I'm not really sure where to start this thing other than at the beginning, and I suppose that is as good a place as any. I am sure once I am finished writing this other things to add will come to mind, but this is my most coherent recollection of the past week and a half. It is long and involved and quite in depth so it may take you a few minutes to read through the whole thing. I suggest making yourself comfortable, perhaps with some relaxing tea, or a vitamin water. All pictures and video are mine, with the exception of the first one, which was taken by my mom. Thanks mom.
We (my roommate Daniel and I) left San Diego, California on Tuesday the 9th at about 2 pm, embarking on what would become a nine day jaunt across the US with a final destination of Manchester, Tennessee. We borrowed Daniel's father's Pleasure Way, which was not quite a van but not quite an RV either, complete with a bathroom (major score), fridge, stove and bed.
I did most of the driving the first day, completing a stretch from El Centro, California to somewhere just east of El Paso, Texas. At that point I was ready for a break and Daniel took over before stopping in Monahans, Texas for some much needed sleep. Also we had been witnessing an inspired lightening storm for the last hour of our drive that day, and while amazing to watch, it was slightly too close for comfort to continue driving a shiny hunk of metal on wheels through it, so we pulled into a hotel parking lot and crashed. Not too long after we fell asleep we were awoken by a hail storm, another weather oddity I am not usually treated to being that I am from a climate that doesn't have an identity crisis. This was the first of many signs along the trip that I belong on the west coast.
After a few more hours of sleep we were back on the road at 10 am (local time) and on our way to Dallas for some Bar-B-Que. Texas wasn't terribly scenic before Dallas so I don't have much to write about or elaborate on, but Dallas was a shit storm. Being that I have not ventured too far out of California I have held onto the notion that the drivers here were probably among the worst in the country. Those of you that live in southern California will probably agree. Dallas drivers somehow found ways to suck even harder than everyone I have encountered in California and made the whole time in the city much more stressful. Also the road and freeway system seemed like it may have been inspired by Jackson Pollock paintings because we took the most ass backwards way imaginable to just get off of the freeway on our way to Peggy Sue's BBQ. Speaking of, the food was good but didn't really blow me away like I was hoping for/expecting after recently finding life changing soul food in San Diego, but it was very enjoyable and we left satisfied. We filled up the PW next to a store that sold beach cruiser bikes, clothes and cupcakes (I don't know. Texas is stupid.), and got the hell out of Dallas as soon as traffic would let us. We left not a moment too soon as the city was inundated with wrath of God-like rain, wind and thunderstorms the following day.
After we were out of Dallas, Texas was a lot more pleasant. Very lush and green, a lot of trees, a lot of water. We crossed a reservoir that was visually stunning, and my be the biggest landlocked body of water I have seen with the exception of lakes I have flown over. I don't remember the name, however. Arkansas was next in line, and after one stop at a gas station we were ready to get the hell out of that state. I can think of nothing good that has come from AR with the exception of the Clintons (although your opinion may differ on that) and if any of you know of my deep seeded hatred for Wal Mart you can see why I would think Arkansas is probably the second most worthless state in the Union, right behind Texas. More on that later. Crossing the Mississippi we were dumped into Memphis, and were immediately impressed. The view from the bridge was great even though it was dark at this point, but everything about the city was visually interesting. I would like to go back to Tennessee someday and visit again because it felt very inviting and every person I encountered was very welcoming. I was called every variation of sweetie, honey, babe, darling etc. you can think of, and a cashier at a gas station outside of Nashville told us about how she had been seeing kids that looked like they were from the 60s come and go all day. She had gone to the festival years prior and enjoyed herself.
Around 4:30 am on Thursday we arrived at the Motel 6 in Manchester, Tennessee where we met up with the big group of Coachella veterans who were all camping together and who were nice enough to wait around for us so that we could use their shower. It was refreshing and awakening and would be the last shower I would take until around 3 am the following Tuesday. The plan at this point was to head down to a Wal Mart and meet up with another big group, but because Daniel and I were not camping with everyone else we decided to get some breakfast before beginning what would become quite a first day at Bonnaroo. We ate at a nearby Waffle House which was sort of like a Dennys or any other breakfast themed place, but if that place was trying to break a speed record for service. The place was maybe half full when we walked in, and probably about a quarter full when we walked out, which was like 5 people tops (it was pretty small), but the women working there were like a machine. We ordered and had our food probably three to four minutes later, and this was a full breakfast. Eggs, bacon, hash browns, a waffle and toast. Hell I cant even gather all of those things in three minutes to prepare to make them let alone have them on a plate and ready to go. Seriously. Respect. After we finished we jumped back on the highway heading towards exit 111 and the start of day one.
So traffic down to the exit wasn't that bad surprisingly, although this may be because it was around 6:15 am at this point. I had secured a handicap placard before we left, and according to the Bonnaroo access guide we were supposed to get off at exit 111. Exit 111 approaches and we pull off onto the shoulder with a substantial line of cars that is at a standstill and sit for about 15 minutes or so before some state troopers start waving cars down the freeway. They didn't seem to be in the talkative mood so we followed the other cars and headed down the freeway. For 10. Miles. What the hell. So we exit and get back on the freeway going the opposite direction and get into another sizable line of cars. By sizable I mean six hours. A six hour line of cars. We could have watched the first two Lord of the Rings movies while waiting in line to get to the damn campground. Here was our view during that time.
Beautiful, no? Actually Tennessee was very beautiful, now that it was light out and we could see. Most of the freeways looked like this.
Anyway, so we get up to the entrance, the guy asks for our tickets, asked if we had weapons, and if we had narcotics. We gave him some reassuring "no" answers, and we were waved in, given our wristbands and festival booklets and directed over to the handicap camping. This is what was taking six hours? Were some people answering yes to these questions? The thing that got to me about all of this was that at the rate we were moving in line, we moved forward just often enough to keep our car running the entire time, which used up about a quarter tank of gas. What I want to know is how much gas total was wasted on people sitting in a six hour plus line with their air conditioning on. For a festival that tries to pride itself as being environmentally conscious this struck me as a pretty big inconsistency. Perhaps it was just me.
