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. Davey Says:

    I like Panic. Especially with Herring.

    I have a question for everyone, my buddy and I are flying into Indianapolis airport on the 18th and trying to find a ride to the venue on the 18/19th. We also need a ride up to Alpine. Should we camp somewhere and try for people leaving in the morning or are people going to be leaving after the show? I’m going sober (hopefully) and I think that’s a plus because someone bugging out can just let me drive and it’s all good. Let me know what you think, the drive is 6 hours up to East Troy.

  2. HarryHood Says:

    @ AintNoTele

    Great post. I love to hear how people feel about seeing their first show. I know personally that after the Coventry meltdown and even Fenway, I personally walked away both times feeling unsatisfied. After being at the Clifford Ball and other epic shows, I always walk into a show hoping to feel that feeling again. I brought a friend to the Fenway show that was a first-timer and he was grinning from ear to ear the whole time and still can’t stop talking about it. I love that he just got a taste and there is so much more mountain for him to climb.

    I’m not bagging on Coventry or Fenway. They were both good shows and I’m glad to have been a part of both. I just left both shows questioning a lot of things. Have I outgrown IT? Am I so distracted by life/job/commitments that I can’t find IT when it’s in front of me? Do they even have IT anymore? Great Woods was a turning point for me. Maybe not the “best” show of the summer, but I wouldn’t trade it for any others. I was swimming in IT the entire show…… The guys were locked in, the crowd around me was locked in, and I left feeling so excited and so drained. There was no question in my mind that the guys were back and as good as ever! I’m digging 3.0 and I love getting up each morning, downloading the newest show, and reading Minor’s reviews. I can’t wait until SPAC!

  3. Frankie Says:

    If anybody stumble across good versions of the two From The Archives show from this weekend, please post the links here… So many gems on them, Radio City Ghost, Llama acoustic w/Bela Fleck and Page on Melodica (is that the only time he played one? First time i heard him…)


  4. Mr. Completely Says:

    I love being with people at their first shows. Still hoping to being a friend to the Gorge who has been a target for years. I took him to his first and only Dead shows at Portland Meadows in 95 which were epically horrible shows (except the out-of-nowhere longest-ever-performed Shakedown) but he TOTALLY got it…it made my experience 100x better, being there with someone whose life was changing…

    @Tele, good description re: minors and major leagues. I don’t bag on bands like Panic, they are cool in their own ways, I have seen some great Panic shows in the past and am interested in catching them with Herring. But anyone with any perception whatsoever should be able to tell the diff. btwn the minors and the big leagues, especially when you’re live at the game.

  5. Mr. Completely Says:

    I second the recommendation of going back to some 70s Bruce shows actually. I never really got the obsession til I saw some video from like ’77 or so and it was pretty impressive what they did to that crowd…

    …and honestly here’s a lot of it – Bruce in his day was a major draw to the honeys, so being into Bruce was a way to get next to something sweet, you know…and seeing that old stuff you can understand what the ladies were all about.

    It’s a lot like Mick Jagger really. For a long time I was very WTF with the female Jagger obsession but then I saw some of the live stuff from ’69-early 70s like Rock and Roll Circus, and the whole thing made a lot more sense.

    I still don’t really listen to Bruce, and only a few Stones albums stay in rotation, but I feel like I understand why peeps from that era could be obsessed with them.

  6. Davey Says:

    If anyone is going to be at Deer Creek you’ll see my first-time-show face hit the floor.

  7. gho2it Says:


    Check the threads from Miner’s article the day before the 1st Bonnaroo show, there are two links in there. I think they are later in the thread maybe after page 8?

  8. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Harry (and then I’ll stop the monologue) – that exact feeling you describe, of being so glad that the feeling isn’t actually gone, after being unsure – that for me is attached to Phish in general. I was already 95% out of the scene before those ’95 Dead shows, and then after we lost the big man I was sure I was done.

    I got slowly dragged back into Phish by a gently relentless taper friend, then finally went when I fell in love with the woman I’m now married to, who is a huge fan. When “the feeling I forgot” unfolded again….just a peak moment for me. For me, after 125+ Dead shows and a terribly tragic ending, every Phish show I attend is pure gravy, I love every second of it and am super stoked and grateful for the experience every time.

    That was even true in 03 when the shows were VERY uneven because it’s more about the crowd/band feedback cycle and where that takes us, than about anything else, even the music. I just want to be a positive part of that experience, the unity of the moment, cause it’s, like, transcendent and stuff…;o)

  9. mitesh Says:

    wait, so trey’s first show was bruce? b/c on 12/15/95 spectrum he said his first show was there for Jethro Tull. im beginning to think his 1st show happened in whatever venue he happens to be playing in…

  10. El Duderino Says:

    LOL! I think you might be right. LOL!

