CL on the Road: Live ongoing coverage from Bonnaroo 2010 in Manchester, Tennessee (with pics)

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Miike Snow, 7:30-8:30 p.m.

First of all, lets be clear: Miike Snow is a band, not a person. Hailing from Sweden, this indie electro pop-whatever band knows how to make some people move. Their self-titled release has been remixed by Passion Pit, Mark Ronson and Peter Bjorn & John, to name a few. Early in the evening on Thursday, when my fourth wave of adrenaline began to wane, Miike Snow took the stage at This Tent. I love their debut album and the remixes that have followed, but often groups like Miike [image-1]Snow fail to deliver in a live setting. Miike Snow was different though -- live they were even better. They played their big hits, “Silvia” and “Animal,” but made sure to toy with the presentation to give concert goers that oh so special experience. Crowd surfers coasted across the high energy audience and the whole tent undulated like the sound waves coming from the band's instruments. --Arielle

Local Natives [pictured right], 7-8 p.m.

Local Natives began their set to a scenic Manchester sunset and requisite relieving drop in temperature. Maybe it was the “ahhh”-ing comfort these elements provided or the good vibes (and pot smoke) wafting through the tent, but L.N. had me feeling fantastic by the end of their set. Rife with complex vocal harmonies, tribal-like percussion, and panged, introspective lyricism, Local Natives breathed life into a majority of songs off their debut LP, Gorrilla Manor and looked like they were having the time of their lives doing it. --Andrew

[image-2] [pictured left], 8:30-9:30 p.m.

I only caught a fraction of Neon Indian’s set, but even so, this smidgen was enough for me to type the note “download Neon Indian” on my Iphone in the middle of a crazed and packed photo pit. My gripe with previous listens of Neon Indian was that they were too hushed and repetitive for the genre they seemed to be aiming for. Personal bias, but I like my dancey stuff loud, sugary-sweet, and rife with catchy hooks. Regardless, Neon Indian’s music pumped through gargantuan concert speakers with lead singer Alan Polomo and the rest of his band breaking it down and getting all funky to their own tunes, definitely giving me some new perspective on the matter. --Andrew

Frank Turner [pictured right], 10-11 p.m.

[image-3]Frank Turner gets best act of Day 1, in this writer’s humblest of humble opinions. Playing to a crowd of maybe 100 in the Troo Music Lounge (aka one of the smallest stages at ‘Roo … if you even want to call it that), Frank was equal parts comedian, suave Brit, and most importantly, fantastic folk songwriter. With a single acoustic guitar and a head full of lyrics, Frank strained through every word of his songs with veins bulging from his thin, sweaty neck as if he was reliving each mentioned memory for the first time. Juxtaposed with his near Monty-Pythonian stage banter, Frank Turner’s set was something really special and, in a sense, what I think Bonnaroo’s all about. More on that later. --Andrew

Mayer Hawthorne and the County [pictured below, photo by Eric Hunter], 10:30-11:30 p.m.

[image-4]Watch out Adele, beware Duffy and get out of the way Lily Allen. There is a man on the neo-soul scene that is mmm-mmm-good. Think a male Amy Winehouse minus the beehive and crack addition.

Nursed on classics like the Police, the Beatles, Michael Jackson, Barry White and Queen, Detroit’s Mayer Hawthorne is repackaging soul and R&B for today’s generation. Hawthorne, who spent a few minutes speaking with CL, says his passions fall into several genres but he spent the majority of the past few years in the hip-hop scene. His latest album, A Strange Arrangement, mixes soul, R&B and cabaret into a vintage sound extravaganza. Since discovering him a little over four months ago, I became obsessed with A Strange Arrangement.