The bracelets were sort of your ticket in between the festival grounds and the campgrounds, and weren't too uncomfortable but I didn't really like that you couldn't loosen them, as I feel like I was constantly messing with mine. The books were pretty cool though. They contained a schedule for each day, a map of the grounds that you could tear out, general festival information (rules and activities and such) and a few articles about what was going on or about certain performers. It would be cool to see Coachella put something like this out, but I don't feel that it is necessary. The literature is just kind of a cool supplement to the festival.
Here was our camping space. We probably had a good six feet to our right and about ten feet behind us worth of space, basically if we wanted to set up tents or a canopy or anything like that, but that wasn't necessary being that the camper was sort of a self contained unit.
After we got situated and met our neighbors (some of which we would come to hate later), I wandered outside while Daniel took a nap as he did most of the waiting in line while I tried to sleep. I was pleased by our proximity to one of the entrances, which was maybe a two minute walk and that was only because you had to walk around other people's campsites. Getting in was easy and security seemed pretty lax which would account for the amount of drugs I saw at the festival. My first thoughts when walking in were something to the effect of: "Shit. Everywhere." Well, it happened to start raining as I was walking in, so I was probably cursing the rain, but after that I was sort of overwhelmed, and I was only seeing a small section of the grounds. I feel like Coachella is laid out very well and is structured well, while Bonnaroo is a bit more haphazard. I was able to hang with it all and get around ok for the most part, but more effort could be placed on making the grounds feel more cohesive and inviting. Speaking of the grounds, or the terrain more specifically, Coachella wins in this department hand down. The polo fields are nice and even and flat with nice short grass where as the farm has more like pockets of grass, most of which started out tall but ended up looking pretty trampled by the end of the festival. As I was wandering around I found myself over by the "That" tent, and was sort of surprised that the insides of the tents were sand.
Obviously when you mix sand with water, you get a nice helping of mud. There was plenty of mud to go around.
Continuing to brave the rain I checked out two of the other tents, the "This" tent and "The Other Tent" (more on the ridiculously stupid stage names later) and then went back to our campsite and then over to meet up with the big Coachella group I had mentioned earlier. The rain had stopped at this point and my shirt started to dry out which was a lot more comfortable, as being wet in already humid weather sucks ass. After visiting for a while we all headed inside again, and met some friends over at the big fountain which was sort of a central meeting spot in the middle of the grounds.
After that we were off to go see Delta Spirit, only once we got to the That tent, we found out that they had been moved to the midnight time slot, so we headed over to check out Murs instead.
Better Than the Best
Can It Be
Yesterday and Today
Walk Like a Man
Me and This Jawn
Int'l Players Anthem (I Choose You)
Road Is My Religion
Boyz N the Hood
To Protect and Entertain Everything
I am not exactly sure what part of the set I saw but it was fun and the tent was pretty into it. They knew most of the sing along/crowd participation parts and I liked most of the backing tracks behind the rhymes. His DJ was sort of odd though and would cut songs at the end pretty abruptly, but DJing for an emcee isn't as fun or involved as it is when it is just you and it's dance music, so perhaps he was bored. We watched about 30 minutes and then went over to check out the silent disco.
The silent disco was pretty cool and is a novel idea, but the DJ in there at the time was not playing anything I was interested in listening to and it was almost about time for Portugal. the Man to start, so we headed back over to the That tent.
Portugal. the Man: 7/10
Lay Me Back Down
Bellies Are Full
Horse Warming Party
AKA M80 The Wolf
Portugal was really good. They are sort of a blues indie kind of thing, and they ran some of the songs into each other which felt more like a show than a band throwing a bunch of songs on a list and playing them. Not that there is anything wrong with that per se, I just appreciated what PTM was doing. They started to lose me about halfway through the set so I went to check out The Knux who I had missed at Coachella this year and had planned on watching anyway.
The Knux: 7/10
Life In A Cage
The Train Cappuccino
I have a feeling that I don't have the complete setlist, unless they started way late and didn't get to play as many songs, but I was the only person that I know of that went to watch them so I do not know for sure. I sat outside in the grass and listened and heard the Train Cappuccino and Bang Bang, both of which were really good. About halfway through Fire! it started to rain again, and by this point it was dark, so I got up and carefully (so as not to face plant into some mud like I saw a number of people do over the course of the weekend) headed back to Portugal and caught the tail end of their set which was good. The back of the tent was completely full however, so I got rained on for a good ten minutes or so before I could nudge my way into some shelter. I figure it wasn't all that bad being that I planned on watching Chairlift next who I was excited to see, and I would be out of the rain for a good hour or so, so I should have been able to dry off. So I park it behind the soundboard and wait for probably a good 30 to 40 minutes. After everybody started cheering when the band came out I stood up only to hear them say: "Hi we are the Low Anthem from blah blah blah etc." I stopped listening at that point. WHERE THE HELL WAS CHAIRLIFT? Furiously I whip out my schedule only to find that I am at the That tent when I needed to be at the This tent. Begin rant:
Look, I know this stage name thing is cute and all, but the cuteness stops after about 5 minutes and after you hear people making the same stupid jokes about the names all weekend long. You already confuse people by throwing shit everywhere on your festival grounds, and you then go and name your stages What, Which, This, That and Other? Are you kidding me? That is what you came up with? I have a hard time figuring out why having more inventive or distinguishable names is so hard, but I think the real reason is because probably about 90% of the people there (or at least the ones I saw) were "enhancing" their concert experience and probably didn't give two shits about what stage they were at or what they were going to see. They probably weren't going to remember it anyway, so why spend time on good stage/tent names right? Wrong. I can't find a fail picture big enough to accurately represent how goddamn stupid the names are, and I cant think of anyway to make people feel less welcome at your festival apart from punching them in the face upon entry. I knew what the names were going to the festival and I had looked at the map quite a bit, but when it's dark and you are getting drenched you go for what you think is the right area and stick to it, and I thought I was in the right area. I didn't make that mistake again however. The only good or cool thing about the names, and it isn't really about the names as much as the signs, is that they had cool neon light up signs outside of each tent. Of course, that means that they plan on sticking with them. Forever.
