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. Selector J Says:

    @Danny B: good-looking on the Culture track. Hadn’t heard that one before (I’m stubbornly stuck on 70s and early 80s JA stuff.) And just for clarification to anyone just tuning in, no real reggae feud going on. I was just ribbing the one guy on the planet who loves reggae but not Bob. 😉 We’re cool.

    @Wax: Speaking of reggae, I am not creative enough to see how Ocelot could get a more reggae-feel. Throw some organ skanks and a one drop beat, maybe? I’m not saying it can’t be done but just curious as to what you were specifically envisioning.

  2. voopa Says:

    Another good Oye Como YEM is 8-28-93

  3. Stupendous Says:

    Maybe Ocelot could have more of an Estimated Prophet feel..?…

  4. Bapslap Says:

    Good call with the Allman’s reference with BDT#L. I totally get that, although wouldn’t have made that connection before.

    This is why Phish is my favorite band. Each of their songs has a familiar vibe to it, but still a freshness that is the “Phish style”.

    On a side note, I was listening to Steely Dan’s “The Royal Scam” yesterday and felt a very strong connection to Phish. The intricate arrangements, virtuoso playing, and somewhat silly lyrics… Perhaps at Halloween ’09?!?

  5. Comrade Says:

    What’s the consensus…are the Roo shows worth getting the sdbds?

  6. Icculus503 Says:

    Great site. I love reading your thoughts on the shows Mr. Miner and everybody on the discussion board is lively and perceptive. I can’t wait till I can see the boys again. I haven’t made a run since fall ’99 and Millennium New Year’s. The Camden “Sand” had me twirling back to the good old days.
    Does anyone know where a tried and true head in Portland,OR can find a couple extras for both Gorge nights. I already have my camping reserved at Wild Horse.
    Hope to see someone there.
    Let me know.

  7. voopa Says:

    I would say yes.

  8. voopa Says:

    but then again, I am a “fluffer” (gah!), so take that with the proverbial salt grain…

  9. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Bap – as much as I love the Steely Dan albums – which is: a lot – I dunno if they have enough room to stretch to make a good cover album. Dan tunes are so tightly wound that if you pull on any of he bits they’d fall apart, I think…

    at the same time, I’m such a huge fan (of Aja especially, but so many of the non-radio-hit album cuts) that I’d love to see it happen.

    Loveless is still the only album in the set that is the union of “albums I think would be awesome” and “albums that might actually happen” – especially since there’s the recent remaster out, so it’s kinda current again

  10. Jason Waite Says:



    it’s on like DK!!!

  11. gavinsdad Says:

    jonesing. jonesing. jonesing. the gorge is it for me this summer. waiting here at work is simply painful (and wasteful. i need to get more shit done around here). just from the discussion alone over the past few weeks methinks we’re getting more than we paid or bargained for. what a pleasure.

    wasn’t really ever a post-a-comment type of guy (more of a lurker) but ever since i stumbled on miner’s good word and all your input i’ve been, ahem, hooked.

    have fun out there everyone, regardless of your status.

    “one likes to believe in the freedom of music”.

    cant wait to hear the fox.

  12. gavinsdad Says:

    @bap & @mr. c:

    damn….curious…i think mr. c has a point…those sd songs are tight, compact little nuggets…not sure how they’d unwrap.

    i’d like to see gaucho actually, not one of the biggies, but two of my fave sd cuts ever (gaucho, time out of mind).

  13. gavinsdad Says:

    this (late) summer i meant to say

  14. Mr. Completely Says:

    @gavinsdad – great call – not a great album overall but those 2 songs are superb – not sure Trey wants to sing “tonight when I chase the dragon” tho

  15. hooks Says:

    just got back from bonnaroo. my take on it is: a soilid phish show is like a epic timeless motion picture. phish at bonnaroo was a made-for-tv-movie. not exactly a surprise, just anticlimactic. IMO, a lot of the time, fishman looked and played like he didn’t dig being at the roo, and subsequently, the band was just “getting through” the show. some good moments no doubt… Trey had a few sweet, angry licks in there

  16. Wilson Says:

    @ HarryHood said: “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.”

