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Bidding Farewell To Bonnaroo 2011

Friday held performances from Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Matt & Kim, Atmosphere, Ray LaMontagne and Florence and the Machine. Despite the temperatures peaking the mid-90’s, My Morning Jacket‘s frontman Jim James took the stage for their 8:00 PM set wearing a black coat and giant pair of white fake-fur boots, topped off with a red and white scarf. The Louisville rock band has had some legendary moments at Bonnaroo over the years, like the apocalyptic storm set in 2004 and a three-hour marathon of a show late-night in 2008. MMJ filled their first big stage set with a range of epic rock jams and mellower, down south tunes. Cellist Ben Sollee joined for “Smokin From Shootin” and the band expressed their appreciation, saying ” We’ve had our minds blown so many times at this festival, “and it’s an honor to be with you tonight.”

My Morning Jacket

Headliners Arcade Fire continued their homage to suburban slums with a stage set up mirroring a drive-in theater, complete with previews (the trailer of 1979 teen-exploitation flick Over the Edge). The crowd danced to all the hits, including “We Used to Wait”, “Ready to Start”, “Month of May” and “All Cars Go”. After the phenomenal balloon drop at Coachella during their encore of “Wake Up”, the anticipation for something spectacular was thick. They gave “Wake Up” a break, introducing it into the encore as having been “written for rooms of twenty people”.  While the party tricks were kept to a minimum, the ninety minute set was closed with “Sprawl II,” one of The Suburbs grooviest tracks, made for open air.

Arcade Fire

At 1:30 AM it was time to get gangster with a zebra pants and backpack clad Lil Wayne, who thanked fans for sticking by him. What started strong got a little weird in the middle when the set slowed down in order to plug some friends o’ Weezy. Still, I have never seen to many white kids get down, so a good time was had by all.

An hour later, Centerroo was just as packed as it had been at 6:00 PM, and people buzzed from tent to tent checking out LATE late night sets courtesy of Pretty Lights (“awesome”) Ratatat (“too crowded”) and Shpongle, a light show extravaganza who’s name had been on everyone’s tongue (presumably because of the name) but no one seemed to know anything about.

Saturday started out with some attitude as we went to cheer on OurStage artist Lelia Broussard as she competed for the cover of Rolling Stone. Decked out in face paint, she rocked songs about hipster bitches and sad robots to a slew of fans who showed their support with their own face paint.

Lelia Broussard

Chiddy Bang took the stage just as the sun really started beating down. The Guinness World Record holders (for longest freestyle rap”over nine hours!) took freestyle suggestions from the audience and closed with the anthemic “Opposite of Adults”. Alison Krauss‘ soothing voice brought some relief to a crowd relaxing on the lawn in the afternoon. Together with her bluegrass band Union Station, she lulled fans with songs Restless and Miles to Go, off the band’s 2011 Paper Airplane.

Portugal, the Man, Amos Lee and Wiz Khalifa brought the hip quotient to the afternoon, with one Wiz goer overheard saying that it was the best set so far. Current girlfriend(and Kanye ex) Amber Rose looked on from the side of the stage as he performed tracks like “B.A.R.,” “Cabin Fever,” “The Race,” “Wake Up,” “In the Cut,” with eyes past the point of glassy.

Wiz Khalifa

Mumford and Sons stole the show Saturday afternoon, making the leap from afternoon tent to evening stage since last year. There are so many more of you than there were last year keyboardist Ben Lovett told the swelling crowd, which included Ron Jeremy, Zach Braff and American Idol cast-off David Archuletta”a very real truth when taking into account the fifty or so fans in attendance just last summer. Mumford performed all the hits off 2009’s triumphant Sigh No More, but also introduced three new songs inspired in part by Tennessee itself, and promised their new album would be done by year’s end. Joined by members of Old Crow Medicine Show (who Mumford joined onstage for their finale hours earlier) Harris and Jerry Douglas, the group encored with “Amazing Grace”. The stage resembled a back yard hill billy party as the Sons belted out all too relevant lyrics about being “found”.

 

Mumford and Sons... and friends

Tens of thousands of fans packed into the main stage for what would turn into one of the most memorable performances of the weekend. While The Black Keys put on a set comprised mostly of last year’s breakout Brothers, Daniel Kolitz (Prefix magazine) remarked “Bonnaroo could have easily been 1968: their proudly analog jams make almost no concessions to the last thirty years of music. Described as “super sized and stunning” it was the perfect music to watch the sun set to.

