Day 2 at Bonnaroo: The rain held off but the heat didn't, Animal Collective and Phoenix made fans believe the hype, Public Enemy had them arguing otherwise, the Beastie Boys brought out a fellow New York MC to debut a new track and an energized Phish ended their night with "A Day In the Life."
Phish held down their responsibilities as ringleader of the main stage on Friday night. The two-day headliners (including Sunday's festival-closing set) came through with a set full of crowd-pleasers, a little something for everyone but nothing outrageously mind-blowing all told. Five years on from "farewell festival" Coventry, Phish seemed back at home in front of the immense crowd, playing a good deal of the classic Phish canon including "Harry Hood," "Wilson," "You Enjoy Myself," "Divided Sky" and "Chalkdust Torture"
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Roller-coaster improvisational work highlighted "Kill Devil Falls," while the band's playful nature was best represented by a trio of covers: AC/DC's "Highway to Hell," "Also Sprach Zarathusra" ("2001"), and an encore performance of the Beatles' "A Day in the Life."
Phish put on what for most bands would be a powerhouse headlining performance, but it was clear restraint was a factor as well; some surprises surely were held back for Sunday night. Nonetheless, Friday ended on a celebratory note: Phish is back, they're not the only exciting band on display, and Bonnaroo 2009 is off to an impressive start.
Friday at Bonnaroo broke about as gorgeously as could be expected following Thursday night's one-day monsoon season, and stayed that way throughout; by day's end the previous evening's vast, flip-flop-abducting mud puddles were taking on that nice baked-mud smell, which, incidentally, is not a complaint.
This was good news, as there was much to get to, starting with Gomez, who eased things open with a solid, sprawling Which Stage performance featuring a lovely, breezy "See the World" singalong and a groovy trip through "Airstream Driver."
The main What Stage opened for business on Friday, hosting the Rev. Al Green, who shimmered throughout his soul-drenched set of love standards like "Let's Stay Together" and "Here I Am," despite being forced to more or less catapult red roses to fans across the security barrier. The Beastie Boys provided an early highlight, bringing out fellow New York rapper Nas to debut a new track from the band's upcoming "Hot Sauce Committee" record, possibly titled "Too Many Rappers."
The more often you blog, the more likely you were to be found at the Which Stage, which hosted skewed-pop outfit Animal Collective, who played to a massive afternoon crowd, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (performing in a brutal afternoon sun), TV On The Radio and David Byrne.