New York City
If Phish plays a mediocre first set, they have been following that up with a monster second set. I've seen it happen too many times already since their return, so at this point, I'm almost expecting an average first set because I know that insanity will ensue for the second half of the evening. Hartford was a prime example where the first set had several special moments but lacked the spice and punch of previous shows. However, the second set was phenomenal because Phish smoked the shit out of Hartford Meadows.
Seriously, if you have friends who are new to Phish or on the fence about Phish, then you have to play them the second set of 8/14/09. If they don't convert to Phish by the time Pyscho Killer comes around, then you have a lost cause on your hands. If someone cannot appreciate the oodles of frenetic energy that was encapsulated in the second set at Hartford, then you need to de-friend them on Facebook immediately.
For most of the show, I was raging solo and the other bit I hung out Javier and his friends from Connecticut. I drove up from NYC and parked in one of the pay lots near the car dealerships so I could get out of dodge once the show ended and I could get back to NYC at a reasonable hour. I wandered around Shakedown while I waited for Javier to arrive. I brought three used books with me to sell in Shakedown... one for each night. It took me only ten minutes before I sold a book by Alan Watts. I didn't even have to haggle and I got $10 for it.
I used some of the proceeds to buy a bag of blah weed. The guy told me it was G-13 but I lived in Amsterdam for a short period and my girlfriend had a medicinal marijuana card in L.A., so I had access to the most primo stuff on the planet. That was not G-13 he was slinging, but I didn't argue on semantics in the middle of Shakedown. I told him that $40 was too much and I'd pay $30. We settled on $35. That's when I heard the kid whispering "Pharmies!" I'm always in search of Adderrall but that kid only had morphine pills. I declined him for two reasons...
1. The pill was worth no more than $15.
2. The last thing I need is a morphine addiction.
I turned him down along with the spun out old guy who looked like Bill Kruetzman who tried to sell me doses and Klonapin. I politely declined. I failed in a quest to secure Adderrall. The back of the free parking lot included a decent Shakedown with a few vans with tanks of nitrous. Balloons were going for $10 a pop. One guy refused to give discounts until one of Javier's friends pulled a fast one on the nitrous dealers.
"They never look at the bills," explained one of Javier's friends. "That's because they make so much money and have to worry about frozen tanks and cops busting them that they grab your money and put in their pockets without verifying."
He paid $6 instead of $30. He showed the guy a $10 and a $20 and gave him a $5 and a $1 as a bait and switch. I admired the balls on Javier's friend as he blatantly robbed a nitrous dealer.
One wookette took off her shirt and wandered around topless. At first I thought her boobs were painted over, but just her stomach had paint on it and she was exposing her breasts. She was screaming, "Cash or trade for your extra."
8/14.09 Phish Hartford, CTThe boys didn't take the stage until 8:43pm so everyone on the lawn was nice and juiced up by the time the show started. I was Fishman side on the packed lawn. It looked like they oversold the place by 5,000 people. The sound was blah where I was standing and decided to sneak into the pavilion for the second set.
Set I: PYITE, AC/DC Bag, NICU, Col. Forbin's Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird, Birds of a Feather, Lawnboy, Stash, I Didn't Know, Middle Of The Road, Character Zero
Set 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
Col. Forbins > Mockingbird was historically significant and I respected the bustout, although musically speaking, it was average at best. Mike was the MVP on those songs though as all of the Gamehendge-freaks collectively jizzed their pants. I was more excited about hearing Birds for the first time since Hampton. Page dedicated Lawn Boy to the huddled masses on the lawn. Stash was sort of strange but had several dark moments and I always dig a Fishman vac solo on I Didn't Know. Javier thought those hijinks kill the momentum of the set. I strongly disagreed. That's why we go see Phish... to see a fat guy in a dress play a vacuum.
The first set was just an appetizer for the second set feast. I found a much better spot after sneaking up close. The only lowlight was Catapult only because it was just too weird for me and I was stone cold sober. This was a sober show for me (compared to the mind melts in Colorado and the Gorge) so I was a little impatient with Trey's spastic dance during Catapult.
Now, Icculus was a fuckin' sincere treat. I caught one at Oswego many moons ago. Trey scolded the spacekids and told them to "put down their iPhones and read a fuckin' book." The personal significance was uncanny. I'm in the final stages of my finishing my first published book Lost Vegas and both my brother and the Joker were reading copies of the final draft at their respective homes during the show! Plus, I brought used books with me to sell in the lot. It was all coming together.
Highlights of the second set? Ghost and Piper jams along with a curveball cover of Psycho Killer. The crowd wet berserk and it was one of the most amazing moments I had ever seen at a Phish show when the entire crowd was singing along to the chorus. It was one of those "you had to be there moments" that will not translate onto a recording. Mind blown.
And any time Phish plays my favorite song, Slave, I'm a very happy man. It's as if they played it personally for me. Shit, I drove from Seattle to LA then flew to NYC and drove to Hartford to see Phish... sober. That's how much I love the band and it's like they rewarded my difficult journey with my favorite tune.
WMGGW was the cherry on top of the sundae. I knew it wouldn't/couldn't top Pyscho Killer, but I'm a sucker for Beatles covers. I wandered out of the show with a shit-eating grin on my face and ready to snag a grilled cheese before I made the trek back to New York City so I can crash for a few hours and make the journey to Maryland so I can repeat this process.