The final day of Bonnaroo started with the painful reminder that my musical vacation was coming to an end. My friend-supplied vintage tent needed to be packed up early as part of our entourage was leaving to recover before work on Monday.
The apathy of the final day was evident in the largely indie rock line-up that featured newcomers like Smith Westerns, The Head & The Heart and Nicole Atkins, as well as more established acts like Beirut, Cold War Kids, Iron & Wine and Explosions In The Sky. The angst could be felt all over the campgrounds and in the sounds emanating from the stages.Classic rockers peppered the line-up too, with Robert Plant & The Band of Joy, Greg Allman and Bruce Hornsby all performing. G. Love & Special Sauce could be added to the mix too as they are, at this point, veterans.
I begin my day attempting to catch The Head & The Heart, but I got sidetracked by Smith Westerns who had been a curiosity of mine for a while. Without any reference points, I enjoyed the rather melancholy indie tunes – nothing offensive, but nothing that was wildly happy and energizing. It fit the mood well enough to keep me from leaving.
As they finished, I wandered to catch the high-pitched sounds of G. Love & Special Sauce at Which Stage, before chopping it up with Erik from Dope on Plastic for a while and meeting some of the principals behind LiveProfile, a music service gearing to bridge the gaps between social media networking and live music events. I was intrigued enough to drag the LiveProfile camp to Galactic on the Main Stage.
The highlight of Day 4 for me was definitely Galactic. Playing Bonnaroo for their ninth time (they’ve only missed it once), they covered a handsome smattering of their library with Corey Henry lending some help on trombone and a new guy (not sure of his name) doing vocals. While new guy was no Houseman – he had some chops and he kept the funk grinding long enough for Stanton Moore to take over.
Moore, at one point, unscrewed his snare and approached the crowd. Perching it on top of his feet he busted out into a street style jam before other members of the band came to his aid with more percussive props. The end result – an impromptu spanking in how to get funky with a limited set.
The people I stood next to, as well as the LiveProfile crew, had never had the pleasures of a Galactic performance and I am pretty convinced they’d become fans for life after what they witnessed. It was a healthy enough dosage of music that I was willing to take a step away for a few to finally pack down all of my things before returning for Dan Auerbach’s SUPERJAM and Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
I packed my bags in my fateful ride and handed out my last handful of SUPERGOODMUSIC.com stickers before returning to Centeroo one last time for my last handful of shows. I caught Robert Plant & The Band of Joy and Explosions In The Sky first for a few songs each. Both were amidst inspired performances – keeping the crowd that stayed to endure all of Sunday interested.
As the clock approached seven I wandered into the Sports Bar for the beginning of coverage of what I hoped would be the last game of the NBA season. My Cleveland raised blood was boiling at the thought of Lebron James being successful in Miami in year one. Thankfully, much of the crowd that gathered shared my disdain for the man who took his talents to South Beach. Before long, the first quarter was over and I realized I’d missed about half of the SUPERJAM…or so I thought.
Scrambling out of the air-conditioned and comfortable Sports Bar – I made my way to That Tent for what I thought would be a set that was halfway over. What I discovered was the supergroup had just recently gotten underway and that I was in for a healthy serving of Dr. John and New Orleans inspired bluesy jams. Although I couldn’t tell the titles of the songs that were covered, Auerbach and Dr. John, along with their arsenal of talented friends, painted a musical landscape that rivaled the slightly sticky weather with its funkiness and captured the magic of four days of unique musical experiences in less than two hours.
The sun was setting creating a very cool hue. Although the once in a lifetime line-up was cranking out some quality licks, the feeling that the second half was underway again sucked me into the Sports Bar. It was a good decision. The energy level inside the cooled viewing station was stepped up a notch with a handful of Texas natives excited at the prospect of becoming the title town of the moment. “Let’s Go Mavericks” cheers were supported by “F*ck the Heat” chants as Miami supporters numbers shrank amongst the crowd.
The energy in the Sports Bar was a high as I’d seen it all day at the festival and I was enjoying the moment of camaraderie amongst strangers. As the Mavericks lead swelled and the final seconds ticked off the clock – I celebrated with faces I’d never see again before escaping to catch another celebration – Widespread Panic on the Main Stage to close out Bonnaroo 2011.
Quite fitting to have some of the original headliners grace the stage as the tenth anniversary came to a close. Performing a set list filled with crowd pleasers and atypically designed to perhaps draw some new fans – Dave Schools and friends provided some healthy jams for a Sunday evening. I’m pretty sure they even had Bruce Hornsby join them for a little bit as they provided the soundtrack for the departing ‘Roo citizens that included favorites like “Tall Boy” and “Up All Night.” The latter was my last song before departing the grounds for a ride to Chattanooga. It was a fitting number as that about described my entire Bonnaroo experience. I can only hope it describes next year too….
Purchase advanced tickets for Bonnaroo 2012 here. They’ve already announced the dates.