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. Shafty Says:

    Hey Colonel
    OK you got me on the exact number of songs played, but my guess was pretty close. Don’t you think there have been plenty of repeats this tour? I understand the repeating of the great new tunes and that it is all about the music, but I THINK there have lots of repeats so far through the tour. (Possum, Limb, Chalkdust,etc)

  2. Albert Walker Says:

    always been that way
    summer 97 saw Ghost 4 times in 6 shows
    there are always certain songs on each tour that are in heavy rotation
    I think they are saving some of the bust outs to spread them out across the country
    mound, mango, glide, llama, mcgrupp, tela, sneakin sally, curtain, sloth, avenu malkenu, bbfcfm
    saving some bust outs for the midwest and west coast dates

  3. Stupendous Says:

    Until they nail songs like reba, hood, antelope (which seemes to have happened last night) there will be repeats….Theyre coming back they
    need to prove them selves that these songs can become second nature again
    for them to be able to shift focus on the explorations and the surprising
    wild set lists from night to night IMO

  4. ColonelJoy Says:

    Overall, until Knox or Roo, I would say there were less repeats on this tour (much less) than on average in the past. It was obvious Roo was going to be a repeat-whore.

  5. msbjivein Says:

    I agree the repeats is nothing new. Especially w/ new tunes. Albert is right they’re are svaving Bustouts for Midwest and West.

  6. Jack O Roses Says:

    Sorry if this is a repeat. Got a database error when I commented before.

    @ Col. Joy

    Yea, I hear ya. When I first started collecting shows, I had to walk 20 miles through the snow just to find a 10 pack of XL-II’s. 🙂

    In all seriousness, I actually got that feeling last night when I found some Jerry Band shows I’d been looking to upgrade. Similar feeling anyway. And much better sound quality than a mid-80’s multi-gen aud tape.

  7. Shafty Says:

    Ah Roo you repeat-whore. I look forward to what happens from here. Save It’s Ice, LLama and Daniel for Alpine.

  8. HarryHood Says:

    It definitely seems like they are saving a few bust outs for each show. I think we will see that trend continue through the summer. As for the number of songs played, I think they are doing pretty well at 125. That’s a lot of songs to dust off after a few years on the shelf. Not to mention they are also practicing bust outs that haven’t been played in over a decade. But hey, even if Trey does flub the lyrics to Fee, I’m still excited to hear it played. I’m no musician, but I’ve toyed with the guitar a bit and I know that if I go even a month or two without playing a song I’ve learned, it’s easy to forget it…….

  9. kevin are hollo Says:

    my head is exploding with imminent shred.

    kaveh, look for me and grab some fliers!

  10. Comrade Says:

    LMFAO – Bruce: “come on Mr. keyboard player”

  11. Josh Says:

    Clifford Ball they played 54 songs over the 6 sets
    50 of those songs were played at the previous 9 shows that tour.
    Nobody was complaining about repeats

  12. Mr. Completely Says:

    from the decidedly non-Phish fan reviewer at EW.com:

    “…He introduced “my boyhood hero, and still my hero today,” and Springsteen emerged, then proceeded to basically hornswaggle Trey etc. into posing as his backing band on “Mustang Sally,” calling shots like “Come on, Mr. Keyboard Man!” and getting the whole crowd going on the ride Sally rides. (“Most expensive bar band ever,” said one of my companions.) Up next was “Bobby Jean,” capably performed but not overly thrilling save for Bruce and Trey’s echoing guitar solos, overlapping in the most pleasant of dischord while the Phish guitarist grinned like a 12 year old. As the crowd cheered, I started wondering what suddenly being cast into a Springsteen show does to you if you’re on drugs.

    The last song of the collaboration (and the end of Phish’s first set) was “Glory Days,” a strange choice primarily because Bruce did it yesterday, and because it took a hot mess of a second for everyone on stage to find the same groove. Oh no, I thought. Don’t try to recapture a little of the glory-uh. But since Trey Anastasio can solo on anything, what seemed destined to be a train wreck actually crescendoed into something extraordinary: Bruce dropped back to rhythm and let the man who idolizes him take the lead on what could honestly be termed as an incredibly Phishian take on an incredibly not Phishy song, everything modernized and shaken loose. And so unlike yesterday, when everything Springsteen did was better than everything everybody else did, I can now say with confidence that Trey Anastasio is a better lead guitarist than Bruce Springsteen, and I think Bruce would agree. “

  13. Mr. Completely Says:

    ^^^^ it is to be noted that the reviewer is absolutely terrible – I’m posting this for giggles

  14. Mr. Completely Says:

    the Rolling Stone reviews are not as staggingly craptacular.

