Trey Anastasio Of Phish Talks Festivals, Bonnaroo, Cardi B & More

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Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio spoke with Dave Paulson of the Tennessean for an article discussing the band’s role in Bonnaroo history and another about what the quartet has in store for this weekend’s festival. The jam titans will perform at Bonnaroo on Friday night and then close out the Manchester, Tennessee festival with two sets on Sunday night.

This weekend marks Phish’s third appearance at Bonnaroo following performances in 2009 and 2012. Paulson asked Anastasio if any special guests were in the works after Bruce Springsteen played with the group in 2009 and Kenny Rogers sang “The Gambler” with Phish in 2012. “It kind of depends on who’s milling about,” Trey said. “I will say this: I wore Christian Louboutin sneakers for Kasvot Växt (Phish’s prog rock alter ego band), and as I was walking on stage, I thought, ‘Boy, Cardi B would really like these sneakers.’ (laughs). If I happen to bump into her…” The guitarist went on to inform Paulson while he’d be up for a collaboration with Cardi B nothing had been worked out yet.

Anastasio noted his excitement about catching some of the acts on the bill including John Prine and The Avett Brothers:

I would love to see John Prine. It all depends on where we’re standing. But I would go see Hozier. I love The National, luckily I’ve played with them and seen them. I wanna see the Avett Brothers, which strangely, I’ve never actually (seen). I’ve maybe played a Christmas jam with them or something, but I didn’t really get to watch the whole set. I’d go see Solange, because I still can’t forget how well she kicked Jay-Z’s ass in that video (laughs).

Another topic hit upon was whether Phish would adjust the setlist for an audience filled with people who aren’t familiar with their music. Trey explained the “generalized energy” affects what the band plays more than anything else. “So much of what we do is energy based, it really is,” Anastasio said. “I mean, we don’t walk on stage with a song list, still. We talk about it a little, but we juke and jive. So (at a non-Phish festival), the energy takes on a life of its own, and all of these other bands just played. When we walk on, we’re surfing the energy of the band that came before us, or all of the bands that came before us that day, and in a strange way, all of the bands that are coming (up later), because people are in a certain mood. If Bassnectar’s about to play at 1 a.m., that effects peoples’ mindset, and that affects what songs we play.”

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Anastasio is particularly excited about the artist that will play the What Stage before Phish on Friday night. “There’s some little tinge of me that feels like going on stage right after Childish Gambino is, like, perfect,” the New Jersey native noted. “It’s like, boom! Thank you! Because he’s got the song of the year, and it’s a commentary on America today in a way that I haven’t seen from an artist in a long, long time.”

In the article about how Phish’s festivals created a roadmap for Bonnaroo organizers, Trey revealed the band’s management proposed following-up 1996’s Clifford Ball with a festival on Randall’s Island in New York City. “My response, and the guys in the band, was ‘I don’t want this thing that’s so precious and beautiful to get eaten by this industry that we don’t believe in,’” Anastasio explained about what turned out to be 1997’s The Great Went. “…So our solution was, ‘Not only aren’t we gonna go to Randall’s Island, we’re gonna go as far away in the continental United States as is humanly possible.’ We put the next festival in Limestone, Maine. You really need to look at a map to see how far north that is. It’s way further north than the Canadian border. And lo and behold, 70,000 people came for one band. Clearly there was a hunger for something, and we kind of tapped into it.”

While Phish made their Bonnaroo debut in 2009, Anastasio was a staple of the event’s early years and performed with TAB at the inaugural Bonnaroo in 2002. “Bonnaroo, to me, I feel like I’m part of the family there. And I like that feeling. We kind of just keep coming back,” said the guitarist. Read more of the feature on Phish’s influence on Bonnaroo including quotes from the festival co-founders here. More from Paulson’s chat with Anastasio can be found here. Bonnaroo starts on Thursday.

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