Phish at Bonnaroo

So unless you’ve been living in a cocoon this week, you have heard the mainstream rumors that Phish will headline Bonnaroo for two of the three nights.  If you have been reading Phish Thoughts for a bit, you’ve known that this would happen for about a month now.  Yet, as the rumor has been virtually substantiated from the powers that be, there has been a lot of backlash in the community about this decision.

bonnaroo_500x400Some think Phish has no place on a multi-band bill, something they avoided for most of their career.  The argument is that Phish shouldn’t be part of something bigger when they can draw the same amount of people themselves.  Some feel that they are being pressured into it by super-manager, Coran Capshaw, who holds a stake in the festival, and other outside business influences.  Bottom line, all of these lines of reasoning are, in my opinion, total crap.  Phish is playing Bonnaroo for one reason and one reason only, they want to!

The Clifford Ball

The Clifford Ball

If you remember back to the late ’90s and early ’00s, Phish, with Great Northern Productions, created the blueprint for the massive Phish festival.  When southern concert promoters Superfly and A.C. Productions teamed up to throw the first jam-rooted Bonnaroo, they looked to the experts, welcoming many members of Great Northern’s team on board to help and to use their model of Phish’s former weekend celebrations.  Yet, due to timing, Phish never got to take part in the festival that they were integral in inspiring.   Soon followed all the other mega-festivals that, trying desperately to draw as many people that Phish drew by themselves.  Bonnaroo and its brethren essentially filled the summer time vacuum for 60,000 to 80,000 fans who could no longer trek to Limestone.  Essentially, Phish’s absence made room for the growth of Bonnaroo, and now the band wants to join in.  Do they need to play it– of course not!  But they want to join the party too!

Consider these factors with the overwhelming nature of Coventry and the effort, coordination, and money it takes to throw their own festival (which they still may do!), and tell me, honestly, that this doesn’t make sense for them.  They pull into a huge festival with no work of their own, tear the place apart for two nights, steal the show, and move on with their tour.  Sound like a plan to me!  With Trey’s affinity, familiarity and previous performances at Bonnaroo, it seems like a very congruent fit.

Trey & Mike at Rothbury (Rolling Stone)

Trey & Mike at Rothbury (Rolling Stone)

When the members of Phish reemerged at last summer’s Rothbury festival in various sit-ins and performances, it seemed like they enjoyed being a part of everything.   Basically every other significant band plays at these festivals, and why would Phish not want to take part in this community celebration of music, art, and fun?  It is not like Phish will be moving from mega-fest to mega-fest– they are gonna’ stop in at one or two, and if you wanna skip ’em, no one will hold a gun to your head.  So why complain?  Why not accept that your personal desires don’t line up with Phish’s desires, and meet your buddies at the next show?

The Lemonwheel - photo Todd Wickersty

The Lemonwheel (T. Wickersty)

In addition, Bonnaroo will automatically expose Phish to an entire new generation of kids who were in middle school at the time of Coventry.  More people who would have never imagined the magic of Phish will get to experience it in bigger-than-life format.  How can this possibly be a bad thing?  If you think that there won’t be a whole new scene of Phish fans whether they play the festival or not, you are sorely mistaken.  Kids who have been incessantly listening to bootlegs and smoking bongs for the past four years, kids who had older siblings that sung the praises of the Phish, kids who never knew Phish existed are all gonna’ be on board.  Welcome to Phish 2009!

And hey, for the fans it’s a deal!  $200 bucks for two shows and two full days of festivities??  Hell, I paid $240 for each night of Hampton, sounds like a deal to me!  And anyone who thinks Phish will step on that stage and not absolutely slaughter their shows forgot who Phish is.  These will be “super-Phish shows.”  Shows whose setlists you will cringe at when you read on the Internet what you missed.  This is Phish’s time to reclaim their throne as the maestros of the live music scene, and if you think most everyone won’t be walking away from Manchester, TN discussing how insane the Phish sets were, I think you’ve got a surprise coming.

The Great Went

The Great Went

Can you even imagine the magnitude of the Bonnaroo “Tweezer?”  Can you fathom the depth of the Mike’s Groove that will overtake the masses’ consciousness?  Inevitably, Phish will also debut new material at the festival, and whether is a twenty-minute transcendent “Light” or a set-opening “Backwards Down the Number Line,” everyone will walk away from Bonnaroo more excited about Phish then when they entered.  Phish’s mission at Bonnaroo will be clear, “tear the roof off the sucka’.”  And I guarantee you, that is exactly what they will do.

The fact is, people are confusing their own desire to attend Bonnaroo with Phish’s “right” to play there.  Understandably, a mega-festival comes with its caveats and clusterfucks, but at the same time, it comes with freedom from ushers, seats, conventional rules, and standard show limitations.  While it is understandable why individuals would not want to attend the event, making the jump to say Phish shouldn’t play the event is purely illogical.  Ready or not, here they come!

What are your opinions on Phish headlining Bonnaroo for two nights?  Respond in Comments below!


rumorSUMMER ’09 RUMOR MILL: As Bonnaroo is all but confirmed, a few more nuggets of info have been passed my way.  From a solid source, Phish has two nights scheduled for Camden in mid-June, seemingly part of their initial early-summer tour.  I’ve heard potential Red Rocks dates to be 7.29-8.2.  I’ve heard some grumbling about NOLA Jazzfest, but nothing firm at this point.  I wouldn’t forget about those other weekends in March either.  It’s almost 2009, we should know soon.  That’s all I’ve got for now folks!  Enjoy the weekend.