So about 5 seconds into the Low Anthem's first song I bolt out of the That tent back into the rain trying to fight my way over to the This tent when the rain starts pouring with a fury of a thousand tsunamis. It probably got duped by the stage names too. I duck into the nearest shelter I can find which was some volunteer tent or something, I am not sure, and wait it out. At this point I am legitimately not having a good time. I am drenched, it's humid as hell, and I am missing the only band I genuinely wanted to see on that day. At this point they were about 30 minutes into their set. I started doing the math on how much money I had already spent to bring me to this god forsaken place and I stopped because I didn't want to lash out and start roundhouse kicking people around me. After about 20 minutes the rain subsides, and I decide to completely forego seeing Charlift who only had about 15 minutes left, and get in line for the Silent Disco to see the Hood Internet who I really like. Being that the Silent Disco has a limited number of headphones I figured it would behoove me to get there early as I wasn't going to miss another act for stupid reasons. So I am waiting in line and people around me start noticing that there is nothing going on in the tent, and we find out that this is because there is a tornado warning in a nearby town. I turn around to see nearby clouds being illuminated every few seconds by lightening and think about how the southern California property prices are completely justified. I decide that I have nowhere else to go so I might as well stick around and see if it reopens, which it finally does. Praise Allah. I had to sit through about 40 minutes of shitty club rap DJing by some douche named DJ Equal (5/10), but I was at least treated to this gem:
Journey knows no generational bounds (unfortunately).
After he was done one of the guys from Hood Internet came out and DJed their mashups which was fun but not wonderful as he wasn't really a great DJ from a technical standpoint. I give it an 8/10 though just because I like them so much. Afterwards I was going to go watch Tobacco who are more dance related music but it had started pouring again and I decided to wait it out in the Silent Disco. After another 30 minutes it let up and I made it back to camp. While I was glad to be done with the first day and I was glad to be there, I was seriously wondering if this whole experience was going to be worth the time, effort and money invested. I got to sleep somewhere around 3.
OH HEY GUYS GOOD MORNING THIS IS YOUR NEIGHBORS PLAYING REALLY SHITTY JAM BAND MUSIC EXTREMELY LOUD RIGHT NEXT TO YOU AT 9 AM! DONT YOU LOVE GOV'T MULE? WE SURE DO! WHAT'S THAT? THE FRAME OF YOUR CAMPER IS VIBRATING? SWEET! IT'S HARD TO HEAR YOU THOUGH OVER OUR SWEET ASS ROCK AND ROLL MUSIC! BONNAROO!!!!!!!!!!
Ass. Holes. At this point there was no use trying to get any good sleep between the bullshit coming from their speakers and the mugginess although I sort of drifted in and out for a few more hours. I was up and wandering around at about noon and headed inside to get a snack and a spot in the That tent for Dirty Projectors. Before I get to them I must say that the weather on Friday was much much much much better than Thursday. Sunny, warm and most importantly, no rain in sight. We walked up to the That tent as Katzenjammer was finishing up. I had listened to them online and wasn't really interested in them, but the last two songs they played, Storm and Aint No Thang were excellent and made me wish I was there earlier to catch more. Especially Storm, which was pretty much entirely acapella and was a really inspired soul/blues song that made my jaw drop. Those girls can sing. If I had to score it I would probably give it a 9, but I don't think I can be accurate after seeing such a small portion of the set.
Dirty Projectors: 9/10
Fucked for Life
Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie/Thirsty and Miserable
Stillness is the Move
This show was excellent and really put me in a better mood after having a fairly shitty first day and what could be described as a rude awakening that was only slightly better than being woken up with a tube sock full of quarters. The band was tight as hell and executed everything from their new album Bitte Orca that I thought wouldn't be possible live. Remade Horizon was simply stunning with the vocal splits between the girls, and Temecula Sunrise was mind bogglingly amazing, with frontman and lead guitarist Dave Longstreth playing the huge guitar run note for note and then slamming his capo back in place right on the downbeat in time to go back into the next section. I was amazed. They made it into my top 5 acts for the weekend easily, and were almost the best act I saw all of Friday. They closed with Knotty Pine, a song they did for the Dark Was the Night compilation in which they collaborated with David Byrne from the Talking Heads. I had slight suspicions that they might play it and have Byrne come out on stage being that he was playing the festival later that night. Before the song they mentioned that they wanted to bring out a friend and I knew it was going to be him, which it was, and everyone went nuts. Dammit these guys were good. Below are videos of Stillness is the Move and Knotty Pine.
Afterwards we made our way over to Animal Collective. I've had a hard time getting into this band, especially with everyone I know trying to tell me how amazing they are, and I was only there to sort of see if my opinions of them would be solidified. Also I heard that their sets had been starting with the the only two songs by them that I legitimately enjoy so I figured what the hell, nothing else is going on, I might as well check it out. Getting there was interesting with the previous night's rain/mud aftermath, and the place was a zoo. Seriously I don't know how so many people like this band.
Animal Collective: 4/10
Lion in a Coma
Comfy in Nautica
This band just kind of sucks. I cant phrase it any differently. The sound was bad, the main vocalist yelps a lot, and the live versions of their songs just don't fire like the recorded versions do. My Girls was actually really underwhelming, and I cant think of a song that cries out for a snare drum more than this one. We started walking away about halfway through Summertime Clothes which wasn't bad, but it also wasn't keeping me interested or entertained. Some people claim that you cant see them in the day or try to make excuses for the music. I had just seen a band destroy the tent they were in with an amazing set about 40 minutes prior right in the middle of the day, and my mind was about to be blown over at another set not too long after that (although I didn't know that at the time) so I don't buy it. I bet they are just as bad if it's dark outside. The band, just, sucks. Afterward I went back to the That tent to check out the last part of St. Vincent, who ended 20 minutes or so early, so I only caught the last song. I still feel like she is a bit too noisy live, but everyone seemed to be enjoying it. After that let out I got some food and made my way over to the This tent to stake out a spot for Grizzly Bear. This was the scene when I arrived.
It was like that on both sides of the sound board, and if you look behind the people walking, you can see people sitting on a mountain of sand. What the hell is going on here? Does any tent have it's shit together? The answer to that was no. Here is what people stood in to watch GB.
