My First Bonnaroo was a pretty amazing experience. The entire festival was set up so well with tons to do, tons to eat (I had NO idea they made veggie corn dogs – A+), and a TON of amazing music. I think the only draw back of Bonnaroo is you simply can't see every act. You have to learn to deal, but damn, it sucks sometimes. Still, I felt really lucky to be experiencing some of my favorite actus up close and personal. Overall, everyone rocked my world.
Also, something that must be mentioned about this year's Bonnaroo is their initiative to take care of the environment. This year, they went all out spreading awareness about green products and also used a full line of organic cotton t-shirts, biodegradable concession service items, revolutionary waste management strategies, and cleaner fuel options. "In partnership
with Tennessee-based company WastAway, Bonnaroo will participate in a revolutionary recycling process that will turn 250 tons of festival garbage into construction material and park benches to be used at future events." If that weren't enough the festival program will be printed on 100% recycled paper. Now, I think THAT is RAD.
On to the music!
The first show that really grabbed me, shook me, made me realize why I traveled to TN in the first place, was the National show. They opened with "Start a War" and I was immediately blown away. The other acts I caught in the day failed to really interact with the audience, but the National delivered a brilliant performance transforming the songs from "Boxer" into stadium sized pop operas equipped with stage theatrics reminiscent, but not as over the top, as their recent tour mates The Arcade Fire. You couldn't help but be happy for this band. They were polished, energetic, and overall brilliant in their execution. "Apartment Story" was the next song that blew the audience away while most of the crowd sang and screamed in utter delight. There were maracas, call and response between vocals and instruments, song after song I literally was BLOWN away. It wasn't just the songs from the "The Boxer" that were so brilliant but most of the set was new material, which I was fine with. The lead singers voice truly soared during "fake empire" where his lower bass vocals were truly able to be heard and felt. He's a great singer, who has mastered the use of dynamics enabling him to switch from a subdued deep sound to a rocking, throat tearing one with the flick of switch.
The highlight was "Slow Show" which sounded COMPLETELY different than it does on "Boxer." As he sang, "You know I dreamed about you for twenty-nine years before I saw you," over and over, the instrumentation grew and swelled and I tell you, I nearly lost it. I can't stress enough how these songs came alive and took on new forms on stage. Being in the photo pit for The National will make anyone a believer.
COLD WAR KIDS
First of all, these kids should have been on a main stage because the crowd was HUGE! Besides being huge they were dying to get their cold war fix! They opened with "We used to vacation" and it sounded perfect. The lead singer's voice is pretty perfect live; I had no idea. Their ability to recreate the raw energy of "Robbers and Cowards" in a live setting was a welcomed surprise. They really shined during "Tell me in the Morning" as well as the crowd favorite and sing-along, "Saint John." "Hospital Beds" was a quicker, more up-beat version that really worked for the festival. The haunting "God Make Up Your Mind" also stuck with me hard. I think the CWK performance at Bonnaroo was a huge success and I would not be surprised if this was not their last performance at the fest. I also think that the CWK backlash can immediately cease; these kids are good.
I was also lucky enough to attend a press performance of the Cold War Kids, Elvis Perkins (who is pretty amazing and charming), and Alec Ounsworth of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! Alec's harmonies were sick and everyone meshed so well, especially on "Expensive Tastes”. My only beef was the set wasn't long enough! They were all so great together, a really good combination, props to Ken (Weinstein) at Big Hassle for putting that all together… spectacular.
Drunk ass Lilly Allen. God Bless her. This girl had me CRACKING up… the shit that came out of her mouth was priceless.
Most memorable quotes "This song is about very small penises. You may have seen them… they're pretty annoying. I used to have one as a boyfriend. I hope he never gets laid again."
She opened with "LDN" and "Nan, You're a Window Shopper" both sweet and fun pop numbers perfect for the middle of the day. She did three covers "Heart of Glass" which sounded WAY better than it did on the Today Show, one of my favorites "Oh My God" by the Kaiser Chiefs, and "Gangstas" by The Specials, which was a hell of a good time.