  11. Frankie Says:

    Yeah i know i posted those… 🙂
    I’m looking for upgrades of the web capture, like an FM or something…

    Someone PLEASE help Davey out! He’s a brother who kindly sold me Gorge tickets without knowing me at all and i just sent him a cheque by the mail and he sent me the tickets afterwards… He totally deserves the GOOD KARMA!

  12. Albert Walker Says:

    this weekend setting up to be very interesting
    I think Friday and Sunday will be the highlights with a little breather on Saturday

    Friday Creek= huge history, only show, not much local crowd
    Saturday= this will be the covers, rock and roll, custy Saturday party
    Sunday= first leg closure, end of midwest, Sunday night sleeper show

  13. Frankie Says:

    Even though it’s only been played twice, i feel like Light is PHISH 2009’s anthem… the lyrics tells the story….

    And the Light is growing brighter now!!!

    Can you feel it? 🙂

  14. HarryHood Says:

    @ Completely (keeping the monologue alive. haha)

    “That feeling” was a BIG part what kept me going to show after show. After Coventry I thought it was gone forever. After Fenway, there was a glimmer, but I wasn’t convinced that it was back. There are sooooo many things that play a role in achieving that feeling, and the setlist is really only a small fraction. The band’s attitute, the venue (and their staff), the lot, and the people around you are all important. My head was buzzing with that same old excitement again for days after the GW show. The lot was fun and festive, the staff was chill, and the people around me during the show were like old friends that I’d never met. We were laughing, hi-fiving, and dancing our asses off. At one point during the show, I just looked around and realized that there was nowhere on earth that I would rather be at that moment. Not that I’m an overly emotional person, but that moment was HUGE for me. Once I realized how many years had passed since I’d had that feeling, I had to sit down and soak it all in for a minute……..

  15. El Duderino Says:

    I hope I can feel that way again this weekend! It’s been almost 6 years since I had seen a show.

  16. Little Buddy Says:

    “custy saturday party”

    I haven’t posted for a while but seriously, take that b.s. someplace else Al. I know what you’re trying to say, but it’s the way you say it. Obviously you still haven’t learned how to be good family. Biggest problem with Phish since the mid 90’s is people that bring your kind of “headier than though” attitude to the scene. “Custy” is the lamest term out there and it speaks volumes about your head space (along with many of your other posts). Yikes, man.

    That being said, your probably right. Sunday will be the one to be at. I’m not so sure the last show of this leg of the tour could be considered a sleeper though.

  17. Jack O Roses Says:

    Michele Obama hosting Wynton Marsallis at the White House:


  18. dyda Says:

    so this is totally off-topic, but i feel i have to mention that i was just downtown with a quarter million other people and saw the cup in person for the first time since i didn’t post a bunch of obnoxious ‘go eat crow’ comments this past weekend… go pens!

  19. HarryHood Says:

    You will El Dude. Try not to have any expectations and just roll with it. What made me realize how focused they are now in 3.0 was during Jibboo. When they kicked into it, I was like ehhhhhh. By the end of the song I was like, Hell yeahhhhh……… I was worried about 2.0 songs because it was a rough era full of mixed emotions and distracted playing. They seem to be taking these songs that make most people say ehhhhh and giving them new light. So I guess what I’m getting at is to just simply relax and enjoy each song.

  20. fromthetub Says:

    @Harry, Completely, El Dude…

    That was me at Hampton. I had no expectations, just knew I needed to be there. So much had happened since Coventry. I was so blown away. I was slammed so quickly with the feeling that I forgot I stood there stunned. Couldn’t dance. Just kept quietly saying thank you. (I just got huge chills typing that!) Such a powerful experience being reconnected to it all. It’s a beautiful thing.

  21. Uberchef Says:

    Hola Frankie,

    Here are links to the FTAs from ‘Roo:


    Courtesey of a Hidden Track poster 🙂

  22. El Duderino Says:

    Amen LittleBuddy, well fuckin’ said indeed!!!

  23. AintNoTele Says:

    Yessir, a little blasphemous i know..aint no use+jimmy plays the dual humbucking strat=aintnotele. I cant believe you caught that, good man.

  24. HarryHood Says:

    @ fromthetub

    I just got chills reading that! haha. There are very few moments in life that make you just plain freeze. I wasn’t at Hampton, so I’m not going to try to compare my feelings at GW with yours, but I know what you mean man.

  25. fromthetub Says:

    @Harry – It’s all different, but it’s all the same 🙂

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