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Phish at Mohegan Sun Arena — Uncasville, CT

Interlude: 7/7-7/8 Boston, MA -> Mohegan Sun, CT

I have two full days before the next leg of tours gets underway at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut, so there’s no rush to skedaddle out of Beantown.  I get on the horn with Kinetic and The Wook Dad, who have late afternoon/early evening flights back home so we make plans to check out the highly regarded Boston Museum of Science before our respective departures.

I pick ‘em up and pack ‘em in and we head over to the museum. Both of these cats are very new friends made along the way of this run, but there is no ice to be broken. The hit off is instantaneous and I feel like we have known each other for a lifetime. Kinetic and The Wook Dad are both Southern and it shows both in their drawls and warm, patient demeanors. They remind me of my childhood growing up in the hospitable southeastern corner of the country.

We arrive at the museum and pay our entry fee and choose our path.  Almost immediately, we’re collectively a bit underwhelmed by the museum’s offerings but figure we just haven’t gotten to the meat of the museum yet.  Like a show that starts slowly, we decide to give it time. We keep on and stumble into a live presentation of electricity and thermodynamics. OK, this is neat, but still, none of us are exactly electrified.  After trucking through a few more exhibits we unanimously start to face the music — this museum is a letdown and/or we bought the hype way too much. There’s a cafeteria so we grab some food — this turns out to be the best thing about the museum.  Before leaving, we hike to the parking deck roof for some final gazes at the Boston backdrop. I drop Kinetic and The Wook Dad off at Logan, missing them already but looking forward to getting down at Dick’s come Labor Day weekend. I hit the road for Lawn Guy Land, or so I think…

Kinetic, The Wook Dad, Boston, & me

An hour or so into my drive I find myself in an interstate parking lot with my GPS relentlessly adding time to my ETA.  I’m sitting in 90-degree heat with an out-of-commission A/C. This is not a pleasant setting. I pull off at a rest stop to regroup and cool off, checking the distance to Mohegan Sun from my current location.  I can be there in roughly 90 minutes or hope that no more end-of-holiday-weekend-traffic time is added to my 4+ hours remaining to home. The next move is to check hotel availability in the area surrounding Mohegan Sun.  I find a cheap room at a Super 8 a few minutes from the venue and this is all I need to make my audible official. An extra day and a half to two in Connecticut it is!

After a drive nearly as scenic and green as the one through Vermont on the 4th, I arrive at my resting space and cancel my AirBnB (with full refund — yay!) for the 9th and 10th.  Might as well save some coin by sticking to the luxurious and elegant confines of Super 8. Now it’s nap time before heading to Mohegan Sun to get the lay of the land… and maybe to play some blackjack.

The last time I was in a casino was, not surprisingly, for Phish in Las Vegas, 2018.  During that trip, I enjoyed my time at the blackjack tables, perhaps a bit too much. I didn’t lose money or chase loses, but I did find myself experiencing many of the same sensations while gambling as I have in the past while using or pursuing drugs.  That said, I found myself with the ability to step away at the right time, something I always lacked when it came to drugs. I made an agreement with myself after Vegas to keep my gambling indulgences relegated to times when Phish is playing a casino venue.  Admittedly, this is perhaps the gambling equivalent of the early stages of naivety that one experiences when using drugs, when it’s “just the beginning” and “still fun.” Or perhaps gambling, while enjoyable and exciting for me, simply doesn’t provide, for me, the full array of escapism I so received and so vigorously chased in drugs and active addiction.

So here I am.  The next day and a half are spent on and off blackjack tables, slurping down complimentary strawberry milkshakes and making new friends as the phans slowly begin the take over of Mohegan Sun, a venue Phish is playing for the first time in their career.  None of my close friends, TPhish, Barka, Hair Tie, or EJ, are here until Tuesday. I enjoy the short time I have more or less to myself … without breaking the bank.

Chapter 6: Mohegan Sun Arena

Uncasville, CT (7/9, 7/10, Shows 12 & 13)

“Dancing in a dream and we’re free of time…”

Mohegan Sun N1

Around brunch time on Tuesday, I head over to the casino venue to watch the Phan takeover in full effect.  After some lunch and a few hands of blackjack, TPhish rings in to let me know she’s close to town, so I circle back to the Super 8 to meet up.  She gets settled in and we go back to Mohegan. It’s her first time in a casino and right away I recognize on her face the same mixed look of wonder and confusion that I had in my initial exposure to the Las Vegas scene.

We go on a tour of the grounds, weaving in and out of blackjack, craps, and the whirring bells and whistles of the infinite slot machines.  There’s a mall of sorts past the gaming area and we discover a Ben & Jerry’s, agreeing to return here for a fitting pre-show snack. We soon find ourselves in the hotel section of the venue and realize there is a cheerleading or beauty competition being held in Mohegan concurrent with the Phish shows.  Groups of young girls pass by with trophies and medals and groups of surrounding Phans erupt in congratulatory applause. Time and again, our special community proves itself wholesome and fun-loving beyond the stereotype of a drug-riddled group of party animals with no direction in life. If there’s one generalization I’d make about us, it’s that we love to see people, in and out of our community, happy and doing well.

Eventually, I get a buzz from Barka and Hair Tie so we move back downstairs to link up with them. We stroll about the grounds just talking and taking the whole scene in, excited to be crewed up for the night. We run into Aly, my new artists friend from back home who I’d talked to for months before finally meeting in person at SPAC Shakedown. We waltz back over to the food court and grab some grub before it’s time to head inside for the show.

