26 in 26 of 2019: #4 06/16/2019 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival Manchester, TN (Ben F, @itsyaboytarantu)
Very excited to be contributing to this since @LawnMemo’s “The Daily Ghost” project is one of my favorites and arguably, a major catalyst for my listening to Phish with such an analytical ear. In that spirit, this post will try its best to be mainly centered around the music/jam from the “Twist” of Bonnaroo 2019 N2 (also because, honestly, remembering the 4th day of that festival is proving to be a tough task). With that being said, context is always important so let me set the stage…
This set was one of the more unique Phish experiences I have had. In the 100 shows I have seen, I can confidently say this was not a typical Phish crowd and the excitement in the air was relatively minimal (not much of a shocker — at this point ‘Roo aligns itself much more closely with Lollapalooza, rather than festivals like Hulaween or Peach Fest). Couple that with the fact that Phish is notorious for crapping the bed on festival sets — I was not really sure what to expect.
Similar to their Friday set, the crowd was a little under half-empty at the What Stage. For the uninformed — Roo’s What Stage is an absolute behemoth. Massive field, massive stage, massive sound. On Friday, we were able to push way up in front of the sound board and still have ample space. Sunday we were treated to a similar spot.
Both ‘Roo sets/shows felt like “rocker” sets (or as my girlfriend likes to say, “straight bangers”). All killer, no filler from a choice perspective that, to my vantage point, was meant to impress new fans and give them a taste of Phish rock and roll, rather than the evil/weird/funny/etc. Phish that fans also adore. Set 1 highlights were Type I peaks on “Set Your Soul Free,” “Blaze On,” “Free,” and “Sand.” I remember “Wolfman’s” really finding a nice groove — a motif that happens again throughout Summer ‘19 (Camden and Dicks both come to mind).
Set 2 has a nice little surprise “Fluffhead” after “Mike’s.” By this set, a lot of newcomers had swung by since Phish was set to officially close down ‘Roo. I can still remember the laughs (with us…not AT us) of the people around us watching the Phish fans lose their shit and babble silly lyrics.
Coming of out “Fluff,” we enter into the jam of the night — “Twist.”
Now — confession — I don’t love “Twist.” 2019 definitely had me put my foot in my mouth though between this version and 12/31/19 (scorcher!). This version immediately enters blissful territory around the 3:30 minute mark, with some jamming that you would expect late in a jam. When he’s at his best, I always get imagery of notes just dripping out of Trey’s guitar and this version brought me to that place. At ~6 minutes in, Fishman starts pushing the jam into a new direction, with Trey chipping away on some rhythm chords with delay and Page taking the lead. Mike starts taking away the lead here, which is something I love with his playing. 3.0 Mike, with him really standing out and leading melodies, often directs the band into explosive territory. Just before the 10 minute mark, Trey starts building on chords and swelling the music to a nice peak. This theme felt similar to “peak swells” that I hear reaching audacious heights later in the summer in the “Ruby Waves.”
Despite being on my absolute last legs of the fest, hearing this set on the monstrous What Stage rushed all the life right back into me. While this “Twist” doesn’t go near those heights, it is a welcome (mirco) jam in an otherwise Type I-forward-rock ’n’ roll show. By the way — all of you micro-jam haters can kick rocks. Quality > quantity is my take on it.
All in all, this show went far above expectations for a “festival set” and I am sure won over some new fans. Despite my Phish experiences encompassing a deeply personal connection between myself and the music, I am forever grateful that I got to share yet another Phish show with my family (sister and Dad were in attendance), the love of my life, and our close friends.