It had to be the best idea ever. "Let's build an arena and we'll stick it inside a shopping mall." For 1975, it had to make sense. No one who went to the Hartford Civic Center in 80's and 90's can forget the absurd collision of commerce that was the Civic Center. Buy some jeans at The Gap, have dinner at The Ground Round, and watch a monster truck show. What a night!
Technically, the venue inside the Civic Center is the "Veteran's Memorial Coliseum," though now the entire complex is referred to as the "XL Center" through a naming rights agreement with XL Capital. The exterior has changed, the shopping mall is gone and it's hardly the same compared to Phish's last visit in 1999. Of course, the building's most famous and maligned tenant was the one and only Hartford Whalers. Everyone's favorite punchline in hockey, the original building was, for all intents and purposes, theirs. Located in Connecticut's capital city it was one of two venues in the state where you'd expect to attend a major ticketed event, with the now defunct New Haven Coliseum. If it was coming to town, it was probably happening at the Civic Center.
Phish made their first visit on October 23, 1996. The entire second set was highlighted by a notable guest, Bob Gullotti on the second drum kit. A definite precursor to the percussion-infused Halloween show that would come just over a week later. The set opening "Brother" and the layered rhythms highlight a perfect example of the night's music.
One year later on November 26, 1997, Hartford was the Thanksgiving-eve venue for an amazing show in a tour full of highlights. From the opening "Tweezer" to the jammed out "Character Zero," the night was the party that everyone dreams of having with their friends on a homecoming eve.
So Phish will once again return to indoor venue in Hartford and we'll see what wonders await. Personally, I'm hoping for the 30-minute "Brass Bonanza."
One final note: Judging by the ticket availability (on a site which shall remain unnamed) this looks to be an intimate venue setup, similar to Phish's visit to Manchester, NH in 2010 where a good portion of the seats will be unsold.