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Bonnaroo 2012 Recap

Posted 2 years ago by jwelsh8 - 34 comments Link: http://phi.sh/b/4fd8d151

Three songs into Kenny Rogers' set at Bonnaroo on Sunday, he expressed his gratitude to the organizers and the crowd for welcoming him to the festival. He made some quip about young fans remembering his music (blissfully unaware to the apparent hipster irony), closing with a proclamation of his intent to play every one of his hits. The tent erupted.

With Rogers, a greatest hits set is expected. He does not need to prove himself at Bonnaroo, as acts have done over the past eleven years. All attendees are expecting to hear are recognizable songs, as he has been performing for years in Branson. While Phish certainly no longer needs to prove themselves, their fans, by contrast, do expect more than a run through of the hits. Especially during a four-hour slot on what could arguably be the largest stage in live music. But other than one or two moments of surprise and adventure, Phish's show was filled with songs that simply muscled through the bigness of the event.

After relatively mild temperatures for Bonnaroo over the first three days, the expected Sunday rains arrived early in the morning, adding an alternative sound to the poundings of dubstep. Other than making paths muddy, the rain actually held off for most of the day. Approaching Phish's start time, the two rumors floating around were a Kenny Rogers sit-in and rain early in the first set.

Surprisingly prompt, Phish took the stage around 8:05. While a crowd participation song like “Wilson” or “Punch You In the Eye” was expected, the low rumblings marking the beginning of “Down with Disease” was met with whoops and smiles. At least the expectation of a band that meant business was there. “Down with Disease” was a good version, but not necessarily the precursor to exploration.

Mention should be made of how good the sound was. The PA on the main (What) Stage, was impressive all weekend, particularly for Radiohead and even Bon Iver. Sound engineer Garry Brown had each of the four members dialed in perfectly. During the second song, “Funky Bitch,” I was noticing bass lines of Mike's I had never heard before.

The Moma Dance” showed some patience - of course it is part of the song, but during the age of the "rip cord," patience is not always apparent. “Sample” was good enough, as was “Axilla.”

Earlier in the day, Kenny Rogers had played “The Gambler” during his set. But if Phish felt moved to invite a “legend” on stage, it was hard to believe that Phish would have played anything else with Rogers. And as a reprise, it was about as to-the-book as it could have been played – the band seemed hesitant, matching Kenny’s surprise and appreciation for the reception he received (on both stages).

It was during the ensuing “Possum” that Phish put their own spin on “The Gambler,” as Trey teased it both in the beginning build up as well as later in the song, along with his current go-to “Streets of Cairo.” “Wilson” goaded us to acknowledge that yes, we are indeed having fun. While Phish.net has noted this closing run of songs with segues, the only one that stood out was the “Tweezer” > “Free” – and that was not necessarily smooth. “Tweezer” may have veered a bit into the realm of jam – but nothing of note, slowing down into the opening strums of “Free” before it transitioned into that recognizable melody. Of the recent additions to Phish’s catalog, “Backwards Down the Number Line” seems to be the perfect choice for a crowd of 80,000 strong out in a field. There is a bit of Americana timelessness to that song that just seems to work – especially Sunday night. And if “Number Line” felt right, then “Cavern” was just as fitting. With the rain falling steadily and after four days of walking and dancing, we all needed a reminder as to what to take care of.

The first set started with expectation and ended with predictability. Enjoyable, certainly, but only pieces of the “Disease” and “Tweezer” may be calling for a second listen. Those around me were smiling – a little wet but not worse for wear – but there did not seem to be much discussion of what happened on stage. Just smiles and nodding of heads.

The band returned after a relatively short set break and launched into TV on the Radio’sGolden Age” for the tenth time. It took me a few moments to place the song but I was immediately pleased with the choice. Phish tackles the song’s rhythm quite well, and after its exploration the last time it was played (12/31/11), there was the possibility... But after a few moments of letting go, the band dropped out for Fish’s familiar intro to “2001.” Early in the song Page used this great funky tone on his clav that I wish would have kept going for minutes – one of my little highlights, partially due to how good it sounded. I will admit, “Chalk Dust Torture” took me a bit by surprise; I was not expecting the song to come out of “2001.” Again, pretty standard.

As can be expected, cell phone coverage while at Bonnaroo is hit or miss. When texts come in, they come in as a deluge (as it seems glow sticks are tossed any more - all at once). With that said, the setlist for the two Worcester shows had not sunk into my consciousness. I was not aware of “Down with Disease” having opened the second set of the second night until after the fact. I had, though, noticed the pleasant buzz around the “Carini” -> “Taste” from night one. So I was a bit surprised with the “Carini” repeat. Especially as the song took off and grew into my favorite piece of improvisation of the evening. Dark, exploratory.

When they dropped into the first “Shafty” in nine years, I could not have been happier. For those “particular” fans around me, there were hugs and high-fives – followed by the desire to drop “stats knowledge” on those who would listen. The song just grows out of this funky little repetition by Mike, with Trey’s whisper-like lyrics, resigned with how oblivious we all are. More an idea than a full song (similar to a few other little gems from The Story of The Ghost), I just can’t get enough of the melody. I couldn’t help but think back to the “Maze” > “Shafty” > “Maze” I was blessed with 12 years ago.

