For those of you who couldn't make it to Bonnaroo, for those of you wouldn't make it because it's prohibitively far and/or prohibitively hot and for those of you who did make it but didn't see what we saw - we're bringing you the SUPERGOODMUSIC Bonnaroo festival experience in this feature we're calling "A Day In The Life of the 'Roo." So read on as Boom D take us through his Friday at Bonnaroo.....
The first truly full day of Bonnaroo began for me with a rude awakening at 8:50 a.m. No one said or did anything inappropriate - rather, the sweltering Manchester heat roused me from my sleeping bag long before I wanted to be. Although it was not an ideal start to my day, my early morning personal dew reminded me of the swampy dance party I assumed would ensue later on.
From the SUPERGOODMUSIC camp site well past Pod 9 (for those unfamiliar - the Bonnaroo campgrounds are about as massive as a small village - some camp sites are over a mile away from the actual concert grounds), I began an early morning trek to Shakedown Street (Third Avenue). While en route to the Shakedown, and more specifically the Grassroots California and Tree Shurts tent, I sampled some of the festival fixings including an amazing mango smoothie and the hippie staple that is garlic grilled cheese. While the smoothie more than rocked my TOMS off, the garlic grilled cheese at this year's Bonnaroo left something to be desired as compared to the seasoned and veteran versions of ggc served by Phishheads last year.
After kicking it with GRC and Tree Shurts for an hour, I made my way to the Press Tent for Orientation and a surprise acoustic set from Dr. Dog.
Having never seen Dr. Dog before, I was not quite sure what to expect, although folky rock was a good assumption given the band's arrangement and their indie folk garb. The band eased into the music with hand claps, some box tapping and some soft guitar.
What the band lacks in aggressiveness they more than make up for in charm and chemistry. After drifting through a few songs, Dr. Dog had to prep for their later set, although Scott (far right in the picture above) hung around for a little bit of Q & A.
Although it pained me to leave the press tent and the soothing air conditioned haven that it was, I couldn't miss the opportunity to see the New Orleans funkstar, and occasional Treme role character, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews on the Which Stage.
Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue were throwing it down when we arrived - playing three cuts off of their new major record BACKATOWN, including "Something Beautiful" which was covered by Bonnaroo TV. They played some other choice tunes - including "American Woman," "Groove On," and closing with a New Orleans twanged "When The Saints Go Marching In." As he's done all season on HBO, Trombone held his own and shined amongst some accomplished musicians - showcasing to the sizable Tennessee crowd exactly why he just had his first major label release produced by Galactic's Ben Ellman (who was in the crowd) with guest features from Allen Toussaint and Lenny Kravitz.
From Trombone's "Saints Go Marching In" encore I b lined back to the press tent for some free water and free A/C, and also to see what was doing with the first press panel that featured rising artists, including Sarah Jarosz and Jessie Baylin (wife of one of the Kings of Leon guys), as well as a few comedians (Margaret Cho and Reggie Watts featured below) and a few others. Beth from The Gossip was supposed to be there - but she was probably getting ready to wail at their epic performance later in the day, which I will tell you more about below. Although I was disappointed to not get to go through some Q & A with Beth, the panel was decently interesting in no small part because Cho and Watts ranted for several minutes about how Cho might get "gwaped" by Gwar. If you can't figure out the terminology, gwaping is a recently developed term for being gang raped by Gwar. We have no confirmation that that actually happened and we didn't catch GWAR's set - but Cho was toying with the idea early in the afternoon.
After Cho and Watts' hilarious banter, it was hard to stick around and listen to other musicians go through Q & A....especially Scott from Dr. Dog who talked about how he didn't have any memories from Bonnaroo (Sorry Scott/Dr. Dog - but you lost some credibility with me with that answer as I prefer musicians to be honest and from the heart and it just didn't seem possible that you have no memories). Scott's less than interesting responses gave me the motivation I needed to get out of the air conditioning and head to more shows.
Baking in the hot sun on my travels, I decided to go to This Tent for Jay Electronica. I've been listening to the extremely talented underground MC for almost a year now, but had not yet had the opportunity to catch a performance from Jay. As I arrived at the tent, I was pleasantly surprised to see the MC just taking the stage. He absolutely destroyed the microphone - seamlessly weaving through a cappella and instrumentalized versions of his mixtape friendly music - including an epic version of "Suckas" and "The Ghost of Christopher Wallace."