After watching him perform last night, I am fairly certain that Hawthorne could be the resurrection of blue-eyed soul but perhaps with a dirtier mouth. His voice is silky but power packed and can hit highs and lows with ease. In a tailored white and blue pinstripe suit, complete with matching bow-tie, Hawthorne slinked about the stage and meandered from tambourine to keys with ease. And he pulled two of my favorite cheese-ball moves -- a shout out to the ladies in the house and slow jam to get the lovebirds percolating. His pseudo-James Brown interaction with audience was utterly charming, ranging from shout outs to his hometown Ann Arbor, just outside of Detroit, to his persistent questioning of the Laker’s game score. Hawthorne totally won over the crowd and his impromptu jam to Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend” turned even the most cynical music snobs to putty. Hawthorne’s performance Thursday night ran like a well-oiled Vegas showcase steam train. (Check out next week for the complete video interview...)

The xx [pictured right], 11:30 p.m.-12:45 a.m.

[image-5]By the time The xx took the stage at That Tent, I was wiped. I say this because I'm a fan of the trio, but their performance did little for me. Maybe it was going three days straight without sleep, but this performance was dull and without a single crescendo. I loved last year's self-titled release, its simplistic yet pulsing tracks filled with breathy vocals. Former members are alumni from some of my favorites, including Hot Chip and Four Tet, but usually when I am feeling a band, my energy reserves kick in and I am ready to go. But The xx set was just boring. Others around the festival dug the late night timing of the show and chill vibe, but I beg to differ. Their live show offered little variance from the album and even less energy. --Arielle

STAY TUNED FOR: A Q & A with Mayer Hawthorne on vinyl, hip-hop and playing the bass, and Dr. Dog’s Frank McElroy on their new album, plus lots more photos.


Andrew Silverstein: Day 2; Done-zo. Chronologically, we’re burrowed deep in the meaty center of this gargantuan festival and, to be frank, it’s fucking disgusting; feces-speckled port-o-potties (my bare feet discovered this the hard way), sneaky patches of ankle-deep mud, blistering sunlight and the requisite sweat, the neverending sweat. The drugs are available aplenty, but even without them, your mind will take you to some blissfully weird places when it’s sleep-deprived and super-saturated in an audible vat of today’s best music. Here’s the run down on some highlights from day 2.

[image-6]Gaslight Anthem, 1:45-2:45 p.m.

Gaslight leadman Brian Fallon [pictured right] should write the book on how to be a genuinely captivating frontman. With a dimple-pushing grin and an overall kid-in-a-candy-store demeanor, Fallon and his bandmates came bursting out of the gate with gracious strum through their newest single “American Slang” from the same titled upcoming LP. Without skipping a beat they launched into a slew of tracks from their debut LP, ’59 Sound including “Great Expectations,” “’59 sound,” and “Meet me by the River’s Edge.” While the boyish charisma is great, Fallon’s also got a resonating, gruff voice and a pocket full of beautifully tragic lyrics swimming beneath the happy surface. If this is where American rock n’ roll is headed, I’ll be content.

She & Him, 5-6:15 p.m.

I only caught a snippet of She & Him. Word to the wise; don’t try to bum-rush the “too-packed” photo pit or you’ll get booted by Brett Michael’s leathery, emaciated twin. Outside the pit any, opportunity to really see the band was thwarted by a never-ending sea of sweaty bods. From the two songs I listened to, their sunny, 60’s era pop complimented the sunny, you’d-almost-think-was 60’s era atmosphere of the ‘Roo quite nicely. But seriously, if you can’t gawk at Zooey Deschanel, what’s the point? (Just kidding, Zooey. Marry me?)

[image-7] [pictured left], 5:45-7:15 p.m.

In a fest environment, the National are … different. Not necessarily better or worse per se, but there’s something about a band that’s so inherently city-at-night-themed playing during the day amidst this loud, dirty, shitshow of a festival. Even so, they delivered a well-balanced mix of tracks from their latest, High Violet, and older songs from the back catalog with the gracious poise and delivery they’re so well known for. If anything, the set just got me more pumped to see their October show in Orlando. When you hear the phrase “his/her voice fills up the room” you’ll know exactly what it means when you hear the baritone croon of Matt Berninger radiating throughout the club: Chilling.

Dawes [pictured right], 8:30-9:30 p.m.