The smiles kept coming with the segue into “Rock and Roll.” Judging from the crowd’s reaction, this was the fan favorite of the evening. We were all gathered in the middle of Tennessee for music, particularly rock and roll. Just a great choice. Stretched just enough into the realms of Type I, the jam was led by Trey and had some “Chalk Dust”-like energy.

For this fan, it is here where things took an unfortunate turn. I have seen “Alaska” at my last three shows, and all instances have been late into the evening. After a strong start to the set and a great run of three songs, the proceedings ground down to a bit of a halt. Looking back at the timings, “Alaska” appears to be the third longest song of the evening; this is just odd to me. Unfortunately, the subsequent “Harry Hood” would not elevate the set back to its heights.

I find “Harry Hood” to be one of the most beautiful songs in Phish’s repertoire. As the lyrics suggest, it just makes you feel good. From the opening taps on the woodblock to the “pretty” middle section to the rousing “Feel Good” ending, it works as a package, even with the crowd participation of “Hood” chants and glow-stick wars.

But this complete beautiful package was not played Sunday night. Rather, the song was left unfinished with a jarringly forced transition into “Light.” Standing there, it felt as though Trey forcefully grabbed control and took the song completely off the rails. (I kept hoping for a return to “Harry” - for the rest of the show. Alas.) It is not as though “Light” is a song I do not enjoy hearing; ever since its debut at Fenway, I actually enjoy the song’s drive and energy, reminding me of “Pebbles and Marbles” when it gets going. But it is hard to get behind this version simply due to how it painfully interrupted “Harry.”

As standard for the band these days, when in doubt, muscle through. That is how the “Character Zero” felt. The “Rocky Top” was received with joyful dancing for the few around me that felt a special affinity for the home state of Bonnaroo; their dancing made me smile at least.

We all knew that a “Tweeprise” was coming, but there was some hope for something more. Maybe the end of that “Harry”? There was plenty of time left in that “8:00 to 12:00” slot that kept flashing on the screen before Phish took the stage. “Show of Life” was not at all the song that the crowd was hoping for (not to speak for everyone, of course, but that was the general feeling). Whether the song was fitting or not, the forced sentimentality and simplistic melody are off-putting. “Julius” has always been a feel-good sort of guy, and he did his best to change the mood of the encore. “Tweeprise” was standard great. Thundering air-moving notes from Mike signaled a, well, triumphant end to the show – about 15 minutes before midnight.

As the band took their time leaving the stage, soaking up the crowd, both fireworks and rain appeared in the sky. Good timing with the rain; some of the crowd wondering if the fireworks were supposed to accompany music. Hoods and umbrellas were raised as we all shuffled out, stepping on glowsticks and mud.

As a critical fan of this band so many of us love, I am aware of the struggle between losing myself in the moment and being critical at the times when I am disappointed. For a band whose appeal is closely tied to the allure of the unexpected, am I biting the hand that feeds me when they surprise me? I will admit, I caught myself tapping my toe to “Alaska” during its monotonous jam. What it may come down to is that the unexpected is no longer for the sake of adventure – it seems to be due to comfort. We have had this body of experience when the unexpected was wrapped up in taking chances, pushing the limits to the point where it became the norm, the reason so many people traveled night after night. Now playing it safe has taken the place of taking chances; playing it safe is still unexpected for this fan.

Maybe I should think of the lyrics to “Backwards Down the Number Line.”

Laughing all these many years
We've pushed through hardships tasted tears


As we get older together, and remain friends, we will have the past moments of happiness to remember together. Without being too maudlin (as “Show of Life” unfortunately is), it might be worth repeating those lyrics to oneself. And let your toes tap to whatever Phish is playing for you.

Comments

ColForbin Phish.net Staff Reply
ColForbin Best review of a (far) below average Phish show I've ever read. Fine work @jwelsh8 !
Score: 6
AnalogKid Reply
AnalogKid We have had this body of experience when the unexpected was wrapped up in taking chances, pushing the limits to the point where it became the norm, the reason so many people traveled night after night. Now playing it safe has taken the place of taking chances; playing it safe is still unexpected for this fan.

Well said. To paraphrase the summary of a conversation I had with a phriend the other day in the wake of the Worcester run: "It's about the time we spend as a group waiting for those Holy Moments."
Score: 4
treysoldguitar Reply
While I appreciate the well written and well thought out review of the show, I think OP is missing the point. Festival Phish (especially not their own) is not the same as tour Phish and not even close to Real Phestival Phish. I had zero, count them, ZERO expectations that this show would be anything more than it was. In fact, I was a bit surprised at how much they actually did "jam." Bonaroo Phish does not placate to the real phans, but rather to the 70,000 other people at the show. Closing the second set with Character ZERO, for example, was a foregone conclusion. No surprises there, at all. Come AC next weekend, however, we will get a dose of real phish for the real phans. They will give us stellar versions of YEM, HOOD, Fluff, Stealing Time, etc. Just my .02
Score: 15
Jackaroe Reply
I've been seeing Phish for as long as I can remember. I don't keep stats. I don't begrudge their setlist choices. I don't care if they don't finish Hood because I've seen them do it what seems like a few million times. I don't expect every transition to be silky smooth, the way to guarantee that would be to only do the same few transitions all the time and I would hate that. I think saying that a Phish has "hits" is crazy, they are not Kenny Rogers and the vast majority of people that were there Sunday night probably new half of those songs.