Eminem took the stage for his first performance of the year in support of Recovery, but catered to his fans by playing tons of hits from years past including “Stan” and “The Real Slim Shady”. His performance was purely triumphant, pounding energy into the stage with determination and grit, proving that he does in fact have the steel to perform in a festival setting. Encoring with the mega hit “Lose Yourself”, Em humbly thanked his fans before walking off. Everybody here tonight, he said, I just wanna say thank you for sticking by me and not giving up on me.

 

Eminem

Late night dancing entertainment was provided by New York rockers Scissor Sisters, jam staples String Cheese Incident, DJ Girl Talk and traveling gypsies Gogol Bordello. Fans poured themselves into their tents well after the sun came up.

By Sunday the sheer exhaustion and reality of returning to real life set in. It was a day for chilling out with acts like Iron and Wine and Gregg Allman. Cold War Kids took the stage at 5:00 PM and those thousands that were lucky enough to make it under the tent welcomed both the shade and a set list made up of the very best CWK has to offer including oldies “We Used To Vacation” and “Hospital Beds” and tracks “Royal Blue” “Louder Than Ever” and “Skip The Charade” off their latest Mine Is Yours . The LA rockers closed the set with a moving cover of CCR’s “Long As I Can See The Light”, then finished it all over with a very fitting “Goodnight Tennessee” and “St. John”.

 

Cold War Kids

Robert Plant & Band of Joy provided the soundtrack to Sunday’s sunset as fans milled about on the lawn of the main stage sipping lemonades and swaying to a folksy cover of Led Zeppelin‘s Black Dog”. Patty Griffin sang some perfect harmonies to Plant as they got in touch with their Americana roots.  “Aside from two of us, we’re all from 40 miles of here, so [Bonnaroo’s] an easy gig really.”

 

Robert Plant and Patty Griffin

The Strokes simply dominated Sunday with a stripped-back set. While this is not the band to personalize individual performances, the setting at Bonnaroo did provide a few moments that will be hard pressed to be recreated”such as Julian Casablancas wailing into the mic fully clad in black leather despite the 90 degree weather,  Albert Hammond Jr.’s haircut, and new material Under Cover of Darkness and Taken for a Fool”. Classics like Last Nite, Reptilia, Hard to Explain and Take It or Leave It stayed faithful to their original studio cuts and were sang at full throttle by an audience thousands deep.

 

The Strokes

By Sunday evening we guessed that almost half of the 85+ thousand people had already departed. Eminem had brought a younger crowd to Bonnaroo this year, fans that may not have been so familiar with or interested in the festival’s tradition of closing with a jam band”this year being Widespread Panic. Those brave souls remaining took opportunity to relax during the last of the weekend’s live music and wander back to camp at a reasonably normal hour. Til next time….

 

The sky during Widespread Panic

 

 

A Look Back At The First Two Days Of Bonnaroo 2011

Friday held performances from Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Matt & Kim, Atmosphere, Ray LaMontagne and Florence and the Machine. Despite the temperatures peaking the mid-90’s, My Morning Jacket‘s frontman Jim James took the stage for their 8pm set wearing a black coat and giant pair of white fake-fur boots, topped off with a red and white scarf. The Louisville rock band has had some legendary moments at Bonnaroo over the years, like the apocalyptic storm set in 2004 and a three-hour marathon of a show late-night in 2008. MMJ filled their first big stage set with a range of epic rock jams and mellower, down south tunes. Cellist Ben Sollee joined for “Smokin From Shootin” and the band expressed their appreciation, saying ” We’ve had our minds blown so many times at this festival, “and it’s an honor to be with you tonight.”

My Morning Jacket

Headliners Arcade Fire continued their homage to suburban slums with a stage set up mirroring a drive-in theater, complete with previews (the trailer of 1979 teen-exploitation flick Over the Edge). The crowd danced to all the hits, including “We Used to Wait”, “Ready to Start”, “Month of May” and “All Cars Go”. After the phenomenal balloon drop at Coachella during their encore of “Wake Up”, the anticipation for something spectacular was thick. They gave “Wake Up” a break, introducing it into the encore as having been “written for rooms of twenty people”.  While the party tricks were kept to a minimum, the ninety minute set was closed with “Sprawl II,” one of The Suburbs grooviest tracks, made for open air.

