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”

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  1. Al Says:

    Fist of all: great essay once again. I don’t know where you take the time to write this great stuff on a daily basis. I had to win the lottery to do that – or actually be a professional writer who makes a living doing it. Anyway, I agree with you 100% concering Bonaroo. It shows that they go new ways, changed their minds on quite a few things and they just want to do what they feel like doing. I’d like to hear a Bonaroo “Mike’s” so bad!
    GUYS, grab yourself this Landover show, and it will become one of your 10 favorite shows!!!! At least, it makes my top ten at the moment;-)

  2. Matso Says:

    I think it’s positive that Phish will play Bonnaroo (even though I have no intention of attending). To me, it feels a bit like when they played “Terrapin” at Virginia Beach in 98 – an acknowledgment that they belong to a certain tradition. In the case of the 9 August bust-out, it was a recognition of what they inherited from the Dead; now it’s a case of what they’ve given to the music world at large. Phish has always been a fiercely independent band and sometimes I think that might have been slightly to their own detriment when they couldn’t quite live up to their own myth (eg. Coventry). In this case, the pressure to ‘make’ the event will be off and the only thing they’ll be out to prove is that they’re still the best.

    Bonarroo is also a place where the band members as individuals have been made to feel welcome and at home and I think it’s a sign of their appreciation for the festival that they would choose to share their greatest project with it.

    I suspect you’re right – they’ll be hanging out, listening to great music, and getting psyched for their own set. And when they hit that stage, the energy is going to be huge.

  3. Panzarotti Says:

    I mean, seriously? I can’t believe there’s this Bonnaroo backlash. The most important thing for Phish fans should be the fact that they’re playing music again. It’s a waste of time to overanalyze every move they make heading into ’09. Just relish in the fact that they’re back. It doesn’t matter if they’re playing at a farm in Manchester, TN or in the backroom of a deli in New Jersey.

    This suburban dad won’t be making it to Bonnaroo this year and my summer tour plans will most likely end at the one or two shows in my neck of the woods. But I urge all the younger fans who’ve never had the chance to catch the magic to go and see them as much as you can this summer. You won’t be dissapointed.

    Look for me at Hampton. I’ll be the chubby guy with a beard, baseball hat, and a t-shirt with some sort of witty/ironic saying on it.

  4. Cameron Says:


    you seriously read my mind. I had some of the comments on the rolling stone blurb yesterday morning and began to think abnout them again this morning. Every point about why it’s ok for Phish to play the ‘Roo is already made man. Once again thanks for helping to keep my mind busy as the days pass away to SUMMER 2009!!!!!!!!!!!


  5. bhizzle Says:

    If you were a musician and were inveited to ‘Roo you would go. Exposing your muisc to masses and not having to pay the $ to put it on are all good and logical reasons, but think about being able to pick from the litter of who you might be able to sit in with. The amount of fun that they as musicians would have playing different songs, of different genres with different musicians. Also, what about the musicians that could sit in with Phish. Granted, as Miner has wrote about earlier, some of the not as good performances have been when some one has sat in with them. But wtf, let them have their fun.

  6. Jerzeykid Says:

    I appreciate your persepective. I will not go to see them at the Roo, but you make s a strong case for their right to be there. Bonaroo is a hard scene for guys like me who have had kids since their days on tour. I hope that Camden and Red Rocks are legit- both would be a blast. I live in Jerzey and was moving out to Colorado the second week of June, so if your dates are right, I score

  7. Cason Says:

    lets all just take a deep breath and think about how potentially awesome Bonnaroo could be this year. the line up at this thing could be unreal. phish will bring enough people on their own that the producers at AC Entertainment can really hand pick anyone to share the billing. MMW, Bela, New Deal….. very jam friendly stuff. sprinkle in some My Morning Jacket, Of Montreal, or the Killers. some hip hop, bluegrass, jazz, a few comdedians etc. I’m sure it will be a good mix.

    panic is gone which will cut down on the number of asshole fratboys and DMB wouldnt do it unless they were the headliner so the teeny boppers will hopefully stay home.

    Bruce would be cool as shit, especially for Trey, his jersey roots and all. assuming the producers know better than to book a bunch of thrash metal and mariachi bands, the line up of this thing will make a $250 ticket look like a real bargain.

    Bonnaroo to me sounds like it would be a perfect fit for phish fans. i mean come on, we all know whats up. we create our economy to avoid being “commercialized” by the powers that be. ive seen posts talking about fights breaking out last year. really? what did you expect to find at a Metallica show? heady goo balls and hippie chicks?

    remember this boys and girls. Bonnaroo is just a name. this thing is whatever we make it. the atmosphere of a festival is determined by the people who attend it as well as the bands that play it. i have no doubt hordes of phish kids will be showing up in large numbers, many including myself, for our first bonnaroo.

    can’t wait!!!

