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. tela'smuff Says:

    Walfredo = fail

    Gumbo from DC ’03 summer is far from wanking. Piper in Vegas? Cincinnati Gin? Wanking? Please.

  2. ColonelJoy Says:

    Wax Banks writes grounded sensible reviews….

    Give Hooks a break. He’s a critical listener. And Fredo, the best moments of 2003, and there were many, are frankly superior to what we’ve heard so far this year from a jamming and comfort perspective. 2009 has been consistently clean, but I never valued cleanliness much outside of the composed monsters. A few things, Ghost, the Sand….they would have stood out in 2003. Summer 03′ was a solid tour, and there was no…feeling there way about like they are now….of course, summer 03′ had a whole winter tour before it….this summer doesn’t have that luxury.

    That being said, I’m taking the hippies advice who said I should shut the fuck up and listen to the Fox Theater Tweezer from 94′

  3. SOAM Says:

    I wish I was enjoying a little drugged out wanking right now-I’m way too sober.

  4. SOAM Says:

    futhermore to all you morons who compare this band to the old one-please stop. the lack of drugs might make the band a little tame until they get their footing but in the long run it should work out better. No professional of any kind can take 5 years off and come back equal or better-and thats the problem-peoples expectations are unrealistic-it’s gonna take some time-pay some dues-some bonding etc

    A-its better than the Dead by a mile

    B-as long as they don’t go clapton on us (sobriety=end of jamming) they will return to prominence-give em a chance-we got shows again-bottom line.-I imagine MSG next fall will be the shit

  5. AintNoTele Says:

    so how bout a halloween announcement…

  6. Pence Says:

    Just got back from Knox>roo…What a magical experience. Everything went off without a hitch. I love the city of knoxville, with market street and the river side restraunt/bars were awesome. THe show was killer, I havent had a chance to re-listen to any of them on tape but I just want to point out one thing. The Mikes song was maybe the weakest Ive ever heard. I cant stand when Trey stops songs dead in their tracks. But hey that was my only my little complaint of the whole thing. The reason I say this is because I love Mikes sooooo much. Expectations were high.
    Roo was SICK. THe whole thing was damn near perfect other than the security check point into centeroo the first and second days. After that it was flowin and most of the dudes were like “youre good, just go”. For me the most memorable of it was the david byrne crosseyed and painless, and the Kill Devil Falls. I knew they were reaching IT on that one.

    Anyone know where I can get a link to a free SBD of any nights?

    anyone got my free soundboard torrent?

  7. ColonelJoy Says:

    Me too SOAM….

    I keep hearing people say, “They’re doing new stuff…they’re experimenting..”

    I’m hearing a band still trying to get back to the high points of 03-04, and they periocically have, though not at Roo

    What concerns me, is that while the quality between late 1.0 and early 2.0 was quite divergent, 2.0 at least sounded very different from 1.0, they were distinguishable…

    3.0, on the other hand, I think if you listened to much of it blindfolded, you would guess you were listening to 03′-04 Phish…..if you didn’t know any better….Do you get the same feeling, Wax Banks? I ask you because you seem to notice the same stuff I do in the playing.

    Someone mentioned 03-04 Wanking……..There has been plenty of that in 3.0, IMO. Again, it hasn’t been exclusive, but on the tapes, to my ears, it seems prevelent.

    I don’t feel I’m being overly negative, just perceptive to the dynamics of the band right now. Shit, I’m as amped as the next dude for my first 3.0 show!!

    BTW, the Phishows.com copy of 11-23-94 appears to be a soundboard, and the 20 minute Tweezer is what you’ve come to anticipate from that era….very nice!!

  8. gavinsdad Says:



  9. GuitarPicker420! Says:

    I just got back from the Roo yesterday and I saw the shows differently than Mr. Minor. First of all, I liked Friday’s show better than Sunday’s. Part of it could be that I was way up close on Friday, and hung back a bit on Sunday, not wanting to fight the crowd again. The energy on Friday was unbelievable. It was the first Phish show I had seen since Deer Creek ’04, so suffice it to say, I was primed. I called a Bag opener (which they saved for Sunday), but in retrospect, nothing could be better than Chalkdust. It was super-high energy and the crowd was into it. At 34, the chorus means more to me than it used to, can’t this wait ’til I’m old, can I live while I’m young? Where I was, the glowsticks started flying in earnest at the first notes and didn’t stop the entire show, thats right, a glowstick war that lasted 3 hours!