Luckily the spot we had was relatively dry and mud free. Onto the music.
Grizzly Bear: 10/10
Fine for Now
I Live with You
While You Wait for the Others
On a Neck On a Spit
I have had a good chunk of time now to try to put into words how special this band is and how great the show was, but I still have nothing. Trying to find fancy adjectives to fit what they treated us to into some literary capsule would be a disservice to both the band and the music. Daniel and I both agreed that this set made us want to play music, but also not want to play music. The show was nothing short of inspiring, but so amazing that you wonder how what they were able to do is even attainable or possible. The two highlights from the set (the whole set was a highlight, really, but these were the parts that stuck with me) were Lullabye and I Live With You. Lullabye didn't really catch me when I listened to the recorded version from Yellow House, but live it was a completely different animal with different instrumentation, or maybe not different instrumentation but just a bigger fuller sound. I cant describe it accurately. I Live With You has a section where the band are all hitting big notes together, but the fact that they were all singing dead spot on harmonies with each other while doing so was just stunning. This was easily the best set I saw all weekend, and Grizzly Bear are one of those bands that I will never miss anytime I get a chance to see them because I know how amazing it's going to be. When you add a live show like theirs to the critical acclaim their new record is getting, it is hard not to imagine this band becoming huge, and I hope it happens for them because it is well deserved.
My plan after seeing them was to go watch Al Green, but I was so blown away by this band that I didn't want to listen to anything for a while so that I could let what I just saw and heard sink in. The only thing I can liken it to is that it was sort of like eating the best meal you have ever had in your life and then immediately popping a piece of gum in your mouth, and as not to take away from what I had just experienced I went and sat down by the Which stage and waited for TV on the Radio to begin.
TV on the Radio: 6/10
Blues From Down Here
Wolf Like Me
Staring At The Sun
Shout Me Out
I don't know. Maybe part of it was that it wasn't Grizzly Bear, or maybe I was in the mood for something else, but this just wasn't doing it for me like I thought it would. I really like Dave Sitek's production and the sounds he gets on their albums, but his live guitar tone is a blaring midrange mess. This was probably the only set I wore earplugs at, and it was only because it was so piercing. Speaking of not wearing earplugs, the sound as a whole at Bonnaroo was excellent. I was really impressed with almost every set with the exception of Animal Collective and this set. Other than that every stage was fantastic. I watched almost the entire set, I think I left halfway through Family Tree and while I appreciated the song selection, I just couldn't get past the sound of the songs to really enjoy it.
Afterwards I trekked back to the Other tent to watch some African dance music courtesy of Amadou & Miriam, but first paused by the fountain to see if my suspicions from the previous day had been realized, and they had. On Thursday I had noticed that the fountain had drainage grates but I didn't see an obvious water source, so I figured it was just recycling the water over and over again. Add in a few thousand dirty and muddy hippies using it as a shower and you get this.
Gross. I saw people in it all weekend. It's like jumping into a shower full of syphallis. Ugh.
Amadou & Miriam: 8/10
A lot of fun. I missed them a few years a go at Coachella and was bummed, so this was a nice chance to make up for that. Below are some pictures and video. The guy in the second video was getting really into it, but you can only see him when the lighting is just right. He kept turning his head my way so I would cut over to the band so as not to be too obvious about filming him, but he was just begging to be taped with his dance moves.
Great fun. We stayed for about 30 minutes or so and then covered the most amount of ground possible over to the main stage to watch Beastie Boys.
Beastie Boys: 9/10
Biz Us Nuge
Time For Living
Super Disco Breakin
No Sleep Till Brooklyn
Shake Your Rump
Pass The Mic
Too Many Rappers
Something's Got To Give
So Watcha Want
Heart Attack Man
I wasn't expecting to enjoy this as much as I did but they put on a really great show that was a lot of fun and very diverse. They played their hip hop stuff, their punk stuff and their sort of funk/soul jam kind of stuff and it was really great. I was with Tommy for all of this set and him and I had a good time trying to rap along to the songs we knew, which was quite a few surprisingly. At least surprisingly for me, although I do own a few of their records. It was cool to hear some of the older mid 90s stuff like Sure Shot, So Whatcha Want and Root Down, but hearing Paul Revere and No Sleep Till Brooklyn was great too. We left during Intergalactic and kept on rapping on our walk over to David Byrne.
David Byrne: 9/10
One Fine Day
Help me Somebody
House In Motion
My Big Nurse
My Big Hands
Life Is Long
Cross-eyed and Painless
Born Under Punches
Once In A Lifetime
Life During Wartime
Feel My Stuff
Take Me To The River
The Great Curve
Burning Down The House
Everything That Happens
There isn't much you can say when you get the section of setlist that we got, which was Born Under Punches until the end. It was a real treat being able to hear him play the iconic Talking Heads material, and the whole crowd was really into it. "THIS AINT NO PARTY, THIS AINT NO DISCO, THIS AINT NO FOOLIN AROOOOOOUUNNND." Etc. etc. It was a really fun set and along with Beastie Boys it was a great one-two punch for the 8 - 11 pm block of time. The band took a quick break for an encore right before Burning Down the House which Byrne did wearing a tutu while participating in coordinated dance moves with some people on stage, who were also in tutus. Tutus for everyone! After he finished up I met up with the big Coachella group again who for some strange reason were all going to go watch Phish. I tried my best to warn them that it was a bad idea but they weren't having it. We went our separate ways and I headed over to watch Phoenix at the That tent. Before the show I made friends with some kids from Tennessee and told them that they needed to come to Coachella. They were friendly and funny, especially Jessie, a short, bubbly, blonde southern girl with a drawl to her speech who was in a bikini. I liked Jessie. Shortly before Phoenix began I looked behind me only to discover that the group I warned earlier had had enough of Phish and bailed. I gave them the "I told you so" face and they acknowledged my foresight. I was glad to have them back at a good set.
