Exploring Bonnaroo

Bonaroo 6.12.09 (D.Vann)

Bonaroo 6.12.09 (D.Vann)

Capping Bonnaroo with a full two-set Phish show, the band entertained last nights’ festival audience with creative jams- both old and new- and a guest sit-in for the ages. Using an explosive first frame and an exploratory second, Phish put an exclamation point on Bonnaroo 2009.  And what a show it was.

The first set opened quickly with the old-school combo of “AC/DC Bag” and “NICU” before the band loosened up with the emotive and extended dance-grooves of “Jibboo.”  Ernest jumped right into his guitar acrobatics early on, foreshadowing a big night for himself and the band.  After a a drawn-out, dancy intro, the band nailed “Punch” for the first time since their return, but the real fireworks of the first set got started with “Bathtub Gin.” The band used a spirited and creatively-phrased “type-I” jam to reach the first huge peak of the show, again with Trey taking front and center and leading the way.  The Phishiest segment of the set, however, began with the chunky, open-air “Tweezer” grooves which lead into a “Horse > Silent” interlude, and was capped by a smoking “Antelope,” that stood out as the improvisational highlight of the set.

Phish and Bruce (@seisenstein)

Phish and Bruce (@seisenstein)

Yet when crashing the presumed set-ender to a close, Phish didn’t leave the stage as Trey approached the mic. Telling the anecdote of seeing his first concert at Jadwin Gym in Princeton, NJ, he spoke of a three-hour show that captured his imagination of what a live concert could be. He then welcomed his boyhood hero, co-Bonnaroo Headliner, and subject of his story, Bruce Springsteen, to the stage. With wide-eyed smiles, both guitarists used “Mustang Sally” to acclimate to each other, and to allow Bruce to get a hang of the Phish. After concluding the standard, Bruce said, “Let’s give this a try,” as they entered his 1984 dark-horse song “Bobby Jean” off “Born In The USA.” A gorgeous composition that that “was considered a musical breakthrough for Springsteen during the recording, with its more accented rhythm and near dance groove” (WIki), it was the perfect selection for the collaboration. Capping the set with “the best “Glory Days” ever,” Bruce turned the soloing over to Red who annihilated The Boss’ hit with his signature licks.  It was a completely surreal experience to hear Trey shred amidst Bruce’s hit from our childhood- a total collision of worlds- it was awesome.  As the song ended with a colossal peak, the lights came on rather abruptly- set break. Phew- they were playing two sets! We all began to wonder if the Phish / Springsteen blowout would be the conclusion of the festival- and as good as it was- thank god it wasn’t.

6.12.09 (D.Vann)

6.12.09 (D.Vann)

What came next was one of the most risk-taking jams of the tour as the band took Velvet Underground’s “Rock and Roll” from a high-octane rock excursion into all-out ambient psychedelia, traveling a most adventurous path along the way.  Delving into some arrhythmic dissonance, the band created the darkest and most ominous portion the show before segueing slowly into “Light.”  I thought before the set that the band would feature a new song as a vehicle for the second set, and this was IT.  While the jam was introduced at Fenway’s tour opener, the band chose largest stage of tour to blowout one of their best new songs.

6.14.09 (@jms6248055)

6.14.09 (@jms6248055)

Embarking in some fast pace improv throughout most of the “Light” jam, the band then slowed down, taking it farther out there, landing in some ending in some “Manteca”-sounding funk.  Emerging out of the experimental”Light,” and capping the exceptional set opening trio, was a slowed-down and dirty “46 Days.”  Not necessarily the song you’d expect at this point, the band killed the festi-sized version; and following the incredible run of improv that had just occurred, the blues-rock served as oddly natural landing point for the first part of the set.  The band took little time to launch into a majestic “Limb by Limb” that served as a congruent soundtrack to the liberating outdoor atmosphere that Bonnaroo provided.  With as much space as anyone could want, Phish threw down an incredibly danceable show, allowing everyone to take full advantage of their vast surroundings.

Following “Limb,” the band slowed things down towards the end of the festival with a strangely placed, yet poignant, “Farmhouse” that wound up working quite well as the set’s cool-down song.  A late-set “Number Line” provided some additional new spice to the mix before Phish turned to a regal “Prince Caspian.”  A quintessential late-set version saw Trey dive into a monstrous solo as the late-night crowd soaked it in.  But instead of rolling into the final guitar chords of the song, the band dropped into a blistering “First Tube” that ended the set in a never-ending blissful peak.

With a “Suzy,” “Reprise,” ending, Phish closed the show on the highest of notes, making every Phish fan who decided to make the trek to Manchester’s massive gathering glad that they did.  After playing to the audience on Friday, Phish decided to do what they do best last night, and they created one of the most improvisational and engaging shows of tour.  On top of their game, Phish was the clear main draw of the weekend- and the only band for which the festival turned off the obnoxiously bright, massive neon “Bonnaroo” sign that graced the top of main stage.  In the end- as the crowd thinned out throughout the last day of the festival- when the second set started, the environment was soley focused on Phish.  And under the wide open Tennessee skies, they provided us with another memory along the yellow brick road of Summer ’09.  Next stop- The Fox!