Arcade Fire

At 1:30 AM it was time to get gangster with Lil Wayne, who was wearing zebra pants and a backpack and thanked fans for sticking by him. What started strong got a little weird in the middle when it slowed down in order to plug some friends o’ Weezy. Still, I have never seen to many white kids get down, so a good time was had by all.

An hour later, Centerroo was just as packed as it had been at 6:00 PM, and people buzzed from tent to tent checking out LATE late night sets courtesy of Pretty Lights (“awesome”) Ratatat (“too crowded”) and Shpongle, a light show extravaganza who’s name had been on everyone’s tongue, presumably because of the name, but no one seemed to know anything about.

Saturday started out with some attitude as we went to cheer on OurStage artist Lelia Broussard as she competed for the cover of Rolling Stone. Decked out in face paint, she rocked songs about hipster bitches and sad robots to a slew of fans who showed their support with their own face paint.

Lelia Broussard

Chiddy Bang took the stage just as the sun really started beating down. The Guinness World Record holders (for longest freestyle rap”over nine hours!) took freestyle suggestions from the audience and closed with the anthemic “Opposite of Adults”. Alison Krauss‘ soothing voice brought some relief to a crowd relaxing on the lawn in the afternoon. Together with her bluegrass band Union Station, she lulled fans with songs Restless and Miles to Go, off the band’s 2011 Paper Airplane.

 

Portugal, the Man, Amos Lee and Wiz Khalifa brought the hip quotient to the afternoon, with one Wiz goer overheard saying that it was the best set so far. Current girlfriend(and Kanye ex) Amber Rose looked on from the side of the stage as he performed tracks like “B.A.R.,” “Cabin Fever,” “The Race,” “Wake Up,” “In the Cut,” with eyes past the point of glassy.

Wiz Khalifa

 

Mumford and Sons stole the show Saturday afternoon, making the leap from afternoon tent to evening stage since last year. There are so many more of you than there were last year keyboardist Ben Lovett told the swelling crowd, which included Ron Jeremy, Zach Braff, and American Idol cast-off David Archuletta, a very real truth when taking into account the fifty or so fans in attendance just last summer. Mumford performed all the hits off 2009’s triumphant Sigh No More, but also introduced three new songs inspired in part by Tennessee itself, and promised their new album would be done by year’s end. Joined by members of Old Crow Medicine Show, who Mumford joined onstage for their finale hours earlier, Harris,and Jerry Douglas, the group encored with “Amazing Grace”. The stage resembled a back yard hill billy party as the Sons belted out all too relevant lyrics about being “found”.

 

Mumford and Sons... and friends

Tens of thousands of fans packed into the main stage for what would turn into one of the most memorable performances of the weekend. While The Black Keys put on a set comprised mostly of last year’s breakout Brothers, Daniel Kolitz (Prefix magazine) remarked “Bonnaroo could have easily been 1968: their proudly analog jams make almost no concessions to the last thirty years of music. Described as “super sized and stunning” it was the perfect music to watch the sun set to.

Eminem took the stage for his first performance of the year in support of Recovery, but catered to his fans by playing tons of hits from years past including “Stan” and “The Real Slim Shady”. His performance was purely triumphant, pounding energy into the stage with determination and grit, proving that he does in fact have the steel to perform in a festival setting. Encoring with the mega hit “Lose Yourself”, Em humbly thanked his fans before walking off. Everybody here tonight, he said, I just wanna say thank you for sticking by me and not giving up on me.

 

Eminem

Late night dancing entertainment was provided by New York rockers Scissor Sisters, jam staples String Cheese Incident, DJ Girl Talk and traveling gypsies Gogol Bordello. Fans poured themselves into their tents well after the sun came up.

 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Bonnaroo 2011: Previewing The Good, Bad And Smelly

Here we go again. One of our favorite summer festivals starts in mere days and we’re road tripping down to Tennessee for the 10th Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. Over the years, the 700 acre farm has played host to some of the most exciting, relevant and original acts in music, and this year’s lineup proves to be no different. We’ll be live tweeting throughout the entire festival with the help of battery- and car-charged devices, so be sure to follow us on Twitter (@ourstage) for updates. Keep an eye right here on the OurStage Magazine for posts recapping each day too! So, without further adieu, here are the highlights of this year’s Bonnaroo we’re most looking forward to, the scheduling decision we’re just not prepared to make and the downright disadvantage of attending a four day concert down south.