What I can tell you is that it was a great time. I used to get bent out of shape about what they played (especially looking for interesting segues and rare tunes) and how they played it and the moment that stopped doing that and just had a good time I re-discovered my love for this band. The best shows that I've ever seen from them have still brought criticism from somebody on a review board. Regarding Sunday night, the sound was out of this world, the new lights are sugar for my brain, and the music was fun and diverse (Axilla one moment and the Gambler the next?). I don't love seeing Alaska at the end of the second set and really don't like Backwards down... or Show of Life, but guess who does? That's right, the band, and I am just fine with whatever they want to do because overall they are still the best thing on earth.
Score: 10
ericwyman Phish.net Staff Reply
ericwyman @treysoldguitar said:
While I appreciate the well written and well thought out review of the show, I think OP is missing the point. Festival Phish (especially not their own) is not the same as tour Phish and not even close to Real [Festival] Phish. I had zero, count them, ZERO expectations that this show would be anything more than it was. In fact, I was a bit surprised at how much they actually did "jam." Bonaroo Phish does not placate to the real phans, but rather to the 70,000 other people at the show.
Why?

Why does Phish owe it to anyone to dumb down their presentation. This baffles me. In my opinion, Phish is the best band in the world and to think that they would say "hey, so a lot of people in the audience probably don't like Phish, so we better give them the most basic version of what we do." That's ludicrous. Does Radiohead dumb down their show for a festival? Did Battles? Did Flaming Lips? (and don't even come back with a response that they're not comparable) Phish is a HEADLINER. Saying that a majority of the audience isn't there to see them is once again implausible. Last band on stage after a long weekend, in the fucking rain, anyone who didn't want to see Phish was long fucking gone.

And I'm not even talking about the quality of the music they played here. I'm talking about this idea of a "festival set." To say you had no expectations is incorrect, you had (at least what I can take from your comment) the expectation that they would play below their potential. It's just that you were ok with that. Bonnaroo was another show, actually, it wasn't really any different than what will be played in AC. But everyone's expectation seems to be significantly lower than the norm solely because of the environment. Some people are willing to accept that and some aren't. I am still hung up on the concept itself.
Score: 11
iam2me3 Reply
The thing is that Phish is a product of their environment. For the most part, Phish changes their setlist based on what they're feeling at the show. Bonnaroo has for a long time been known as a place where people come to discover music. You come down to a couple bands you really love and leave raving about five bands you hadn't heard of before that weekend. Any real fan of Bonnaroo was COMPLETELY drained by Sunday night and I personally liked the restraint shown by the band throughout the entire show.

There kept being little blips where I'd notice Trey or Mike pull some kind of funky riff and then settle back down into the groove. I think each one of those little flare-ups were little nods to the real die-hard fans in the audience who were really listening closely.

The majority of Phish fans that remained for Sunday night were plenty drained, but still excited and I think that kind of reverberated through the band's set. The people that were seeing Phish for the first time had their minds blown by this show anyway, despite its lack of gems for Phish junkies to hang their hat on. And true new-comers to the band wouldn't have been able to fully appreciate what they were seeing if they got an obscure song or some kind of crazy drawn out jam. Would it have made made the experience better if they had to later listen to and understand what they were hearing during that show? Maybe. Probably. But when you're playing on a stage like Bonnaroo's Main stage, you almost have an obligation to cater to the crowd. I'm pretty damn sure there were plenty of Phish virgins at that show and when you're catering to them it works well to play a bunch of recognizable, solidly played classics. By doing this, you don't really alienate anyone, you appease most major Phish fans - at least until their next show, and you expose a giant audience of people to an awesome band that they can later really dive into and explore.

My first Phish show was Roo '09 and both of those shows had the same kind of restraint we saw at this year's Roo, but it was enough to hook me and now I'm a die hard.
I felt what most of you are talking about during the show. Nothing too special, and I'm still looking for my Maze, but a widely appealing set that sent everyone home happy. I'm not sure I could have been able to handle a full-scale Phish epic 4 hour performance after 3+ days of partying that hard, and I think that's something that the band realized. So, they just let us groove a little, played some cool songs, jammed here and there, and capped off an unbelievable festival experience for a lot of people.