As drunk as she was, (she mentioned she finished an entire bottle of Jagermeister herself), she was having a genuinely good time! It was refreshing to see a joyous Lily! She made it through almost the entire set without messing up her words! She was pretty proud and mentioned it to the crowd… then of course… she forgot them on her last number! But it didn't matter! "Friday Night" was hilarious good fun and the whole crowd got off of their blanket and onto their feet. The audience loved her and closing with "Alphie" was genius. In a year where I thought I couldn't bear to hear anymore about her, from her canceling shows, forgetting words, being obsessed with her weight, etc. she proves that she is just as adorable as she is naughty, a wonderful addition to the Bonnaroo stage.
What a lady! This was one of my favorite sets. It was cool out, the sun was up, and everyone was being really attentive. She played everything people wanted to hear (except "edit"). The set list included "Samson," "Bobbing for Apples," "On the Radio," "That Time," "Hotel Song," "Poor Little Rich Boy," and a slew of other gorgeous numbers. "Fidelity" was her toke sing-along and a stupendous time at that. Her voice was flawless. She was as charming as she was focused, and she set the mood right as she entered the stage exclaiming, "You're all so beautiful! FUCK!" She had moments where she was truly subdued and others where she rocked out making beats by tapping her finger on the microphone. She even warned us to drink lots of water and wear sunscreen, explaining it was the "Russian Jew" in her. She got real with us saying, "I'm from Moscow and the Bronx. I can do whatever I want." YES YOU CAN! YES YOU CAN!
She commanded the stage like a woman with much more experience, all the while appearing completely unaware of her immense talent and stage presence. I was both surprised and impressed that she could hold a crowd that large on a huge open stage. However, I really need to see her somewhere small and intimate, her voice will gives me the chills. (website)
OK. FEIST IS UNREAL. Besides the fact that I got the set list, which had everything you needed to hear from "Gatekeeper" to "1,2,3,4", she covered all the material I wanted to hear from "Let it Die" and "The Reminder", as well. She is a rock star. She wore this white baseball cap and had a sexy arrogance about her that you couldn't help but love. "My Moon, My Man" was gorgeous, as was "Let it die." She had the crowd harmonize together picking what pitch they should be on based on how far they traveled. While it sounded horrific it was a beautiful moment. There was this strange mystique about Feist that I wasn't necessarily expecting to see. I think myself and my photographer screamed for most of her set, I just couldn't control myself. The entire set had a beautiful duality, a dichotomy that was as refreshing as it was deeply moving. One moment I was dancing with my arms all over the place, the next I was glued to the ground watching her every move. I'm really excited to see more of Feist… what a lady.
THE WHITE STRIPES
I'm sure everyone will be talking about this set. I have never seen the White Stripes before. I stood on the stage, next to Elvis Perkins, looking out on an audience obsessed! It was unreal! I couldn't even jot down what songs they played because I was simply in awe. I don't think I've ever been star struck, and I wouldn't even call this being star struck, but I really felt like I was in another world. This new record is going to be insane if it sounds anything like the way it does live. And the older stripes songs just seem to get better and better and better.
Now, I don't want to be a hater, but I left the Police set early because I was extremely under whelmed. Perhaps it was too hyped? Perhaps I was tired? But they cut their set short, played "jammed" out versions of their classics, and were overall sort of boring… I don't even think Sting knew where Tennessee was to be honest or that he was there. I'll probably go to hell for saying this, but I wasn't impressed at all. I left the set early but as I understand it, I think they finished early too? I guess something just wasn't right… oh well… I saw The Police.
The Annuals are young. The Annuals are also super talented, super grateful, and super beautiful people. Their epic song, "Brother" was one of the best performances of the festival. Each band member brings their unique energy and style to the stage and the whole works beautifully. If I had to give this band a superlative for the festival it would have to be "most likely to succeed." I would definitely keep my eye on these dudes.
Other memorable moments:
The Flaming Lips, David Cross, DJ Shadow, El-P, DJ Sasha.
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Special thanks to Christos for doing this and for sending along these pictures which he took, as well.