[image-8]I’ll paint the picture. I sauntered up to Dawes set at the Troo Music Lounge and came face-to-face with one of the most glorious scenes of musical beauty at the ‘Roo so far. A rather small pile of eager bodies, band included, shouting every work to one of the catchiest anthemic folk songs I’ve laid ears upon…a catchy CSNY-era number about being alright, with a few 'ooooOOOhhs' thrown in there, I can’t remember exactly. It didn’t really matter. What did was that this band was, from the looks of it, basically pouring their souls out to a meager crowd of around 70 people. Amidst all the glitz and glamour on the artist side of this fest, it was really nice to see a band so far removed from all the trappings of major-label stardom just playing because they love to play. I could be completely wrong, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t written across each of their sweat-glistened faces. Very moving.

Kings of Leon, 9:30-11:30 p.m.

I wanted so badly for Kings of Leon to fuck up. Just somewhere in their rise to superstardom, make a terribly adult-contemporary, mom-friendly song, or ride hot rods on some lame Pepsi commercial, or produce a track for the Twilight soundtrack (ehrm... Black Keys) -- just something that would negate the fact that all these dudes are complete and total bad-asses. It’s no ill will against Caleb Followill and his boys. Its just rock superstardom is so rife in delusional self-perception and unwarranted, inflated egos that I wanted so badly for them to fit that tried and true narrative of the hollow, profit-driven rock star. It sure would’ve made my job easier and, coincidentally, inflated my own ego in knowing I was right all along, but really, they haven’t. At least not in any way that’s set of the bells and whistles in this ol noggin.

Their ‘Roo perfomance was no exception. They still play a bulk of the older, and much ballsier songs, as well as current anthems like “Sex on Fire” and “Use Somebody.” Even from a football field and a half away, the mix was near perfect with each little vocal nuance of frontman Followill emanating through all corners of the fest. Right as we were walking off, the opening two notes of the Pixies' “Where is My Mind?” sucked us back in like a vortex and kept our undivided attention for the whole song. It was a mesmerizing cover that stayed completely true to the still-fantastic original. The Flaming Lips should probably take note.

[image-9], midnight-1:30 a.m.

The Keys were born to play live. Backstage, from my very cursory perspective (i.e. passing each other, making awkward eye contact), they looked a little burnt out, like they’d rather just be strumming guitars and slamming back whiskey shots at home as opposed to doing it in front of a crowd.

My words were eaten within about 30 seconds of the Keys taking the stage. These guys are monsters; brooding, moon-howling monsters. Dan Auerbach look like a guitar man possessed by Beelzebub himself while drummer Patrick Carney appeared on the verge of pummeling his kit to a meager pile of cracked wood and bent metal. The bulk of songs were pulled from their latest LP, Brothers, and hey, that’s definitely not a bad thing, seeing that it very well might be their best album to date. And to think, there were probably a few walker-byer’s who assumed the Keys were a good 3, 4, or 5 piece. Little do they know the wrath that can be incurred by this terrible twosome.

Arielle Stevenson: Morning never comes easy and bright light coupled with streaming heat only intensify its presence. Coffee is typically the only saving grace for these early mornings, but at $5 a pop, it seemed like there was no hope. But then Friday morning, in a mostly empty press tent, Dr. Dog turned up for their exclusive acoustic set for the media. My feet were aching and I was exhausted but listening to their sweet harmonies and heartfelt melodies were like bluebirds on my shoulder. Not a bad way to kick off day two. A little more rested and ready for the headliners to begin, the energy of the crowd was tangibly reinvigorated on site.

Tori Amos [pictured below, photo by Arielle], 6:45-8:15 p.m.