  8. R1 Says:

    It seems to me that those of us who take issue with the idea of them playing “the Roo” don’t question their “right” to do so. Of course they have the right to do so; they have the right to do whatever the hell they want. If this is something they’re into, good for them. I hope they enjoy themselves.

    What bothers ME about it is that they are opting to play in an environment that I have absolutely no interest in being in. Their tour is going to be limited in comparison to the past, and they’re choosing this mega-fest as one of the few places they will be playing. You’re absolutely right Miner that it IS about MY desire to be there. That is why I’m voicing MY opinion about the idea. But shit, I would never presume to question THEIR choice to play there. I’m not suggesting that it’s somehow wrong for them to do so or isn’t a good choice for them. And undoubtedly the shows will be sick.

  9. Layne Says:

    You said everything that I’ve been thinking


  10. Justin Says:

    I think it’s exciting and adventurous for Phish to headline Bonnaroo. My situation is that I can only afford to take one big Phish vacation this summer so if it’s between spending $1000 and 5 days of my time to see Phish at Bonnaroo or $1000 and 5 days of my time to see Phish 4 nights at Red Rocks (or The Gorge), I’m going out west. No questions asked. The ‘Roo will most likely be a blast, and the setlists will probably rock, but the scene will just be too much for me. I am happy that Phish will be playing in front of so many new future Phisheads, it’s great. I’m also happy to hear that Mr. Miner got Hampton tickets! Sorry you had to pay so much for them Miner, but I’m glad you’ll be there with me. If anyone deserves to be on the mothership for lift-off it’s you. Keep this blog alive, it’s awesome!

  11. empire Says:

    its going to be a cluster fuck of an event. If Im going to spend 15+ hours in a car waiting to get to the site I want it to be worthwhile. I want my 2 days of 3 sets of phish music. I have never been to bonnaroo cause I dont care to see so many bands at once. If I go its all about seeing phish though. and if phish plays it they will blow that place up. how many hours to headliners get??

  12. AbePhroman Says:

    Ok Miner, I disagree wholeheartedly. The first couple Bonaroos were ok but give me a break man. You can also disagree with Phish in your blog too. Don’t be afraid to take off your kneepads and stand up for once.

  13. Mitch Says:

    I’m with R1 on this one. In all of my complaining I was never questioning their having the right. They own the scene and have each played there and some multiple times. My opinion comes from experience. I’ve been to 4 bonnaroos and used to love it. But as the years passed the bill started getting more hipster, the scene more teeny and dare I say it the fest became more corporate. I saw trey blow it up 2nd row with fireworks. I’ve seen the dead and phil I saw grab and vida blue. I have much love for what bonnaroo was but not what it is now. And I hate seeing them join into that scene. To each their own. They will blow the place apart.they do that anywhere but I’ll be at red rocks or the gorge hopefully instead. I’d rather see them headline rothbury if it weren’t sold or another fest rather than roo. Just my 2 cents. If you had been before I think some opinions would be different.

  14. AbePhroman Says:

    “If you had been before I think some opinions would be different.”


  15. empire Says:

    As far as the new fans its hard to say how that will go. Phish shows got a little sketchy towards the end. The community wore thin the feeling of everyone being part of something special got lost. Alot had to do with the masses of new fans that caught on specially the people there just for the party and not for the music. The bigger they get the more problems will come. Phish playing the roo is only going to attract more people.
    At the same time why should they care they should just worry about playing music and that is it. Maybe that is their approach now. I just hope when they announce a tour that they take some measures to help the fans get tickets to their shows. A simple 2 ticket per person with cc in hand.

  16. AbePhroman Says:

    “At the same time why should they care they should just worry about playing music and that is it. ”

    No, Trey cared alot abotu the scene and talked about how it was getting out of hand. Listen to his Charlie Rose interview on youtube. They care.

  17. Scott Says:

    I agree with the post, Miner, and I thank you for your opinion. What excites me, despite many Phishheads’ complaints, is that a younger generation will be exposed to Phish, will be able to have their minds collectively blown the way mine was in 96. People complain about ‘fratboys,’ ‘noobs’, teenyboppers, etc etc…but these same name-callers also resist giving these kids the opportunity to transcend that lifestyle via the Phish experience, refusing to fathom the chance that these kids might have their lives changed the same way ours was. We were spoiled when we were touring, in the ‘days of old’: we had Clinton, relative peace and security, etc etc. These kids were raised in the 911 world, with two wars, an economic mess, and exponentially worsening music. These kids need Phish! Let’s drop the elitist exclusive attitudes, welcome the new generation, and teach the younger ones how to dance to Cow Funk!