    I’m a big fan of Stealing Time and was psyched to hear that, I am thinking that a t-shirt with an eraser-head dude and the caption, got a blank space where my mind should be, is going to be the next lot sensation. The Divided Sky was flawless and poignant, we got dumped on the night before and there was a fear of more rain all weekend. But, like I told my buddies, its not going to rain because I didn’t want it to! Possum has been played a lot, and I don’t think it raged as much as the Jones Beach one, but that is strictly from the tapes. Disease was nice, but I don’t think it went out there as much as it could have. Wofman’s was spot-on and really got the place bouncing. As has been noted, Kill Devil Falls really went out there. It kind of got into the ambient jamming, really reminded me of the Hood jam from Jones Beach. The Hood was excellent, and no surprise, the glow stick war continued and even amped up a bit.

    It was my impression that the audience led the band into Wilson. It seemed like he randomly hit two notes, not even the right key for Wilson, and the crowd immediately yelled Wilson. I don’t think it was on purpose, and I think that is why there was a bit of confusion at the beginning of the song. The segue back into YEM felt smooth, in fact, I thought for a minute that they had gone into some new song, but I soon recognized the familiar beat and chord structure of the YEM jam. A Day in the Life was not what I was looking for, but it was well played.

    Overall, Friday night had a ridiculous amount of energy, both from the band and from the crows, and speaking for myself, it was my energetic peak of the weekend, it would take beaucoup caffeine to get me through the next two days.

    Saturday was a rough day as I didn’t hit the hay until dawn and woke up at 10am to begin partying for Buffet. Luckily, we brought margaritas! Buffet played a standard Buffet set, the parrot heads in the bunch appreciated it as a great way to start your day. After that, grab some grub and then off to Alan Toussaint. He ripped up some old-school cajun swamp music, great version of Sneaking Sally. After that, Tony Rice Unit with Grissman sitting in. Then Del McCoury Band, Jon Fishman sat in with them on Beauty of My Dreams, and then through the rest of the set. David Grissman came out soon after and then encore was a blistering version of My Love Will Not Change with Dawg really pushing the McCourys to jam it out. Probably a 10 minute version, which is really, really, really, long for a McCoury tune. Elvis Costello was next, really great energy, nice version of Angels Want To Wear My Red Shoes to start out. Then more food, a bit of Travelling McCoury’s, the tail end of Wilco, and then the Boss. He rocks, by the way.

    Sunday night Phish was a different beast than Friday. I think that a lot of the casual fans had left by Sunday night. There was noticeably more room, particularly in the back, it was still packed up front. Snoop Dog played a fairly enjoyable set (caveat emptor, I don’t get rap, never really listened to it, don’t know any of the songs, etc.) and definitely a better set than the Beastie Boys. I did feel that Sunday did not have the energy that Friday did, but then I didn’t either. Probably something to do with partying like a rockstar for 4 days straight….

    Anyway, I called the Bag opener, also called the Punch. The Gin was really nice, sweet jam in it. There was definitely some darker jamming on Sunday, but that is no surprise, the Friday show was dripping with happiness. Tweezer was all about Mike and he just thumped it. The Antelope was a welcome treat and well jammed out. The Bruce segment was off the charts. Glory Days was rocked in a way that I bet that song has never been rocked before. Bruce was clearly into it. But, apparently he either forgot Page’s name, or he just likes to say things like “OK, lets let the keyboard player have at it”. The Rock and Roll was good, but I didn’t find the jam to be as groundbreaking as Mr. Minor. In fact, I thought the Rock and Roll from Hampton was a bit better. Light is a neat new song, but I liked Backwards better. Really though, from Farmhouse on, the show just felt like they were just trying to get through. Further, the playing on Sunday was noticeably sloppier than the playing on Friday. I wonder if the band was tired too?

    All in all, I had a blast at Bonnaroo, and I would do it again (given a similar lineup) in a heart beat. The folks I camped with were excellent, we made new friends, connected with some online buddies, and generally had an excellent time. See you all at the Creek, they always bring the heat to my hometown.

