The last day of Bonnaroo was fairly laid back. Still drained from the unrelenting heat, we took the morning off and waited to head out in the afternoon to see Blues Traveler. We weren’t the only ones with this idea. As the band finished their set with a slow and spooky rendition of Radiohead’s “Creep,” it was clear why they still have such an impressive draw. Afterwards, we made our way across the grounds with John Fogerty in our sights, but we crossed paths with Against Me! and Regina Spektor along the way.
Punk rock has had a strange resurgence in the last year, and like the genre, Against Me! has made many adjustments in its return to the spotlight. In 2002, Tom Gable performed with nothing more than an acoustic guitar, rough voice, bassist and drummer. Gabel has since graduated to electric guitars and a keyboard played by former Hold Steady member Franz Nicolay. Distraught punks could smell sell-out as Gable moved to a major label and started playing to a more “suburban” audience. But as Against Me! belted out the powerful and revolutionary lines of “I Was A Teenage Anarchist” to rebels swaying in the audience, it became apparent that “being punk” is and will always be a state of mind. (Check out OurStage’s review of the latest from Against Me!, White Crosses.)
Making a drastic genre leap, we moved on to John Fogerty and Zac Brown Band. Fogerty played at 4PM on the main stage, performing all the Creedence Clearwater Revival hits a child of the ’60s and ’70s could handle. The older crowd danced and sang to “Pretty Woman” and “Down On The Corner”. Personally, I had an epiphany as Fogerty sang the lyric “Look at all the happy creatures dancing on the lawn” from “Lookin’ Out My Back Door”. That single line summed up the entire Bonnaroo experience perfectly.
Zac Brown Band then delivered a heavy dose of country to the roots-friendly festival. Fast-paced jams and tropical country grooves borrowed from Jimmy Buffet made the set fun and festive, but ballads like “Highway 20 Ride” could have been saved for the Country Music Awards.
Dave Matthews Band had the honor of filling the typical jam-band Sunday night closing spot. Playing material off their latest release 2009’s Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King, the songs sounded like faint whispers of what the hits of DMB past were made of. Fans still danced, albeit sluggishly after the scorching weekend, but soon were reduced to sitting on blankets and swaying in the night heat. If Dave’s intention had been to present a rockin’ good time, more upbeat tracks would have been nice. But still, it was a suitable close to the festival. As Dave himself said, the set was “the cheese after the dessert. A little sparkling wine.”
And so we packed up our things and hit the road, eager to tend to our sunburns and tired ears. And while we’re sad its all over, next year no doubt holds all new spectacles for us. After all its Bonnaroo’s 10th anniversary…
Another Bonnaroo has come and gone. And while I try to console myself with the fact that next year will be here sooner than I know it, I have to recognize that I’m no longer in the middle of a 40 acre farm, dashing as fast as one can dash in the 100 degree heat to ensure I catch at least one song of every band worthy of my tired ears.
Saturday involved a LOT of said dashing. With acts like Mumford & Sons, The Dead Weather, Stevie Wonder, Jeff Beck and, of course, Jay-Z, it was all I could do to stay focused (and hydrated). Still I hit the ground running.
I knew after hearing “Little Lion Man” played out on the radio that Mumford & Sons was an act necessary of seeing. And while the general assumption was that the 4 piece’s set would consist of their best upbeat, rollicking tunes, our expectations were definitely exceeded. Songs like “The Cave” and “Awake My Soul” started slow and crescendoed into an exhilarating ruckus. But when the group brought on Old Crow Medicine Show to perform “Wagon Wheel,” it’s safe to say they brought everyone to tears as they wrapped up the set.
Up next was The Dead Weather, Jack White’s latest alt rock supergroup comprised of Alison Mosshart (The Kills and Discount), Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age), and Jack Lawrence (The Raconteurs and The Greenhornes). In a weird twist of Bonnaroo fate, the skies opened up just long enough to drizzle over the main stage where The Dead Weather was performing. Rain and mud was perfectly fitting with their spooky and snake-hipped sounds, complete with Gothic slurs and Mosshart’s leather-clad sexuality. By the time The Dead Weather’s set ended, the rain subsided, allowing Jack White the perfect set up for his parting words “Just remember which band brought the rain today.”