Let me preface this by saying, I am not some bra-burning femme fatale that had to see Tori Amos. I was on my way to Tenacious D with my significant other when the sound of her voice [image-10]literally stopped us dead in our tracks. Surrounded by so many rock star dudes in ankle boots, crowned with long shaggy hair, sporting suspenders, fedoras or sweatbands, this girl was a breath of fresh air. In a festival teeming with multi-male member bands, playing some formulation of roots rock meets indie meets electronica, Amos, a singer/songwriter riding solo on stage, held her own. While they had their beat-up guitars, banjos, mandolins, and other obscure look-at-me I am so effing cool instruments, Amos drew a sizable crowd with the tone of her voice and fluidity of a keyboard and piano. I've had a long-standing love affair with her music. She was my Joni Mitchell of sorts. But live, oh, she called to the masses like a siren in Homer’s Illiad. I knew that Jack Black awaited me with myriad fart jokes sang to metal riffs, but Miss Amos is the real deal. I wanted to see Tenacious D, I really did, but I truly was whisked away by the red-headed goddess and taken into some other realm by her other worldly vocals.

Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers [pictured below right, photo by Arielle], 7:30-8:30 p.m.

When I was about 12, my dad played Steve Martin’s vinyl record, and I remember a few lyrics but specifically, “be oblong and have your knees removed.” Martin has the ability to be extremely witty without using the crutch of obscenities, thus making him utterly charming. Last night, when he took the stage with his banjo in hand, his comedic sensibility was no [image-11]different. But Steve Martin wasn’t at Bonnaroo to be funny -- he was here to play banjo with the bluegrass power trio the Steep Canyon Rangers. Martin isn’t doing this for publicity, either; he's been a longtime musician and is humble about the serious skills he possesses. Please understand, this man has dedicated the majority of his mental capacity to that little instrument and my goodness, did he heat up the stage. Songs of heartache and triumph had the crowd stomping their feet in The Jerk’s honor. Steep Canyon's fiddle player took off on a wild solo towards the end of the show, popping strings under the stage lights as everyone hooted and hollered. When they played “Orange Blossom Special," I noticed that there is something beautiful about watching young people head bang to bluegrass. That wasn’t all-oh no-can you even guess what song they covered? Martin fans at home, please be extremely jealous when I tell you they performed none other than “King Tut” in true bluegrass fashion with three-part Appalachian harmonies -- and he even did the dance.

The Flaming Lips performing Dark Side of the Moon feat. Stardeath and White Dwarfs [pictured below, photo by Arielle], midnight-2 a.m.

This was one of the top five shows I was looking forward to seeing Bonnaroo’s lineup. Glowsticks and other items which I won’t mention were gathered days before hand to ready my experience. After taking my early evening nap during Kings of Leon, I arose, ready to have my mind blown. Their initial set was all Lips’ tunes, and it included favorites like “She don‘t use Jelly,” “Do You Realize?” and “The W.A.N.D.” Silhouettes of hands amid smoke, laser lights and snowing confetti made me feel like I was experiencing some whimsical dream in reality. Imagine Dali meets Alice in Wonderland on acid.


But when they launched into their highly anticipated performance of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, my mind was not blown. Maybe there was too much time to ponder the magic that was in store. Maybe heat exhaustion killed my buzz. Maybe I should have invested in the same mind-altering substances as the rest of crowd. Whatever it was, their performance not only left much to be desired, but was straight up dull. I was bored. Me, bored while the Flaming Lips performed of one my favorite albums of all time. In consulting others in my fears that there was something wrong with me for not enjoying it more, I found comfort in knowing that I wasn’t alone. Numerous pauses between songs and a hard dose of soap-boxing rhetoric kind of killed the vibe. It was too complex for its own good. Like an all-you-can-eat buffet of desserts, it sounds good at first but soon you have a bellyache. There was just too much Lip and not enough Floyd. It was an honor and it was spectacular but perhaps over-hyped.

LCD Soundsystem [pictured left], 2:30-4 a.m.

James Murphy and his onstage musical chaos also made the list for top five bands I was stoked to see this year. When I was 16 and Myspace was alive and well, I initially discovered LCD Soundsystems’ “Daft Punk is Playing at My House,” via my neighbor’s profile. Flash forward to my freshmen year in college in 2007, when I heard “Get Innocuous” and “Someone Great," on a mix CD given to me by a friend. Then [image-13]three years later, “Loosing My edge” and “All my Friends,” all occurred at poignant and pivotal moments in my life. Never in my wildest dreams did I think this girl from Largo would get to witness their magic live. Luckily, my nap during Kings of Panty-droppers gave me just the boost I needed to loose my mind during the late night set.