  10. tela'smuff Says:

    @Soam – if your referring to me comparing some psychadelic sounds and energy from Phish now to ’95, sorry I won’t stop. The energy levels are quite similar and the jamming is also very similar as far as the bombastic qualities with bits of chunky weirdness. your heady observations and directions for fans to chill and wait has gone on now for weeks on end and it’s a little too heady for my liking, so how ’bout you let me enjoy my Phish my way?

    @Colonel – they are doing new stuff. sorry you can’t hear it. Trey especially has taken a completly new approach to playing when the “jam segment” starts. If he isn’t playing hyper rock, he’s building ideas in a much more patient, but meatier way. I can as an intelligent human being who seen his fair share of shows and been listening for over 16 years can determine when the band is exploring new ideas. they are. I can tell an obvious difference from ’03 to ’09. As clear as the difference there was from ’00 to ’03. But where tone was the big difference in the ’00 to ’03, this time around it’s ENERGY & Focus and direction, which makes a huge difference in my opinion

  11. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    “the lack of drugs might make the band a little tame until they get their footing”

    did these guys really used to play every show high? because i’m pretty sure they didn’t

  12. hooks Says:

    the only fact stated in a previous post was mirroring someone’s earlier statement that festivals are less intimate. again, not at all a surprise – not overly bothered by, just not my cup of phish tea at the ol bonnaroo. if you look at the rest of what i said, you’ll notice me referring to my statement being my opinion, which is the beauty of this here FORUM, is it not? sorry i’m a big fan that doesn’t think everything phish does is amazing. of course its noteable for historys sake… I for one was stoked, and not one of the one’s booing when Bruce came out. I am hugely grateful they’re back, and fully understand the newness of this tour, and greatlty anticipate what is coming for the group. fuckin godamn. and has nothing to do with comparing to vintage phish either. a lot of people can agree that they respond differently to major expectations, multiple cameras and so on. my opinion. grain of fuckin salt people. did i not mention asheville was unreal, and knox was pretty up there….

  13. Mr. Completely Says:

    @GuitarPicker – thanks for the Roo roundup including non-Phish moments – sounds like you went to a lot of the stuff I would have picked (Tony Rice, Toussaint etc).

    @SOAM “the lack of drugs might make the band a little tame until they get their footing but in the long run it should work out better.” – this is exactly right. They’re having to figure out how to do it “manually” instead of on automatic. If you can’t hear the *overall* progression in jamming on the tour, maybe go back and listen to the “big jam” from each night in succession. You’ll hear it. It’s coming back.

    @Wax – another tremendously on-point post – you have been en fuego recently, it saves me time when you post like that cause I can just say “me too.”

    re: jamming in 03 – that was the prototypical drug year for Phish. I know I risk the wrath of Kevin but a Dead analogy here is apt – APT, I TELL YOU, APT!!!! It reminds me of 1978 Dead. They (or at least the lead guitar player) is uninterested in practicing anything complicated and bored with playing short songs. So a lot of that “first set” kind of stuff is ragged most of the time, played without precision or energy (occasional exceptions exist of course). The guitar player is spaced out and the rest of the band is starting to get demoralized and disengaged. But when they get to the open jamming, IT is still there for them, and the magic happens; in fact, some of the sickest jamming on record is created in that space. This is the nasty, taboo unspoken truth about the hard drug thing: often you get about a year of insanely inspired creativity before the wheels fall off.

    I *never* listen to whole Phish shows from ’03 or Dead shows from ’78. But I listen to the peak jams all the time and they totally hold up.


  14. Frankie Says:

    I agree Tela’s bush, there is a new focus in energy and dedication in this new incarnation of Phish…

    They’ll play Lifeboy tonight out of a huge jam…

  15. Mr. Completely Says:

    @hooks – as far as I’m concerned everything you’ve posted has been interesting and well spoken, not sure what the problem is really, I’d say just ignore it and keep doing what you’re doing.

  16. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    completely i think you he to re-work your whole drug theory, the dead/jerry did as many drugs, if not more, in the 60’s compared to the ’78 era, the difference is what kind of drugs they were doing (acid vs. heroin/coke), heroin was jerry’s downfall… but in terms of phish when you say they are taking more time getting there without the drugs are you implying they were actually playing shows high?

  17. Matso Says:

    @ ColonelJoy –

    “3.0, on the other hand, I think if you listened to much of it blindfolded, you would guess you were listening to 03′-04 Phish…..if you didn’t know any better….”