Long Distance Call
Run Run Run
Start to finish this was excellent. High energy, great songs and the crowd was into it the entire time. Most of the songs came off of their new album which is a lot of fun, and closing with 1901 was ace. I really love that song, and it did not disappoint. I high fived the new friends I made and was making my way over to watch Public Enemy when Daniel texted me saying he was at the Hood Internet at the Xbox Disco (another tent, seriously there were like 4572049602650265 different stages at this thing), so I charted a new course for some more mashup fun. This set was a lot more fun than the previous night in the Silent Disco. First of all I wasn't listening to it through headphones, he seemed to learn how to DJ overnight, and I kept getting looks from girls being that I knew pretty much everything he was playing. I am pretty sure they all wanted me really bad. It was probably my sweet dance moves. We stayed until he started playing not so great tracks, but we were in there for a good hour or so and had a lot of fun. I would give this set a 9/10. Here is where he played.
And here is some video. He's kind of a dork.
After doing a little dance related pre-game at Hood Internet we were ready to get our rave on over at Paul Oakenfold, so we made our way to the This tent as Public Enemy was finishing up. Flava Flav was rambling on about peace and love and the Earth or something but he had the crowd into it. Once they finished we met up with the group again and Oakenfold took to the stage.
Paul Oakenfold: 5/10
There is a reason they call him Oakenjoke, and it's because he is a shitty DJ. I was into it for the first half hour or so and then I started listening to the transitions and the tracks and it just sucked. How this guy got so big is a mystery to me. On the ride home Daniel and I were talking about it and were trying to come up with other nicknames for him. All we could think of were Oakenfolds under pressure and Brokenfold. Also at this point I was hurting pretty bad and needed to sit down so I went outside of the tent and gave it an ear to see if it would get any better (it didn't). So I am sitting there minding my own business, listening to shitty trance music and I look over to see some dude who was holding what looked like a ball on a rope. On fire. It was about 3 or so in the morning at this point, I was exhausted, drained from the sun and no sleep and possibly slightly brain damaged from the mess that our buddy Paul O. was creating, so I did a double take, and flaming ball man was still there, only now, he had two of them. He then got his rave on.
Ok I knew security was lax, but come on. The guy has flaming balls he is waving around for God's sake, and nobody said anything? It was pretty cool though, I do admit that. He clearly knew what he was doing. I guess at this point I shouldn't have expected anything different. After flaming ball guy I was ready for some rest so I trudged back to our camper only to find that HEY WHATS UP GUYS THIS YOUR NEIGHBORS, STILL PLAYING SHITTY MUSIC BUT NOW IT'S LIKE 3 AM! THIS IS SO AWESOME! THINK WE ARE GOING TO STOP? OH THAT'S RIGHT BROHAMMERS WE ARE GOING ALL. NIGHT. LONG. WOO! SPEED METAL AT 4 AM! 5 AM! 6AMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!
Never in my life have I wanted to drive a bus head first into a crowd of people more than at this moment. Never. With earplugs and exhaustion I finally made it to sleep around...oh I don't remember. 6:30 sounds accurate.
BUT ONLY FOR ABOUT 4 HOURS BUDDIES BECAUSE THAT'S RIGHT IT'S YOUR NEIGHBORS BACK WITH SOME SWEET ASS JAM MUSIC AT 10 AM! BONNAROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!
I think there is a national "don't sell a gun to this person" list somewhere out there. I should be on that list. I somehow drifted in and out of sleep up until about 3 in the afternoon, which worked out because I got up and went straight in to catch Bon Iver. Before I get to that I should pause and mention how amazing Friday was. Looking at scores from those sets, I enjoyed myself pretty much from when I walked in until I got back to the speed metal listening party at the camp site. The weather was great, the music was amazing, the food was good, that girl Jessie, etc. Great great day. Anyway, back to the show.
Bon Iver: 8/10
Feel Like Going Home (Yo La Tengo cover)
I have been getting really into Bon Iver lately and I had heard that he/they were absolutely amazing at the Sasquatch festival that was in Washington at the end of May so I was really expecting something great. By the time I got to the tent I was dripping with sweat and the place was a damn zoo. Finding shade wasn't easy and I somehow ended up behind this girl that was laying on the ground trying to sort of swim in the grass. This girl was tripping balls. And at Bon Iver. Sleepy heart-wrenching folk music. I don't know, but that sounds like a waste of drugs to me. Anyway, the set was good, but not great. Blood Bank was wonderful, as was Bracket, WI, but nothing put it over the top. He said that the band was going to do a cover and I got really excited because they do an amazing version of a Sarah Siskind song that I would have loved to had heard, but they did a Yo La Tengo song instead. Oh well. Even the Wolves sing along (video below) didn't pull me in. It may have been the heat, I am not sure.
After they finished I stuck around for Of Montreal.
Of Montreal: 8/10
Nonpareil of Favor
Bunny Aint No Kind Of Rider
Rapture Rapes The Muses
The Party's Crashing Us
Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse
October Is Eternal
A Sentance Of Sorts In Kongsvinger
Beware Our Nubile Miscreants
Girl Named Hello
For Our Elegant Caste
Touched Something's Hollow
An Eluardian Instance
She's A Rejector
The Past Is A Grotesque Animal
This set really only gets an 8 because of the Hissing Fauna material, especially the last two songs. The performance as a whole wasn't as musically tight as it was sort of a giant theater performance. This is what most of it looked like.
I am probably just as confused as you are right now looking at those photos. But it was pretty good I suppose. I would like to see them at their own show to see if it is any better musically, or if it is still sort of all over the place. After they were finished destroying their equipment (kinda cheesy but symbolic given the nature of the last song's subject matter) I went over to the main stage and caught a good chunk of Wilco.