Leading man James Murphy’s vocals were stronger than I was expecting, and provided a huge energy boost to their sound. There was Freddy Mercury-style dramatics in Murphy’s voice that, when coupled with slamming instrumentals from his band, the electronic and instrumental coalesced organically in a menagerie of chest pounding sound. Fan favorites like “New York, I Love You” were delivered in unique packaging with a familiar twist. Everyone, and I mean everyone was dancing. Like a soundtrack to the moment of our lives, Murphy delivered an extremely moving and uplifting set. The music was bittersweet considering that their third and latest album, This Is Happening, is slated to be their last. "We aren't going away until you get bored with us," Murphy said. That could be a while considering the energy in the crowd. People didn’t dip their toes into music, they dived in head first. And Murphy was right alongside them.

Looking ahead: Flaming Lips Wayne Coyne on the meaning of Bonnaroo and life, ten minutes with Ok Go and Dr. Dog’s Frank McElroy talks about recording their latest album. --Arielle Stevenson


Andrew Silverstein:

Well, we’re over the ‘Roo hump. Day 3 brought us rain, some of the best acts of the festival so far, and, maybe just for me, a firm grasp on the ins and outs of this big, dirty party; a $7 shower is well worth it when your hair’s so dirty it crunches, whiskey is best snuck in nestled between your crotch and your waistband (why, yes, officer, I am this endowed!), and while the whole hippie-vibe is great, going barefoot anywhere in this place is just a bad idea. Through it all though, I’m having a great time. All the music, in its rich and varied glory, seems to give a lot of us the power to trudge on, tough it out 'til the end, which, in itself, is quite a beautiful thing.

….Or we’re just too fucked up to care.

Here are some of the best acts I saw on day 3.

The Melvins, 5:15-6:30 p.m.

[image-14]Ho-lee-crap, the Melvins are loud. I wouldn’t expect any less, though. King Buzzo (or El Hombre as he wished to be called) and his motley crue of two, yes two, a drummer and a bassist, viciously pummeled through a slew of sludgy, smoked-out tunes for a rather dishearteningly small crowd. Even so, they absolutely killed it … and all wearing muumuu’s no less. I recently got into the Melvins on a whim and instantly fell in love. They’re one of those bands you hear a lot of modern metal guys (see: Mastodon) cite as a big influence so it’s cool to trace the audible-genealogy back to the source and hear where the inspiration for a lot of these modern riffs, vocal styles, and song structures came from. Seeing it live just re-enforced the fact that Buzz Osbourne is a legend, even if only a handful of ‘Roo-ers believe so.

The Dead Weather, 6-7:30 p.m.

Full disclosure: I hadn’t heard a second of the Dead Weather before watching their set yesterday. Afterward, I’m ambivalent. The music sans-vocals is pretty great. They sound like a beefier White Stripes; fuzzed-out, bluesy numbers with a tinge of Zeppelin-esque pomp. The vocals, howled from the throat of Kill’s singer Alison Mossheart could’ve easily wrecked their set to shambles. I get the whole screamy punk delivery, but juxtaposed over this type of music was just bad. Some things just don’t go together. I wouldn’t want to see Kenny G come out and solo over a Slayer song (or would I?). Even so, she toned it down as the set went on. Jack White sang on a few tracks as well and I longed for the White Stripes.

Weezer, 7-8:30 p.m.

I begrudgingly decided to go and shoot Weezer. Begrudgingly because it’s a near-fact that their last three albums were, for lack of a better word, audible dog shit. I only say that out of love. The music of depressingly weird Pinkerton-era Rivers Cuomo [pictured left] was my childhood. It was sad and weird, but on a certain level, relatable. Now Rivers is just depressingly weird and incredibly cheesy. Songs about Patron, partying, and girls just sound head-scratchingly stupid coming from a band like this.


