Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bonnaroo 2011 Review: A Blast or Bust?

It's a loaded question of course. The music is always good, but who truly has the time or energy to see it all? If you aren't beat from the heat, lack of sleep (in the heat), sunburn, all the walking or just plain too much partying and you aren't perpetually waiting on your group of friends, you may just make it to the headliners and late-night sets...Centeroo is usually littered with worn-down party-goers that magically arise when the sun goes down. Asleep or not- The party must go on...And it always, most-certainly does...

For me, this year was a BLAST. It was by far the easiest and most enjoyable of all of my 7 Bonnaroo experiences. In May, I was excited to know that I was going to be playing in the VIP tents with my good friends and Winslows, The Biz. However, it all fell through and I was just more than a little put off by Bonnaroo due to the whole ordeal. But then I figured I am only a little over an hour away and that I should go. I only decided last week to attend, but everything fell together with a quickness. I was able to secure a Staff pass from a friend who worked a load-in earlier in the week. This pass was definitely key in the enjoyment of the weekend. I camped in the shade and/or the air-conditioned tents provided to anyone working the festival. I could make quick trips back to the car (parked behind Which Stage- one of 2 headliners' stages) to replenish supplies and beer. I was even able to use the bathroom in air-conditioned trailers- ALL major pluses to be part of the Staff or VIP. Accommodations were awesome...

The MUSIC...oh yeah, the music...was on-point this year.  I was rolling solo during most of the time during the daytime since many of my friends were working or camped with all the "normal people" out in the General Admission campgrounds, so I got to see a lot of music, more than previous years.

Bands I Saw (in order):

*Beats Antique - They had a new show altogether since the last time I saw them. They are taking on a more Thievery-esque feel with the addition of a bunch of REAL musicians on stage playing their music.

*Bela Fleck and the Flecktones (Original Line-up) - It was good to see this group for the first time in a long time. They played a nice, high-energy show.
*Grace Potter and the Nocturnals - She always puts on a good rock and roll show and this weekend just reaafirmed that fact that I am truly in love with this woman. She has come full-circle and in my humble opinion, she is officially a rock star by all stretches of the word. We only get so many of these in a lifetime...
*Atmosphere - Slug always puts on a good show. He busted out all of the classics and some of the tunes from the new album. He was one of the better hip hop shows of the weekend.
Ray Lamontagne - I only caught a few songs from his set but he sounded great. If I had been with a girl I might have stuck around for the whole thing. I just had to be moving at that point in the day.

*The Del McCoury Band and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band - This was truly legendary. A great collaboration between some of the best musicians still around in their individual styles. They even wrote the new "theme song" for Bonnaroo...

My Morning Jacket - I was kind of upset that MMJ's set ran into Primus' but I didn't let that spoil the time I was able to spend at their show. I have to admit I was slow to jump on the MMJ bandwagon, but recently I have a new-found appreciation for their stuff. The new album is ridiculously awesome. They killed it and I was happy to see some good music before I headed to the Primus show. Yim Yames is also officially a rock star in my eyes.
*Primus - Wow. What can I say? I have waiting my entire life to see this band in this line-up and it melted my face. They played a good set and there was a crazy, performance art stunt during the set as well. Four hang-gliders flew over the crowd in formation and in unison dropped glitter bombs and what I think were LED ribbons. It was amazing. I've never seen anything like it before. PRIMUS SUCKS!!!
*Big Boi - First show of the late-night on Friday that I attended. Big Boi easily out-bumped Bassnectar who was playing a set at This Tent right next to him. Big Boi's show was at least 75% Outkast so of course I enjoyed it. His big stage show is pretty amazing. He has steppers/dancers behind him the whole time. And his lyrics are always on-point. He was one of my favorites of the weekend.
Lil' Wayne - No, I didn't go see Lil' Wayne...
Shpongle - I was ashamed to say that before this, I had never seen the legendary Shpongle LIVE and in action. He put on a pretty damn cool show. Visually amazing stuff.
Pretty Lights - Ehhhh... same set as usual. His stage show looked much cooler with the addition of a huge LED wall that looked like a city skyline. Besides that, he was the same as he ever is. I didn't see a drummer up there either...not to say there wasn't one. It was pretty crowded. All in all, pretty dissappointing...

*Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears - This band puts on one hell of a show. They are funky, sloppy, tight, all-in-one. If you don't know... you better ask somebody. Stop sleeping on these guys. I don't even know what else to say about them...
Black Uhuru - Cool, laid-back reggae set to recharge to.
*The Black Keys - This show was extremely crowded, as you could guess. I still enjoyed it from up-close or some of it anyway. I liked it...although, while I enjoy them as much as the next guy and they obviously have A LOT of fans, I wonder if they should have really played a main stage. I know they have blown up and all but damn..not to take away from their magic...I still loved the show. I don't want to sound like a hater considering I am listening to them right now as I write this...haha...
Bootsie Collins & the Funk University - I was only able to catch a small portion of this one too because he was over an hour late getting on stage. Damn Bootsie. He still brought the funk...as he always does.
*Dr. John w/ The Original Meters and Allen Toussaint and The Nevilles - Quite possibly one of the best shows of the weekend. Not only were there about 30 legends all on one stage (at different times), they were all Nawlins musicians that know how to bring the serious jazz and funk. It was awesome to see this. LEGENDARY for sure.
Eminem - No, I didn't go see Eminem...
*String Cheese Incident - Let me start off by saying that I am not really a huge Cheese fan or anything these days. In fact, I felt quite nostalgic when I started listening to their jams. It had been years since I had seen them. The show, however, got bizaare really quickly, haha...As soon as we walked up, we noticed a huuuuge blow-up T-Rex working it's way around the crowd. Then out of nowhere, the stage went dark, a beat kept on riding and then...well this happened...

Hopefully, you can make out what was going on here. I found the video randomly on Youtube. It was obviously a goofy shot at the Bonnaroo promoters for picking Lil' Wayne and Eminem to headline a music festival...and a shot at "dubstep" as well. Either way, it was pretty damn funny and a bit ridiculous.

After this it got even crazier. SCI dropped about 25-30 huge balls into the crowd to get bounced around. Then, a guy with a jet pack (yes, that's right, a jetpack) tried to take off from behind the stage.

It was a good show. We left early to meet up with people before STS9.

*STS9 - A great show from what I remember...


Railroad Earth - Now I see what everyone is talking about. One great bluegrass band. Check 'em out.
G. Love & the Special Sauce - I only caught a little of this set sitting in a tent far away, but he sounded like he was getting down.
*Mavis Staples - Again, I only caught a fraction of this show but what I saw was amazing. Her new album is pretty good and all of the classics were definitely played as well. LEGENDARY.
Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemaker - Bruce played a laid back set and all the old folks came out for this one. It was cool. I chilled in the shade for a bit then headed over to Galactic.
*Galactic - One of my favorites from the weekend only because it has been so long since I have seen them. Instead of the "House Man" (who is normally on stage singing with them), they have been touring with Corey Glover (yes, the same one from the band Living Colour), a welcome change in my eyes. They killed it and Stanton Moore even rocked a Jimi-esque drum solo from the front of the stage using only a snare and tambourine with a drumhead on it. It was pretty amazing. Even though they have probably been playing the same "festival set" on their festival run, I hadn't seen it yet and I enjoyed it from these Nawlins boys.
Robert Plant and the Band of Joy - I only caught the end and the encore. Very cool to see him in action. They put on a good show from what I actually got to see.
*Super Jam featuring Dan Auerbach and Dr. John - This was one of the best times I had at a show this weekend. I met Stanton Moore of Galactic. We were in the VIP area the whole time and we got to experience everything up-close and personal. Very cool Super Jam. It was especially nice for me because a truly talented Memphian was on stage as well.  The lovely Valerie June was one of their background singers. She did an awesome job, as did the rest of the band. Super Jam is always a good time.
Widespread Panic - I'm not a huge WSP fan, but I have seen my fair share of their shows in the past and from what I could gather it seemed like a good WSP set. Bruce Hornsby (sporting a Dallas Mavericks shirt!!! NBA Champs!) came out and rocked out on the Dr. John tune "Guilded Splinters." It was a good way to end the weeknd...layin' around and chillin' out.
[*My Favorites]

Up-and-Coming Acts (Bands to watch out for):
Gary Clark, Jr. - A mysterious black guy I saw rock out at the Ford Focus tent my friends were working the sound for. He is out of Austin and if he gets money behind him he will definitely blow up. I got the feeling I was watching a future rock star.
Gary Clark, Jr. Myspace
Yes, he has a Myspace account. His page isn't too representative of what I saw, but he is very diverse.

The Kopecky Family Band - From Nashville, these guys (and girl) put on a great show. They definitely brought the heat. Check them out at kopeckyfamilyband.com

All in all, it was an amazing experience. New/old friends, good music, good times. That is what the festival scene is all about. Sometimes it all gets lost in the heat and the relief to just be gone from the madness, however, this year's Bonnaroo was one to remember. Here's to 10 more years of Bonnaroo!

1 comment: