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. old dude Says:

    “Cease bickering, bitches! Something is up.”

    Most astute statement to ever to spring from Wax’s keyboard.

  2. butter Says:

    I am leaving in 3 hours to catch a plane in Oakland, Ca headed for St Louis to see the Fox. This will be my first show since the third night of Hampton. I’m beyond pumped. July 30 is my B’Day show and that will be the next one I get to see. My 19 year old brother will be attending all 4 red rocks with me and these will be his first shows. (what a way to start)

  3. Mr.Miner Says:

    Sniggle- I agree with your Roo assessment 100 %.

  4. Mr.Miner Says:

    And yes, I have a feeling TTE may be done…..

  5. Al Says:

    TTE isn’t done I think. They just realized that it kills energy. They should keep it – maybe for encores. I really like that song, but the placement is very important. It’s too good to sit in the middle of a set.

  6. ColonelJoy Says:

    I think I enjoyed watching the Roo set list unfold more than I enjoyed listening to it, particularly Sunday. Everything was executed clean, but it was so damn deliberate. I can’t remember the last time I’ve heard them so deliberate.

    Kind of reminded me of the NO Jazz Fest Set….vanilla.

    I think the best you can say about it was that it was probably better than Coventry. There were a few keepers…..

    Kill Devil
    Hood>YEM….pretty solid, but not in a spontaneous way….cliche, sorry to say

    Sunday is pretty bare. Rock N’ Roll is as tired a tune as they come from this band…if Light was the highlight, Meh….First set looks awesome on paper, but it was McDonalds quality….

    However, no worries. I’m confident they can equal or surpass Asheville in the next week….

    You won’t be listening to Roo two weeks from now….

  7. ColonelJoy Says:

    TTE is being reworked for the stage.

  8. Al Says:

    ^that would be great.

    I also thought that day 1 was better than sunday.
    All in all, musically weaker than the shows before, except KDF and Stash.

  9. Matso Says:

    I think we might see TTE again sooner than you think, ie. tonight at the Fox. I think the song will do well with a more intimate setting. Placement is of course crucial too (No one questioned whether it worked or not after Fenway, it was just at JB2 in that disjointed set).

    Placement might be tricky though because unlike other cool-off songs (which TTE in its first few sections is) it’s quite long. Given the tendency to opt for classy encores, perhaps it might work in that slot (or are people too distracted by then)? Or how about as an opener (again in an intimate venue might work better?).

  10. ColonelJoy Says:

    I think TTE is a first set piece….not an opener, though, at least not regularly…

  11. msbjivein Says:

    It seems like they’ve put a lot of effort into making TTE a Phish tune. I’d be surprised if they just gave up on it. I agree placement is key w/ this tune. I think maybe placing after a massive jam like a Bowie or DWD then TTE could ride the high of those jams till the end when it takes off…….. I think that could make a good discussion “When and Where do you play TTE?”

  12. Frankie Says:

    Everybody please take 20 minutes out of your day today and listen to the 11.23.94 Tweezer from 15 years ago at the Fox Theatre… A musical masterpiece!

    Listen to that spacy jam, meditate and be grateful to live in a world where Phish is playing music. It could have never happened again…

    Everytime you listen to Phish 2009 or see a show, realize how lucky you are to be in this time and space right now! This is IT! This is the best summer of the 2000’s! We’re living it and it feels so good!

    Sorry, had to get that out of my chest, this is an highly emotional jam and TONIGHT is gonna be magic! ENJOY YOURSELVES!

  13. msbjivein Says:

    You gotta wittness Frankie!!!!

  14. Frankie Says:

    🙂 I think i got hit hard by the Vibration of Life this morning… 🙂

  15. verno329 Says:

    Saying they were just getting through may be a bit of a stretch but I can’t say that there was much in that first late night set that REALLY impressed me. I liked the Disease, the Hood, and the 2001. And the YEM>Wilson>YEM was pretty neat but I didn’t think there was anything otherworldly in that set, thought the Highway to hell was fun. Not complaining cause I think the show is pretty good, just not anything I’ll return to a bunch, unlike Asheville and Camden. I’m just listening to the Sunday show now so I can’t comment too much on that one yet besides that the Jiboo kicked ass.

    I am absolutely LOVING the new songs though. The KDF from the first night is terrific! Stealing Time, Ocelot, Backwards Down the # Line all sound great and should open up nicely.

  16. hooks Says:

    I said before that they were “getting through” the bonnaroo sets based on my gut reaction and intuition from listening and seeing this band for 14 years. when phish plays, it’s still phish, and there will be some interesting things happening for those patient enough to catch it. but the roo was just a weird phish show. i’m not complaining, i don’t give that much of a fuck, it’s just a fact that they don’t cut loose and dig deep as well as they could when fuckin 8 cameramen are shoved in their space and over half the audience aren’t as attune to the phish experience, and they’re all there to get wasted and say they “saw phish”. festivals aren’t as intimate. i get it. bonnaroo was even less intimate. like i said before, not a surprise, not overly concerned about. a mere fact. i was very close, you could see it all over their faces. mainly fish. for at least a good portion, fish didn’t have his requisite pizzaz that makes his drumming what it is, and therefore the whole band’s sound what it is. Trey however, was milking it, and played damn well given the setting, (as did page). if it wasn’t for his popular celebrity sensibilities, the sets would’ve been worse. IMO. so the Fox is in for something truely sick after whatever that was this weekend. i’m just glad i was fortunate to be in asheville. that was the band we know and love. (and knox had some solid stuff no doubt)

  17. tela'smuff Says:

    I haven’t read any comments, but did scan PT last night when I returned. I’m assuming those that weren’t there had mild to negative reactions to the shows?

    I have listened to all of the shows, and I was at Knoxville thru Roo. I can safely say that the 3 show run was some pretty amazing Phish, and simply without question the most inspired playing I’ve seen from the band, LIVE, in a very very long time. The repeat setlists, or “standard” song selection argument for me has lost it’s footing because they play these songs with an energy I haven’t since since ’95 fall tour. Each of these shows contained highly experimental, psychadelic excursions that reaked of ’95 exploration. The energy from the band at each show was unlike anything I had seen since the Moby Dick show in 2000. Even Mike is on board with the vibe (if that was ever in question). For me, the only negative was that they played so hard, and so long (especially Knoxville) that I simply got tired and couldn’t keep up! Roo Sunday night was my 70th show, and for the band to be playing at a level they are since my first show on 10-18-94, that makes them freaks of nature!

    -Undermind was sick sick sick sick sick – it’s all about Mike on this one.
    -Mike’s Song, although a shorter version, was euphoric. One of the more exciting versions I have personally seen.
    -The Waves>Oceans>Bowie was one of the better segmants of music I have EVER seen the band pull off. The space jam at the end of Waves was just too weird! Amazing stuff. The Bowie was the HEAT.
    – Down w/ Disease was the best Disease since the comeback. It went in several different directions.
    – Stash was brilliant! All about Fishman on this one. He lead the journey.
    – Kill Devil Falls was my first moment all week of an “ugh” moment, but then the jam happened. Just listen. Along with the “Manchester Jam”, it’s the best jam of the comeback.
    – EVERYTHING about the Bruce sit in was magical and the jam during Glory Days was one of the highlights of my Phish history. The elation, joy, and pure magic when Trey really unleashed with Bruce right in his face was a true “had to be there moment”. If it didn’t move you as a serious fan, then it’s time to move on.
    – The Rock n Roll > Light > 46 Days was the best thing out of the three shows I saw, and I would consider it the best segment of music this tour. I don’t even like 46 Days! But the jam was electricfying! Light was my favorite new Trey song, and I wasn’t thrilled about it’s Boston performance, but when I recognized they were about to go into it, I was so pumped. and the fact that they nailed it, and nailed a great jam, awesome. The weirdness at the end of RnR was claassic Phish psychadelia.

    Moral of the story? the band, especially Trey, is now creating a new thing and it’s fascinating to watch and listen to. I was so engaged to what they were doing that it felt like it did when I first started seeing shows. I particularly enjoy listening to what Trey and Fish are doing. I was also really encouraged by the fans at Knoxville and Roo. I thought they were for the most part respectful and engaged. There were some exceptions, but overall, the whole experience was very positive for me.