Good or bad, I though their show seemed appropriate for the audience and time. I left wanting more, but maybe that's what the band was trying to do. Because now I know at least that I'm locked into that Deer Creek > Alpine run.
Score: 3
jwelsh8 Phish.net Staff Reply
jwelsh8 @iam2me3 said:
And true new-comers to the band wouldn't have been able to fully appreciate what they were seeing if they got an obscure song or some kind of crazy drawn out jam. Would it have made made the experience better if they had to later listen to and understand what they were hearing during that show? Maybe. Probably. But when you're playing on a stage like Bonnaroo's Main stage, you almost have an obligation to cater to the crowd. I'm pretty damn sure there were plenty of Phish virgins at that show and when you're catering to them it works well to play a bunch of recognizable, solidly played classics. By doing this, you don't really alienate anyone, you appease most major Phish fans - at least until their next show, and you expose a giant audience of people to an awesome band that they can later really dive into and explore.
I am just not convinced that a band like Phish needs to cater to anyone. And I certainly don't agree with simply because you are on Bonnaroo's What Stage, you need to cater. As you acknowledge, Bonnaroo is a lot about discovery of a band as they bring the absolute best that they can. This is who I am, and I am going to leave it all out there on the stage. Not, here are some songs that maybe won't scare some of the crowd; or, here are some hits to make sure everyone is happy. Of course bands who don't vary their setlists up that much may play what they usually play -- but they are damn sure they are going to do it well.

But what I tried to get across is that Phish isn't like any other band. They don't need to prove themselves, and we have come to expect some chances, stepping above and beyond. Wouldn't you introduce a fan to some of the best versions of songs, the best jams, and say "This is what this band can bring! This is why we see as many shows as possible!" You don't offer up a studio album and say "It is kind of like this, but with lights."
Score: 5
ericwyman Phish.net Staff Reply
ericwyman @iam2me3 said:
There kept being little blips where I'd notice Trey or Mike pull some kind of funky riff and then settle back down into the groove. I think each one of those little flare-ups were little nods to the real die-hard fans in the audience who were really listening closely.
In the middle of the set, Trey noticed that most of the die-hard fans were upset. So he turns, begrudgingly, to Mike and floats the idea that they should play a few really inspired measures to placate the impending jadevet riot.
Score: 1
Icculus Phish.net Staff Reply
Icculus Thank you for this review, Jeremy! In a way a show of the musical caliber of Bonnaroo makes those who listen to and see as much Phish as they can give serious (re)consideration about WHY they continue to care as much as they do.

And for me, with respect to Bonnaroo, which I sincerely believe is among the weakest Phish shows I have ever HEARD, it comes down to the Carini jam and the Shafty bustout. I love this band because even at "festival shows," they continue to at least do SOMETHING for everyone, even the vets who have heard every god damn circulating note of music they have ever performed. And they continue to IMPROVISE. We are extremely fortunate that Phish continues to play and I feel privileged to be among their fans.
Score: 6
ScottyB Phish.net Staff Reply
ScottyB This wasn't a show aimed for diehard fans. Probably the only one they'll play all year. The proof is in the pudding - nearly every review from Bonnaroo outside of the Phish community gives the band kudos for their set(s).

http://www.spin.com/articles/phish-noodle-bonnaroo-finish-line-12-key-sunday-sets

The band's performance worked on both micro and macro levels. Zero in on the details — keyboardist Page McConnell's soul-jazz comping; drummer Jon Fishman's skittering cymbals — and you could get wonderfully lost. Pan back to frontman Trey Anastasio's guitar heroics and (not to mention a guest spot from Kenny Rogers, who sang "The Gambler" with the band), and Phish was all big-gesture rock thrills stretched to epic length

http://consequenceofsound.net/2012/06/festival-review-cos-at-bonnaroo-2012/

I know that all the Phish purists out there will probably have a gripe with the lack of extended jamming and the favoring of their radio-friendly songs like “Sample in a Jar” and “Character Zero”, but you’ve got to respect Anastasio & co. for at least trying not to be exclusionary. Of course, Bonnaroo began as a jam-centric entity, but it’s a different monster now, one where Skrillex can fly in on a spaceship and blast his EDM across the same stage mere hours after a band like Dispatch. Sunday night, Phish was in a true festival mindset in that their aim was to please as many people as possible — to reach across the aisle, if you will. And in that sense they succeeded as only a group with their storied history and skill set could have.

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/11/bonnaroo-final-thoughts/

In about three hours of music, Phish touched on most of its bases, but by and large this was not jazzy Phish or progressive-rock Phish but happy Phish — and downright euphoric at that, in two borrowed songs that hail from New York City. They were Lou Reed’s Velvet Underground classic “Rock and Roll” and TV on the Radio’s determinedly hopeful “Golden Age,” which probably wasn’t envisioned as a rock-festival rouser. But it sounded just right, praising “the age of miracles/the age of sound.”

You'll notice there was a break between Bonnaroo and Atlantic City. IMO, the band used Worcester as a dress rehearsal for Bonnaroo, hence all the repeats. But of course they know their audience and sprinkled bustouts and jams throughout the DCU Center performances. Let's not forget, this is a group that had played four shows in 10 months leading up to the festival. I feel they didn't want to embarrass themselves on a technical level, hence giving most of the tunes from the Bonnaroo set a run-through in Massachusetts.
Score: 8
bertoletdown Phish.net Staff Reply
bertoletdown I'm sure Phish is pumped that the magazine that has ridiculed them mercilessly for the last 20 years (SPIN) liked the Bonnaroo set.
Score: 4
TennesseeJed Reply
Great Review Jeremy! Both in form and content!

@ericwyman said:
Why does Phish owe it to anyone to dumb down their presentation.
An excellent question.

In pure marketing terms, there is a thought that says "Play to the strengths ( or weaknesses of your crowd" - and Bonnaroo is just the place for Phish to reach an audience of non-phish music fans.

