What could be more surprising than Lionel Richie joining Kenny Rogers at Bonnaroo? How about Kenny Rogers joining Phish, for the second "Gambler" of the day. (Well actually, the third, if fun. played their song "The Gambler," which I'm guessing they probably did.)
Incidentally, I'm not particularly a Phish fan, but as the only Scene writer who likes the Grateful Dead (or at least, the only writer who admits he likes the Grateful Dead), I'm the closest thing we've got. So I stuck around for the first set, and quite enjoyed it. Though I'm not exactly, um, well-versed in the ichthyological oeuvre, I did recognize a few numbers, including "Possum," "Tweezer" and the closest thing the band has ever had to a radio hit, "Free." My girlfriend — who is decidedly NOT a jam band fan — was nonetheless pleasantly surprised. They have an undeniable, er, chemistry and formidable groove in a live setting. Like me, the girlfriend is underwhelmed by the lyrical content. (Case in point: "Won't you step into the freezer. Seize her with a tweezer." Granted, they wrote that before there were rhyming dictionaries all over the Internet, so they deserve credit for recognizing words that rhyme.)
But regardless, the fellers sure can play, and know how to work a synapse-popping crowd as well as anyone. And getting to see what was probably about 65,000 people sing along to "The Gambler" and go apeshit for Kenny Rogers was pretty cool. Yes, he had an adoring crowd earlier in the day at The Other Tent, but probably no more than a few thousand folks. You could tell he was loving every minute of it.