The Good

Eminem

We heard lots of gripes and grumbles about this year’s hip hop headliner. For a festival that made its name catering to jam bands and hippie dancers over the years, Eminem seems like an odd choice. However, no one promises a show like Marshall Mathers, and it will be interesting to see how his live performance translates to a crowd of 80,000 located in a field in the middle of nowhere. Maybe he won’t make the same mistake of asking the crowd to put their cell phones in the air like Jay-Z did last year. Did he forget that by Saturday everyone’s phones are dead?

Lelia Broussard

After some fierce competition, OurStage artist Lelia made it to the final round of the Rolling Stone Choose The Cover Competition. We can’t wait to see her battle it out on stage with the hopes of landing the most coveted cover in music journalism. Not to mention catch a glimpse of what kind of get up she’ll be rocking. Ain’t no party like a face paint party.

The Bad

Wiz Khalifa vs. Mumford and Sons

Given the overlapping 5:50 and 6:15  set times on separate stages, there’s little room for error here. With Mumford and Sons explosive year, its safe to say that their set will be way more crowded than last year‘s audience of 100 people. Guess it all depends on what kind of crowd we’re looking to hang with that day, as Wiz followers will most likely be a bit more “enlightened.”

The Smelly

No Showers

Yeah yeah, its just part of Bonnaroo. After five years attending the festival, you’d think we’d be use to the stench, but its still jarring to sit in 100 degree heat sans running water. So we’ll suck it up, because, really, what’s a little grime when you get to see 150 bands in four days alongside almost 100,000 kindred spirits. In the meantime, there’s always those portable shower things”even if they do call the bag that dumps a couple gallons of water on you a “bladder.”

Q&A With Bonnaroo Co-Founder Jonathan Mayers

In the summer of 2002, 70,000 music lovers gathered in Manchester, Tennessee for the first annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. They watched as performances by Ben Harper, Jack Johnson and Trey Anastasio kicked off what would become one of the most expansive and successful yearly festivals around. And while it may have gone through some major changes since that first summer, at its core it’s still the same sunny, happy hippie-fest it’s always been. We’re sure you’re as excited about ‘roo 2011 as we are, so we sat down with  festival co-founder Jonathan Mayers to get the lowdown on  all things Bonnaroo”from the festival’s history to the struggles of keeping the lineup under wraps to what the future holds. (Spoiler alert: it involves roller skating.)

OS: Can you give us the condensed version of how Bonnaroo got started?

JM: Yeah, sure. My company, Superfly, we were based in New Orleans. We were doing events around special event time frames like Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest. We were doing that for a while, and then around 2001 there were a lot of changes in the music business. A lot of big, independent promoters were being consolidated”SFX, which today is LiveNation”so there was kind of a big shift in the concert business. We recognized that traditional concert promoting wasn’t, for us, the right business model. We were very much inspired by the big Phish events, as well as the New Orleans Jazz Fest. So we did a partnership with a guy named Coran Capshaw ¦ a prominent artist manager who manages Dave Matthews Band and Phish and a handful of other artists, as well as a promoter based in Knoxville, Tennessee [at] EC Entertainment. We found a site in Manchester, Tenessee, which is 60 miles south of Nashville. And basically a lot of artists we were working with at the time were in the jam band scene, you know, the disciples of the Grateful Dead. In that whole scene there was a tradition that it was all about community”the tape trade, going on tour, artists selling direct tickets to their fans”and so we kind of brought all those artists together. In February of 2002, we announced the lineup, and we used no traditional advertising. Not a dollar spent on advertising. We didn’t use Ticketmaster, we used our email list that we had accumulated from doing our events in New Orleans as well as the artists that were on the show. We sent out one email blast and ended up selling 70,000 tickets in two weeks.

OS: Seriously?

JM: Yeah, yeah. So that was the first year, and it came out great. What’s unique about Bonnaroo is everything is done on site. We’re creating a virtual city. And since that first year, we’ve really expanded the programming. We’ve had everyone from Radiohead to Stevie Wonder to Bruce Springsteen to Metallica, Pearl Jam, Jay-Z, My Morning Jacket, Kings of Leon, et cetera et cetera. And we’re entering our tenth year this year.

OS: You mentioned that Bonnaroo started out as a jam fest, and now there are so many different types of artists. Was there a demand for a genre shift?

JM: Well, we’ve always set out to do a great music festival, not so much any specific genre. One of the reasons we do this is our love of many different types of music. And also our audience” most people don’t like just one type of music, you know? We’re constantly talking to the fans. What do you want to see? Who do you want to see? The biggest response that we get is, I like everything. I think that with the iPod and music being so available, it’s broken down all that segmentation. So for us, it was keep evolving, keep bringing new people into the Bonnaroo experience and keep it interesting. You can’t stay the same thing you are, you’ve gotta keep evolving and yet also pay attention to make sure that it’s still in step with the original ethos of why you started it.

