Thursday, January 17, 2019

Bonnaroo Retro Diary (Part 1)

Posted by teibs On June - 23 - 2010

roobig@shiftywhiteguy If you’re a fan of Bill Simmons, you’re familiar with the retro diary, it’s a great way to revisit an important event, and in this case, I need to do this so I can sort through my mind and actually remember all of this amazing 2010 Bonnaroo.  We begin in the car, somewhere around Dallas:


6:30 pm:  My radar detector goes off about .4 microseconds before I see the police car.  Thanks, buddy, where were you on that one?  I wasn’t going more than 77 or so, but I hate flashing lights…and here they come.  Shiftiness wins again.  No ticket.  But, definitely not the way you want to start Bonnaroo.


4:00 am:  Arrival in Manchester.  That’s right, Texas to Tennessee, 931 miles in 14 consecutive hours, and wasted time by getting pulled over.  I’m a madman.

7:00 am:  Waking up in a Hampton Inn parking lot.  I drove all night to get to Manchester, but got here a little earlier than I wanted.  A good friend of my family’s lives close by, so I have the advantage of grabbing a last-minute shower and nap prior to going in.  Without this luxury, I would have been on third-wind already.

1:30:  Since I am no longer coming off I-24, I have apparently avoided quite the cluster fuck.  I get through the entrance in 45 minutes, but poor @andlaurasays sends me a text telling me she and her crew have been stuck since 9 am.

2:30:  Getting the camp set up, pull my brand new gazebo shade out and…shit…I bought the mesh cover, not the actual sun shade.  This is a problem.  Without a shade overhead, tents at Bonnaroo reach internal temperatures exceeding the inside of a cooked hot pocket.  The next four days just got a lot more uncomfortable.

4:00:  Enjoying the company of my neighbors from the west coast too much to go to the Postelles.  @andlaurasays continues to be stuck miles from the festival ground.  I’m advised not to wait for her, and that she’s not likely for Miike Snow at 7:30 even.  Holy shit, that’s a traffic jam.

5:30:  Diane Birch is very adorable, and has a wonderful voice.  Not a bad way to spend a Thursday afternoon, but I’m told later that Baroness was really the show I should have been at for that time slot.  Diane carries this hour on her cuteness.

6:40:  The real reason I saw Diane Birch was to be close for Local Natives afterward.  And, what do I see?  They’re setting up their own stage!  No roadies, no guitar techs.  How cool is that?

7:15:  Local Natives had a hard time winning the crowd, but by the time they start in on “Warning Sign,” the crowd is into it.

7:25:  I have to leave right after “Wide Eyes” to get to Miike Snow in time.  I regrettably miss “Sun Hands,” which I hear is a barnburner, but duty calls.  My concern about Local Natives was that their sound was too delicate for an outdoor show.  And to some degree, I was right.  The guitars didn’t sound quite as clean as they should have.  But, the vocal harmonies were still an A+ and the tunes were carried phenomenally on that strength.

7:30:  In my Bonnaroo preview post, I had Miike Snow listed as one of my sleepers for a jaw-dropper.  However, when they walk out on stage in masks and do the theatrical entrances bit, the sunshine really ruins the whole aesthetic.  They start with “Cult Logic,” which I was excited about, as it’s one of my favorites.  Killer beats, should be a crowd-pleaser.  However, half way through the first verse, they segued into “Burial.”  I love a good medley, but they should have stuck with “Cult Logic” to really get everyone started.  Regardless, they continue to kill their one-hour set, drawing out all eight of the songs in the set list into extended versions.  A new song was thrown in towards the end, and they ended on an insane 10-minute of “Animal.”  A night time crowd would have gone nuts.

8:30:  In the Bonnaroo preview podcrash, Zack and I discussed crashing Neon Indian in Austin that night.  Ultimately, we decided to ignore that idea, as Neon Indian has a couple of fun songs, but nothing that ultimately makes you think “Wow, these guys must be awesome live.”  Oh my, how wrong we were.  Neon Indian packed That tent with an unexpectedly large audience.  Their songs are much more fun performed live than on recording.  It wasn’t until after Bonnaroo that I learned Neon Indian’s front man (Alan Palomo) is actually VEGA, an act I caught at Fun Fun Fun Fest last year.  Apparently, he intends on recording another album as VEGA prior to doing anything new with Neon Indian.  I personally think this is a bad decision.