So, I understand, and expected that it would happen. I even posted a (pseudo) advice review about how to make that happen.

I also believe it is wrong. Phish is at their best when they look inside themselves for the inspired playing they are capable of. Playing to an audience, rather than playing for an audience is a sure fire way to fail as an artist.

And as a human being.

Always play it the way you feel it, not the way someone else thinks you should.

Cheers!

And here's to looking forward to the next show!
Score: 1
rhopping5 Reply
This show needed a Heavy Things
Score: 3
InsectEffect Reply
InsectEffect @jwelsh8 said:
For a band whose appeal is closely tied to the allure of the unexpected, am I biting the hand that feeds me when they surprise me? ... What it may come down to is that the unexpected is no longer for the sake of adventure – it seems to be due to comfort. We have had this body of experience when the unexpected was wrapped up in taking chances, pushing the limits to the point where it became the norm, the reason so many people traveled night after night. Now playing it safe has taken the place of taking chances; playing it safe is still unexpected for this fan.
Well said, and a good review overall! I think this is has certainly been true some of the time for 3.0 so far, but only some of the time. Phish's festival appearances do seem to be approached differently from regular tour shows, for whatever reason. Here's to hoping this year will change our expectations yet again!
Score: 0
nichobert Reply
nichobert You can play a newbie friendly, up-tempo, fairly recognizable set while still playing a cohesive setlist that leaves the more jaded fans smiling.

Do they think Show Of Life and Alaska are actively grabbing non-Phish fans and converting them simply because their fans hate those songs?

IMO they played the furthest thing from a crowd pleasing set as was possibly imaginable without swinging far in the opposite direction and playing a 45 minute Bowie with secret language, silent jams and a 15 minute rotation jam tacked on instead of the ending.

Having the supposed crescendo of the show stymied by things like Alaska, Show Of Life seeemed so bad after them putting together a relatively awesome set of well played classics, with a few bones thrown in (Relatively atypical Chalkdust, Hydrogen fakeout between the Tweezer peak and Free, Shafty)

The repeats aren't a big deal, but the Hood denial and those two major blows to second set cohesion seemed like it at the time.
In retrospect.. It's Phish! They don't really give two shits if they end a show like the first night of Superball and everyone's acid goes bad because the band can't decide if they want to mellow or ragey. IMO everything after that gorgeous Simple jam was 100x the abortion that the end of Bonnaroo was. If it wasn't for the repeats putting so many people on edge, I'm guessing it would have been received much better than it was.

Now, to go full-blown contrarian.

This festival wouldn't exist without Phish. The whole festival scene wouldn't exist without Phish. It'd be a bunch of Dead cover bands and white reggae bands eating mushrooms in the woods of Connecticut until eternity. You wouldn't get these modern amalgamations of everything going on in the various caverns of underground music throughout the country and beyond.

I REALLY wanted Phish to GO LEGENDARY with this slot. I'm personally a fan of the improv first and foremost, but really any combination of being as Phish as possible would have cemented their legacy as the kings of the "scene". Phish is known for their unpredictability, I don't think that Bonnaroo books Phish and then hopes that they dumb it down. While I'd consider a show a success on it's own terms, I keep thinking how nice it would be if Phish would put their stamp on this festival's main stage, or even their own festival's main stage. The bands that walk away from Bonnaroo with the most new fans are the ones that let it all hang out and be as THEM as possible. Radiohead spiraling into psychedelic dystopian madness convinces a few thousand hippies that they aren't an "emo band" every time they hit these kind of stages. Because they aren't playing it safe. They're surveying this landscape of drugged out wahoos and saying "Let's blow these motherfuckers minds tonight" instead of "Lizards is a Gamehenge song, I don't think the crowd could go bananas during the most explosive piano jam of the entire weekend without understanding and grasping the full mythology of Rutherford the Brave"

Phish. Next Year. I don't care if you play my 10 least favorite songs to do it, but reach for greatness on the big stage. You owe it to all the people who aren't yet fans.
Score: 4
phootyjon Reply
phootyjon i bet you my car they blow the doors off at AC nights 2 and 3 and both nights at Portsmouth....the boys will take care of their phans during tour dates; they know what we want and they for sure measure their setlist/effort/attitude depending on the venue/crowd. i believe if we bring the energy they will bring us what we're looking for....
Score: 0
ericwyman Phish.net Staff Reply
ericwyman @nichobert said:

In retrospect.. It's Phish! They don't really give two shits if they end a show like the first night of Superball and everyone's acid goes bad because the band can't decide if they want to mellow or ragey.
Is that true? Acid goes bad when Phish plays a bad set? ;)

Also, Bonnaroo books Phish for one reason. TO SELL TICKETS!
Score: 0
LedZeppelin Reply
LedZeppelin I started getting into Phish in 2006 and have seen them 11 times now since 2009. The first time you see a band it wouldn't really matter what the setlist was composed of, one would just be happy to be able to see the band in the first place.

However, for a critical Phish fan such as myself that has seen them 11 times, this was a disappointing set. They played all of their lesser-impressive tracks. Not that it wasn't what I expected; Phish's festival appearances have all been "greatest hits" sets in the 3.0 era. Still though, they didn't really do anything out of the ordinary.