OS: Has that been a challenge for you”to have the festival grow and yet preserve those original roots?

JM: Yes and no. I think it’s been something that we’ve been conscious of, but at the end of the day, I think we’ve taken a few programming chances and I think it’s worked for us. I think at the end of the day, it’s all just about presenting great artists. That’s at the heart of it. You’re never gonna please everyone. With Bonnaroo, there’s so many options out there that if you don’t like one particular artist, you go somewhere else. One of the great things about festivals in general is the sense of discovery. You may go because your favorite artists are playing, but here’s an opportunity to discover something.

OS: How do you keep the lineup under wraps for so long? Do people bribe you for the performers?

JM: I just have no friends, really, so I have no one to talk to. [Laughs] No, it’s hard, you know? First off, you want to tell people, because you’re excited about it. But we try to do our best with rumors that leak out there. We’re just happy that people care and want to find out. People definitely want to know. We just do our best to make it somewhat of a surprise.

OS: What’s the farm like the other 360 days of the year? Do you break everything down? We have this vision of it being like Disney World”going on even when no one is there.

JM: [Laughs] It’s actually really cool to be on the property when no one’s there. For me, it’s like going to camp. I live in New York City, so when I’m able to come down there it’s an amazing feeling. All this amazing, positive energy has been there. All these amazing musicians have played the property. And I still remember ten, eleven years ago now first rolling up on the property. So it’s magical, but it’s basically just pasture land during the rest of the year. We bought the property back in 2007, so during the year we do all kinds of different projects. We built the permanent main stage, all kinds of other capital improvements. So there’s a bunch of different work that goes on. We’ll be doing other things on the property besides Bonnaroo, but yeah, right now it’s not much. It’s really cool to go down there when there’s snow on the ground, and see the arch and all that. It’s cool.

OS: How about some tips for artists”how can they make sure their set at Bonnaroo will be a memorable one?

JM: What’s a good way to make your set memorable? I think do what you do. Just do what you do. I think also, take advantage of all the marketing opportunities that are there. Bonnaroo is almost like a press junket, there’s photo opportunities, opportunities to do more intimate performances. I always encourage artists to stay and hang out, because it’s kind of like summer camp for artists, too. Rarely do they get to see some of the other artists that they’re friends with or that they’re into. We’re also known for a lot of cool collaborations that happen. I’d just say get into the spirit of it and hang out and hopefully be there for the entire weekend.

OS: How do you keep Bonnaroo successful when it has to compete with all the other festivals around now?

JM: You know, I think just in general we focus on what we’re doing, and don’t worry about the competition and all this. I think for us, we want to keep putting on the best event we can put on, and that’s all we can focus on. We’re not the only [ones] that puts on a festival, but I think Bonnaroo is certainly different than most events. I think that the camping element is an immersive experience, and we’re doing kind of a different look. But there’s other great festivals as well. We just want to do our thing and focus on that. We’re not in any competition with anyone. We’ve been fortunate that we’ve been successful since year one. For us, it’s just keep improving, whether it’s the experience, the programming, all the elements. Because that’s why we do it”to have fun and keep challenging ourselves and keep making improvements. That’s all you can do, right? I can’t worry about anyone else.

OS: Have you ever had any crazy ideas for festival attractions that you’ve just never been able to implement?

JM: Absolutely. I have crazy ideas every single day. I’ve been desperately trying to build a roller rink, but for whatever reason we haven’t done it yet. But I want to do a roller rink. How badass would that be? You roller skate, right?

OS: Oh, yeah.

JM: It’s like, who doesn’t roller skate?

OS: You need to make that happen.

JM: I know. Well, maybe if you kind of build a consensus I can help push it through. But yeah, I work on all kinds of cool, different projects. Some of it’s like, budget decisions, and real estate decisions, and how much space we have, but we’ve been able to do a lot of cool things. That’s what’s great. It’s like, each year you kind of do make something different. And someday there will be roller skating, I assure you.

In case you somehow missed it, check out the lineup for Bonnaroo 2011 here! OurStage will be down in Tennessee for the 10th anniversary of Bonnaroo, so stay tuned for coverage in June, and to tide yourself over, check out coverage from last year!