But, alas, they played a fantastic set Saturday. Greats like “Undone" and “Say it Aint So” transported me back to listening to the Blue Album on the school bus. Nostalgia is a powerful thing, Weezer made me realize. Judging by the smiles and sing-alongs, I’m sure a few others were taken back as well. Now that he’s, for the most part, only the singer (drummer Pat Wilson plays guitar now and a new drummer took his place), Rivers is an absolute nutcase on stage. They ended with a cover “Kids” by MGMT with Lady Gaga's “Poker Face” throw into the mix somehow. Overall a very fun and incredibly entertaining set.

Stevie Wonder, 8:30-10:30 p.m.

Man, Stevie did not disappoint. I walked into his set a few minutes late thus missing his opening keytar diddy, but even so, got to witness a rare musical journey from a living legend. While many artists lose it as they age, Stevie showed no signs of slowing down. Every high and low was belted out in crystal clear form, the keys were sharp and lively, and Stevie was a master crowd-pumper. At numerous times he’d get us chanting a melody and then segue into whatever song he was playing from there. I’ve never seen so much artist/crowd interaction at a concert. Greats like “Higher Ground,” “Superstition” and [image-16]“Uptight” were played in rich, lively form as well as an oddly intriguing cover of “Heard it Through the Grape Vine” belted through a vocoder by the Wonderman. I’d have a really hard time saying I didn’t get my money’s worth after witnessing such a fantastic and rare performance.

Jay-Z, 11:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m.

I stayed to shoot Jay’s first two songs and then split to go watch Dan Deacon. “Run This Town” I recognized and was bass-thumpingly great as Jay nailed every rhyme with the same fervorous energy as the album. If the rest of the set followed suit, I'm sure it was a damn good time...

Arielle Stevenson:


Dawn was kissing the skies when I rolled into camp after LCD Soundsystem. Less than two hours later, the sun was up and Bonnaroo was back in action. After hours of writing, interviewing and transcribing, I escaped the comforts of the air conditioned press tent and ventured into the wilds of day three at Bonnaroo. A strange high takes over when your body goes without sleep for too long. Every drug, including many that I had never heard of, were at my fingertips, but absent of organic or chemical substances, one will still find themselves in an altered state of mind. Additionally conducive to this altered state of mind is not knowing what time it is. In the grind of life, time dictates everything. But at Bonnaroo, music is the chiming bell tower in the town square. There are no numbers on the clock, only a soundtrack for the moment.

Weezer, 7-8:30 p.m

Reasons why I love this band:

[image-17]1. Leading man Rivers Cuomo taught nerdy boys everywhere that to be badass, you don’t have to change a thing -- just add a guitar. Weezer not only made nerdy badass but they made it very umm ... sexy. Yes, I said it: Weezer is sexy. I mean, I just like their music.

2. They write great love songs. “Only in Dreams” is scientific and romantic. Desperation for the woman you love likened to the elements of the periodic table? Be still my beating heart.

3. For a band that takes songwriting pointers from Buddy Holly and the Beach Boys, these fellows know how to get loud. Like 1950's prom music performed in a trash can.

I haven’t been front row at any of the weekends shows until Weezer. The Blue Album was and still is a staple of my everyday musical rotation. Though my enthusiasm for their music has waned since the late '90s, the place they hold in my heart has only grown. Cuomo’s stage presence was undeniable; climbing the massive scaffolding and singing from the rafters, his voice innocent, but gritty. “Buddy Holly,” “Island in the Sun” and “Hash Pipe” were gloriously woven into their hour-long set -- fan favorites that got the 80,000+ crowd throwing their arms in the air and screaming every lyric. It should be said that this was my first Weezer show, but I am fairly certain that Cuomo was experiencing some mind-altering substances. Saturday, it appears he indeed had his hash pipe.