Sure, I had fun at the show and would have been at Bonnaroo regardless if Phish was there or not (Radiohead, Tune-Yards, Flying Lotus, Battles, St. Vincent=EPIC), but I still feel like they could have played some of their more impressive tracks. At the very least they didn't need to repeat any of the tracks they played at DCU (couldn't believe how many repeats we heard).

Anyways, don't hate on someone for being critical of a setlist. You can have fun at a show, there can be a lot of energy in the crowd and that's all fine and dandy. However, one of the things that keeps me going to Phish shows is the possibility of hearing some of my favorite tracks of all time that I still havn't seen Phish play live.

I'm a broke-ass college student, affording all these shows isn't easy. When I do get the chance to go to a show and I don't hear anything I'm hoping to hear only for them to play said tracks at the next show that I can't afford to make it to, it's kind of frustrating.
Score: 0
nichobert Reply
nichobert I don't feel like the repeats, in and of themselves was really a bad thing. While it would be a bummer to see a lot of the same songs twice in a weekend, I'm guessing you're in a tiny minority of people who saw all 3 shows. It's unfortunate that this minority is made up of the people most likely to care about seeing those repeats.

The thing that worries me the most about the repeats is the notion that the Worcester shows were some sort of practice run for Bonnaroo and the tour at large. After last summer started off pretty improv heavy before working it's way towards some predominately standard shows, I'm hoping we don't get a repeat this year. Phish's improv feels so fresh right now, especially in the rare shows like the first two nights of Bethel where they have a handful of succinct thematic jams coming in unexpected places. I feel like that's a really interesting way to approach the song/jam dichotomy and probably both less tiresome and less predictable than simply dropping a 15 minute unfinished Disease every once in awhile.
Score: 0
Euclid Reply
Euclid @ericwyman said:


Also, Bonnaroo books Phish for one reason. TO SELL TICKETS!
Phish was instrumental in giving inspiration for creating Bonnaroo. Not to mention, a member of Phish has appeared in nearly every festival (except 2?) since the beginning. Booking Phish is a nod to the roots and is a natural progression, I highly HIGHLY doubt it's about the money, even just a little bit.
Score: 0
ericwyman Phish.net Staff Reply
ericwyman @Euclid said:
Phish was instrumental in giving inspiration for creating Bonnaroo. Not to mention, a member of Phish has appeared in nearly every festival (except 2?) since the beginning. Booking Phish is a nod to the roots and is a natural progression, I highly HIGHLY doubt it's about the money, even just a little bit.
You're fooling yourself, on a massive scale. Phish brings an audience. Phish also would be a tipping point for a lot of people to actually go. Kenny Rogers was invited for nostalgia. Not the headliner.
Score: 1
Euclid Reply
Euclid @ericwyman said:
@Euclid said:
Phish was instrumental in giving inspiration for creating Bonnaroo. Not to mention, a member of Phish has appeared in nearly every festival (except 2?) since the beginning. Booking Phish is a nod to the roots and is a natural progression, I highly HIGHLY doubt it's about the money, even just a little bit.
You're fooling yourself, on a massive scale. Phish brings an audience. Phish also would be a tipping point for a lot of people to actually go. Kenny Rogers was invited for nostalgia. Not the headliner.

Um sorry, I don't think so. Yeah they get paid. No it's not about getting paid.
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mseklecki Reply
I dont know exactly why Phish seems to attack their roo sets differently. Prolly doesnt matter. I do know that my expectations i carry into any current show are quite low. I guess i feel they may have peaked as far as their 2 set show craftsmanship, for whatever reason. Is this dissappointing? Maybe a little. But i still appreciate their music and i know that i will have my mind blown at some point during any show. And i love having my mind blown. Thanks Phish!
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AlbanyYEM Reply
AlbanyYEM I was going to say what a momentum killer this show was. 2 straight nights of a serious commitment to go for it, even if the results weren't always pure gold. I'm thinking ghost here, that while an interesting excursion never quite gelled into either the deep psychedelia or a melodic groove, DID in fact show that they were there to jam. Without that rushed feeling of, we have 10 mins to make this happen and if it doesn't then harsh segue, that seems to be common in this era.

Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the jam, but more for the sake of yes they are going for it than the jam itself. I couldn't help thinking that with this kind of commitment to going for it, that a few more shows under the belt would really bring it to the next level beyond the 3.0 asterisk. Like Pine Knob, UIC, and a few others last year. To have those shows be more of the norm than the extreme highlights.

And then...bonnaroo happened. This was almost literally exactly what I expected. We can all debate the question of whether they need to dumb things down for the festy sets, but one thing that is certain is that it indeed was dumbed down. It wasn't the story of the ghost album that did it for me, it was seeing them crush, just absolutely crush jams like it was there business to do so nightly. Like it was almost too much for a noob to take. Confirming that not only should I see them again but that dear lord who ARE these guys and how are they able to *effortlessly* mindfuck their audience with such swagger and aplomb?