Barka, Hair Tie, TPhish, & me at Mohegan Sun
Hair Tie, TPhish, Barka, & me putting down some pre-show grub

As is tradition, there’s a stop at the Phellowship table where my dude EJ is once again doing service.  TPhish and I head into some seats behind the stage. We aren’t seated in the same section tonight, but the usher here is not on some Fenway N2 shit and lets us do our thing.  Immediately after posting up, I get a buzz from Barka. Him and Hair Tie are a few sections over from us in ADA seating on account of Barka’s hip injury. We climb over their way just in time for the lights to go down and the start of the show.

Trey is giddy out of the gate, teasing about having just taught Mike this song backstage before busting out the first Energy since 8/4/13 (226 shows).  After a solid 11 or 12 minutes this segues like hot butter into a stand-alone Weekapaug Groove, missing (in rare form) it’s antecedent Mike’s Song. Nonetheless, the house is burning down in the midst of this Groove.  Toward the end of this, TPhish and I get the official boot from this section and race over to our respective seats in time for the steady slap of The Moma Dance. Maze comes in next with Lengthwise lyrics sung over the hi-hat intro.  Compositional masterpiece (but fan least favorite) Petrichor follows with a quick Things People Do next. Sample gets the crowd singing in a chorus before, in my opinion, the Bathtub Gin of the tour closes Set 1 in funky, 2001-esque fashion.

We’re all in this together!

At set break, I snack up and rendezvous at the table with the gang.  Despite being split up, everyone is having a great time and is going crazy over Set 1, completely unaware of what is about to unfold in Set 2.

Back at my seat, Soul Planet kicks off Set 2. This can go a couple of ways — standard and in the box or way far out in Type II territory, becoming unrecognizable from its origin. This version is somewhere between the two, but there is no disappointment when the abbreviation leads into one of my favorite GOTF songs and a Phish debut, Wider. Undermind and Final Hurrah make a delightful combo next before the highlight of the night — a 17-minute formless rendition of Beneath a Sea of Stars. Fishman’s drumming here is something I have never witnessed live — he is doing things I didn’t realize were possible. Up to this point, this has to be considered the jam of the year, and I have a hard time seeing anything top it. Ghost follows suit, carrying with it some of the jazzy features of BASOS, before another killer Birds of a Feather (MVP of the tour so far?), Waste, and Golgi Apparatus close out Set 2.

Beneath a Sea of Stars

Encore opens with my first Foam followed by my first Contact, a song involving crowd participation in the form of vocals and hand waving.  Closing staple More rounds things out.

Back in the concourse, TPhish and I reconnect with Barka and Hair Tie and make our way to our cars before hugging farewell.  We head back to Super 8 to recuperate for Night 2.

Mohegan Sun N2 (7/10)

We start out our Wednesday with crepes and coffee at a local joint halfway between Super 8 and Mohegan Sun.  The owner chats us up and asks us all about Phish, a conversation we are all too eager to engage in. We head back to the hotel and knock out some homework and work work before circling back for the venue around late afternoon/early evening.

TPhish has never gambled and I get the idea it wouldn’t be right to not put a few bucks down on her first visit.  We find a ridiculous 2 seater Monopoly slot machine and I throw in a Jackson. After a few hits, we realize the frivolity of slots.  But TPhish says she’s suddenly feeling lucky. She slaps the play button and lo and behold hits a $28 payout. Now up $24, I cash us out to take our fortune elsewhere.  Wanting some of her luck to rub off at the blackjack tables, I find a seat and run off 5 or 6 consecutive wins for a quick $180 profit. Not letting myself get greedy, I step away, knowing the hot hand will inevitably cool.

TPhish & me surrounded by the bells & whistles of Mohegan Sun

We snag some Ben & Jerry’s on our way in for N2. Greetings are exchanged at the table before taking our behind stage seats and linking up with Julia and her boyfriend. The lights go down and the opening notes of Buried Alive have me giddy as a schoolboy. The energy doesn’t let up one bit with Cavern and Dogs Stole Things. Sugar Shack, a song I can take or leave, follows before giving way to an outstanding and relentless sequence of Stash (amazing version), Wingsuit (with some sublime guitar work by Trey, Limb by Limb, Gumbo, Stray Dog, Steam, and a shattering David Bowie that reminds me of what I already know: behind the stage seating KICKS ASS, as it offers a unique perspective of the lights and the ways they illuminate the Phans throughout the arena.

There ain’t no time to stash the gumbo!

During set break, I meet with Heather, a cousin of CC (from the Camden N3 recap), who used to party with Fishman (and has seen him naked!) back in Vermont.  After the usual snacks and bathroom, its back inside for Set 2.

Party Time lets the crowd known there’s no laying off the steam tonight. A somewhat subdued but crispy Chalkdust Torture follows before handing off to a brief ride on Ruby Waves. Seven Below and Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan are next before a truncated but crunchy Piper brings us back upon the waters of Ruby Waves. I Always Wanted it This Way, a Page-penned song, pairs up with Drift While You’re Sleeping to wrap up the set.

Encore gets hopping with Bouncing Around the Room before a monstrous Saw it Again with Kung lyrics blows the lid off the joint just in time for a classic Slave to the Traffic Light closer.

Phish’s first go at Mohegan Sun is an overwhelming and universal success and I hope they make this venue a regular stop for future multi-night runs.  It’s back to Super 8 for some sleep before an off-day of driving home and preparation for Alpine Valley.

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