Thursday morning we woke up and left at about 10am. The drive down to Manchester, TN was supposed to be about 8 - 9 hours. After insane traffic in Nashville and waiting in a massive line to get into Bonnaroo, we finally arrvied at our campsite at midnight. Yes, you did do the math right, that is 14 hours in the car and we are forever indebted to Mary Ellen for the use of her Honda CRV stallion.
So, what the heck is Bonnaroo like? As an engineer, I propose the following equation:
Bonnaroo = (Loud Music + Dust + Heat + Camping + Drugs - Inhibitions) x 4 days x 80,000 people
It is amazing that more people don't die at this thing. From what we heard, a guy died on the first day and a musician passed out on stage from heat stroke. We managed to survive through numerous trips to the water well, skillful and diligent application of sunscreen and by adhering to a strict drug-free regiment. Also, Bonnaroo is huge! Apparently we were one of the last cars to get there because we were in the worst campsite. It took us 40 minutes just to walk to the stages! Of course it was too hot to do in one go, so we had to divide the trip up into legs with water and shade stops. I don't think it was too far off from crossing a small desert everyday.
We were also greeted every morning by vendors of uranium, plutonium, rolls, Mali, headies, dank, chocolate mushrooms, balloons and everything in between. We did eventually make it to Centeroo where the music was and we saw about as many sets as possible. There were two outdoor stages, three tents and several other venues for movies, comedy, etc. All the stages were humorously named: What Stage, Which Stage, That Tent, This Tent, That Other Tent, etc. I don't believe we were the only ones to continuously get into a "Who's on first?" charade when discussing where we were headed next. Dizzle will now give his picks on best music from the weekend.
The disclaimer for this ranking is that its completely subjective. How much I liked a show depended entirely on my mood, energy, and where I was in the audience. Also, we missed a bunch of shows that I'm sure others loved.
1. Bob Weir and Ratdog. Early Sunday afternoon, when everyone was exhausted and just about ready to go home, we headed over to the mainstage. I'd heard from friends that his shows have not been that great, but I was completely blown away. He walks onto stage wearing some sandals, hiking shorts that exposed much of his thigh, and a t-shirt. He looked like he just got back from a walk in the park with his wife. But then he procedes to play some great tunes, very bluesy with a great saxophone accompniment. Of the many songs he played, my favorite were Franklin's Tower and Throwing Stones.
2. The Police, featuring God (aka Sting). So I really wasn't too excited about this show going into it. I mean I like the Police and all, but they're nothing special. I read that they were the top selling band of the eighties, but the eighties were a shitty decade for music. We got to the show on Saturday night and were just sitting down by the mist tent, cooling off after the hot day. Once they started playing, we pushed our way up front, led by Colt as usual. The music was great and the show was even better. Sting gets the entire audience to chant some ridiculous shit and everyone is really into it, which is why he thinks he's God. The drummer was pretty amazing and old looking and the bass just pumps right through you. Nearing the end of the show, someone comes over the P.A. and announces that Sting will take off his clothes and dance with the audience. Well he takes off his shirt and dances around and plays some. The women behind us were going absolutely nuts "Take it all off Sting!" The most hilarious part of the show was after, when this huge pack of people all try to leave at once. Thousands of people all shuffling in unison as they make their way to other stages. Lots of mooing lightened the mood.
3. Franz Ferdinand. I always kind of thought these guys sucked when I heard them on the radio. Sure some of their songs are catchy and have some good hooks, but it didn't seem like there was much to them. Well, we had a pretty good vantage point and this guy just comes out and rocks our socks off. Everyone's waving Scottish flags around and dancing up a storm.
4. Sasha and Digweed. Saturday night, starting at around 2 am, we went over to one of the tents because we weren't enjoying the Flaming Lips all that much. We ended up in a trance show that was pretty intense. I'm fairly certain that about 50-70% of the people at this show were on extacy. Even though I wasn't, the music really drove you and made it easy to lose yourself. Also, it was really loud.
