@shiftywhiteguy: When starting the Bonnaroo experience, there are several available plans of action. Plenty of people file in and set up camp well before anything starts on Thursday, which is a great idea if it’s possible for all people in your group. However, most people usually do crazy things on Thursday, like work. Furthermore, the Thursday lineups of years past have been largely forgettable anyway. So, it’s not uncommon to see sparse and uninvolved crowds on day one. This is precisely why there are no headliners, and the two main stages don’t have any activity on Thursday. Why be in a rush to get into a marathon festival like this when the first day is a write-off anyway?
Take my two previous Bonnaroos (’07 and ’08), for example. Between those two years, the only notable Thursday shows I would want to relive were MGMT, Vampire Weekend, Superdrag, and The Sword.* Seriously? Between two years, that was the best Bonnaroo had to offer? MGMT is getting redundant now. Vampire Weekend is talented, but nothing special in their live show. Superdrag was 600 percent better when I was twelve. And The Sword is only listed because they’re an Austin-based band that I personally enjoy. There is no show above a 7.5 on that list. Why would you go through the extra day of pain-in-the ass if you don’t have anything worthwhile on that first day? This is something I had a serious problem with in years past, especially when you consider how many scheduling conflicts could be avoided if they front-loaded the lineup.
Apparently, someone was listening to me. This year’s Thursday lineup was far superior to any I had seen previously. The action at the tent stages got going hours before past years, with the Postelles starting at 4:15**. From there, I am counting at least three acts I would rather see than any of the past Thursday bands mentioned above. Local Natives made perfect sense on Thursday afternoon. They’re mellow, they aren’t hurt by playing in the afternoon, and you can avoid scheduling conflicts later by giving them a Thursday set. Notice I said “can,” as for whatever reason, Miike Snow was given an overlapping Thursday afternoon set. The Snow boys make sense on Thursday, as they don’t quite have the draw for a Friday or Saturday audience yet, but why wouldn’t the dance music band be given a show after sundown? Who starts a dance party before 9? This decision makes even less sense when Miike Snow is followed by The Dodos, who are another mellow, percussive, droning afternoon-type band that would have been just fine at 5:30.
Meanwhile, Neon Indian did get the night spot they needed, and churned out a much better set than I thought they were capable of. They were a whole lot of fun, and did a great job of catching the attention of an audience that you could tell was mostly unfamiliar with them. Add an unexpectedly awesome Mayer Hawthorne and Lotus (whose Thursday set I did not see, but their guitarist was absolutely shredding when I caught a bit of their short set on Friday), and Thursday is a completely different experience than years past. Even with the extremely regrettable decision of putting Wale in a prime Thursday spot***, I feel like an entire extra day was added to Bonnaroo for free. With no extra labor or sweat involved. Great start.
*All of which were ’08 shows. And yes, I realize The National played Thursday of 2007. I had never heard of them then, and I’m bored to tears by them now.
**I think the numbers game on this is fascinating. The three bigger stages (This, That, The Other) used on day one combined for eleven shows in ’07, totaling 12 ½ hours of music. In ’08, 14 bands played for 15 hours, 15 minutes. In 2010? 18 bands, 18 hours, 15 minutes worth of set time. Not only a linear increase in both categories, but almost a 50% increase in total Thursday music from ’07-’10, and over 50% increase in available options. I have now answered the question of why you would possibly need to keep your past Bonnaroo guides. You never know when you’re going to go on a nerdy rant about music statistics.
***12-1 on This Tent. Shockingly, he ended early and was really awful for the set he did provide. I again ask why Miike Snow wasn’t given an after-sundown slot. What douche decides this stuff?