Day three began like a typical Bonnaroo day does for most – hot, sweaty, stanky and early. Thankfully, my camp locale had running water showers which meant my funk was quickly washed away. It must have seeped into the soil because bands started whipping out their New Orleans funk flavor.
The first act I caught was Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears at This Tent. Their bluesy funky southern rock was very fitting for Bonnaroo and a welcome way to ring in another hot day.
I caught the Mongolian band Hanggai playing some eclectic folk tunes in The Other Tent before meeting my former tennis teacher at Deer Tick. An elder fan of indie rock, I enjoyed taking in the perspective of a slightly more senior festival attendee (tennis teacher is 13 years older than I am). He was camping with the Total Access Package which, while pricey, sounds awesome. Golf cart service to and from your air-conditioned RV that is fully stocked with your own rider, admittance to prime viewing locations for all shows irrespective of the time you show up and access to a handful of areas backstage. Its a wannabe rockstar’s dream. If you have the money – you might want to consider it.
After tolerating Deer Tick (not really my bag), I cruised to the microbrew tent for some of the over 20 varieties of top ale, before checking out much hyped Chiddy Bang. Lucky for us, we came in as they were breaking into their indie rock mash-up “Too Fake” that samples the Hockey song of the same title.
Alison Krauss & Union Station performed at the Which Stage with Jerry Douglas as a guest, and I followed that with a little Portugal The Man in That Tent. They were both fleeting visits before checking out Wiz Khalifa on the main stage.
Hoping to serve as a warm up for Eminem, Wiz rifled through cuts of his Kush & OJ Mixtape, and his first major label album Rolling Papers. While much of the crowd was familiar with the latter, a surprising handful knew the former. “Black and Yellow” was the obvious anchor – arousing the crowd and exciting some recitations.
When time came for Mumford & Sons, I tried to venture toward the Which Stage. Although I’d generally enjoyed their music, I’ve become a real fan since their private acoustic performance at Wakarusa. Enjoying performances of “Little Lion Man”, “Cave” and many others of Sigh No More, as well as a few ones that I believe were now – I took in the show from a perch above a massive audience. The crowd was enormous. Bigger than I’ve ever seen at Which Stage before. The field of people that amassed suggested that Mumford & Sons should have been on the main stage and Wiz at Which.
The indie folkers blessed the crowd with their beautiful tunes and set the bar high for the rest of the night. I carried the torch over to !!! at This Tent to hear some more pulsing grooves while indulging in some chow from Eat Box in the Food Truck Oasis.
The California originated dance punkers provided a great soundtrack – with a few tracks from my favorite album of theirs, Myth Takes, but I left for The Other Tent after about a half hour to get to Bootsy Collins at The Other Tent. Unfortunately, that experienced extreme delays and, while I patiently waited – it cramped my style on seeing The Black Keys show. Bootsy didn’t get going until halfway through the Keys’ set – which meant I was missing the boys from Akron because they’ll be at other festivals I’m at whereas Bootsy won’t be.
Thankfully, I made the right decision. The crowd was chanting for Bootsy (not booing) and spontaneously singing Parliament songs before he got on. And when he arrived, Bootsy threw the funk down! Busting out with three backing singers and some starry eyed glasses, in his glitter-glam jacket he announced without saying it that he was a funk doctor from another planet.
Even Kareem Abdul Jabbar was there to see him get down, along with Ivan Neville, Stanton Moore and handful of other funk fanatics. The crowd roared Parliament lyrics and funk classics back to the band that kept fueling the fire with renditions that went heavy on the bass.
The lighter sounds of another legend, Buffalo Springfield, just didn’t keep the fire going as strong after Collins laid his guitar to rest. Although Neil Young and Stephen Stills and Richie Furay really put on a display at Which Stage – it didn’t match Collins’ fury and was not the best lead in to Eminem. Nonetheless, the one of few Buffalo shows (I believe there were only 6 this summer) was quite enjoyable.
Headliner Eminem found himself sandwiched amongst a bunch of artists that don’t really blend well with his styles. Embracing his comeback moment, Eminem attempted to produce an epic moment for his Recovery that just fell a little flat. Although he carried it with his substantial bank of hits, he failed to draw the Bonnaroo crowds energy to levels you might expect for a headliner. His performance overall did not rival Weezy’s of the night before and had many opining about how Jay-Z’s performance last year really set the bar much higher.
Instead, Eminem marched off after a little more than 60 minutes and appeared to be calling it a night. Someone must have intervened back stage because he came out and reignited for another ten to fifteen minutes – but my head was already in another place and that place was on my way to see Scissor Sisters.
The gaymous group were throwing down in This Tent and I wanted nothing other than to be part of the dance party. Excellent choice. Trading in the noodle jams of String Cheese Incident to the poppy dancehall thrusting jams of the Sisters. They recently toured with Lady Gaga off the strength off their 2010 release, Night Work. Songs like “Night Life” went off to a vocal and happy crowd clearly geared for getting down not just for the glamorous queens, but also Girl Talk later on. I raged onward for both.
Gregg Michael Gillis, better known as Girl Talk, through down his poptacular mash ups for the handsome part of an hour and a half (really closer to two hours). Frequently inducing roars from multitudes of fans or the actual singing of lyrics – he kept the crowd going strong and adrenaline pumping drawing a crowd that was similar in size to Bassnectar‘s the night before.
Gogol Bordello was an artist I indulged live for the first time and it was a trip through multiple sound textures. Without any preconceived notions about the live performance
Sound Tribe Sector 9 really threw it down. To impress new fans, as well as to satisfy their faithful, STS9 played, literally, until the sun came up extending their slated set far beyond its posted 4 a.m end time. Perhaps determined to outlast Gogol Bordello or simply determined to return the ‘Roo to its roots of being an all night fiesta – they broke it down with their jammed electro jungle rock.