I am home, mostly in body and my mind is slowly catching up.
This was an experience that won't be done justice in my feeble grasp of blog communicae, but I will pull from my heart what I felt, saw, and heard.
I am a music die-hard. My mother was an opera singer, pianist, and stage actress; my bio father was a singer and conductor; my brother has mastered most instruments in the spectrum and now focuses on melodic death metal (you wouldn't believe it unless you heard it, but his music pulls heavily from classical composers; he loves Holst); and I have been a singer since I was a wee tot. I started out just singing in school choir and plays, and then moved into jazz when I was 15. From there, I've experimented with just about every genre and played with many talented musicians. We are a pretty musical family. I guess all of this is just to say that when I hear music, I usually know whether I'm listening to something good (technically, artistically) or something bad (teeny bop pop. gah!)
This festival was bursting with talented artists of all genres. But I get ahead of myself.
Thursday we drove about 4.5 hours to Manchester, TN. Sat in traffic for hours. Long, dusty, hot, strange-dirty-people-walking-past-car hours. When we finally (FINALLY!) got to a campsite, we set up camp and cracked a beer. My husband and I are very efficient campers. Our gear is easily set up and ready to go, so we were sipping beer long before our neighbors were done. Which just makes you feel, I don't know, kind of superior. Ha. Our camp was a good 12 minute walk to the venue (Center Roo), so we slathered on sunscreen and started tromping through the dust bowl, along with eighty thousand other people. I don't do too well with crowds, but the beer helped take the edge off.
Thursday's temperature: 91 degrees.
Things that made Bonnaroo a challenge:
Port-a-pots: Completely, completely disgusting. If I was able to hold my bowel movements for more than four days, I wouldn't have gone near the fuckers. Thank god for wet wipes. Seriously, the only clean thing on my body all weekend was my asshole. Go figure.
Dust: Cars were driving in all night long on Thursday and for most of the day on Friday, not to mention we were all camped in a field that hadn't seen rain in weeks, maybe a month or more.
Heat: It was hot. I'm talking chickens exploding hot.
Crazy people: Now, there is a difference between a normal person that decides to trip acid, and then the crazy fucker that trips acid for two weeks straight. There were A LOT of the second. Some of the conversations I heard in passing are pretty unbelievable. And then there were the girls that wandered by our campsite on Friday morning, asking if we had seen their camp. Apparently they had been wandering around for about 11 hours (yes, 11!) because they couldn't remember where they were camped. This isn't too hard to understand, because there were a lot of people there, but COME ON. There are a lot of people there. You would think that taking a few minutes to figure out where you were camped before you left your campsite would come in handy at some point. I must be just too forward thinking for some people. Yeah.
Note: These negatives were certainly worth every moment. Not to say I wasn't happy to be home, because I definitely was.
Ok, onward and upward.
Thursday night we caught the last of The Black Angels (sounded awesome), Mute Math (also good, and a naked guy jumped on stage), and saw Clutch (fucking rocked). Now, the guys in Clutch are in their forties, but man, they brought it. I was thrashing, jumping, and screaming, and that was just in between songs.
Anyhoo, great great stuff, but I was already exhausted at this point. And I was having a hard time seeing how I was going to make it through the next three full days of music if I was already so exhausted from just three shows. We caught the tail-end of Rodrigo y Gabriela, went back to camp and slept.
For about three hours.
Around 7 or 7:30 in the morning, the sun comes up, and the tent becomes so unbearably hot that all you can do is get up and sit, with as little clothing on as possible, in the shade with some water. You can't move, you can't walk, and it's hard to even talk, it's so fucking hot. At 7:30 in the morning. This is day one.
Around 2pm, we start the trek to the venue. Dusty, smelly, hot, searing, crowded, oh and did I mention hot?
The first show I saw that day was Brazilian Girls. From what some of my friends have said about their shows, I wasn't expecting much more than the album played onstage. I was pleasantly surprized. They were awesome. Their live sound was more gritty, heavy electronica with great vocals and surprizing energy. I danced my ass off in the 90 degree heat. Some cool chicks in front of me passed me a spliff, and I danced some mo'.
Here's a super short clip, but it gives you the general idea:
While I was at the Girls, my hubs went to see Tortoise, which he raved about. He went to the music tent and bought a CD of Tortoise backing up Bonnie Prince Billy, and that CD is awesome. Here's a short clip of one of the songs they covered, by Springsteen. I don't know who did this video, but it's the only one I could find on youtube:
Then I went to see The Nightwatchman (Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine). He was really good, but not as guitar-heavy as I thought he would be. Just some good bluesy political music.
Again, by this point, I'm exhausted. We go back to camp to cook food and wait out the heat a little bit (ha).
From our tent we could hear The Roots (which sounded good, but I don't think I really missed anything by not being right there. I've seen them before and it sounded similar. But I do love The Roots), and their cover of "Roxanne", (?uestlove singing), apropro because of The Police headlining and all:
Then, after a quickie in the tent, me and the man went to see Tool.
Tom Morello came out and played with them for one song, and brought the amazing guitar playing for which he is well-known. At that show, I was crushed, stomped on, slammed into, dropped, brusied, and loved every minute of it.
After Tool, we opted to not see The String Cheese Incident, but hit up Aesop Rock instead. For any hiphop lovers out there, if you haven't heard this guy, you should. This clip isn't from Bonnaroo, but who the fuck cares. He's the shit.
His good buddy El-P followed him up, and we definitely stuck around for that as well.
El-P at Coachella this year:
So now it's 2am, and we have been listening to music for about 12 hours straight. But DJ Shadow comes on next, so all I can do is keep standing for as long as possible.
And then to bed.