9:05:  A text from @andlaurasays.  They made it!  That’s right, only 12 hours from the beginning of B-roo traffic to the first show.  Eek.  Let this be a lesson: never, ever take I-24 all the way in to Bonnaroo.  Get off the interstate early and find a way to come in on Hwy 55.  If we actually had readers, there’s no way I would share this extremely valuable secret.

9:35:  The Dodos don’t hold my attention.   I’m sure they should, as their music shows more than just a trace of good musicianship, but this time slot is entirely wrong for them.  Their mellow, percussion-based sound needs a daytime set at a point in the weekend when people are less eager and excitable.

10:10:  I think Bonnaroo organizers get a kick out of having bands with similar names play the same time slot.  The Temper Trap and Blitzen Trapper are both playing right now.  I’m missing both in favor of hanging out at This tent and getting a phenomenal black bean quesadilla.

10:30:  I spent all of Mayer Hawthorne and the County’s set thinking “there’s no way there are that few funky Jewish dudes,” and racking my brain trying to think of any male Jewish performers that could even hold a candle to Mayer.  He has great crowd banter, and makes a lot of references to being from Detroit.  This is no surprise.  He sounds like a man that grew up heavily influenced by Motown.  Mayer intrigues and entertains.  However, I couldn’t place one of his songs if I heard it.

10:50:  The Beastie Boys!  Man, I can’t believe it took that long to think of the Beastie Boys.  Yeah, even Mayer can’t come close to the funkiness of those Jewish guys.

11:40:  The XX doesn’t seem like they should domineer my entire evening, so instead @andlaurasays and I go from stage to stage during the Wale/XX/Lotus time slot, along with spending some time at the Lunar stage with LA Riots.  Wale is renowned on the festival circuit for being a lazy performer who never seems to want his full set time.  @andlaurasays and I try to catch the last fifteen minutes of his set.  We actually catch the last two, yet he still manages to be tacky by name dropping Jay-Z’s real name.  Performing for a single hour of a four day festival must be too exhausting. When you already have a reputation for this kind of garbage, you really look like a jackass.

1:15 am:  The end of day one.  @andlaurasays and I go back to my campsite for a few beers, and I introduce her to my awesome west-coast neighbors.  After Laura cuts back to her camp, I chill with my new friends, and get the story about how half of them crashed Bonnaroo.  My boy Bob’s post-crash euphoria was absolutely hilarious.  Bonnaroo first timers at the end of day one are great regardless.  But when you’ve pulled off a great crash to get there, it’s a magnificent thing to be a tiny part of.


8:10 am:  Nothing worse than that first day of waking up wet with your own sweat.  And don’t think “Oh, I can sleep through anything.”  No, you can’t.  There’s simply no sleeping at Bonnaroo once the sun comes up.  Holy shit, racecar engines don’t get this hot.

11 am:  Sleep is out of the question, shows haven’t started yet.  Due to my aforementioned brain fart about the sun shade, all I can do is hunker under whatever shade my car and tent flap can provide.

Noon:  @andlaurasays sends me a text about Trombone Shorty.  No way.  Not a chance I’m leaving my tiny little square of shade.  Not yet.  I can feel the sunburn already.

3:30:  My Friday starts a little bit late, but with Umphrey’s McGee.  While attempting to find a shady spot in the Death Valley that is Which Stage, I run across the west-coast neighbors.  I feel a little flattered, as most of them only went to the Umps on my recommendation.  The Umps are the Umps, they deliver exactly what you’d expect, and they do it well.  The daytime set hurts in multiple ways though, as it is simply unbearable during this time of day, and there’s not much shade to be had.  In fact, I think this is where the purplish sunburn started to set in.  But, the daytime spot also hurts the Umps by taking away their light show.  Major bummer.

