Awaking to the feeling of frying like bacon in my own tent, I knew I was camping at a music festival. It just so happened that festival was Bonnaroo and it was my first morning waking up in Manchester. After a much-needed shower and some phone juicing, press orientation was my first scheduled activity within Centeroo.
A great place to see who is doing coverage for the weekend and meet some other scenesters from around the country, I chopped it up with old friends and made a few new ones (shout outs to Eric with Dope on Plastic) before doing my first scheduled interview of the weekend with Kerry from Superfly.
The co-founder of Bonnaroo, and curator of the new Food Truck Oasis had a lot to share about the chow, as well as a discerning palate. What I learned, and more on the food we sampled, will come in a follow up post that focuses on the improved eating options at Bonnaroo. The soundtrack to our meal was the talented Sharon Van Etten. Not someone I’d planned on hearing – but certainly glad I did.
Unfortunately, I missed Jessica Lea Mayfield and Graveyard, both of whom I’ve heard good feedback about. But, honestly, I was letting all the food truck grub soak in before catching the original line-up of Bela Fleck & The Flecktones. An initial plan of seeing it live got diverted to the Sports Bar on the basis of the head index alone – the air conditioned Sports Bar provided welcome refuge from the heat as well as an opportunity to get updated on the fact that the Heat lost game 5 to the Mavericks.
Despite group encouragement to see the gorgeous and talented Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, I was persuaded by the possibility of more air conditioning in the Bonnaroo Comedy Theatre. Lewis Black was the MC, but really just an introducer of some up and comers – Tim Minchin, Kathleen Madigan and Hannibal Buress. Minchin and Madigan had me laughing out loud frequently, but Buress lost me early on. Madigan’s crowing moment was a joke about DUI laws being based on nationality. Priceless. See this lady if she is in your town, but wear a diaper because you might pee your pants.
I emerged from the AC’d hilarity oasis to the sounds of Matt & Kim booming from This Tent. A substantial crowd had gathered to see the energetic duo and I got swept up in the frenzy. Making my way close to the front of the stage – I got to hear Kim boast about how great the festival was before reminding women to never forget vagina wipes and urging guys to generously apply Gold Bond. I wish I’d caught those quotes on audio. True words of wisdom. The duo then busted out into “Lessons Learned” – the song for which they recorded a music video naked, follow by some amazing renditions of their indie culture, pop friendly music, including hits “Daylight” and “Cameras.”
The massive Matt & Kim crowd were getting pretty rowdy and the energetic, especially when Kim handed out some balloons to the crowd. But, the enthusiasm unfortunately turned the tent into a baking inferno and I needed water, cold air and some deodorant once their show was over. Thankfully they left me just enough time to head to camp and swoop back for Atmosphere.
By far one of my favorite live performers – Atmosphere, or more particularly the MC known as Slug and his band that features producer/DJ Ant, rarely disappoint and Bonnaroo was no exception. The Minneapolis group’s expansive catalog lends itself well to live performances and ensures that no Atmopshere (or Rhymesayers) performance will be the same. Slug commanded the This Tent crowd with relative ease – weaving through classics from Overcast to God Loves Ugly, When Life Gives You Lemons to The Family Sign.
While it is strange for me to leave any Atmosphere show early, I’d heard good buzz about Givers, an indie rock outfit from Louisiana who were performing on a much smaller stage – the On Tap Lounge. The crowd that gathered was not insubstantial, and when I approached the stage – I quickly realized why.
The entire band had tremendous energy; the lead vocalist literally appeared to be reaching to the depths of his body to pull out their riveting performance (several times his eyes rolled to the back of his head so all you could see were the whites). Givers were not only my delightful surprise of the day, but for the entire festival. I’m sad I missed their most recent L.A. performance and only hope that they return sometime soon…
Givers gave way to the much hyped L.A. indie artist Hanni El Khatib. Having seen Hanni before, I took it as a cue to regroup at camp and catch some rest for the long night ahead. After brief visits to performances by Ray Lamontagne (Which Stage), Florence & The Machine (This Tent) and My Morning Jacket (What Stage), I was ready for Primus on the Which Stage.