It was very clear that Jay was enjoying himself because at one point he invited the entire crowd on stage, and I do mean the entire crowd. Although I didn't join the rush, I watched as what appeared to be some 200-300 people attempted to make their way onto stage and or behind it. Security clearly was not prepared for the mayhem Jay invited because most of the fans actually got on stage and stayed there for a good 3-4 songs. The volume of people on stage was so large the back of the tent actually cooled down.
I stayed for most of the set, at least until they had removed the crowd from the stage, before heading to check out the Carolina Chocolate Drops in That Tent. I had been hearing so much about the band and seen their name in various publications and on various festivals, but I had not yet heard their music, so I felt obliged to see what the hype was about. I didn't realize it was more in the folky bluegrass string band genre, for some reason (probably their name) I thought their music would have a little more sweet umph behind it. The melodically driven soft music was certainly good, but not what I was looking for after such a riveting performance from Jay Electronica so I headed away from That Tent over to the Which Stage to see Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.
ESMZ is not one of my favorites despite the fanfare they've received in Los Angeles and I tried to shake my stigma against them and endure their set. With the hot sun beating down and only 15 minutes to spare before The Gossip's show, Edward couldn't hold my attention very long. Like the Carolina Chocolate Drops, the Magnetic Zeros music just does not have the aggressiveness or rhythm that I wanted on Friday and that I often want out of my live shows. Rather than endure anymore heat, I snagged an icy cold beverage and headed straight back to This Tent for The Gossip.
I raced to This Tent for The Gossip because they were, without question, my favorite performance at Coachella and I didn't even catch the whole show there. I was sure not to miss a minute of this one - and I made the right decision. A drunken Beth Ditto took stage, already soaking in sweat from the heat, but ready to drench herself more with her inspired singing and effort. Constantly referencing her southern roots (she grew up in Arkansas), Ditto opined how it was okay for her to be wasted mid-day Friday and joked with the crowd about the swampy heat. At one point, she wrapped her head in a towel to contain the stickiness.
Ditto didn't let the heat get to her as she ripped off solid vocals from start to finish, including amazing versions of "Four Letter Word", "Listen Up", "Standing in the Way of Control" and a great cover of Tina Turner's "What's Love Got To Do With It" that had the entire crowd singing along with her. She capped it all off with her closer - an a cappella version of Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You."
From The Gossip's ridiculous show, I decided to check out the main stage for the first time at the fest for a little bit of The Distant Relatives - Nas and Damian Marley. I got in a few songs from Nas and Marley, but was disappointed to learn that I had missed the opener to their performance, "As We Enter" which has been a recent car anthem of mine. With the sun still beating down, and about 5 hours of music under my belt, I decided I should take a breather for a few, hydrate, re-apply sunblock and get some dinner so I headed to the press tent. Before I could execute that plan, I ended up bumping into Playboy Tre, who I'd met in Los Angeles, and decided to put my agenda on the back burner to chop it up with the rising hip hop artist and his chart topping homeboy, B.o.B.
As we walked backstage, we made arrangements to meet up later before they had to head back to their hotel. Departing Playboy, B.o.B. and crew, I attempted to execute my initial plan, but was again sidetracked when I ran into Marley, the bassist from Rebelution, and decided I'd put my plans on the back burner yet again to kick it with the heavily touring reggae dub soul artists.
With the help of my Rebelution friends, I was able to sneak back into the Artist campground and kick it on the RV with the boys from Santa Barbara, who were enjoying a day of shows before their Saturday morning performance (which was spectacular). We went back and forth over who to see and what we were most excited for for the night before the crew decided it was necessary to grab a bite and check out Tenacious D. Unfortunately, my luck ran out as I tried to get into Artist hospitality because I was discovered by the security guards and not permitted to enter the free beer and food zone :( So, I meandered over to the press grounds, grabbed a very tasty pulled pork po-boy from the TomKat catering crew and kicked my feet up waiting for either Michael Franti & Spearhead or Les Claypool to start.
I ended up tuckering out and not making it over to Claypool, which sorely disappointed me because the bassist is always amazing live and I imagine he was joined by some of my other favorite musicians, Skerik and Mike Dillon, who are members of his Flying Frog Brigade. As of this writing, I have not confirmed whether or not Dillon and/or Skerik were there. I did catch a moment of Franti as I was heading back to Shakedown and chilling before the sick nighttime line-up.