4:35:  It is simply too hot and uncomfortable to stay on the stages without tents.  I am kind of curious about Dr. Dog, since they have been immortalized in a Mix-Master Laura mix.  Dr. Dog is cutesy.  It’s a forgettable show.  The shade of The Other Tent is what keeps me there more than anything, until a breeze starts picking up, and I notice the shade of the tree line creeping over the fence behind The Other Tent.  I can’t resist.

5:25:  A fantastic nap in the shade is ended by a call from @andlaurasays.  We meet up and catch the last half of the She & Him set.  C’est quelque chose de Zooey Deschannel que fait me parle en français.  Peut-être sa beauté incomparable?  Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Zooey Deschannel.  But I had very tempered expectations for how good her voice would sound.  Bad move.  The girl’s got serious pipes.  The set was ended by a scaled down version of “I put a spell on you,” during which Zooey transformed into maybe the most sensual, sexy creatures that has ever existed.

6:30:  Time for the D.  Coco gives an absolutely hilarious intro as JB and KG take the stage in their classic slovenly gear.  They fake break up as a lead into “Dude, I totally miss you,” and at some point rock out on a toy saxophone solo that KG dances to.  Tenacious D is a great live band, intent on giving you a great comedy show in addition to a great rock show.  However, we left the D set about 20 minutes early to meet up with one of our festival partners, and from what I understand, they ended right afterwards.  Points are always deducted for leaving unused set time on the table.

7:50:  A quick bite while we regroup with our festival partners.  I catch a little bit of Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers while I eat, but the acoustics are pretty bad from where we’re at, and I’m not paying enough attention to get a good feel for how Steve’s bluegrass project is going.

8:00:  Michael Franti and Spearhead.  I’ve already written a FC piece about this set, so I won’t harp on it, but Franti is a goddamn showman, plain and simple.  Yes, it does get a little obnoxious to hear “How you feelin’ Bonnaroo?” that many times, but it’s such a fun set.  He will definitely make you groove if the external conditions are in order.

9:45:  Thank god Kings of Leon is headlining.  I might not get a break otherwise.  Head back to the camp to hang out with the West Coast neighbors, grab a quick nap and…wait a minute…is Kings of Leon covering the fucking Pixies?!  And “Where is my Mind” at that?  First of all, if you’re a crappy, generic pop band, don’t cover bands that were fundamental to the original alternative movement.  You see, that was a movement created to combat crappy, generic pop music in the first place.  Second of all, if you’re going to cover a band that you know you can’t hold a candle to, DON’T COVER THEIR BIGGEST HIT.  As a matter of fact, you should never cover anyone’s biggest hit.  It’s a bitch move in general, akin to saying “well, this was popular once…maybe they’ll like it when we do it, too.”  And third, don’t cover a song you’re literally incapable of covering.  You think anyone in your shit band can actually match Kim Deal’s falsetto?  Damn it, the idea of a nap is gone now.  I can never sleep when I’m enraged.  I can’t believe these power-pop assholes did this to me when I wasn’t even at the show.

Midnight:  Black Keys!  Black Keys! This show was the toughest decision of the festival, but I love this band, and I wouldn’t miss them for anything after catching their amazing set at Bonnaroo 2007.  @andlaurasays is intending on catching a little bit, then heading to the Flaming Lips, but confides to me that she thinks they’ll rock too hard to allow her to leave.  I couldn’t agree more.  They start off with a lot of stuff off early albums like “Rubber Factory” and “Thickfreakness,” which makes me happier than a pig in shit.  But, about half way through the set, they bring on two additional musicians.  The Black Keys toyed with a bigger sound over the last few albums, but I was never pessimistic about their ability to completely rock the house with just two members.  The extra musicians seem to cloud Dan Auerbach’s one of a kind, madman stage presence.  Furthermore, this move pigeonholes them into playing more extended-band songs from “Brothers” and “Attack and Release,” and I think ultimately, the show suffers a little because of it.