    I need to make this quick as I have a lot of work to get through today (so apologies in advance for any sloppiness in my reasoning), but I can’t agree with that statement.

    To the discerning listener, there is a clear difference between 2.0 and 3.0 in terms of both jamming and tone.

    Taking tone first, Trey is playing compressed, Fish has a more prominent sounding snare and is playing more freely, Mike has a few new effects (fuzzier Lesh-esque tone at times and also a bit of distortion that allows him to step right up to Page and Trey’s leads) and is also playing more freely, and Page has a few new synths and is attacking the clav with more vigor again.

    So if you popped in an 03-04 CDT or Ghost and one from the past few weeks, I’m sure most people would be able to identify which is which without hearing any jamming.

    On that front, however, as a blanket statement, I would say the current jams (at least those I’ve heard, which does not include Knox or Roo at this point) have more communication in them than a lot of the 03-04 jams. I don’t think any overarching defining characteristic has emerged yet, but the good jams all sound as if the band is listening very intently to each other (eg. Asheville Ghost, Camden Wolfmans). There’s a delicacy to it that feels new to me. I think the bigger structural advances (ie. Type II novelty) will come with time.

  18. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    anyway im starting to realize the real problem here is trey’s guitar tone. compare his tone from say THE sand to ’95, try NYE ’95. NYE ’95 has very few segues and has mostly short, concise jams, which is how people would describe this current tour, but when trey is soloing during the jams you can actually hear his notes ring out and can hear him pluck the strings and every note matters as opposed to now where his tone sounds like he has the treble on his guitar turned way down and the compression turned off which makes his playing sound sloppier… make sense?

  19. Mr. Completely Says:

    f0ol – I am speaking specifically of heroin, and freebase cocaine, or simply very large amounts of cocaine, and speedball combinations of the two. If you really want to get specific about it. I don’t know exactly what combination of hard drugs Trey was using, though I have been told many things by people who claim to know – I don’t want to know, and since he’s clean, it’s really unfair to speculate. My perception of the shows I was at in 03 was that he was fucking wasted onstage, though, and that’s what I heard from friends who went to more.

    The Dead were actually playing on LSD much less than most people think by 1969. Of course they were usually dosed thru 1968 and you can hear it in the music of that era. According to Bear, by early 69 they were dosing for shows only about once a week, and the whole band wasn’t doing it together. Certainly by 1970 they were mostly into blow, and by ’74 they were doing enormous mountains of it. In fact 1974 shares some of those same qualities – they were sometimes bored with first set tunes, while the jamming is ridiculous – but they cut it short before things fell apart.

    The effects on the personality and mentality that psychedelics have are completely different – and in some ways the opposite – of the effects of the hard powder drugs.

  20. tela'smuff Says:

    @hook – upon rereading your post I do see where I mistook your facts vs. opinion. my bad. although i still don’t agree 🙂

    @soam – yeah, i don’t agree about the lack of drugs as a reason you aren’t into the jams as much yet. that’s basically what the truth is. your projecting that opinion, becasue i am one who feels they are infact playing inspired. i just don’t think you’re personally ready to be into Phish. in ’93, ’94, ’95 do you think the band were doing drugs the whole tour? as far as inspiration goes, how about getting a second chance at life, freedom, playing music with your best friends, speding time with your family, having children etc etc??? i would say those things could possibly be a little more inspiring than being fucked up. just a hunch.

  21. Jay Says:

    was playing a “name that era” game recently and was easily able to nail the 3.0 tunes vs 2.0 and 1.0 versions.

  22. Mr. Completely Says:

    …and to be clear, before this spirals, I do in fact love the jamming that’s going on right now, I totally hear the progression in what they’re doing on this tour, and I’m completely into what’s happening. What I’m talking about applies to the real deep-end stuff a la 03 and the fact that *some* band members had, I think, gotten used to having the freedom that comes from playing high as a crutch.

  23. voopa Says:

    People really booed when Bruce came out? I don’t believe that.

  24. Mr. Completely Says:

    @voopa – I’m sure they did, people watching the stream and posting here on this board were drinking deep of the Haterade as well. It was depressing.

  25. Little Buddy Says:

    @ voopa

    Was it boooo or bruuuuuce?

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