Whilst gaining a major pop presence, Weezer has been successful at maintaining a peripheral attitude towards society. They may be situated in the music scene but they proved their dedication to flipping mainstream society the bird with “Pork and Beans,” which was anthem to Saturday’s crowd: “I’m a do the things that I want to do. I ain’t got a thing to prove to you.” The encore was an unexpected dueling cover of MGMT’s “Kids” and Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face," complete with Cuomo donning a platinum blond wig. Pressed up against the barricades amongst the masses of strangers, I felt at home with those beside me as we shouted into the abyss. It was everything I was hoping for and more.

Music festivals are often lessons in letting go. Even the best laid plans can fall through, and in a rush of 100,000 people, this is bound to happen. And it did to me on Saturday after Weezer. So I chose to wander, aimlessly, and caught Harper Simon (Rufus Wainwright but less brooding and more down home), Stevie Wonder (at the height of boy bands, when my girlfriends were fawning over Nick Carter and Justin Timberlake -- the Jerry curl year -- I discovered Stevie), and Jeff Beck ("Lilac Wine") ...


Andrew Silverstein:

Greetings from the tail end of a brain-draining 13-plus hour overnight car ride. I’m about to hibernate in my lovely, air-conditioned abode for a couple of days. Hope you don’t mind. Here’s a quick recap of my experience on the last, bittersweet day of the ‘Roo.

In the A.M. I got a chance to sit down with Against Me! bassist Andrew Seward. Amongst other topics, we discussed A.M’s relationship with the Tampa Bay area, the biggest influences of their new LP White Crosses, and the finale of Lost. Stay tuned for that as well as their upcoming show at the Ritz later this week with Silversun Pickups ...

[image-18]Lucero [Ben Nichols pictured right], 2-3 p.m.

Lucero’s one of those bands I keep hearing fantastic, nay amazing things about, but always seem to forget when I’m prowling for new music. I’m really glad I waited to see them in all their glory live. Armed with a troupe of horn players and band mates that looked like they got plucked straight out of a truck stop, Ben Nichols' raspy vocals wretched and writhed over a rich blend of heartfelt, Southern-flavored tunes that got the whole crowd gawking or cheerfully singing along. This is the point I realize I’d be digesting A LOT of new music in the next few days.

Aziz Ansari, 1:30-2:45 p.m.

Bonnaroo had a stellar comedy line-up this year. Only problem? The comedy tent is tiny, like uber-tiny. Every show was sold out before, or pretty close to, the time I woke up each morning. Luckily I got word at the last minute that they had some room for a few media people at Aziz’s last show. I booked it over and made the show just in time.

Aziz is, hands down, one of the funniest dudes in show business today. With a set chocked full of anecdotes on 50 Cent, the pitfalls of porno videos, and his “like a shooting star, but fat, brown, and on the ground” cousin Harris, Aziz took hold of the crowd and didn’t let go till the end. I’ll just say I wiped tears from my eyes plenty of times during his set and leave it at that.

[image-19], 4-5:30 p.m.

Creedence Clearwater Revival were some of the greatest southern rockers to grace the planet and Fogerty was at the helm. That was around 40 years ago. Did he still have that unmistakable high-range Southern twang?

Absolutely; and the ability to absolutely shred on the guitar like a man gone mad. Hits like “Down on the Corner” and “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” were played with full force and a still-astounding presence from the rock legend himself. Throw in a fiery rendition of Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman” and you’ve got a damn good set from a rocker who seems to be aging like a fine wine.

Phoenix, 7:15-8:45 p.m.

[image-20]Phoenix’s set was almost a self-fullfiling prophecy for me. You can just hear it on the records; this band could play underwater, on the sidewalk, on top of a double-decker bus and still be all right. Give em a stage in front of a good couple thousand people and they’ll melt faces. Seriously. Their sound? Impeccable. Energy? Relentless. Almost all of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix was played, including the beautiful, mostly instrumental, “Love Like a Sunset,” coincidentally right as the sun was setting on the final day of the fest. Smiles abound, bodies gyrating, hands lifted; it was a beautiful thing just watching the crowd feed off the music. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end my experience here ...

Some final thoughts from Arielle Stevenson:

What it is that draws people to Bonnaroo?