Wilco (The Song)
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
Company on My Back
Blue Black Nova
You Are My Face
Pot Kettle Black
Side with the Seeds
Shot in the Arm
At Least That’s What You Said
You Never Know
The Late Greats
Hate It Here
I’m the Man Who Loves You
Outtasite (Outta Mind)
I have really wanted to like Wilco for a long time but have only been able to enjoy Sky Blue Sky, which I know will upset long time Wilco fans, but hey, I have tried multiple times, with multiple albums, AND I went to see them AND I gave them a 9. So you keep it to yourself. All that being said, these guys are a really talented live band. Nels Cline is a fantastic guitar player and I really loved watching Glenn Kotche, their drummer. Another drummer who was incredible was Grizzly Bear's. I don't think I mentioned that. They were ridiculous. Ok, Wilco. I arrived just before the start of Impossible Germany which was cool being that I know that one and really that was the song that finally clicked for me, so it sort of felt like they knew that I was walking over. Nels absolutely killed the guitar solo in that tune, and from then on till the end I was really into what they were doing. Spiders was great and quite lengthy, and they played a couple other tracks off of Sky Blue Sky so I was really pleased that I made the trip over to watch them. I am going to give them another try and see if those older records work for me now. Hopes are high. Fingers are crossed. Here are some photos I took during their set.
It was just a great experience with this band and I think I would put them in my top 5 for the weekend. On the way over I took a bunch of photos, just trying to capture the "shit everywhere" I was talking about. The photos below are if you were turning your head from left to right.
After Wilco I went back over to the This tent to catch some of the Decemberists.
The Decemberists: 8/10
The Hazards of Love (Album)
The Crane Wife 3
Leslie Anne Levine
The Engine Driver
Crazy On You (Heart Cover)
Daniel was there up close for the full set and according to him this was definitely one of his favorite sets from the weekend, but I am glad I missed most of it except for the last chunk of songs because their new record is pretty silly. I loved the Crane Wife, their previous release, but Hazards of Love is just too much ridiculousness for me. I cant take it seriously. Anyway, the band broke for a very short encore and then came out and played those last 6 songs, a couple of which were really old tracks, but what stole the show for me was the Heart cover. Colin Meloy was sort of noodling on his guitar for a minute and loosely played the opening riff from Crazy on You, and I turned to the people next to me and we shared a "Was that...Heart?" moment together which was pretty funny, and then they completely nailed the song. While they don't make it into my top 5 acts or things I saw, that cover was certainly a favorite moment from the festival, and people were talking about it later behind us in line for food. After eating I went back over to the main stage because it was Boss time. Well, I went back to the camper first and told our neighbors to keep their shit down, and upon re-entry got stuck behind a girl with a rave scepter, and then it was Boss time.
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band: 7/10
My Lucky Day
Out in the Street
Working on a Dream
Raise Your Hand
Santa Claus is Coming to Town
Waiting on a Sunny Day
Kingdon of Days
Born to Run
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Land of Hope and Dreams
Dancing in the Dark
Boss time had been going on for a while before I eventually got there. I think I walked up when they were playing Promised Land. I have no clue really, that just seems to be about the amount of songs I saw. I stayed until Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out. Musically they were really great, although I was hoping Max Weinberg would be there, but his son was drumming instead. The only song I really knew was Born To Run, and I didn't really feel like sticking around at that point, so I left. I was just kind of there because it's Springsteen, and I might as well take the opportunity to see him while it presented itself. I got some cool pictures though.
After Boss Time I wandered around and took some night time related photos and then went over to the That tent for Yeasayer. Here are the photos.
Wait for the Summer
This is another setlist that I think is incorrect, but you could just write in "awesome" for every song name and that would work just as well. I was really conflicted being that they were playing at the exact same time as Nine Inch Nails, but I don't regret this decision at all. Yeasayer was my second favorite act of the weekend behind Grizzly Bear, and came close to achieving Grizzly Bear status. They had an auxiliary percussion guy who was a lot of fun to watch, and the songs were really tight and performed well. I had sort of a blocked view as you can see, but it didn't bother me too much being that I had to get out of there as soon as they were done.
Tightrope was awesome, Sunrise was awesome and 2080 was really powerful. The guy next to me knew every lyric and got really into that one, and I high fived him after it was over. He told me he was on drugs. Oh, drugs. There were a lot of drugs. And not like weed and ecstasy, I saw shit that I didn't expect (cocaine) and it kind of caught me off guard. I mean I knew it was there, but it was just so blatant and nonchalant. I've never seen that at Coachella, even after going for 7 years. Bonnaroo is sort of it's own world in that way, for better or for worse, depending on what your experience was like. I digress. After they ended I hauled ass to catch what I could of Nine Inch Nails.
Nine Inch Nails: 8/10
March of the Pigs
Piggy (Nothing Can Stop Me Now)
I'm Afraid of Americans
Banged and Blown Through
The Way Out Is Through
Mr. Self Destruct
The Hand That Feeds
Head Like a Hole
The Good Soldier
The Day The World Went Away
For the "last NIN show ever in America," I thought the setlist was a little lackluster. I enjoyed it a lot, don't get me wrong. Hearing La Mer (I got there a couple minutes before this one started), The Fragile, The Way Out is Through and The Day the World Went Away was awesome, being that The Fragile is easily my favorite NIN record. I guess I just wanted more from that album. I'm greedy, I know. I was pretty bummed to find out that I missed I'm Afraid of Americans, but it could have been worse (The Perfect Drug or Just Like You Imagined). Hurt was really powerful as was Mr. Self Destruct. Wish was nuts. Watch.
Right? Yeah. Here are some pics.
So that closed out Saturday night. That and a piece of pizza and the tail end of Kids by MGMT. Apparently they were good, although I find that highly doubtful. On the way back to the camper I was mentally preparing myself for an onslaught of shit music, only to find that it was nice and quiet. Thank you shitty neighbors from Ohio. Thank you.
Sunday was pretty tame. I had a small group of bands that I wanted to see and only ended up seeing four of the six on my schedule, beginning with Ted Leo.
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists: 8/10
Parallel or Together?
Mourning In America
Me And Mia
Bottled In Cork
Even Heroes Have To Die
Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone?
Where Was My Brain?
Counting Down The Hours
A Bottle Of Buckie
Stove By A Whale
The only complaint I have from this set was that there wasn't enough material from Shake the Sheets on the setlist, as a lot of it was new, but the new stuff was really good. The band was solid as usual and were a great way to start my final day at Bonnaroo. Here's a picture. I really enjoy how his drummer looks like the caddy from Happy Gilmore.
After Ted and Co. finished up I had about an hour to kill so I wandered around and took a bunch of photos. Here they are, with brief commentary.
The grounds were bordered by wooden fences that people were free to spray paint on which made for some cool art and funny text.
