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. Jay Says:

    I think they pulled TTE out of rotation and are reworking it to be less of an orchestral piece and more of an epic rock song.

  2. SOAM Says:

    I have no complaints-I love shows an don’t listen to point of being studious-I just want to boogie.

    The dead in 1978 were one of the best bands ever to play live-I don’t listen to 1978 -are you out of your fuckin mind?? one of the best years-period.

    If you don’t think these guys were getting lit -your nuts-go back to the betty ford thing after the went-tequila- 24/7 kgb and then around 98-99-Poland spring-aka hard drugs.

    I’m sure as time goes by-they will thrive even moreso-but whether you want to admit it or not-drug taking affects creativity-I’m not saying for better or worse-but it a valid statement.

  3. Jay Says:

    They were not booing Bruce. They were yelling Bruuuuuuce which sounds like Boooooo.

  4. Wax Banks Says:

    2003 = self indulgent drugged out wanking. Comparing 2003 favorably to Hampton is batshit nuts.

    Am I hallucinating this, or did Trey say in interviews (years ago) that he was clean during summer 2003, meditating daily, not partying with the band at all, etc.?

  5. SOAM Says:

    Mexican cousin again.

  6. msbjivein Says:

    BruuuuuuuuuuuuCE!!! Not booing.

  7. ColonelJoy Says:

    Maybe I’m totally loosing my sense of hearing. I definately hear differences, mainly in composed parts, but when they dig into the jamming, I’m hearing similar messes that we frequently encountered in 2.0.

    That Being said, we’ve had some amazing shit go down….

    Best Sand
    Best short Wolfmans
    Candidate for best short Tweezer
    An all time version of Maze
    A top 10-15 Ghost
    A better batch of new tunes than we’ve seen since 97
    A D-Sky that is the best in over 10 years…

    Asheville, for me, is that one show that could drop in any year and be called special.

  8. tela'smuff Says:

    @Wax – he did indeed say that.

    @soam – it does indeed impact it. i wouldn’t agrue there. i think in ’93-’95 it was more innocent, and casual. I have no way of knowing this. and i was able to boogie knoxville thru Roo. my deterioting hips are proof.

  9. SOAM Says:

    Denial my friend-he knew he was fucked in 02-tried to pull off a comeback and fell back in-the entire splits and starts-on and off is drug related, it’ takes a lot of will power to go to the biggest party in town and behave like your at church.

  10. SOAM Says:

    love the new tunes-they just learned how write songs recently imo as oppossed to one paragraph jams about red worms

  11. Reverend Miles Says:

    custy shows at bonnaroo.. though i had fun. tonight is where it’s at. bout to hit the bars in st.louis!

  12. Frankie Says:

    @Wax
    I think he says something to that effect in the IT DVD interviews but he doesn’t look really healthy in those interviews… he looks tired, like he’s trying to convince himself by listening to what he’s saying… not his best moment…

    I prefer to watch that interview with Mike and Trey from MTV 92 i think that’s on Youtube where they are wearing fluo and just messing with the interviewer’s mind by crossing their legs at the same time and drinking at the same time… that’s the PHISH i like to remember…

  13. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    “2003 = self indulgent drugged out wanking. Comparing 2003 favorably to Hampton is batshit nuts.”

    dont know who said this but WHAT?? you’ve obviously never heard IT (festival), Rock N Roll> Seven Below> Scents> Spread it Around> Bug is one of the best sequences in Phish history

  14. ColonelJoy Says:

    Wax, Trey definately said he was sober summer 03’….true or not, who knows, but that was a great tour front to back, IMO.

  15. tela'smuff Says:

    @soam – “love the new tunes-they just learned how write songs recently imo as oppossed to one paragraph jams about red worms”

    that is classic stuff my man. and oh so true. i LOVE the new tunes. Sugar Shack is the only one that needed more work in my opinion. Light and Joy are probably my fav, the Ocelot and Stealing Time.

  16. msbjivein Says:

    Summer ’03 Sleeper Tour!!! Whoever doesn’t think this was a great tour needs to relisten. The best tour in this decade SO FAR. ’09 is shaping up to smoke it. IMO

  17. msbjivein Says:

    If Trey could nail the Guitar licks in Sugar Shack it would be the shit IMO. Hopefully they continue to work on this one.

  18. msbjivein Says:

    BTW There’s been some great discussions today. Nice work people.

  19. ColonelJoy Says:

    I’ll Try not to cry, Green Sparrow today. Trey will get the guitar parts on that phatty Sugar Shack soon.

    Tonights show will equal Asheville in lushness….

  20. msbjivein Says:

    Tonight will be very intense for all those in attendance. I was thinking they might do something like Long Journey Home or some capella w/out mics this evening. At this point I’ve almost gave up on writing a setlist. Anything could happen this week.

  21. Walfredo Says:

    telasmuff- I will admit I haven’t listened to much 2003. When they were playing it- it was boring and I wasn’t paying attention- and I’ve never gone back to listen to any of the highlights you mentioned. I don’t doubt some great jams- but please- give me solid shows- or better yet epic runs to compare to 2009. To me- Phish 2.0 was characterized by sloppy playing, a lack of planning, and a clear friction between band members who would rather be doing other things. The drugs just added to the tension. To me- what I’ve heard from it- has been very inconsistent at best- and not worth revisiting.

    Just a quick aside- lets compare the creative spark and songwriting from those 2 eras… Give me a break- 2003 was a band that was burnt out. 2009 is a band that is reenergized- and to listen to 2009 and wish they could sound more like 2003- I think 99% of the general Phish population would disagree with that (those not brought up on the scene during that era)- that would be my take.

  22. tela'smuff Says:

    As far as Roo goes I saw the following

    – Byrne – best show of the weekend next to Phish. one of the better shows I’ve ever seen period.

    – bon iver – blew me away how much they rock compared to the album (which is a personal favorite). killer live show.

    – Ani Difranco – her new lp came across much better live. great show as always.

    – Okkervil River – i had heard bad things about their live show, but it freakin killed!

    – Robyn Hitchcock & Venus 3 – exceeded expectationas far as live show goes. love his work, but didn’t expect much live. i was very wrong.

    – del mccoury – amazing as always. best live oturing bluegrass act in the worl IMO. the addition of Grisman and Fishman was cherry on top.

    – Toubab Krewe – had heard of them, never heard them. Really liked their show. are they considered a jamband? If so, first jamband I’ve liked since the Duo (r they even a jamband).

    – Chairlift – i had never heard of them – really good band.

    – Tobacco – one of my favorite recent albums (huge fan of Black Moth) so his shows were awesome.

    the rest were average due to various reasons – Wilco, Snoop, Animal Collective, Bela Fleck (too quiet), Andrew Bird, A.A. Bondy, Vieux Farke.

  23. msbjivein Says:

    Fri=14 years to the date of the 1st Deer Creek Phish show!!!
    Sat=1st day of Summer
    Sun=1st Phathers Day for the boys as a band.

  24. ColonelJoy Says:

    I am always a wishful thinking type of guy before show…I thought I was going to see the Dead play Passenger in 94′

    Tonight, I, wishfully once again, anticipate a very strong opening song, to include a longish jam, a longer type jam than we have seen out of openers this tour….Maybe a Ghost opener….

    If not, a strong Taste would work for me, too.

  25. tela'smuff Says:

    @Walfredo – both nights of Vegas ’03 were pretty tight. Each had there highlights. Easily as good as the Jones Beach run, if not better. The Cincy shows would have been epic had they not busted out Friday after that epic Gin. See Piper>Weekapaug first set. I also think the New Years run from ’03 was pretty special.

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