    On to Pitt>DC>Alpine!!

  18. hooks Says:

    posted that before seeing verno329 comment… “getting through” doesn’t apply to ALL of what was played at bonnaroo, i guess, if i need to clarify… it’s just what i felt a lot of the time. (especially if you compare it to, not even their whole career, but what they’ve pulled out so far this tour!) I hated Friday’s set, and moved to the way back, and then left before the show was over. it was very strange. again, just me. sunday was a bit better.

  19. Mitch Says:

    I haven’t been on here in a couple weeks to post. Did Camman make it to bonnaroo or is he (are you) going to the fox??

    Hope you make it dude!

  20. tela'smuff Says:

    hooks – honestly everything you just said is pretty redicoulous, and by definition, would not be fact. Everything you have stated would be opinion and/or guessing. most of your gripes are superficial and sounds like personal preference as to what you want from a show. I can safely “guess” that the band had an absolute GREAT time playing at Roo. This i can gauge from the looks on their faces all weekend, and from the inspired playing. As for fans getting wasted so they could have an excuse to say they saw Phish? This is what I know, people who brave the TN farm for 4 days love music, and love to party. Phish represents both worlds. The union of Phish and Roo is as natural as childbirth. Therefore, whatever reasons people have for being there in that main field I don’t care, as long as they have a good time/vacation. Which from what I could see around me, EVERYONE did. Good for them.

  21. Ortweezer Reprise Says:

    I have a starlake ticket section 8 row Y. I cannot go. The ticket is in boston. I will give it to someone local if you are driving out ther. Maybe I can get $20? Or I will overnight mail it to someone who is going email me at boghog2001@hotmail.com. I don’t weant to see it go to waste.

  22. SJC Says:

    Tela’smuff – ” I was so engaged to what they were doing that it felt like it did when I first started seeing shows.”

    I felt the same way after GW. I said to my brother postshow “That was better than I remember it.”

  23. Wax Banks Says:

    Overall I’d say the Roo feels (on tape) a little like the Hampton shows – a big deal for the band, obviously, high-energy and a nice listen and Bruuuuuuce, but on the whole not classic shows from a purely musical perspective – to the extent such a ‘pure’ perspective is even possible. Better playing than Hampton in every way, but of the same ilk. The YEM > Wilson > YEM is a nice (old-school!) idea executed with presumably 20 seconds’ notice, but Trey sounds terrible on the Wilson, and who the hell wants to hear Wilson substitute for a raging YEM jam?

    Provisional definition (after something Trey says in ‘Specimens of Beauty’): 1997 was the year Phish stopped focusing on ‘neat ideas’ and turned decisively toward the single big idea.

    Corollary: We don’t need to go back to 199-fucking-3.

    That said, at the moment I’ll take the R&R > Light > 46 Days run (to which the deep dark Waves > Ocean > Bowie run from Knoxville was a precursor) over any three-song run this tour. The best moments of the last couple shows show hints of the set-long coherent jamming that was the highlight of 2003. I like that Tweezer is tending toward Wolfman’s Bro stylistically, regaining some of its pre-2003 dirty funk, and the Roo version was punchy and exciting. Disease, Stash(!!), and (to a lesser extend) KDF were strong.

    Huh – listing personal highlights I’m thinking maybe the Roo shows are better than I want to think they are?

    Sidebar: My favourite post-hiatus Stash, one of my favourite jams from that period in any song, is the 2/26/03 Worcester version, with that groovy, left-of-funk breakdown ten minutes in. A song with a middle section that cool shouldn’t be allowed to also have a build that powerful and patient.

    Anyhow: the rest of this tour should be bombs dropping. Can’t wait.

  24. Jack O Roses Says:

    Hey all… It’s looking like the dude I was selling my 2 extra Star Lake’s is bailing on me. Anyone need a lawn ticket or 2? Face/trade or best offer… I can meet in the DC area, or before the show….

  25. Walfredo Says:

    2003 = self indulgent drugged out wanking. Comparing 2003 favorably to Hampton is batshit nuts.

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