The famous Bonnaroo arch. I didn't walk under it once all weekend as I used a different entrance the whole time.
Everyone there hates Kanye West because of his fiasco from last year. I saw anti Kanye stuff all weekend but this was my favorite.
Phallic drinking fountains. These were usually pretty crowded.
I'm sorry but your general music festival population is not smart enough to figure out what goes in each bin. Be realistic, not optimistic.
The main stage area. Very very large, probably 50% bigger than Coachella's.
Here is a better view of the main stage.
And the pit area that you have to line up for at the main stage, which is a really really stupid system.
These people were all waiting for Erykah Badu, who happened to be the next act I saw.
Erykah Badu: 8/10
I still cant find a complete or even partial setlist for Erykah, but I know for sure that she played The Healer/Hip Hop, My People, Didn't Cha Know, Back In the Day (Puff) and Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip Hop). Her band was incredibly good, and that is pretty much the reason that she gets an 8, considering she came out a half hour late. This really upset this dude next to me who I was talking to and who was from Kentucky. He is one of those guys that you wouldn't peg as an Erykah Badu fan, but hey, it was good to have him there. Well, when he wasn't complaining. I was bummed that Honey wasn't on the setlist, as that was the only song that I wanted to hear, and I was almost 100% certain she was going to play it being that it's the single from her latest record. Oh well. This set would have benefited from being later in the evening because at this point the clouds had wore off and it was hot. Really hot. I think that may have drained some of the crowd's energy, but most of the people around me were getting into it. Erykah was very gracious and mentioned multiple times how happy she was to be there and the crowd appreciated hearing that. Also, again, her band was really amazing and stopped on a dime anytime she'd say "hold on" or put her hand up to do a line with no music. At a certain point it felt like she over used that, but because every hit by the band was so in unison it wasn't sloppy. Props. I wasn't planning on watching all of her set but I did, which meant that I missed most of Okkervil River, but I have seen those guys like 8 times in the past 2 years or something silly like that. I did catch a little though.
Okkervil River: 9/10
Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe
Unless It's Kicks
The reason I have seen them so many times and why I did the walk from the furthest stages apart from each other to see them again is because they kill it every time, and this was no exception. I only got five songs, but the band was spot on as usual and the people around me knew all the cues and all the lyrics. Will got everyone involved with some clapping on Unless It's Kicks and the crowd ate it up. I have a feeling that this set as a whole was better than the one at Coachella this year, and if you saw that one, you know that that is saying a lot.
After they were done I met up with Daniel for some African food which was really good, and we separated and I made my way over to the This tent for my last and probably most anticipated set of the weekend, Neko Case.
Neko Case: 8/10
People Got A Lotta Nerve
Hold On, Hold On
Deep Red Bells
I Wish I Was The Moon
I'm An Animal
Swing Low Sweet Chariot (with Triumph the Insult Comic Dog)
Margaret vs. Pauline
Don't Forget Me
The Teenage Feeling
This Tornado Loves You
Vengeance Is Sleeping
If You Knew
Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth
Magpie To The Morning
The Next Time You Say Forever
John Saw That Number
The songs in red are ones that were cut, and I know this because I was able to score a setlist from this show. And not just any setlist either, this was Neko's personal one.
Yeah, boy. If all of these songs were played, this would have been a 10, easily, but apparently Neko wasn't feeling up to it so they ended early. Triumph the Insult Comic Dog came out for some comedic banter with Neko, asking her if the dogs she rescues get to watch her shower, and things of that nature. They then sang Swing Low Sweet Chariot together which was amusing. I would have preferred 3 more songs to having all of the Triumph shenanigans, and that may have bumped the set up to a 9, but I don't feel like the energy was 100% there the whole time. I was still really happy that I got to see Neko being that I feel like I have been waiting forever to be able to do so, and I would go see her again in a heartbeat. She's a fox.
So I was done with Bonnaroo. Well, almost. The Coachella group I mentioned were savvy enough to organize a mini rave at their campsite, complete with a sweet speaker system, home made flyers for advertising and a ton of glow related accessories. I was lucky enough to have them have me DJ for them, which was a blast. I played for probably two and a half hours which is the longest I have ever played, and I don't think I will ever be able to say that I have DJed anywhere more awesome than on a farm in Tennessee. Also the fact that they are all really into electronic music beats all the crowds at parties that I have played at combined. To those reading this that were there, you were the shit. Thank you, thank you, thank you. We had complete strangers come join us for brief periods of time here and there and it seemed like everyone had a really great time. I might have had more fun than everyone there, but some of these guys sure gave me a run for my money. For those wondering, I used my laptop and a USB powered mixer/software controller that I had been trying to figure out three or four days before I left for Bonnarroo, and it worked out great.
Daniel and I got back to our camper somewhere around 4 am, and passed out from exhaustion. It was a huge relief to return to the campsite only to find that our jam band blasting friends had promptly left, and to be honest, I didn't ever see them go into the damn festival. I don't know, nor do I care. We awoke the next morning and got in line to leave. Here was the scene that morning.
So immediately after we left the campgrounds we headed over to the Old Stone Fort (only about 7 miles away) golf course and played 9 holes with two older gentlemen who were very nice, but slightly unnerving. We were telling them that we had just gone to the festival, and one remarked that you couldn't get him to that thing unless he had a hard-on and was trolling for "poo-say." Wow. They then started talking about politics and the economy and the same guy mentioned how his sister in law was saying that Obama was only half bad because he was only "half ******." I was sort of stunned silent, I couldn't believe what I had just heard, especially when the other guy made some comment to the effect of wondering what Obama would be like if he were full. For as nice as everyone we encountered in Tennessee was, they were extremely small minded which was very disheartening. I'm not naive enough to think that racial tension in America like that is gone, but the fact that they were tossing around words like that so cavalierly gave me pause. And this was on the first tee. Luckily they cooled the politics talk down and we talked about Tennessee and golf and such.
Yes, the trolling for poo-say guy brought his damn dog to the course. Oh, Tennessee. The course was really beautiful though as you can see. The state is so green, it was a nice change from the desert scenery I am used to. After golfing we were back on the road on our way to Shreveport, Louisiana to meet an old friend of mine and crash for the night. The drive was nice and scenic.