  18. Los Says:

    I wont be going. Its that simple. I luv phish but not the roo. I hope all that go enjoy. Its just not the place for me to feel phish (jazzfest is if they go there).

    Im happy they are back and hopefully doing things on their terms

  19. Jacob Says:

    When I hear about Bonnaroo, I think about Trey’s quote from Bittersweet Motel. “When you look at the Rolling Stone list of who’s on tour, of course, we’re not on it. We play our best shows when no one’s paying attention. And now we’re having the best tour we’ve had in years.” Which tour was that? Yeah, Fall ’97, a tour that correctly gets a lot of love around here.

    I just think that playing Bonnaroo goes against what Trey was saying. If/when they do play Bonnaroo, they will be on the Rolling Stone who’s touring list, and there will be people paying attention. I don’t know, if Bonnaroo’s in the cards, that’s fine, as long as Deer Creek and Alpine Valley are also.

  20. Jerrydamule Says:

    One thing I love about this site is that folks post varying, passionate opinions, but do so in a constructive, positive way. My opinion has always been that there is plenty of Phish for everyone – new, old, and in between. I started seeing dead shows in ’89 (when I was a youngin at 18), but I always got the sense, I don’t think naively so, that the GD community welcomed me and WANTED me to experience it. The GD memories, although only 6 years in the making, serve me well in everyday life. That year, at the wetlands, I also got the first taste of what would become my favorite band and form the cornerstone of a legacy of memories that will sustain me into the next life.

    Now, wouldn’t I be the hypocrite if I didn’t feel the same way towards new fans, whose own book on “good times” is about to be written? Perhaps the decision to play Bonnaroo is based in part on their desire to reach new fans; perhaps it’s based in part on other reasons… who cares. The only thing I wish for (when it comes to Phish) this Holiday season is that Phish 3.0 means that the boys are all healthy, happy, clear-headed, well-prepared, practiced, and playing music with same zest and creativity as if they were playing with their own children in a lush green field in Vermont. If you truly love this band, isn’t that the most important thing? Trust me, if each is truly content in his own skin – they are gonna shred. And, they and red light will make sure you have plenty of chances to be there, at a venue that suits you.

    thanks again Miner, for providing this great forum

  21. eric Says:

    The other day as I was lamenting the Bonnaroo I had a little eureka moment. In 2004, Trey played an orchestrated verison of Guyute with the Orchestra Nashville at Bonnaroo. I think at Bonnarroo we may see a Phish + Orchestra Nashville production of Time Turns Elastic. Just my hunch.

    I for one will NOT be attending Bonnaroo though for numerous reasons that I don’t to recite for the are common grievances. However, I did hear from another “source” fwiw (ie friend of my gf who knows people with band, what ever that means) who supported the Red Rocks rumor. As local Coloradan who did not get Hampton tickets, if it comes down to it I will be paying to get into those shows.

  22. G-Man Says:

    I’m with empire on this one. Of course Phish has the right, and many of the new Phans it will bring is a good thing (even though it will make it even tougher to get tix) BUT part of the problem post-hiaitus was definitely waaay too many people there for the wrong reasons…..and Bonnaroo has become a magnet for those people. Miner, you are right that I’m opposed for selfish reasons, but it’s not that I don’t want a new generation in, or that Phish should not reap the rewards of the festival scene that owes it’s existence to them (in a way), but I got so sick of people who were screaming into thier cell phones to make plans with thier buddies for after the show WHILE THE BAND WAS PLAYING!!!! Seriosly STFU while the band is playing or stay out in the lot. Part of what made Phish so special to me when I first discovered them was that the Phans were there for the music…they listened…when the band got quiet, they got quiet (eerily so at times). I experience a silent jam on one occasion and it was one of the most mind-blowing things that has ever happened to me…I fear that something so magical can’t happen again. Phish will always attract a certain percentage of those folks, but to some of us, playing at Bonnaroo (as it has become) is like personally inviting all of those slugs to join the tour.

    Sorry if this comes off as harsh, but the scene felt more and more like a DMB show in the latter years and I was hoping that the time away might have shed some of those hangers-on. Playing Bonneroo will ensure that a whole new generation of hangers-on are back into the Phish scene right out of the gates.

  23. Scott Bernstein Says:

    I don’t get the hubbub. It’s not like they won’t be playing their favorite sheds for the rest of the summer. I’m psyched if only to catch the AT&T Blueroom simulcast.

  24. StevieTee Says:

    I really wish they’d play Rothbury instead. I personally live closer but its also a much better festival.

  25. Russ Says:

    fuck it, why not? i know ill be there loving every minute of it

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