I: AC/DC Bag, NICU, Gotta Jibboo, Punch You in the Eye, Sparkle, Bathtub Gin, Character Zero, Tweezer > The Horse > Silent In The Morning, Run Like An Antelope, Mustang Sally*, Bobby Jean,*  Glory Days*

II: Rock & Roll > Light > 46 Days, Limb By Limb, Farmhouse, Backwards Down The Number Line, Prince Caspian > First Tube

E: Suzy Greenberg > Tweezer Reprise

* w/ Bruce Springsteen

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459 Responses to “Exploring Bonnaroo”

  1. BTB Says:

    To all those going for the Midwest Run – here’s a run down of songs not “busted out” on the first leg so far – to the best of my knowledge…

    Crosseyed and Painless
    Tela, Mockingbird, Forbins
    Emotional Rescue (hmmm…)
    Buffalo Bill
    Camel Walk
    The Mango Song
    The Landlady
    McGrupp (damn it! they just busted it out!)
    Sleeping Monkey

  2. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Nice Encore Selection.
    One of my favorites. Last personally seen 10-11-95. In a Mike’s Sandwich. Subsequently, it was the first show I took my parent’s to.
    Oh, to be there!

  3. DaNcInG fOoL Says:


  4. BTB Says:

    What an encore – this show could be pretty tight!

    Onto STAR LAKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. FriedSallyFried Says:

    i sort of yawned at the second set (though the energy I’m sure was good)…but holy smokes…McGrupp alone would have sent me away smiling. That’s one amazing looking encore. Reminds me of 12-12-97…best encore I’ve been in attendance for .

    Digging they did a Rift, Horn and Frankie Sez (way under-rated i believe).

  6. ~Astro Says:

    First a little background on my Phish credentials: First show Capital Theater fall ’92. Dozens of shows from then on. Festivals: Went>BIG CYPRESS>IT…. 1 Vegas run, 4 NYE shows (including 4 run Miami 03). Many mystical and truly evolutionary experiences. COuntless times turning to a friend during a funkdown/dark spiraling ambient groove and saying ‘CAN YOU BELIVE THIS!!’ Many beautiful and lasting bonds with great people. Enough brilliant adventures and funny stories to last a lifetime. Countless hours spent listening to Phish. Own every movie and watch them ALL THE TIME. I have been ‘All Access VIP’ on several occasions and met the band in intimate settings outside of the ‘show’ scene, finding them to be awesome people……

    >>>With that said…. (please note, i have not been to a show since Coventry so I speak only of what I have heard through downloading)

    What I am hearing from these shows is not the same band that I knew and evolved with; and I promise you it doesn’t matter that I wasn’t there so excuse yourself from working that angle. I’M HEARING COVENTRY PAINFULLY RELIVED EVERY NIGHT. I chalked up the Hampton shows to being rusty, but now there are no excuses. Bonoroo was their time to break it down. Listening to the second set Bonoroo sunday night just broke me and I had to get this off my chest. The ‘Rock & Roll’ is what did it. A song that has taken me to the happy place 20 times was rushed, spastic and soulless. This is weak music. This is Phish for 37 year old suburban males with 2.5 kids, 2 mortgages who will accept anything Phish plays as long as it gets them out of the house. I’m hearing impotent music with no potential that is actually detracting from my life experience. (is this ‘impotent, zero-potential music’ a reflection of the phan? maybe Phish is mojoless b/c the core phan base has settled for a 21st century version of their parents life in a time when Nature supports only the courageous and cosmix potential rests with those still riding out on the raggedy edge?)

    If you notice, hardly any of the reviews are about the actual music. This is b/c Heads are a positive lot. They know the music isn’t good, but they will not be negative b/c this is ‘their band.’ I am not bound by such delusions. Not in this day and age. I give the true grit or I give nothing. And perhaps sometimes it’s better to say nothing, but again, the hack job on ‘R&R’ sent me reeling.

    I have not heard any transformative so called ‘Type-2’ jamming and do not expect to (this includes the Sand from Camden that some people were raving about). I have not heard anything inspiring and do not expect to. My trip to see the band out west is in question. Phish is sloppy, boring, and sadly it has forced me to question the true motivation behind this come back. ($$$$)

    And as for the iTunes download ‘Time Turns Elastic?’ (or as one reviewer called it: Time Turns Craptastic!)

    <<<<It sounds like Bon Jovi and ELO, and those are the best parts (my girlfriend's review, a non-head who heard it playing on my computer). There are moments in that song that made me cringe and backtrack, listen to it again b/c i could hardly believe what I was hearing. Tacky and impotent.

    Nothing will taint my Phish memories, and I am who I am today (for better or worse) due in part to 4 suburban guys from the North East. But it is over. I'm not very nostalgic anyway.

    thanks for reading and might you find some way to enjoy them while it lasts….


  7. c0wfunk Says:

    hmm comments off on the fox post? Maybe just a mistake? I’ll let it out here->

    seems maybe you’ve been on the road too long buddy! No mention of the mcgrupp bustout? That had to have made some of you did-the-whole-tour kids happy didn’t it? Already getting back to our jaded seen it all place eh?

    As always – too many repeats and not enough improv = too many shows … Seems by the list the band was really appreciating the quiet vibe in the room

    as always you’re much appreciated!;) I’m just a little suprised to see the jaded tenor these posts are starting to take as the tour goes on.

  8. c0wfunk Says:

    just noticed the post I read was actually cut in half now .. weird .. maybe there’s an edit? Sorry if my comments are premature 🙂

  9. camman Says:

    hey everybody,

    jsut wanted to let all the folks on this site who have been really encouraging to me over the past half year know that i finally saw my first phish show! thats right! the Fox was my first show and i got some what miracaled with an orchestra ticket for 155 bucks! anyways i had an amazing time at the show and the band DID JAM just check out the reba… there was much more to this show then just straight ahead rocking… i nearly lost my mind during that Time Turns Elastic ending jam and the Mike’s Groove….

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