If you were following along on Twitter, you know that I was particularly torn between the 7PM time slot when both Jeff Beck and John Prine were scheduled to perform. While Jeff Beck is my kind of musician, rock ‘n’ roll to his core and ranked 14th in Rolling Stone‘s Greatest Guitarist of All Time”never mind being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Jimmy Page” I couldn’t ignore the effect that John Prine could have on this audience. A pioneer in American country/folk, Prine lives right in Nashville and has written some of the most well-known country songs in the world, including “Angel From Montgomery” and “Paradise”. I managed to “dash” between both of them. And while the music was very different between the pair, it provided a very cool paradox of two similarly influential and respected artists performing very different genres.
The nighttime brought out the heavyweights, Stevie Wonder and Jay-Z. Wonder played a career-spanning set, ensuring that the entire crowd sang along the whole time. Dressed all in white, he played hits such as “Superstition” and “Higher Ground.” He then went on to criticize dishonest politics, saying “If you want to be a supremacist, then be the supreme of getting people together,” before playing a bar of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance.”
Jay-Z came on stage with the intention of turning the place “into a night club” and saying that he couldn’t wait to tell his mom that Stevie Wonder stayed around for his set. Despite Bonnaroo’s history as a jam fest, the event now embraces all music genres including hip hop, and Jay-Z’s performance was the epitome of this transformation. Though the rapper introduced himself to those who may not have known him, it was obvious everyone was familiar with his work when he performed hits like “99 Problems” and “Big Pimpin'”. Many were of the thought that Jay-Z’s performance Saturday night couldn’t be topped. And while his mastery of the crowd and glowing transformation of the field were none to be rivaled, there was still an entire day left of performances in store for Sunday.
While it may have seen like a no-brainer to fans, Kings of Leon appearance as a main stage headliner at this year’s Bonnaroo fest was a long time coming. Back in 2004, the little known band from Tennessee performed at the fest for the first time, returning again in 2007 to perform on the Which Stage.
The Kings have come a long way, and have no qualms acknowledging all those who’ve helped them along they way. During their Friday night performance they brought out their producer and songwriting partner, Angelo Petraglia, to help debut some new material. The band mentioned how they retired the song Holy Roller Novocaineafter playing it at their initial Bonnaroo performance because they felt they had completely nailed it.
In addition to the new material, the Kings played all their usual hits as well as a spooky and resounding cover of the Pixies’ Where Is My Mind. Fuse TV will be broadcasting the entire set on June 17, 2010 at 7 pm EST.
Directly following Kings of Leon on Friday was The Flaming Lips who performed Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon at the Which Stage. Their first set, comprised of The Lips originals, was energetic and visually stunning, and ended with an inspiring if not clichéd Do You Realize? The Pink Floyd covers however, while dazzling, fell short. Apparently the slowly thinning crowd agreed as they, presumably, headed over to watch The Black Keys perform material off their new album Brothers.
Throughout the festival, the Which Stage was a happening place. The National and Michael Franti and Spearhead both performed to huge crowds, with Matt Berninger of The National launching himself into said crowd multiple times, on Friday. Michael Franti, described by another festival goer as the “happiest man on Earth,” lived up to this description with light-hearted rock/reggae/hip-hop sounds.
And Friday didn’t just set the stage for hot performances. The weather was also HOT. With the mercury topping out at 95 degrees, the blazing Tennessee sun and humidity made for sweltering festival conditions. Water bottles and afternoon siestas became necessary means for survival throughout the weekend, which proved to only get more intense”both temperature and music wise.
Stay tuned for more coverage of the rest of the Bonnaroo weekend, including photos of Mumford and Sons, Zac Brown Band and more.