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. Bapslap Says:

    Ocelot is my fav out of the new songs. Has a Scarlet Begonias feel to it. I’m a sucker for that happy, hippie bounce…

  2. JPhishman Says:

    I’m just realizing that my ride from Fox>Star Lake isn’t gonna work out….. anyone have room for a brother? or need a ride? I can justify renting a car if I’m not the only one in it…

  3. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Bap – one of our musically knowledgeable posters mentioned the other day that Ocelot actually has same chord progression as Scarlet (and Sugaree and some others) – so great ear there dude!

  4. Stupendous Says:

    Let me Lie…..I wont lie this song is lame rahther get BRian & Robert

  5. msbjivein Says:

    Sugar Shack is one I want to hear this weekend. I think that one has some potential. Especially if Trey can nail the guitar part.

  6. Jack O Roses Says:

    This “jam” outa R & R is out there. At the end, it’s almost Dark Star 1973 -74 out there. Yum!

  7. Stupendous Says:

    I was gonna mention the similarity to GD songs most of these new tune seem to have…

  8. Selector J Says:

    I gotta go: #Line, Ocelot, then KDF.

    The first two are by far and away favorites. KDF edges out the rest of the field based on the jam the other night. TTE is up there. So is Stealing Time. Not totally sold on 20 Years yet. It might grow on me but it leaves me wanting. And for some odd reason, I feel completely indifferent to Sugar Shack even though I usually love Mike’s stuff. Maybe needs a few more listens.

  9. Davey Says:

    @JP – if you take that rental to DC and Alpine i’m in.

  10. Wax Banks Says:

    Actually it was part of my vernacular (check the dictionary before trying to use words too big for you please) too…


    Obviously you assume that you’ve been around the block a few times more than I. I’d venture to guess that your wrong, because you still don’t get it.


    On a lighter note – after Fishman’s awkward little snafu in the opening of ‘Glory Days’ the boys really rocked that one. Phish always sound like Phish, but Trey brought his extra pair of balls to that tune, the ones he only busts out when company comes over.

    Am listening to ‘Rock and Roll’ at the moment, hopeful, excited. Still, I made the glorious mistake of listening to some winter/summer 2003 shit this morning and am torn between the desire to go back to those high times and the band’s powerful need to move forward, even without knowing what comes next.

    Just segued into ‘Light.’ Finally, a strong organic segue a la the old days! Not a terribly interesting ‘R&R,’ but after Bruuuuuuce it’s all just basking anyhow. 🙂 Damn, ‘Light’ is a cool song. That refrain just lifts me up, and the descant casts me skyward. Fantastic.

    Yeeeah! Listen to that ‘Light’ jam. When Page hops onto the clav – nearly ten minutes in – y’know, I’m often skeptical about the boys’ level of naaastiness. They’re white dudes, cerebral nerd types, and they play like it. Their funk has often seemed adopted rather than intuitive, though they caught some bug in 1997 and learned how to let their bodies go.

    But that clav shit from Page is the sex, man. And ’46 Days’ just flows out of the jam like the devil’s dark will, yesssssir.

    Don’t know how ‘exploratory’ this show is, though these are the best segues of the tour so far. But I don’t mind the motherfuckers hanging out here a while. Hungry. The old stuff.

    Cease bickering, bitches! Something is up.

  11. voopa Says:


    Yeah, I could tell when they started that Gin that it was gonna be the heat. Great shit.

  12. Davey Says:

    Also this whole “custie” thing disappoints me. What if I wanted to find decent mali at the show and have a good time? Not gonna happen then eh? I don’t know the 20 something year old dude in my town selling it. It’s really just a “whatever falls in your lap” situation I guess. Definitely not the guy walking around whispering “mali” to anyone who looks half decent.

  13. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Wax well said re: nastiness – my favorite Phish tends to be those shows when it’s in evidence

  14. Danny B Says:

    I feel pretty much the same way as you Mr. Completely, nothing I hate, but there are few that haven’t done it for me. 20 years, could have potential if it were placed in a set correctly, unlike at Jones Beach, where it was just kind of this “what is happening right now?” moment. If the weather had been nicer, I don’t think it would have felt like such a downer, but even listening back to the sbd, it just wasn’t the right timing. Whereas the KDF in the first set at Jones was killer, short to the point and rockin’. I have warmed up to light, and Stealing Time. TTE is another story, there might be a whole set of music based around that song at some point this summer, my judgements are being reserved for when they stretch that puppy out.

    oh, and on the subject of Culture and Bob Marley. Culture has a song cxalled “A Psalm of Bob Marley” where they explain their connection to his music as a religious experience, not sure if this will fuel the reggae fued, but it is a fact.

  15. Brimley Says:

    Banks…I sought out the 6/25/03? Hood that you spoke of in high regard over the weekend and it was just that, fantastic…

  16. Wax Banks Says:

    @Bapslap –

    Ocelot is my fav out of the new songs. Has a Scarlet Begonias feel to it. I’m a sucker for that happy, hippie bounce…

    I’m with you on the bounce, though it’s not my favourite new tune. The new batch is strong overall – punchy, strong vocal arrangements, showing real comfort with the ol’ rock’n’roll vibe. I’d love to hear more of a reggae feel to ‘Ocelot,’ actually – imagine what a horn section could do on that tune, Page hopping over to the Hammond for some sugar. Less barrelhouse, more beachhouse, y’know?

    Yeah, ‘Ocelot’ is strongly reminiscent of ‘Scarlet,’ though more explicitly swingy. Good catch. ‘Number Line’ puts me in an Allmans frame of mind, unfortunately – that same upbeat-country-rock feel as ‘Jessica’ or one of their interminable interchangeable tunes. Yet I really like ‘Number Line.’ Go figure. 🙂

  17. Davey Says:

    I’m going sober for my first show anyway, maybe some reef but nothing big. Saving the fungus and the L for Sunday and Sat.

  18. Brimley Says:

    Regarding new material sounding like Dead songs, I had a revelation while cutting the yard on Saturday that KDF really reminds me of Alabama Getaway sort of…Another song I listened to that day that brings the Funk is 7/26/98 YEM…Seek that out Banks and you’ll think they were a bona fide funk band…

  19. Wax Banks Says:

    @Brimley – Is it 7/25/03, the very long Hood? That’s a great show all around, damn. I remember standing in the rain in front of the Kendall Square T station, dancing around to that Hood like a happy drunk, waiting for my wife-to-be, so free it seemed I might forget to die and just dance forever.

    (Man I’m getting all sentimental up in here! Someone mention the fucking Dead so I can get back to being ANGRY AND DISAPPOINTED.)

  20. Wax Banks Says:

    David Milch passes on a lesson: ‘When the Tao is lost, men begin to speak of good and evil.’

    i.e. When Phish are actually touring, this board is a lot more fucking fun than when they’re not. 🙂

  21. Brimley Says:

    7/25/03 for the Hood…

  22. Davey Says:

    So how ’bout The Dead?

  23. Wax Banks Says:

    Dance break, everyone: throw on the 6/5/09 JB Oye Como Twist > Piper at the Beach of Jones and rock out a little. Pure bliss.

  24. Uberchef Says:

    Slo-dans your lady to some meet-a-stika-jika! whoah attamaga-shock!

    under-rated highlight!

  25. Jack O Roses Says:

    Ya Wax. That’s the heat!

    For another Oye jam, check out St. Lawrence Univ. 5-12-92 … Sick, sick Yem w/ oye como va tease.

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