If you’re familiar with Les Claypool’s catalog – you’d know him as the genius behind Primus, as well as several other bands. His versatility is impressive and the Bonnaroo performance of Primus united him with the same people he performed at the ‘Roo with in 2004. Here is a video, posted by audioperv, of their performance.
Primus’ performance was stellar as usual – the band paraded through many of Claypool’s penned fan favorites. Their bass heavy groove gave way to the sounds of Arcade Fire, who had people descend toward the main stage on parachutes. Not quite the spectacle of lights with bulbs inside them from Coachella, but still kind of cool. Nonetheless, having seen them in Indio, I didn’t feel inclined to indulge their entire set in person. Instead, I enjoyed some of it from the comfortable chairs in the press/guest hospitality area. I needed to ensure my feet had the stamina to endure the action packed post midnight performances from Lil Wayne, Big Boi, Bassnectar, Pretty Lights, Ratatat and Shpongle.
It was easy to tell when Arcade Fire was finished because I could almost immediately hear the bass drone emanating from This Tent where Bassnectar was slated to perform fora few hours. The crowd was massive – too difficult to penetrate to get to the press area for a few minutes. People had even climbed the rafters of This Tent and dangerously perched themselves above the crowd for prime viewing. Lorin Ashton captured the crowds energy and threw it right back at them.
From ‘Nectar I planned on going to Lil’ Wayne – but I’d misjudged the time and realized that I could catch a few Big Boi songs first. I stumbled onto a funky rendition of his #1 single “The Way You Move,” before he dropped the Outkast classic “Player’s Ball” from Southernplayalisticadillacamuzik. Check out a video of the show from Audio Perv below:
Having seen Big Boi in February, I quickly obtained a dosage of some favorites and knowing I’ll see him again later this year – I dashed to Which Stage for my first ever Weezy F Baby show.
Mannie Fresh was at the festival and on stage (as well as Wayne’s lil brother) – and they provided some support on a variety of Wayne’s hits including “Go DJ,” produced by Mannie Fresh. From “Lollipop” to “A Milli” off of Carter III to newer songs like “Swagga Like Us” and “6 Foot 7 Foot” – Lil Wayne rocked the crowd – many of whom knew the lyrics. Wayne continuously reminded the fans of three (really two things) – his love for God and that he is nothing without the fans and that he is nothing without you (meaning the Bonnaroo crowd). For someone whose graced the front of Rolling Stone and had an album that went triple platinum when many artists of good pedigree can’t even break gold – they felt like humble words and, in comparison to Eminem’s attempted massaging of the crowd the following night, much more genuine.
Weezy ended and sent me to Pretty Lights who allegedly had a new lighting installation, but no drummer (disappointing). While I very much enjoy Derek Vincent Smith’s music – the addition of a live drummer to his electronic themed hip-hopish beatathons was one of the things that made his shows so special and epic. The energy (and beat) were more raw and natural. Opting for an easier set-up (not so much of a soundcheck required without a drummer) – Pretty Lights delivered a bunch of his fan favorite cuts as well as his latest remixes (the Radiohead and Nirvana mash-up was pretty sick). Unfortunately – a lot of the tunes sounded almost identical to his recordings, as if he was not doing anything behind his facade of lights and elevated platform. The absence of effort was confirmed by the fact that for what seemed like more than half of the show – Derek’s hands were above the decks and visibly not touching anything. Perhaps that flew past much of the crowd due to their intoxication level – but come on dude…at least pretend like you’re doing something back there. Especially if you’re going to ditch the drummer. While the lights and production were dope – they were not enough of a substitute for the absence of effort or drummer Adam Deitch.
In part due to my disappointment and in part because I’ve seen PL at least ten times, I darted to Ratatat at The Other Tent and luckily caught a few greats like “Seventeen” before briefly watching Shpongle and his Shpongletron Experience before heading to bed.
Up soon….our final two days at Bonnaroo and special coverage of the Bonnaroo cuisine scene.