Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival
June 10, 2011
Another hot, sweltering day at Bonnaroo, but the main stages helped to heat things up with some incredible music.
My day got started with the somber songs of Jessica Lea Mayfield. Her brother, David, who will be playing Charlotte in the coming weeks was on stage with her at various times to sing along. Her voice sounded as strong as ever and the new songs blended well with the old — a slight difference from the albums.
I then headed out to see the Swedish rock band Graveyard, who aside from an outstanding live show, have some really solid '70s style rock songs. Definitely a band I want to hear more from.
I then went to check out the subtle folk of Ben Sollee and his cello driven music. I had given his CD a quick listen once before, but I'm a bit more curious now. Strong vocals and musicianship go a long way and it's evident in his performance.
Kylesa kicked off the metal of the day with a strong set. I heard a chef at a nearby food stand saying, "Oh my god, this music makes me want to kill myself!" while I was buying some food... That kind of sums it up though. After all, there's not a lot of metal that makes you want to run out and play with puppies.
Justin Townes Earle brought his country folk to the Other Tent next. Another artist who I can tell has strong songwriting and I'd like to hear more from.
Grace Potter & The Nocturnals hit the main stage with a fury. The band started its set with the rocking "Ah Mary." She never ceases to amaze with her energy and vocals. Highly recommended when she returns to Charlotte this August.
Abigail Washburn had some trouble getting all the instruments sound-checked, but when her set finally kicked off, you could see her songwriting and style come through the music. She was joined by Bela Fleck on a number of tunes, as well. Another worth hearing more from.
The Decemberists hit the main stage and had Sara Watkins in tow, in place of Jenny Conlee, who is off the road due to treatment of breast cancer.
Singer Colin Meloy acknowledged her absence and said she's at home and doing well. The band has a simple brand of folk-rock, one that didn't stick with me for long.
Wanda Jackson, meanwhile, was a 73-year-old fireball in The Other Tent. She smiled and sang and appeared to be having an absolute blast. No sign of Jack White while I was there...
Ray LaMontagne kicked off his simple folk on one of the main stages, while Florence & The Machine saw one of the biggest crowds of the day in This Tent.
Maybe it's just me, but I thought Florence and LaMontagne could have switched stages. The vocals, stage presence and overall performance by Florence & The Machine was beyond stellar. There's no surprise that so many people were there. I wanted to stick around to watch, but there simply wasn't anywhere to catch a glimpse from the overflowing tent.
My Morning Jacket kicked off it's 8 p.m. set with a lone trumpeter for "Victory Dance." Dressed in a long coat and white furry boots, singer Jim James bounded around the stage. For me, the songs alternated between the sleepy and nearly whining and the upbeat and Southern-style rockers. I went into the show as a skeptic and left feeling I should give their music another shot, or at least some of their music.
Primus hit the secondary main stage at 9:15 and played a good variety of new and old, much like their recent Charlotte performance.
It was back to the main stage for the night's headliner, Arcade Fire. It's another band that I approached with hesitation having not been impressed with the glimpses I had seen and heard up until now, but their set at Bonnaroo won me over. The band has infectious energy, humble gratitude for "finally playing Bonnaroo" and strong songwriting. The multi-instrument approach didn't sound cluttered, and while one band member was dancing with her fiddle, two others were jumping around smashing drums. Just a complete feast for the eyes and ears.
Bassnectar rattled the bones and souls of everyone coming near This Tent at 12:30 a.m. ... Obnoxiously loud bass grooves from the DJ overflowed into the festival grounds.
Big Boi hit The Other Tent for a set full of Outkast classics. Some of them were abbreviated, but most of them got the full treatment as Big Boi paced and danced his way around the stage. He even got help from a four-man step crew at times.
Lil Wayne hit the Which Stage after a brief recording announcing that inmate # so-and-so was now a free man. With a backpack on, Lil Wayne ran all over the stage, never really finding time to slow down. I'll admit that I'm not a fan, but I can see where his popularity comes from, especially with his live performance. Full band behind him, his flow and energy were relentless.
I then went to catch part of Pretty Lights, the DJ was surrounded by towers of lights and it was clearly a visual spectacle as much as an audio one. Granted, a lot of electronic/techno sounds the same to me, so I didn't stick around to hear the driving beats.
The odd story of the night had to be the five parachuters who were seen over the festival while Primus and My Morning Jacket were on the stage. Dropping 60,000 little blue flashing lights, it looked like stardust falling all around. The lights were attached to some kind of promotional code — what for, I'm not sure. How do I know all of this? After watching the parachuters for a minute or two, one was clearly off course and — making nearly a complete 180, dodged about five trees and came hurtling down just outside the press area — about 20 feet from where I was standing. The guy said he was supposed to land in a camping area... whoops!
Overall, a long day filled with great music and a few surprises. And we're only half-way done!
Arcade Fire setlist
Ready to Start
Keep the Car Running
Neighborhood #2 (Laika)
No Cars Go
City With No Children
The Suburbs (Continued)
Month of May
Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
We Used to Wait
Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
My Morning Jacket setlist
Off The Record
Outta My System
You Wanna Freak Out
Slow Slow Tune
Smokin From Shootin
Run Thru (End)
Touch Me I'm Going To Scream Pt. 2
Holdin On To Black Metal
Highly Suspicious (with Preservation Hall Jazz Band)
Dancefloors (with Preservation Hall Jazz Band)
One Big Holiday
Big Boi setlist
Atliens>Skew It> Rosa Parks
So Fresh So Clean
Daddy Fats Sac
The Way You Move
For Your Sorrow
You Ain't No DJ
Grace Potter setlist
Hot Summer Night
Stop The Bus
Nothing But The Water I
Nothing But The Water II
Paris (Ooh La La)
(Jefferson Airplane cover)