Nighttime brought headliners Kings of Leon to the main stage for their pop rock heroics. Playing their hit songs and a little material from their forthcoming release, I expected a bit more energy from the native Tennessee quartet. However, the band seemed rather melancholy, playing what the New York Times and Rolling Stone are calling a "pensive" and "introspective" set. Not wanting to miss the energy of the late night shows and not seeing any reason to stay, I departed the main stage for The Other Tent for Daryl Hall & Chromeo. As I was leaving, Kings of Leon ripped into perhaps their most energetic performance of the evening when they encored with their hit "Sex On Fire." Despite the last second change in rock attitude, it didn't capture my attention as I was pining for front row at the never before seen live Hall & Chromeo collaboration.
I arrived about 25 minutes early for the should be electro-two stepper party and made my way to the front right side of the stage, a mere ten feet from Chromeo's Patrick "P-Thugg" Gemayel.
The energy was palpable as people kept packing the tent in - forcing me and my 150 pound frame closer and closer to the front fence. I managed to find myself at the top arc of a circle of tweener hipsters who were on ecstasy and getting touchy feely with strangers, myself included, as they chanted "Chromeo-Ooooh-Ooooh, Chromeo-Oooooh-Oooooh, Chromeo..." for about ten minutes. When the mega-band finally took stage, the crowd got a little too close for my comfort. Although I tried to endure the frenzy, after three songs, I couldn't handle the claustraphobia, heat or thump anymore (even with ear plugs). I literally almost passed out from heat exhaustion as I escaped to just outside the tent and sat down. However, I sat down in some wet muddy mess, which surprised and actually quickly revived me.
So, soaking in my own sweat and a soggy ass, but nonetheless with renewed fervor - I took my two stepping self to the back of The Other Tent and caught the remainder of Chromeo & Daryl Hall's performance - which swayed from Chromeo electro jams to Hall & Oates hits like "Kiss Is On My List" and my personal favorite "Private Eyes" (which they did a stellar job of). Mention of the gems from the Chromeo cuts they played must include "Bonafied Lovin", which included a solid rotational lighting scheme synched to the synths and had the entire crowd pumping fists and singing "oh oh oh oh-ah-oh."
From Chromeo I charged to That Tent pre-Kid Cudi to try and meet up with B.o.B., Playboy Tre and B Rich for a minute to say what's up, give them some Grassroots California hats they'd asked for, and hopefully get a prime spot. Kicking it backstage, I got to watch the former Shaker Heights resident grab the mic in intoxicated fashion after being introduced by Aziz Ansari. Cudi proceeded to rumble through a troubled set which may have no small part to due with the now confirmed rumors that the star MC had been arrested earlier that day in New York. Although his energy was extremely high, as he proclaimed that he "really wanted to be [at Bonnaroo]", it seemed like he forgot lyrics at times during his set. Despite his problems, my hometown bias keeps me from saying anything all that negative about the show; even with flubbed lyrics, I thought it was great from backstage as he did drop a dope and well executed medley of "Memories" -> "Day N Night" as well as a crowd sing along of "Cudi Zone" and the encore anthem "Pursuit of Happiness."
I felt obliged to rush to LCD Soundsystem post Cudi because I had missed the bands Los Angeles performances last weekend when I was en route and attending Wakarusa. I was happy to arrive to an ending opener of "Us vs. Them" going into "Drunk Girls," spinning lights, stomping feet and great music as James Murphy led the band through a near 90 minute set that closed with "New York, I Love You" with an ending "Empire State of Mind" tease that portended the following days headliner. Although they did not play my preferred cuts off of the new album ("You Wanted A Hit" and "Dance Yourself Clean"), they did play "Pow Pow" and the set was easily one of my favorites at Bonnaroo as the band nailed it on classics like "Daft Punk Is Playing At My House", "Losing My Edge", "Yeah" and "Tribulations."
From LCD I was drawn to the Lunar Stage for a dj set before learning that B.o.B. was rocking it well past his scheduled end time of 4 a.m. The chart topping artist apparently was woo-ing the late night crowd with cuts off of Adventures of Bobby Ray, favorites off his mixtape like "I'll Be In The Sky" and "Satellite", before wrapping it up with his modification of MGMT's "Kids" just before 5 a.m.
As I took the 30 minute stroll back to the SUPERGOODMUSIC campsite, I finished the day just as it started, with a garlic grilled cheese and a ice cold beverage....