Corn in Alabama.
Alabama and Mississippi mostly looked like this. Notice the massacre on our windshield.
Sunset in Mississippi.
We got into Shreveport at about 1 am, and we were both able to take a shower, which may or may not have been the best shower I have ever taken. Sleeping under a proper roof was nice as well. The following day we went out for lunch at Don Juanz, a mexican food place that was actually pretty good. It was baha style mexican food, and my fish tacos were seared sushi grade ahi tuna, which was pretty tasty. Everything in California is battered and fried, so it was nice to have something different. Here is Matthew and yours truly. He is a JAG officer in the Air Force.
And here's Shreveport.
The rest of the day consisted of driving through Texas again, which was mind numbing and exhausting. This state is so damn big, and you only realize it when you drive across it. Twice. He we are racing the sun.
So. It's about 11:50 pm, and I am driving. My GPS says that the speed limit is 80, as do the signs posted along the highway. I have the cruise control set at 75 as we are in no rush and it seemed like a good cruising speed. I see what I think is a highway patrol car sitting in the median flip a quick u-turn and head in the same direction we are traveling in. Once his lights came on, it was pretty obvious it was a state trooper, and that he wished to speak with me. So we pull off of the highway, he comes up to the window and asks me if we have an emergency to necessitate us speeding. I tell him that no, we do not have an emergency, and that I was under the impression that the posted speed limit was 80, as that is what was shown on my GPS and on the speed limit signs. He gets a smug as hell pompous Texas attitude and tells me that the night time speed limit is 65. The way he said made me want to smack a brick square into his face. This guy was an asshole. I would be too if I live in a giant shit hole like Texas. Uh, excuse me? Night time speed limit? Ohhhhh, YOU MEAN THE SIGNS THAT ARE BLACK? THOSE ONES? YOU KNOW, BECAUSE THOSE ARE EASILY VISIBLE IN THE GODDAMN DARK. What a crock of shit. Clearly my intent was not to speed, as I was going 5 mph under what I thought the speed limit was and I was from out of state. This is a goddamn money making scam and they know it. What else is there in Pecos, Texas? NOTHING. If I was pulled over 10 minutes later I would probably have considered getting legal about it, because those, again, BLACK, signs say "Night" on them. Night technically ends at 12 am. They should say "dark" although that is subjective as well. Anyway. The officer can eat a dick, the entire state of Texas can eat a dick, and I say let them secede and then carpet bomb the shit out of 'em. We can keep Austin. Other than that I have absolutely nothing good to say about Texas, with the exception of Crystal, the hostess/server/bartender at Joe Allen's Pit BBQ in Abilene, Texas. I might make her my wife. She is the lone star in Texas. Other than that, worthless. Worthless.
10%? Really, asshole? Really? Die.
We made it to New Mexico and stopped to sleep, and then continued on towards home, stopping for breakfast at a Cracker Barrel outside of Tuscon, Arizona.
New Mexico. Flat.
California's desert welcomes us home.
So. Summary time.
We had a great time, and I am really glad I went. Worth it? Yes. Could things have been run better? Emphatic yes. I feel like Bonnaroo could benefit from a little, well, a lot more organization. That is an aspect about Coachella that I really appreciate. Everything from the line to get in and instructions for the line to get in, the stage names, the placement of vendors and food, and general scheduling could have been better. The late night sets weren't terribly special to me but I think that is because they didn't feel any different than sets a couple hours previous, and really I don't know how most people even do sets that go until 4 or 5 in the morning without the aid of drugs, which this festival seems to be well suited for. Again, a lot of drugs. The whole attitude there is a lot more lax, which may account for some of the lack of organization, but I know most Bonnaroo fans prefer that as it is more of a go-with-the-flow kind of attitude and that is fine. That is just not what I am looking for personally. Ins and outs between the campsite and festival are nice I suppose, but I think I took advantage of that once only because I forgot something. Daniel went back to nap a couple times, but I am used to Coachella where once I am in, I am in and I go till I'm done. I am really glad we had the camper and were in a close campsite, as having a wet tent and long walk would have been a real drag on the experience. The rain really threw me for a loop though. It's not that I wasn't expecting it, but seeing massive mud puddles everywhere with nothing done about them (i.e. Grizzly Bear) was just kind of unacceptable I think. I did appreciate the longer set times, but I still saw a lot of half sets because the scheduling wasn't great. If I went again I would fly and then rent an RV. Speaking of RVs, we were never checked for the RV pass that we bought which kind of pissed me off. That thing was like $130, and that money was pretty much wasted. Get your shit together Bonnaroo. I felt like I said that a lot over the weekend. Another thing Coachella has over Bonnaroo is that sunset time slot. There was not really a sunset feeling at Bonnaroo, but that may have been due to the cloud cover, but even the acts scheduled at those times could have been better. I don't think that Coachella is a perfect festival either, so those of you who are die hard Bonnaroo fans shouldn't be getting upset, because again I did have a good time. I saw some amazing sets, some amazing scenery, got to see a good chunk of America that I had never seen before, hung out with friends and made new ones, got to play a campsite rave and basically had an amazing week and a half away from work and home. I wouldn't say that Bonnaroo gave me that life changing experience that Coachella did, but I think that is because I went to Coachella first. Once you go to almost any festival you want more, so I think it just depends on which one you end up at first. I would go to Bonnaroo again, but the lineup would have to be ridiculously good to get me there, just because it was so physically and mentally taxing. It's an experience that I will never forget however, and I would recommend it to those who feel like they could handle it.
Miles driven: 4,300
States visited: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana
Favorite state: Tennessee
Least favorite state: Texas
Highlights: Decemberists covering Heart, Bonnarave, hot air balloon floating by during Wilco, crossing the Mississippi in Mississippi, listening to Mogwai while driving through a thunderstorm, Crystal in TX
Unexpected oddities: Ate some alligator, speeding ticket
Top 5 sets:
1. Grizzly Bear
3. Dirty Projectors
4. Beastie Boys
Thanks again, Bonnaroo. You were wonderful.