Certainly it isn’t the idea of going days without sleep, a hot shower or a soft bed. We travel hundreds of miles from our respective locales into a bedraggled little valley in the mountains of Tennessee, surely for some greater reason. Musical festivals have experienced a rebirth in the current youth, and I am no exception to its magnetic pull, my first festival Lollapalooza 2007 at 19. Certainly the concept of a congregate of the most influential entities of one's formative years is a factor. But I am not convinced I came here for the music alone. Perhaps it’s the constant control of everyday life. Schedules, responsibilities, dirty laundry and deadlines. Its all so modular. Henry David Thoreau said that most men live quiet lives of desperation. If that is true, perhaps Bonnaroo is the fix for our quest for fulfillment. In a post-war generation, those older have branded us as a lost cause. But if the lives of those which came before us were lead in quiet desperation, why would we want that too? The new American dream is yet to be discovered but its predecessor seems to be overwhelmingly benign. There is no revolution and despite having every amenity and opportunity we fail to make something of ourselves. There is no quiet desperation at Bonnaroo; if there is any desperation, it is more like a scream than a whimper.

We may not be dying for a cause but we are certainly living examples of what was fought for. No, it isn’t the golden age. The economy is bad but we know what is important -- living with passion.

Jack Kerouac’s 1968 classic, On the Road, said “the only ones for me are the mad ones.”

Lost? I beg to differ. I think we could finally be found.

Stay tuned later this week for a TON more photos from Tracy May as well as a full fest recap from Arielle and Andrew. Till next year, Bonnaroo!

Creative Loafing writers Arielle Stevenson and Andrew Silverstein have journeyed north to Tennessee for the weekend to brave the wilds of the four-day fest otherwise known as Bonnaroo, jumping from stage to stage, snapping photos (the ones currently included are all by Andrew), talking to musicians on the fly (audio interviews to be added next week), and reporting back here throughout the weekend about their adventures. Photographer Tracy May is also in the field and will be submitting his own pics later as well; currently, all shots included here are by Andrew unless otherwise noted...

The following is their transmissions direct from the fest, including some photos, with more to be added later; make sure to keep checking back for updates...



Why isn’t mud a four letter word? It should be. Please understand, there is quality to the earthy feeling you get knowing you’re at the mercy of mother nature. The first day is probably the hardest of the weekend as the ‘Roo-gin half of this coverage team can attest. Everyone is utterly exhausted from the drive up, and like a child refusing to nap, they continue on stubbornly.

Well, that first day of Bonnaroo has come and gone and we're ... still alive. Manchester graced us and around 80,000 others with a comfortably warm atmosphere and a slew of great, and not-so-great, but more so great acts on this kick-off Thursday. Here's the rundown on all the bands we got to catch.

Joe Robinson, 1-2 p.m.

Don’t be fooled by this Aussie’s baby face; the 19-year-old is one hell of a guitar player. My first musical act of the festival was an unexpected treat. Wandering without a direction from our campsite towards what sounded like potentially self-indulgent 50-somethings from a far was actually the fresh face of blues and jazz guitar. In 2008, Robinson won Australia’s Got Talent at the tender age of 16. And he is good, really good. His back-up band, Elmwood, equaled Robinson’s age and skill level, and all together, they made some beautiful musical love. Robinson is well-trained and has the chops to back up the emotion in his playing. Imagine if Jimi Hendrix, Peter Frampton and Stevie Ray Vaughn had a baby that John Coltrane delivered... Keep an eye on Robinson, who just moved to the states over a month ago. For the hordes of invigorated 'roo-goers like myself, Robinson was a pleasant surprise to kick off this festival. Arielle

The Postelles [pictured right], 4:15-5 p.m.

With the kick of a bass drum and a swell of howling feedback, the Postelles made it known they were the right dudes to get the party started. Sunny and exuberant with just enough overdrive to let us know they aren't raging sissies, The Postelles played a great, energetic show that, from the looks of it, perked the ears of a lot of new listeners (including myself). "This might be the best show we've ever played," remarked lead man Daniel Balk. I think he might be right. Andrew

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