BonnaReview: Sunday

On Sunday mornings people start leaving. Some of had enoughof the heat, the sleeplessness, the mud or just had enough of having enough.The campsites start clearing out, giving the holdouts a little more elbowroom.The crowds and lines at the stages and vendors dissipate a bit and there existsa camaraderie among those who soldier on through the last day to the finishline. Marathon runners describe a runner’s high when they get to a certainpoint, and well, we all know that Bonnaroo is not a sprint. 

This year, there were many aural rewards for those floating on a Bonnaroovian High Sunday afternoon with the finish line in sight. Country legends, indie rock mavens and hip-hop icons, and oh yeah, that band Phish again all made sticking around worthwhile.  And there was Grace Potter, yet again—strutting her stuff and rocking her newest tunes on the Solar Stage mere hours after she’d commandeered moe.’s late night set.


In This Tent, there was a cavalcade of country stars starting with the witticism of Todd Snider, who amused the crowd with his song, “America’s Favorite Pastime”, a retelling of the legend of baseball pitcher Dock Ellis, who once pitched a perfect game while tripping on LSD. Later in the same tent, the illustrious Merle Haggard provided ample substantiation of his legendary status.


Over on the Which Stage, Andrew Bird, replete with the best whistling performance in eight years of Bonnaroo, was the highlight in an afternoon full of them. (Wisely, the festival schedulers went a little easy on us by not scheduling any shows until after midday, what with the late-late nights and all.) Band of Horses and Citizen Cope were also among them.


Erykah Badu turned in a bass-heavy, beat-laden, butt-gyrating performance before later joining Snoop Dogg for a trip down hip-hop memory lane a medley that included a take on “Loddy Doddy”  with the refrain “we like to party.” Indeed. Snoop managed to find numerous creative ways for the still-strong crowd to chant his name in just about every song.


Then Phish returned for a festival closing slot, surprising if not everybody then most when Bruce Springsteen joined them to close out their first of two sets. Trey Anastasio introduced the Boss by way of calling him a “childhood hero and still a hero” to the New Jersey-bred leader of Phish. Springsteen joined them for a romp through “Mustang Sally,” an old staple that was a part of Phish’s early repertoire like it was for most bands. The statisticians who are part of Phish’s fanatical fiefdom tell us that the last time the band played it was in June of 1988, almost exactly 21 years prior. They then closed with the Bruce tunes “Bobby Jean” and “Glory Days”, which had also been a closing number for the E Street Band the night before. That ended what was a fun exploratory set, featuring old workhorses like “Bathtub Gin,” “Tweezer” and “Run Like An Antelope.” The Bruce appearance was fun, but seemed to take the wind out of the sails a bit, as the band’s second set developed a light and airy fluffiness, avoiding any more anchoring pieces and focusing on lighter fare like “Prince Caspian” and “Farmhouse.”  The encore of “Suzy Greenberg” and “Tweezer Reprise” seemed a hurried cast off. But no matter. Falling across the finish line Even picking apart the setlist is fun again with Phish as they have truly returned to form in every way, and having them close the 2009 Bonnaroo was an appropriate way to end it.

But they were done and then just like that, abracadabra, poof! It was over. Some celebratory high jinks ensued and the next morning, some goodbyes and exchanging of information, promising to write, to call, to come back next year. Camp was over.

Of course no one can do it all. I only saw one or two shows at The Other Tent. With 140 bands, I missed more than I took in. There was a Comedy Tent and a Cinema Tent that I never made it to. There was the Ferris wheel and the silent disco and the MLB batting cages and the fire-breathers. I never even made it to the microbrew tent or the learn-to-DJ booth.  Oh well, there’s always next year.