(Oh, I forgot to mention that while we were listening to hiphop and djs, the SuperJam was happening. Ben Harper, Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson, John Paul Jones (yes, from Led Zeppelin), Cold War Kids, and a couple more. They sounded awesome from our tent.)
Saturday morning: same bat time, same bat channel. 7:30 sun heats us up to boiling, we roll out of bed, (again with about 3 or 4 hours of sleep) and start our day. Saturday was to be our long day, starting at 12:45 with Old Crow Medicine Show. It was good. We danced, smoked weed, and sweated.
Then we headed over to hear Gogol Bordello, this crazy gypsy metal band. This time we sat in the shade and listened. I snoozed a bit, because there was no way I was getting through this day without some kind of sleep. Anyway, here's a little clip:
Like I said, crazy.
Next up, Ziggy Marley. Ben Harper came out to do this with him:
That's about as close as I'll ever get to hearing Bob Marley.
Next was Ben Harper. Damn, there is just something about that man that is so fucking sexy. He is so soulful. I couldn't find a video that did him justice. He was great, but still not my favorite act of the weekend.
Following Ben Harper was the most anticipated show: The Police.
They opened with Message in a Bottle, and honestly for me this was the highpoint of their set. Sting can still sing his ass off, and they can all still play, but there was something missing. I feel like they didn't take advantage of being in front of a live audience. And Sting kept calling us "Tennesseeans" (I have no idea how to spell that, and I'm too lazy to look it up), and saying that for eighty thousand people, we sure were tame. Um, thanks.
Conclusion: The Police reunion is a little too over-hyped. I don't think they will be able to live up to the expectations, except for die-hard fans that will love whatever they do, even when it looks, smells, and sounds like shit. But whatever, it was fun seeing them.
Next (yep, this is still Saturday) was The Flaming Lips. It was so fucking crowded, and our friend started freaking out a bit about the crush of bodies, so we went to the back of the stage area to find a spot, although this was still really difficult. Me and hubs stayed for the first 20 minutes, but as the Lips put on a seriously visual show, and I couldn't see shit, we decided to go wait in line at what would be the pinnacle of my Bonnaroo experience. But first, here's the Lips:
They handed out hundreds of lazer pointers to the crowd, and it was just so fun and interactive. I wish I had been closer.
But me and the man went to a small side tent that had been set up as a jazz club-type place. There were tables, red lights, beer servers, and (gasp!) chairs. But there was also a limit as to how many people could fit, so we got there an hour and a half early to wait in line to see The Philadelphia Experiment. Have you heard the Philly Experiment? Have you ever even heard of it? Well, if you have, good on you. You are one of the rare music lovers that appreciates a good collaboration. And if you haven't heard of them, go here for a quick read.
We sat in line for 2 hours, and it was cold as hell. You could actually see your own breath. My feet and legs were numb. Nothing was ever more worth it than this. We got into the small tent, found a great spot to park, and sat down. The band consists of "?uestlove", Christian McBride (bass) and Uri Caine (keys). If you have heard their studio recordings, well, this show was nothing like it. They played a Sun Ra tune, funked up of course, and a couple other jazz funk tunes. Then Christian invited his good friend Gina Gershon onto the stage, and she played the jew's harp along with them. It was both hilarious and endearing, even though I don't have an opinion about G.G. one way or another. She left the stage, and they started an hour long improv session. This was the most amazing experience, musically, that I have ever had, not just at Bonnaroo, but in my life. And I have seen some pretty great fucking music. At one point, ?uestlove moved around from behind the drum kit, keeping the same tight rhythm the whole time, and started playing on everything onstage: the keyboard, the amps, the stage itself. Then, not dropping the beat once, he moved into the crowd and played on people's tables, chairs, beer glasses, anything that people would put in front of him. He moved through the entire crowd, and when he finally made his way back onto stage and behind his set-up, the whole band jumped in. The place was going crazy. When they finished, everyone in the place jumped from their seat and roared. It was just so amazing. I hope I can find a recording of it. When I do, I'll let ya know.
Went back to the tent around 4am.
Sunday morning: 7am sun. Hottest day so far. 95 degrees by 9 o'clock. GAH. Today was my special day for my special music. But first, me and the hubs went to a screening of Coffee and Cigarettes, which was followed by an "Actor's Studio"-type discussion with Jim Jarmusch. That was just so cool. He is such a laid back, humble guy. It was fun to hear him talk about his connection with music and film, and how both play huge roles in his work. Very very cool. Made me want to be a filmmaker.
After the J.J. conversation, we met up with some friends to get a good spot for my boys, the heart in my chest, the heat in my pants: Wilco.
I've seen Wilco several times, had dinner with a couple of the band members (not Tweedy, although I'd give my mouse-clicker-finger for that one), and have loved them for a long long time. I had very high hopes for their live show. I listened to Sky Blue Sky on repeat for days before Bonnaroo. I was pumped.
Let me tell you this: they did not disappoint. In fact, there were several times (Jesus, Etc.) that I found myself openly crying during this show. I don't know what did it; I'm not usually this freak-out fan (think little girl on American Idol; GAH!) that cries just seeing her favorite band. But something about the way they connected with the crowd just got to me. I have never seen J. Tweedy so happy. He had the best energy going, both with the band and the audience. It was superb.
and my favorite:
I saw the White Stripes after that, and they were awesome, but nothing could compare the the Wilco show, so meh. But here they are anyway, because I'm a lover. And this was my favorite song they played.
I didn't stick around to see Widespread Panic, because, let's face it, they are boring. (I can only imagine the hate mail I would get if more than 5 people read my blog.)
Congrats if you read this far. Yes, it was exhausting. Yes, it was exhilarating. Yes, I'm going next year. But this time we are renting an RV. For sure.
Nexus 6 out.