My last Phish show was Coventry and I went with my brother. I was lucky enough to have caught IT, and had been excited for a similar three day party with great music, but Coventry left a horrible taste in my mouth. The whole event was a disaster. The flood issue was bad, the music was worse, and the vibe awful. I was glad it was their last show, and I had no interest in seeing them when they reunited last year. I think I was actually mad at the band, if that's possible. However, my brother landed 4 tickets to Hartford, and I happened to be in New England with my girlfriend (who hates the little bit of live Phish she's heard), so I decided to check it out.
So I dragged the Phish-hating ball-and-chain to Hartford, and my brother brought a good friend, who had never really listened to the band at all. Shake-down turned out to be a blast; it was a very upbeat environment to hang out in and drink a few beers. I was already reminded of how different a Phish experience can be. The energy level was really high, and suddenly I found myself hoping that Phish could still deliver.
I can honestly say that Phish blew us all away in Hartford, surpassing everyone's expectations. When I try to explain to non-fans why Phish is so great, this show is exactly what I think of. The energy level was EXTREMELY high. Story-telling, trampolining, vacuum-cleaner solos providing humor, and interaction between the band and crowd were all reminders that the band doesn't really take itself too seriously. Also, Chris Kuroda has once again stepped up his game with the lighting he provided. Bust most importantly, we heard good jams, and the band sounded great. They were as enthusiastic as the crowd, and the show was a blast.
I know we got lucky with how stacked this set-list was, but the greatness of this show for me was contributed to by this factor, rather than determined by it. I felt that I, like many people, had gone to a Phish show this summer with a depressing feeling that I may witness a train wreck. I thought I may see the sloppy, unenthusiastic band of 2004. I was so disappointed with my last Phish experience, and I didn't want to see the band add to that with another abortion of a show. How wrong I was.
Hartford has given me that itch again. Listening to the tapes of this show made me realize it wasn't without flaws, but it reminded me why Phish has more or less ruined other live music for me; no band can capture that energy, enthusiasm, and fun of live music that Phish can consistently deliver. I've listened to more Phish since Hartford than I had in the years since Coventry. I can't wait for the next show. This show was worth the wait, and somehow they even converted my girlfriend. So while the recording of this show won’t provide you with the best versions of these songs you have ever heard, no one goes to a Phish show anticipating what the tapes may be like the next day. The point is the experience at that moment, and on this night they were perfect.
-Naptown Phish Fan