12.28.97 USAir Arena Landover, MD < LINK

1997-12-28moWe are sticking with the New Year’s Run theme today, featuring the dark-horse show of 1997.  Finishing the run with three nights at MSG– two of them being legendary– this show actually can hold its own.  With two exciting sets, the “Cities > Curtain > Sample” combo early on got the run started after a warm up “Julius.”  The second set was highlighted by the “Ghost > Drowned” and “Halley’s > Slave” segments.  This one has also been requested by a number of folks.  Enjoy!

I: Julius, Cities > The Curtain > Sample in a Jar, The Old Home Place, Runaway Jim, Farmhouse, Funky Bitch, Split Open and Melt, Bouncing Around the Room, Character Zero

II: Axilla* > Simple**, Ghost > Drowned > Scent of a Mule, Halley’s Comet > Slave to the Traffic Light, Rocky Top, Cavern

E: Bold as Love

*With Axilla (Part 2) ending.**Trey’s guitar experienced feedback coming out of Simple, causing Trey to pause and talk about ghosts in the machine…they then paused and went into “Ghost.”

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82 Responses to “Phish at Bonnaroo”

  1. Lars Says:

    I totally agree with you on Phish playing Bonaroo. Your insight is wise. You are right that there will be a whole new generation of Phish heads having fallen in love with them during the break-up. I have a buddy who I turned onto Phish and I am s glad I will be able to fulfill my promise to him that I would take him to a show if they ever came back.

    Considering the history of the band in the final years, they should try some different stuff. They’re gonna kill at that festival and prove themselves to so many who wouldn’t have given them the respect they deserve. I think this is gonna be great, and I think part of it will be Phish continuing to do what they want. That’s how it should be.

  2. contact420 Says:

    In the economic times we live in at present it makes much more sense than putting on a festival. Remember that touring bands need to build up steam buy touring extensively. They’re not going to sell out every show on the tour like they were doing before the first break. Remember what happened when they came back, after the winter tour it lost a lot of luster and shows were not selling out anymore. It’s gonna take a few years before they throw their own festival, fiscally it doesn’t make good business sense. Be patient, if they come back in the way we’d/they hope to, all will work it self out, now is a time for patience and restraint, let’s see what they have to offer before you go see every show of every tour.

  3. trejo Says:

    My opinion on the whole matter is that Bonnaroo is nothing but a big business venture for investors.
    When I attended, we were treated like criminals as we waited in line to be searched before entering the gates. Security was over bearing and intrusive. I’m not even going to go into details on how they were hell bent on finding the “contra band” in which they were so overly confident that everyone was carrying in their vehicles.
    Advertisement is fine in small doses but its disgusting when its rammed down your throat and plastered all over the festival grounds. Bonnaroo is not intimate in any sense. It’s about money and that contradicts artistic integrity. I will still go see phish whenever I get the chance, but it won’t be at Bonnaroo… I don’t care what the setlist is or how hard they tear it up.
    Festivals like Bonnaroo are insulting to attend, besides the fact that it is over priced and commericialized.
    I am saddened that phish feels they need to be a part of such a mess. But oh well, this is just my humble opinion and it really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things…..

  4. Jay Says:

    Yea I remember that post-hiatus summer tour… tickets were everywhere. People were dropping them on the ground on the way into the shows because they literally could not give them away.

    I don’t see the big deal with Bonnaroo. I guess since I don’t plan on going to Bonnaroo- Phish or not- I don’t harbor any strong feelings about it either way. The thought of a summer festival with several stages and on-site camping never appealed to me. I agree with the post about spending loads of money to be hot and miserable… I’m too old for that mess. I don’t even go to ACL Fest anymore here in Austin (15 minutes from my house) because it’s too expensive, too crowded, on top of being ridiculously hot (this year being the lone exception but I have no regrets about not going).

    Maybe I’m too old and cynical for all this dreamy talk of Phish scene utopia, too. Maybe it was that way pre-95 when it was a much smaller crowd (my first show was Hampton ’95) but it has been a dog eat dog world out in that parking lot for as long as I’ve known it. Sure there are some nice folks, passionate fans, and semi-responsible people in bunches but the hell if there haven’t been sketchballs, shysters, and flat out disrespectful jerks by the hundreds at every Phish show I’ve ever been to. I imagine Bonnaroo’s scene could be much worse but it’s too damn hot (with no shade, I hear) in Tennessee that time of year for me to worry about it.

  5. Reece Says:

    jamie used to be skeens are u out there. I seen a “my two cents” and automatically thought of you, just like i always have. hit me back my e-mail is my full name minus the reece j—sl– please send me someting we spent so much time together and i REALLY need to talk to you. Love always and forever-hope to see you at some shows this summer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Love Ya’

  6. Evan Hill Says:

    Mr. Miner!

    My name is Evan. U know what is real man. I couldn’t have described my thoughts on Phish playing Bonnaroo better than u did. I got my ticket already, but a bunch of my phriends are booing down the idea. So, at this point I am on my own. I would love to meet u rock that phish show with u if I dont find a partner. Email me at this address or call or text me at 219-921-4739. No pressure, I am just lookin for an experienced phishhead to rock the roo with. Let me know.


  7. mateo Says:

    I was just thinking, and i don’ t know if any one else said this, but, I figure if enough phans show up, the phanbase will dominate and maybe educate the “not so chill” crowd everyone is saying frequents bonnaroo. I’ve never been, but i’ve been going to phish shows, and thier huge festivals since 94′. So i will be at bonnaroo to represent phish phans and teach some kids how to party! 🙂 So come and join me!

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