Now, I don't expect things to just go back to 97-98 and anyone who does is kind of missing the point. But it did get me thinking that the reason they were able to jam so well is that they actually went for it every show. Not every jam is a keeper, but if you just keep going out there letting it all hang out night after night then of course it becomes second nature and the quality is consistently high. What I saw from the DCU shows was the willingness to fall flat on their faces. Of course they didn't, but eventually the fear of the unknown turns into the joy of the unknown.

The band seemed on the brink of yet another 3.0 turning point. To pursue without constraint that elusive shift felt in the entirely improvised effortlessness and to find that they had already known this deep in their collective.

And then, there is this show. Momentum. I don't know how else to put it. To comment on the actual show here seems redundant, but I just needed to get out of my system how much the timing and placement in the tour for it is just awful. Talk about taking a step forward and then three or four backwards. Phish doesn't need to play at bonnaroo. They have plenty of fans. Some critical and others less. My point is that we all enjoy them for slightly different reasons, but I think we can all agree that if this show was typical of how they played every night we'd all be seeing them a lot less. Why would you even want a new crop of fans that doesn't really get it anyway?

As an afterthought almost, I do have to mention that the next show after the horrendous outside lands festy was UIC night one. Yes, UIC night one. Dirty, nasty, mystical. So what the hell do I know?
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Thunder Reply
Thunder @AlbanyYEM - "Why would you even want a new crop of fans that doesn't really get it anyway?"

I couldn't agree more dude.

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duggy Reply
duggy I don't post in here often at all, but I'd just like to say to those miffed by the Bonnaroo set:

1) Have you never heard a PHISH festival set/show before? (Please check out the history of the band, and adjust your disgruntlement accordingly - HA!)
2) Are you seriously *telling* the band how it should play? Really? Because, that's hilarious ... really! Think about it! HA! (And, I'm not saying we shouldn't be critical, but some of this isn't criticism, per se, but merely wishful thinking about what *you* would do in *your* band, but this ain't *your* band!

I thought that PHISH did nothing different than any other band I'm a fan of and who have played at Bonnaroo -- MMW is my case in point: Great sets, and well played in there times at the fest, but in terms of an MMW performance they don't measure up overall. I can't speak for a lot of the acts, but I certainly expected PHISH to play as they did. Same thing with just about ANY festival performance by either of these bands. Listen throughout PHISH's career to festival sets, which are similar to opening sets for Santana: They give the audience a taste without bombarding them. That's the way PHISH have ALWAYS played festival sets. I can't think of one single festival set that stands above a regular show for me ... maybe I'm not thinking clearly, but I don't think PHISH ever go wild when they aren't playing only to Phans. For me, MMW behave the same way.

That said, this Bonnaroo show has plenty of tiny gems. The Tweezer jam is actually quite insightful and patient -- the devolution to quiet where the start of Free rises up sounds pretty cool to me! The Tweezer jam is my favourite section of the show actually ... and why can't The Gambler sit between Axilla and Possum? Have you ever listened to this band before? HA! PHISH aren't known for flow ... maybe some of the time, but most of the time it seems to be about counterpoint and juxtaposition -- listen to their catalogue of music!

Anyway, while I might always *want* PHISH to play like "PHISH" when they do a festival gig, they just don't ... this is not new behaviour for the band in this time of 3.0 ... this is pretty standard fair for the band when playing an event like that. At least in what I've witnessed live and heard in recordings (I've listened to everything from '93 to present, and then of course a smattering variety of earlier gigs).

Listen to the '96 NO JazzFest set for an example: Pretty standard overall, with a couple of cool nuggets thrown in ... that's the way a PHISH festival set has always gone, it seems to me ...

This coming weekend is going to soar, I think ... while I've certainly been listening along, Worcester was my first live show in 12 years, and I thought there was some of the most patient playing I've heard from the band in this 3.0 era ... first chance I really had to see the band in that time, and I am certainly going to make an effort to get back in the yearly PHISH groove!

But yeah, the biggest thing is to simply enjoy yourself when you're there -- that's what I learned in Worcester and had a great time! Stop trying to guess the band's intentions, or placing your own warped perception on those intentions, and *listen* ... a whole world will open for you ...

Just some thoughts from an old(er) guy ...
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betweenbeams Reply
Great review. I am not always stoked on Alaska, especially towards the end of the second set. But if Trey is smiling I am smiling. Phish has many faces and can be any type of band they want to be. They are playing, touring, and soon to be recording. They have proven they can take any song and turn it into a jam vehicle. Alaska may be the next Tennessee Jed, but so be it.
Everyone needs to stop bitching and enjoy the ride. Phish plays to their crowd. If everyone in the venue is frying hard and taking a trip then the boys come out and play psychedelia, like Albany '09. If the crowd is a bunch of "noobs" that are relatively sober and not that familiar with the band they play a tame or mainstream show. Either way going into a show with a smile, low expectations, and a willingness to surrender to the flow will always lead to a great phish experience.
The boys are back! Worcester was incredible.

Thank you Phish. Life would be dull without you
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LedZeppelin Reply
LedZeppelin @betweenbeams said:

Everyone needs to stop bitching and enjoy the ride.
Critical analysis and "bitching" aren't always the same thing.
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jwelsh8 Phish.net Staff Reply
jwelsh8 Can I ask how the band knows if fans are "frying hard"? Or how many shows those fans at Bonnaroo have seen collectively?

