks for your congrats. Great review of the show by the way! Yem, meat, tela, vultures and sand are some of my ultimate favs. Sorry to have missed this one, but the show I was present for I will never forget.
, comment by the_vultures
the_vultures @FACTSAREUSELESS said:
extremely well-written review.

When criticisms are laced with humor and perspective, they go down smoothly. There were many years of Phish presented here in this singular show review.

Agree with the call on the previous night's Ghost> Light. I don't agree with your feeling on Let Me Lie, as I would literally pay to have the opportunity to beg Trey to substitute with this tune, or Anything But Me, or Friday, or Nothing or ANYTHING in favor of The Line.

So happy that the '15 hangover seems to be over.

Thank you again.
I couldn't agree more. I am not a Line hater, but there are so many other cool down options. Revisiting some '03 stuff today and I'm struck by how beautiful the Trey/Marshall compositions from that era are. Why are All of These Dreams and Ayything But Me completely dormant these days?
, comment by Matty1222
Matty1222 Thanks for sharing your story and painting a picture to the show I listened to. I agree with many of your points and hope you get to review another show this year. Well done.

Couple quick thoughts...

Meat was tasty and one of the better versions I have ever heard. Vultures is always fun, especially with "WHOOOO's!!" at the end. I'm from Jersey, we like to yell.

A first set YEM is a delicious treat and a rarity in 3.0 land.

Tela is bliss and performed very well. They found "IT" during DWD. IT has hasn't been easily detected in Summer 16' but it always welcomed with open arms when it arrives. Sand was sweet, tight, and to the point. Carini' placement pleasantly surprised me but wished it stretched its legs a little more. Lizards is one of my favs and loving cup is such a feel good, big smiling closer.

All in all, this weekend felt electric, satisfying, and souped. Stick around.
, comment by Matty1222
Matty1222 @Matty1222 said:
Thanks for sharing your story and painting a picture to the show I listened to. I agree with many of your points and hope you get to review another show this year. Well done.

Couple quick thoughts...

Meat was tasty and one of the better versions I have ever heard. Vultures is always fun, especially with "WHOOOO's!!" at the end. I'm from Jersey, we like to yell.

A first set YEM is a delicious treat and a rarity in 3.0 land.

Tela is bliss and performed very well. They found "IT" during DWD. IT has hasn't been easily detected in Summer 16' but it always welcomed with open arms when it arrives. Sand was sweet, tight, and to the point. Carini's placement pleasantly surprised me but wished it stretched its legs a little more. Lizards is one of my favs and loving cup is such a feel good, big smiling closer.

All in all, this weekend felt electric, satisfying, and souped. Stick around.
, comment by BestBandEver
BestBandEver Good review- appreciate the humor and the lack of hating; however, I disagree that the first set was "textbook," especially in the context of this tour. As someone who was stubbed into the pavilion and was therefore constantly mobile in the back aisle, I felt like I had a good gauge on the overall psyche level, wooks and noobs alike, and I will say that the vibe I was getting (and giving) was that the first set had the best flow of any in a long time. Tons of funk, plenty of rock, and a sweet let me lie (I agree with the person who said this could take the slot of basically any other "breather" in the repertoire). Aaaaaand the YEM closer. I thought S1 was pure fire. And I thought that the second set had equally impressive flow, cohesion and creativity. Bottom line is everyone I saw (and high fived and hugged and slapped on the ass during Sand (yea that was me) was shaking their ass as hard as they could through most of the show and left knowing that the Boys had given it their all. My take was that was an absolute barn burner and a show I will listen to front-to-back many, many times. Huzzah for Phish.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @the_vultures said:
@FACTSAREUSELESS said:
extremely well-written review.

When criticisms are laced with humor and perspective, they go down smoothly. There were many years of Phish presented here in this singular show review.

Agree with the call on the previous night's Ghost> Light. I don't agree with your feeling on Let Me Lie, as I would literally pay to have the opportunity to beg Trey to substitute with this tune, or Anything But Me, or Friday, or Nothing or ANYTHING in favor of The Line.

So happy that the '15 hangover seems to be over.

Thank you again.
I couldn't agree more. I am not a Line hater, but there are so many other cool down options. Revisiting some '03 stuff today and I'm struck by how beautiful the Trey/Marshall compositions from that era are. Why are All of These Dreams and Ayything But Me completely dormant these days?
Both songs you mention are two favorites of mine and I wish they'd bring them back. Agreed.
, comment by the_vultures
the_vultures I like Friday too, although that might be a minority stance.
, comment by Slickleg
Slickleg Really, really nice to hear someone not so totally negative on this site. Just a good review without forcefully reminding us of how much better the reviewer would have made the show (if they had any musical talent). Peace from the 2016 Summer forgotten Southland.
, comment by Phatkev
Phatkev Great review, Dave. I would read more of them if you were a regular contributor, and it has nothing to do with me being mentioned in it. It really brought back the nostalgia of that place. Also, I love how you put a Hamilton reference in there. It really is the perfect music to exit a show.
, comment by HenryHolland
HenryHolland I like Friday too, although that might be a minority stance

Count me in. I think it's a good song that was often poorly performed live (tempo was too slow) and of course there's angst it gets for being the closing song of the third set of the first day at Coventry. I love Anything But Me, it's got one of my favorite Phish lyrics. I wish it was a regular in the "ballad" slot of setlists but oh well.