1:15 am:  We leave The Black Keys show a little early to check out a little of the Flaming Lips’ much hyped performance of “Dark Side of the Moon.”  Yet, somehow, miss that set altogether, and catch only a few actual Flaming Lips songs.   Not a bad thing.  As usual, the Flips put on an amazing senses-flooding show, complete with montages of naked chicks in the light show.  However, Which stage is so crowded for this set, we’re barely able to see anything actually happening on stage.  I’ll refrain from giving this show a grade, as I didn’t catch enough to accurately judge it.  But, I think the Flips’ show was part of an amazing poetic combination of performances that can be the only possible justification for the ridiculous Friday night scheduling conflict.  On one stage, you have a great show being powered by the raw, no-frills stage presence of Dan Auerbach and the Black Keys.  On the opposite end of Centeroo, the Flaming Lips are putting on a fantastic, theatrical visual spectacle.  Simultaneously, Daryl Hall and Chromeo are meshing new and old in a one of a kind celebration of great music.  In the combined corners of this wonderful festival, there is a symphony going on that combines all of the possibilities of a live music performance.  There are so many ways to deliver a great show, and several are on display in a contrasting, yet complimentary fashion.  It’s a beautiful thing.

1:50:  @andlaurasays had LCD Soundsystem very high on her must-see list.  So, although I feel as though I’ve soaked up as much as my body can handle for the day, I tag along as we get in the crowd for Bassnectar with the plan of getting up close for LCD coming afterward.  Bassnectar is surprisingly entertaining, and helps me get my second wind.  The crowd was great, and in case you’re wondering, no, it’s not just a clever name.  Bassnectar’s string of insane beats is not in my wheelhouse, but still a fun show to watch when you’re trying to maneuver for the following act.  He does go a little late, but in his defense, he had no chance of drawing a significant crowd otherwise.

2:10:  The good news:  very close to the stage for LCD Soundsystem.  The bad news:  there is a scarily creepy older guy standing near us that is taking voyeur-style pictures of the girls near him in the crowd.  It’s quite disturbing.  If there was ever a legitimate reason to attack a stranger and destroy his camera, this would be the most justifiable one.  That guy aside, LCD gives an energetic late-night set.  Unfortunately, the crowd isn’t great, and James Murphy is noticeably bothered by the stream of glow sticks being thrown at him.  Regardless, I have a ton of fun at this set, dance my ass off, and end up thanking @andlaurasays profusely for making sure I fought off the fatigue to catch this show.

4:25:  Stumble back to camp.  Even the majority of my west-coast neighbors have surrendered to the wear of the marathon evening.  Sunlight is starting to highlight the horizon, and the thought that I’m only a couple of hours away from that god-awful sunshine beating into my tent is overcome only by the thought of how much the coming Saturday has to offer.

Thursday & Friday’s Highlights:

5.  Neon Indian/Local Natives:  8.0

4.  Miike Snow:  8.3

3.  LCD Soundsystem:  8.5

2.  Black Keys/Black bean quesadilla:  9.0

1.  Michael Franti & Spearhead:  9.2

2 Responses

  1. Laura Said,

    BRYN! Were you trippin’ when you rated these acts? There is absolutely NO WAY Michael “How you feelin?!?” Franti would ever beat an LCD Soundsystem show! Even with an audience full of creeps and glow stick-throwing d-bags as well as his obvious state of inebriation, James Murphy STILL pulled out an amazing performance. Michael Franti, albeit an energetic performer, ends up playing a hypeman for himself stuck on replay. (Again, how many times did he say “How you feelin’?”)
    Now I am not saying that Michael Franti was bad. I’ll even admit that I enjoyed a lot of his act to denigration of my indie cred. I’m saying the quality of performance was not enough to boot LCD down to a 8.5. LCD and anything below a 9.0 is blasphemy.

    Posted on June 23rd, 2010 at 12:42 pm

  2. Bryn Said,

    Whoa, chill for a second Miss Mix-Master. Franti got a major bonus for being so unexpectedly good. Maybe too major, fair enough. And by the way, we went into Franti with an over/under of nineteen “How you feelin’s,” I don’t think we even hit twelve. However, the number of “Bonnaroo, let me see your hands,” was off the charts.
    LCD was #3 on my first two days list. I had a blast at that show. I thought the 8.5 was a complimentary grade. Like you said, certain deductions have to be made for the bad crowd. I can’t justify a 9+ when the front man doesn’t have command over the audience.
    …And by the way, if you’re going to argue with my ratings, you should put your own up. We’re waiting.

    Posted on June 24th, 2010 at 1:28 pm

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