Other than maybe Big Cypress, I am not sure how exactly Phish has ever played to the crowd of a show I have attended. Wasn't the great "bust out" Star Lake show I attended in 2003 attributed to an iPod or list of songs or something? Couldn't that have happened at any venue?
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deceasedlavy Reply
The funny part of all this is that Worcester wasn't that much better than 'roo, aside from the superb Ghost. They don't practice, 1/10 of the amount they did in the 90s. One tour per year. Side projects galore by the fearless leader. Not a recipe for long intuitive jamming night in, night out. Those days are gone. Like it or not, 'roo was above average Phish 3.0. Not what most of us 90s heads are yearning for but I still had a total blast. Managed to get lucky last year with DTE, Blossom and UIC, which Worcester didn't come close to. Hope to get lucky at Creek or Alpine this year, but I'll have a blast with my crew either way. Forget the old days, stop comparing them to now, let go of expectations and try to have fun, if you still can.
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PlaYEM Reply
I think if you " like" the idea behind why the are doing what they are doing than actually liking what you are getting, it may be time to step a way for a while. Hard as that seems, with the 2 hiatuses and losing those years of what could have been, it may help cleanse your palate. being a " vet" jaded or otherwise is probably harder than actually being in the band in some ways. You have no control of what happens on the stage except whether or not you continue to show up to watch it. You have had your highest high and lowest lows withe the boys. You show up hoping to reach Clifford ball, cypress or Europe tour and you get something different and you feel like you got short changed because your wealth of experience tells you they can be much much better. (or much worse, LI 20th anniversary). Forgetting that why they are there and why you are there doesn't always mesh. Are you there for them or vice versa. Maybe both. Every show has peaks and valleys and with one of the most critical fan bases in the history of music the boys plow on thru. Giving someone of the legion what it wants with every note. And yet turning the most ardent supporter sour with opening notes of Show ( I had a good time, thank me with a rocker) but alas it's not our plane to fly, we can only speak of the turbulence or smoothness and the crew who pulled us into the landing. circumstances, time and experience have changed how each particular show is viewed and reviewed sometimes it's easy to demolish a whole show forgetting how great a segue or jam really was because bouncin was played right after. Just the same as praising a whole show pillar to post forgetting theY restarted the intro to fee because the rest was so magnificentst. In baseball hitting .300 gets you in the Hall of Fame, on a bad night the boys are .400 or better every time. Phish fans are the Yankees fans of rock n roll and taking home a trophy at the end of the night is the only accepted endgame. Sometimes playing well just isn't enough. I have been crushingly critical in the past (2.0 especially) but as I am now rounding into a more mature art absorber I find focusing on the highlights and not so much the missed opportunities to salvage the taste of what I know is the best music in the wide world. Truly enjoy the highs and forget whether or not bonnaroo is the dumbed down version or Worcester is a test run or AC night 2 is sure to be an all timer. The moments are there for the most part, if they aren't it's probably a good time to hit the bathroom and grab a water. The reason you keep coming is right around the corner
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lenuto46 Reply
I can appreciate all the myriad points of view, but the bottom line is that Worcester was a warm up for Bonnaroo. Phish agreed to do Bonnaroo weeks before their summer plans were solidified and they knew that they needed to do a couple of shows before the Roo to warm up. Take one look at the set-lists for the three and it is patently obvious. Nearly everything played at Bonnaroo was played at Worcester either during the four sets of performance or the sound-checks. And can you blame them? Bonnaroo is a chance to snare new, young fans, and the band knows that their future depends on that. The band was also aware that this show would be internationally webcast, for free, on a website featuring all the bands on the bill, which would certainly attract the attention of fans far and wide beyond the scope of those normally tuned into Phish. They had to put together something for everyone, and it had to be clean and polished, which it was! Overall, Bonnaroo was a great success for the band, and the Worcester warm up was a key component. It ensured that they would be able to perform a show as if they were already on tour for several weeks and not the third show after a five month break. Anyone who thinks that these shows served any other purpose, contrast them to the first real outing of the summer at Bader. The Bader shows were "real" phish shows, for real phans, and were real siiick, especially night 2. This is a smart band. They understand the market and what they have to do to ensure continued success. We might like to think that Phish is above these tactics, but quite frankly they are not... no one is. This is a business and to remain successful only playing 40-60 shows a year requires strategy. You don't get to be a 29 year touring outfit without some careful planning, especially when there were some things that occurred in the history of this band that could have derailed them forever. The fact that 3.0 has been as successful as it has been, despite declining sales (which continue to decline, sadly), is a clear testament to the vision of the band and the success of their public relations and management.

I am a frequent lurker, yet seldom post... my first show was The Clifford Ball.
Score: 0
TennesseeJed Reply
@jwelsh8 said:
I find “Harry Hood” to be one of the most beautiful songs in Phish’s repertoire. As the lyrics suggest, it just makes you feel good. From the opening taps on the woodblock to the “pretty” middle section to the rousing “Feel Good” ending, it works as a package
The "pretty" middle section here is beautiful. I could listen to Phish jam on variations of this theme for as long as they wanted to play it.
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