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. Mr. Completely Says:

    topic return to Bonnaroo Phish – which I am finally listening to in order after busy weekend – wasn’t really feeling the Friday set up til this Wolfman’s I’m listening to now – Page singing the “shouldnt’ve took more than you gave” line in the chorus is killa

    I’m a big fan of the new, leaner Wolfman’s

  2. PJ Says:

    EJ: There is some very good audio out there. Even Bonnaroo there is HQ audio- Schoep MK21s from bt.etree. Streaming here: http://drop.io/phisharoo
    I don’t quite get a lot of the negativity that I have heard on many of these summer shows, particularly Bonnaroo. Sure, there have been a couple of flubs, but for the most part they are really killiing it: jamming, integrating new songs, busting out classics, and improvisational stuff (Rock & Roll last night) Gotta give credit where it is due, I couldn’t have expected or asked them to come out of the gate any stronger. I think shows later this summer and into the Fall area going to be real memorable.

  3. Uberchef Says:

    I’ve said it here before, I’ll say it again. I got a ‘WTF’ stamp at Phenway which apparently (according to the sharks, err, I mean wooks) means ‘what the fck is this guy doing a a phish show?’. I must’ve looked the Jet (err, Custie) for getting selected for a stamp by the tour-rat handing ’em out, but was so happy to be seeing the band for the first time since Coventry that I didn’t stop to think of her m.o. before allowing her to stamp me.

    Moral of the story is: all this holier than thou behavior surrounding a band is completely lame, especially amongst a 30+ core fan constituency 😉

    Let’s just enjoy us some great music! I don’t care if the guy handing me a J of some amazing green is wearing a polo, playing polo, or named Marco…polo-esquandolas. We should be happy they are back! Keep it real y’all.

  4. Selector J Says:

    I got to agree with Albert Walker about the ‘Nebraska’ album. I thought Springsteen was a joke until my friend made me listen to that one years ago. It’s now one of my very favorite albums EVER. He’s way more than “Dancing In The Dark” and “Born In The USA” (which aren’t bad, really, but not as representative as I thought they were).

    BTW, Albert. I mentioned this the other day but I think you had left. What do you think of Culture’s “This Train” cover. Sort of a custy move on their part, huh? 😉 (You know I’m just playin, dude. I can’t help but still give you a hard time about the Marley.)

  5. Mr. Completely Says:


  6. Selector J Says:

    @ Uberchef’s polo line: hahaha

  7. Mr. Completely Says:

    I will listen to Nebraska again soon. It struck me as better than other Bruce but not all that – but I have been 100% wrong about many many albums the first time thru, then gone back in different mindset and found something I love.

  8. Brimley Says:

    Listening to the SBD’s posted earlier and the they hit the peak fucking hard in Gin…

  9. Selector J Says:

    That album is so solid. Each new track becomes your favorite.
    I absolutely love Johnny 99, though. I’ve tried to convince every punk band I’ve ever met to try and cover it to no avail.

  10. Stupendous Says:

    Its nice to hear Trey take time to make the segue work instead of destroying or interrupting what the other guys are doing to let them know songs over…

  11. msbjivein Says:

    Why the hell are people saying “Custy” on this board???
    @ A Walker, The guy w/ a steal your face tattoo is twice the head that you are. WHo the hell do you think you are?? Who gives a fuck about what kinda tattoo or what someone else looks like?? Stop judging people. You obviously don’t go for the right reasons.

  12. Mr. Completely Says:

    @msb pretty sure he was joking there with the SYF thing

  13. Stupendous Says:

    Yeah for such open-ended & free, smart & heady music
    the community is very closed minded & judgemental
    Lets eliminate the US & THEM

  14. msbjivein Says:

    If he toured in the ’90’s he needs to grow the fuck up.

  15. Mr. Completely Says:

    Kill Devil Falls jam is lovely, as has been often noted…another clumsy segue tho

  16. Mr. Completely Says:

    as laughable as the outdated idiom may be, the ferocity of the language police is worse IMO, and equally if not more judgmental.

  17. Woo Says:

    lets move on people…

  18. Jack O Roses Says:

    Just noticed on the sbd’s: Manchester Jam. It’s the Jam outa R & R…. Super sick! Then into Light, which has really grown on me.

    So, my top three new songs now are:

    1. BDT#L
    2. 20 years
    3. Stealing Time

    Followed closely by Light.

  19. Stupendous Says:

    No Ocelot?

  20. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Jack – ever since someone pointed it out on this board last week (ish) I have been laughing my ass off at how quickly they label a “jam” as a separate track when it’s a cover tune, so they don’t have to pay extended royalties – so funny!

  21. Brimley Says:

    If someone stamped me with a WTF after knowing what it means, my first reaction would be fisticuffs…I never would throw down at a Phish lot but that sort of elitism really irks me…I really may wear a polo shirt and and i’m one of those pulling up in a cadillac, but does that make me less of a fan or less knowledgeable…In my instance, it means that i’ve been lucky and worked hard and I don’t expect to be labeled or “stamped” because of it…Saturday will be the only show of the Summer that I can attend and some shenanigans like that would be unsettling …Bullshit to anyone who thinks this way…

  22. Jack O Roses Says:

    It’s cool, but not top 3… For me, anyway. Also, KDF. Just outside top 3.

    So, I’ve gotta say: Can’t wait to hear this new album!

  23. Stupendous Says:

    Stealing Time, KDF, and Ocelot are my top 3

  24. Jack O Roses Says:

    @ Completely.

    Forgot that thread I was actually just pondering that. Weird!

  25. Mr. Completely Says:

    for me:

    Flat-out great new song, could have huge 2nd set jam and keep developing:
    Stealing Time, Undermind if we’re counting it

    Great new songs that we’ve probably just about seen the ceiling of, but that’s fine:
    Backwards, Ocelot

    Promising new tunes that I’m not 100% what pile they’ll end up in:
    Light, 20 years, TTE, Kill Devil Falls, whatever I forgot

    Fun little songs that probably won’t really last but who knows?

    Songs I’m not really stoked to hear but don’t hate or anything:
    Let Me Lie, Joy

    Songs I hate:

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