  15. ScalesofPhish Says:

    I agree with the number of songs played assessment by everyone. Trey and Co. are very conscientious about what they play and where they play it, lest we forget. Everyone is going to get a bustout or two at their respective shows (Please trey, BBFCFM>Dinner and a Movie at Alpine!) I think part of the repeats have to do with them feeling it on a certain song, or as previously postulated, revamping a bad version they may have played of a song. For what it’s worth, I think I heard SSS a zillion times during the tour of ’03, and I’m glad it seems to be buried. Watch, they’ll play it as an opener at Alpine just to spite me!

  16. Albert Walker Says:

    if ya’ll have not heard it
    Bruce’s lo-fi folky record Nebraska is amazing
    recorded just him and acoustics on an old analog eight track
    great stuff
    was supposed to be the demos for a e street band record but they were so good they were released as the album

  17. Jack O Roses Says:

    “I can now say with confidence that Trey Anastasio is a better lead guitarist than Bruce Springsteen, and I think Bruce would agree. “

    Wow Mr. EW.com reviewer. You know nothing about music, or playing music, or Phish, or Bruce. Nice work!

  18. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Jack yes that was an amazing bit of analysis there I thought, very insightful!

  19. kts Says:

    To the folks questioning the number of repeats this tour, I would suggest taking a trip over to zzyzx’s site and seeing how this tour compares to previous tours. In general, it is pretty much in-line with similar tours after 10 shows: 125 songs total, with 4 four-timers, 17 three-timers, 37 two-timers and 67 one-timers.
    In Summer 2003, for example, it was 109 total songs, with 2 four-timers, 15 three-timers, 27 two-timers and 64 one-timers.
    Summer 99: 113 total, with 1 five-timer, 1 four-timer, 14 three-timers, 33 two-timers and 64 one-timer.
    Summer 98: 101 total, one six-timer, one four-timer, 15 three-timers, 29 two-timers and 55 one-timers.

    Biggest difference this year seems to be number of songs: longer sets, more songs per show, less jamming. But not an excessive number of repeats.

  20. gphisher62 Says:

    That reviewer has a nice firm grasp of the obvious! Mainstream media writing about phish sucks ass, that’s why I come to this site and read writing and comments from people who actually know something about the music!

  21. El Duderino Says:

    I think the repeat thing would carry more weight if we were talking about the GD. 125 tunes is a lot to nail down. I applaud them for what they’ve done so far and am very glad that I am seeing the last few shows of this leg of the tour. The kinks seemed to be worked out now

  22. AintNoTele Says:

    @colonel from way earlier
    We had a die hard panic crew in knox that didnt know too much about phish. Unanimous consent was that the panic shows were the little leagues, phish is the majors. They said it was the greatest experience of their lives, as it was mine. People know when they are hit with something special, like your friend and that ghost. Listening to shows for five years (I graduated right before coventry) will never prepare you for the live experience. Blew my mind. Its amazing how high the peaks can bring you when your listening with good headphones and you think thats as good as it gets, then you get there and the music brings you somewhere you never thought possible. Phish truly is something special, no training needed. I was kind of the resident pro in our crew and we all got leveled by the experience. Only words spoke all night were, “Good lord”. The gorge is my next stop and I can only imagine what they can create in that place. i have a feeling that past gorge shows just don’t transfer the energy to tape

  23. forbin33 Says:

    They played PYITE in Knoxville second song. this artlice has an error in it

  24. bryant Says:

    i dreamt of this moment and predictied it here, saying that it would and must happen, the second we all speculated back in February on the Bonneroo lineup. I would say to the idiot at “EW” this is apples and oranges. One may have better licks, but then again Trey as we’ve said here is shaving minutes of many jams and thus if the question needs to be asked, who would they compared in their primes. An irrelevant dicussion to say the least. Bruce is 63 and phish are all in there mid to late 40’s. Anyway, last nite though I didn’t attend and am kicking myself for such, had beautiful dreams, where Backsstreets seg’d into Jim with the whole E Street Band on stage. This was a Jersey boy’s dream, as I always believed as Trey said on stage that attending a Bruce show was everything we’ve come to love about Phish and the live experience now. Some around Minor’s site better bone up on Bruce, and download some of his early and mid 70’s shows. You’ll then get a better perspective of what Trey was saying and appreciate the ties that bond both. Central New Jersey 2 favorite sons tore up the TN countryside this weekend.

  25. Frankie Says:

    Panic! Is that where your name come from? Houser’s Tele?
    “Ain’t no use, to cut you loose, i wouldn’t last a day…”
    -4/27/97, Burlington, VT

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