Looking forward to the 7/22 show at the Forum here in Los Angeles. They've done a great job renovating it and the two previous Phish shows I've seen there included a great version of Slave to the Traffic Light.
, comment by wattznext
wattznext @bushwood_a_dump said:
Great review. thanks. Much more of my style; not the Relix intern, jam band run-down approach where standard readings are epic and everything is served with extra mustard.
The only thing with extra mustard was OP's poor, lost pretzel.
, comment by dmg924
dmg924 @J_D_G said:
Terrific recap, David!
Thanks Jeremy! Huge fan of your contributions to the latest Phish Companion. It's a top shelf production.
, comment by dipped
dipped Beautiful writing.
, comment by imphour20
imphour20 the grateful dead played in 95, furthur wasnt until 96
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @imphour20 said:
the grateful dead played in 95, furthur wasnt until 96
The author mentioned the last Dead tour in the summer of '95. I don't think he's confused.
, comment by Nomidwestlove
Nomidwestlove Great review! Thanks a lot.
, comment by jsauce
jsauce I will add that this review is a lot more intellingent and fun to read than most of the official reviews here.
, comment by Dressed_In_Gray
Dressed_In_Gray Great write up

Excellent golden retriever simile. Worked really well.
, comment by twist2piper
twist2piper COULD WE PLEASE HAVE MORE REVIEWS FROM DAVID!!! PLEEEEEASE!!!!

I am a deep thinking Phish fan, and in my mind reviews like this should be the norm on such a heralded website! Side stories, past comparisons, intricate details, and honest to goodness honesty about the show! No offense to some others, but comparing this to a couple of the previous reviews is like comparing apples to... Well.... A log.

Great job brother! Hope to see more from you... I hope I don't cause any offense, I just believe that there should be a standard for the reviews here on .net, and this one exceeds it and sets a wonderful bar! Keep it up!
, comment by JughedJones
JughedJones This guy. He's good. I came here because I was sure someone appreciated the #Line as much as me. The author didn't disappoint.
, comment by SaintAndrew
SaintAndrew Ditto on great review. And ditto on whoever called out reviewers who insist on chalking everything up to "extra mustard" and stock-phrases that mean absolutely nothing.

Good balance of honest criticism and historical perspective.
, comment by dkstar1
dkstar1 Excellent review. I totally heard the La Grange at the start of Julius. More commentary about how awful the lot (physical conditions) was and how skeezy the scene was (compared to any of the other shows I've seen this tour) would've been welcome. That said, once inside, the venue was fantastic (I haven't been since '00).
, comment by 98ghostphunk
98ghostphunk I'm rather sure I stepped over the pretzel
, comment by Tando
Tando Best review of the summer so far. Thanks for the post!
, comment by drshaws
drshaws Great review. I concur in that I was really hoping for Carini spreading out, especially after the vocal extras. But even at that point I was at the gravy stage following getting my first Tela (42nd show's the charm) and a first set YEM (I heart first set YEM closers - much rather head into the break vs. into the encore following the vocal jam). Also agree on the great analogy for BDTNL (Trey's Sugar Magnolia) - and even though I'm not a fan, the jam did do the composed section justice.
, comment by axxonn
axxonn Awesome review! Loved the historical context and lol'd at Trey playing the marimba lumina "to justify its existence." Had a lot of fun at the show and it's great to read something so funny and accurate afterwards.
, comment by whatstheuse324
whatstheuse324 Anything but Me will always remind me of using my own private bathroom in a luxury suite in Boston for the 20th anniversary show. No offense to the song, it's a positive memory.
, comment by Slice
Slice A Jewel of a Review. Best of the tour, so thank you for your efforts, Dave.
, comment by Piper72
Piper72 @Gretzky99 said:
Haley's? That's pretty cool. Traveling from the far beyond to come to earth. He's a healthy baby. Thanks for your congrats. Great review of the show by the way! Yem, meat, tela, vultures and sand are some of my ultimate favs. Sorry to have missed this one, but the show I was present for I will never forget.
Halley or Haley (think it's customary to drop an 'l' for boy) or Julius, or even Haley Julius (or Julius Haley) - can't go wrong with any combination!
, comment by Piper72
Piper72 @HenryHolland said:
I like Friday too, although that might be a minority stance

Count me in. I think it's a good song that was often poorly performed live (tempo was too slow) and of course there's angst it gets for being the closing song of the third set of the first day at Coventry. I love Anything But Me, it's got one of my favorite Phish lyrics. I wish it was a regular in the "ballad" slot of setlists but oh well.

Looking forward to the 7/22 show at the Forum here in Los Angeles. They've done a great job renovating it and the two previous Phish shows I've seen there included a great version of Slave to the Traffic Light.
Ditto. One of my favs. And I think a good chance of returning with all the bust-outs, especially Round Room on 6/22.
, comment by Piper72
Piper72 I stand my ground as The Line being one of the best new Phish songs. It just needs a good 15- to 20- minute Type II blowout to silence the haters. (And it does ache for it.) But, it's still a damn good song.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @whatstheuse324 said:
Anything but Me will always remind me of using my own private bathroom in a luxury suite in Boston for the 20th anniversary show. No offense to the song, it's a positive memory.
Also a very good version of that song!
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @Piper72 said:
I stand my ground as The Line being one of the best new Phish songs. It just needs a good 15- to 20- minute Type II blowout to silence the haters. (And it does ache for it.) But, it's still a damn good song.
I think Phish should donate the song to the Disco Biscuits and see what they can do with it.

Image
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS For the record, I think the Disease> Sand is top shelf.

Also, I don't think that this Carini was destined to go anywhere. You mentioned that you would have rather they extend Carini another 10 minutes, but based on what? That you don't like TYL? The Carini jam had petered out and needed a segue. I think the problem is that Trey botched the segue, otherwise it would have sounded fairly seamless. That's how I heard it anyway.
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