    My moment at Gorge in 1997. A large part of it; I was happy to be there with ALL those people, including the ones I had so little in common with. It has stayed with me forever.

  17. Pebbles Says:

    Just finished listening to the Roo SB’s, I have to agree with hooks– they sounded like they were going through the paces to me. As much as I love this band, I think they deserve the Narcissistic/Don’t Play Well With Others (unless the others are their guests at their festivals) label. That Boss interlude was just sad/boring/uncreative, and for me, none of the sets cohered into bona fide Phish sets. The Rock and Roll jam was so-so, the YEM–>Wilson–>YEM was kind of hot, there were some great moments and some “meh” moments throughout.

    That said, Camden and Knoxville were filthy, filthy good shows, and I fully expect Fox and Pittsburgh to be awesome. I am working late so I can escape to Alpine this weekend, and don’t even know what to expect there. My prediction is a 95% chance of awesome good times, with a 5% chance of pretentious douchebaggery and overanalysis from spoiled rotten fans like me…

  18. Wax Banks Says:

    Anyone wanna buy three Star Lake lawns? Turns out I can’t make it out there this week. Damn!

  19. Jack O Roses Says:

    See y’all are talking Steely Dan. An FYI, they’re doing some cool stuff this summer. I’m going to miss them – heading west early for Gorge – but these would be fun:

    Steely Dan: Takin It To the Seats Internet Request Night
    Beacon Theatre
    New York, NY
    Sat, 08/01/09

    Steely Dan Performs Aja Along with Select Favorites
    Beacon Theatre
    New York, NY
    Tue, 07/28/09

    Steely Dan Performs Gaucho Along with Select Favorites
    Beacon Theatre
    New York, NY
    Wed, 07/29/09

    Steely Dan Performs Royal Scam Along with Select Favorites
    Beacon Theatre
    New York, NY
    Fri, 07/31/09

  20. themanatee Says:

    if peeps thinks Bruce is a joke…come on…please. Nebraska, The River, Born in the USA, Born to Run, Darkness on the Edge of Town – all amazing albums…

    you can pretty much add Magic to that list to IMO…

    anyway…Phish plus Boss equals pure rock n roll fun

  21. zenfunk Says:

    well, I for one was skeptical when the boss hit the stage, but trey really hit an astoundingly good peak on glory days, and it was an all around satisfying 3 song set 1 end.

  22. snigglebeach Says:

    Just finished driving 20 hours back from the Roo and while i have not given a second listen yet or read all the comments i will add this.

    From a sound standpoint, this was by far the best sound quality of any festival performance i ever attended.

    Not organized or as fun as a Phish fest. but i have always left festivals wishing it had sounded better.

    And they were not just getting through, how could u even think that???
    Longest jams all tour. Funny how so many people only like music they recognize. Their were a number or original new sounding extended jams that seemed very old school to me. One of things a lot of us were worried about after Hampton was the straight forward playing. Looks great on paper, But a 17 song set vs. a 5 song set, i take the 5 song set any day. Listen to the second half of First Tube and tell me they were not inspired.

    And to change the subject, Kuroda Rules. I sat right behind him at Hampton. and the show he put on was magical. Indoor shows rule. a silly thing like turning every light toward the people in back of the stage and using them as props ( not sure when that was, long few days), For some reason that just blew my mind to see yet another amazing new trick.

    And Knoxville, Holy nitrous. surprised no one fell off that garage roof.

  23. burndog Says:

    There is a group of us (with some singletons)that are taking a coach bus to/from Milwaukee to/from Alpine both nights. Contact Steve Birney at birney.steve@gmail.com. We have room for at least 10 people. The cost is $30 per night, per person. We plan on leaving McGinn’s (59th & Bluemound) approx. 2:30pm both days. The more the merrier. Don’t think you are imposing, you are not. Just wanted a safe ride to and from the show!

  24. Verno329 Says:

    At this point I’m looking for a mix between the 17 song set and the 5 song set. If the band is as keyed in together as ’97 then I’ll take the 5 song set bt I like the way they are approaching jams now. If nothing is happening there is no need to force it like they did in 2.0.

  25. Jon Says:

    Anybody else out there wondering if TTE is stillborn? Only performed twice, and early on in the tour . . .

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