5. The White Stripes. I really felt like this show was similar to Franz Ferdinand. I think I liked the Ferdinand show better simply because I wasn't as tired. But that's not to say the Stripes didn't rock. For those of you that don't know, this is a brother/sister band, with sis on the drums and bro on the guitar and vocals. Without a bass, the sound is a little shallow, but they make up for that with energy.
6. Girl Talk. Colt really didn't like this show that much, but Andy and I loved it. This guy just mixes pop songs over a bumping beat and then goes wild on the stage.
7. The Brazilian Girls. This band's name is very deceptive, as there is only one girl and none of the performers are Brazilian. The lead singer (the woman), is a great performer and really carries the show. For most of the show, she wore a gigantic circular mirror on her back, so that she was reflected out towards the audience. Also, it was the first show that we saw and it really set a good tone for the festival. As a reggae band, the Brazilian Girls had a lot of competition, but I though they were the best of the bunch.
8. Ziggy Marley. Speaking of reggae...really not a lot to say about this show. It was hot, he was good, and his best songs will always be when he covers his dad's.
9. Widespread Panic. Although these guys were good, I thought they were the biggest dissapointment of the show. Everyone talked about them all weekend, so I was kind of excited, especially since they were the final act of Bonnaroo. Don't get me wrong, they're good. They know what they're doing and they don't make any mistakes with their music. But they just weren't special. Colt and Andy really enjoyed sleeping to them.
10. The Hold Steady. Having seen this band at Olde Club, they had an impossible task of topping that performance. They were awesome and the crowd loved them, but when you've already been sweated on by the guy, it's hard to get as excited as seeing them from 100 yards away.
11. Aesop Rock. Kinda like the Beasty Boys. They were the only rap show that we went to, and I liked them a bit.
12. Tool. Colt got to this show and pushed his way forward to the front, so he had a great time. Andy and I, however, both fell asleep. Yes, I fell alseep during a Tool concert.
13. The Flaming Lips. They had a really great light show, but all the lead singer wanted to do was talk. Maybe would've liked them better if we'd stuck around, but the bass from Sasha was calling.
14. Spearhead. Another reggae band. The lead singer had 3 things that he really liked to say: 1, jump up and down; 2, let me see you clap your hands; and 3, a combination of 1 and 2. He just loved to see the audience doing things on his command. Following the Brazilian Girls, this guy couldn't really compete.
15. Manu Chao. Totally dissapointing. Another reggae band, when I was expecting a more electronic sound that they put out about 5-8 years ago. Also, we skipped the Roots for this show. Bummer.
16. The String Cheese Incident. If I tried to imagine a prototypical jam band sound, it would sound just about exactly like these guys.
Bands I wish I'd seen: Wolfmother, the Roots, Wilco, The Black Keys, and the WMD's. I'd already seen Wolfmother, plus they conflicted with Bob Weir, so there was no way I was going to see them.
Wow, nice picks Dizzle, but I gotta disagree with a couple:
1. Bob Weir and Ratdog - good call, also great performance of "Help on the Way/Slipknot!"
2. Tool - Hard to rank a band when you fall asleep, but for those that were awake they rocked the hardest. Also, great finish with "Lateralus", "Vicarious" and "Aenema".
3. Sasha and Digweed - Dizzle forgot to mention that the bass was driving, also the light show was probably second only to Tool and it was probably the loudest show we saw.
4. The Police - They have popular songs and it was entertaining at least.
5. Brazilian Girls - This girl lead singer was amazing. She brought a guy from the crowd up on stage, made out with him, and then smoked a joint. She had the most attitude we saw all weekend.
6. White Stripes / Franz Ferdinand - Hard to seperate, pretty similar, both great shows.
Shows that sucked:
Kings of Leon - not a fan of christian rock
Flaming Lips - will you shut up already and play a song?
Feist - we got bad advice on this one - the lead singer was not hot
String Cheese - lame
So that was our Bonnaroo experience in general. One final tidbit, we have to give a shout out to the Tennesee girls camping next to us. They saved our skin with their shade and they had nice accents and were nice.
Hopefully Andy got home safely, we flew out to California on Tuesday and are staying with Dave Hoyt - Swarthmore soccer alum extaordinare. Dizz and I are heading out to the Mt. Tamalpais State Park for a few days of camping. Smell ya later.