Monday, June 18, 2007

Blogaroo - Sunday/Wrapup

Posted By on Mon, Jun 18, 2007 at 3:38 PM

I'm back in the Charlotte area the day after the final shows of Bonnaroo.

It feels like I was there for weeks, but in some ways I miss it. Being able to see so many incredible bands in one location and get concert photography experience in so many different kinds of venues was a great experience. (A photo collection will run in the June 27 edition of Creative Loafing.)

The final day of the four-day music festival started with Pete Yorn and John Butler on the two major stages.

Yorn seems to have changed since the first time I saw him. He now presents himself in a very "rock star" manner, as opposed to a laid back musician that plays rambling rock.

Having been instantly impressed by CDs of the John Butler Trio, it was one of the shows I was looking forward to the most. I wasn't disappointed. The last of the three songs while I was in the photo pit (concert photographers are generally allowed to shoot pictures of the first three songs or 15 minutes of a set) was "Oceans."

If there was one song I wanted to hear John Butler perform, that was it. It's an impressive work of acoustic art. He simply dedicated it as a prayer and proceeded to blow the minds of everyone watching. Those in the photo pit were motionless in awe and, in a rare moment (I can't remember the last concert where it happened), it gave me goosebumps.

I was fortunate, after the photo shoot, to gain access to a side-stage platform where I watched the rest of his set from 10 feet above and to the side of Butler. While many bands impressed me and caught my attention this weekend, John Butler had me hypnotized.

At the end of the night, I saw Butler walking through the media area with his infant. I caught his eye and could only muster, "That was one hell of a show today ..." He said thanks, with a smile, and kept walking.

I only saw a portion of Wolfmother before I was escorted, by invitation, to the side of the stage to watch the Ratdog performance.

I was honored to be standing 25 feet from Bob Weir and the group as they jammed their way through an hour-and-a-half set. Of course, it was packed with Grateful Dead songs, and it sounded fantastic.

There were plenty of people in front of the stage — a sea of moving bodies baking in the sun. A random guest in a bear suit danced around in front of the stage (he was NOT part of the show) while various people embraced their nakedness in the crowd.

I caught a quick glimpse of Salvador Santana playing keyboards with his band — he's the son of guitar great Carlos Santana — before heading over to Wilco.

I'm sorry, but I don't get the appeal of Wilco. So many people tell me they are blown away and think it's the greatest band in the world. To me, they're just sleepy. Maybe I need to pay more attention to the lyrics, but the music was nothing special to me.

I saw three songs, heard tens of thousands singing along and walked away thinking, "I saw nothing memorable or remarkable about any of that." Oh well, it's just an opinion.

Before the mad rush that was to come, I made my way around the grounds to catch quick glimpses of Feist at "This Tent" and Ornette Coleman at "The Other Tent."

Both seemed to be putting on solid performances — Coleman sure can blow — but my focus was on the Which Stage where the White Stripes was going to play. (I later found out that Coleman collapsed from heat stroke during the performance. The 77-year-old is in the hospital, but said to be doing well. I hope he's OK and back up and about in no time!)

I heard a lot of people saying they would be the "closer" — they planned on packing up and heading home after the show, skipping Widespread Panic.

If that was the case, it was a great way to go out. The White Stripes played a quick and raucous hour-and-a-half set.

The actual headliner of the day, and festival, was Widespread Panic. The band got its jam on at the What Stage for three hours, until the festival wrapped up at 11:30.

When I woke up this morning to leave, most of the campground had already packed up and left.

I could tell which cars I passed on the Interstate were from Bonnaroo — just find the ones covered in dust with very tired people sitting inside.

The festival wasn't only a chance to check out artists I like, but also a chance to hear new music.

My plan this evening is to get to a store and pick up the Rodrigo y Gabriela and Cold War Kids albums.

Bonnaroo was four days of music and art that captivated 80,000 fans. It rocked and rolled, hinted at country and hip-hop and left people wanting more.

That's what a good festival should do. The idea of putting the festival and camping hand-in-hand is a great idea that makes the audience feel like part of the show.

For four days, I was a citizen of Bonnaroo. I may be tired, sweaty, dirty, sleepy and scruffy, but I'm already thinking about my next visit. It's worth the trip.


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