Bonnaroo 2009 Top 10
This is my 7th year at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival. I was not there in 2002 because I had justed turned 17 (don't think I was ready for it at that point anyway). My musical tastes have grown along with the festival and I don't think its a coincidence. Although I still have great respect for the jam bands this festival was built upon, the fact that AC & Superfly have the foresight year in and year out (except for Kanye last year) to push the envelope and invite new elements of fans and bands alike to the farm is what puts Bonnaroo on a pedestal by itself as far as American festivals go. This year's edition looked great on paper and was unimaginably better in person. Great weather and even better music led to this year's edition being the best yet. Below is a random list of things I saw unfold:
10. Dillinger Escape Plan: Seeing band members run full speed into the crowd and launch in knee first. Fans were undoubtedly bruised mentally and emotionally. This, taking place just 12 hours after the band took the stage with Nine Inch Nails at their final North American concert...ever?
9. Passion Pit Thursday night (Got the party started, terrible sound and lots of mud, but the scene was bumpin)
8. Watching Delta Spirit rock like never before in a tent as it absolutely monsooned outside. Particularly exciting because I took a group of people into largely unfamiliar territory and everyone seemed to get it. As soon as the show was over and it was time to leave, magically the rain subsided. The Bonnaroo gods watched over us on this night.
7. Santigold getting Friday started with a bang. Friday was a particularly long day and seeing a day set like this made me wish it lasted even longer. Heavy, heavy live bass and syncopated dancers have a way of getting the most fried daytime crowds going.
7b. Hearing Al Green perform "Let's Stay Together".
6. David Byrne. The Man. The Genius. The Legend.
5. Trusty ole moe. Like your favorite pair of shoes, you can put ‘em away in the closet for years and they still seem to fit like they did in high school. Rolled in (very) fashionably late and stayed ‘til the surreal blankets of fog rolled in capping off the most musically complete night of music I’ve ever experienced. This would be higher on the list, but bringing out Grace Potter and the Nocturnals at 4:30 a.m. just didn’t work for me.
4. Yeasayer FAR exceeding expectations, rolling out their psychedelic groove rock (and you can really understand the lyrics live) from the year 2080 and beyond. All of the songs had slightly new arrangements and bursted with colour as they blanketed the crowd in a wall of sound. The new tune, Tightrope from the Dark Was the Night compilation stood out with it's apropos lyrics:
So, you're wishing that you never did all the embarrassing things you done?
And you wishing you could set it right, and you wishing you could stay the night.
But there I go again. Wishing never solved a problem.
If you wanna get big time, go ahead and get, get big time
Oh, give and give and give it, until you just can't give no more.
Percussive, poignant and full of mystique, this set further manifests my prediction that we’ll see this band run up the ladder at Bonnaroo for years to come. The set was heavy with new songs and I didn’t it mind one bit. Can’t wait for the 2nd LP to drop in early 2010 as reported here on the band's blog.
3. The Naked Guy. Causes a ruckus in the crowd, tries to buy beer (naked people don’t have money, and if they do, the concession people aren’t gonna take it), argues with security, things escalate, and four security personnel bum rush him with fist and foot despite having no right to do so. CAUGHT ON TAPE.
2. Phish Friday night. Words can’t describe the excitement I felt seeing a band for the first time in 6 years. The time off has allowed me to delve further into both their live and recorded catalogue and appreciate what they used to be capable of before their initial hiatus from 2000 to 2002. Seeing the band back in the stride that made them who they are at the best festival on earth is something words can’t describe.
Set: Chalk Dust Torture, Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan, Divided Sky, Possum, Down With Disease, Alaska, Stash, Golgi Apparatus, Wolfman’s Brother, Poor Heart, Kill Devil Falls > Free, Wading In The Velvet Sea, Harry Hood, Highway To Hell > 2001, YEM > Wilson > YEM
Encore: A Day In The Life
2b. Phish Sunday night. Never have and probably never will see a wearied Sunday crowd go from full-on zombied to ebullient and full of life (and glow sticks apparently). Also, the mini-set with the Boss, like it or not, was legendary. Stepped into the freezer.
1. NIN. Forever emblazoned into my retinas.
Honorable mention: The Mars Volta, dude drunkenly singing Iron Maiden with a live karaoke band with raw emotion before falling off the stage at the end, the MLB pitching/batting cages, taking EmergenC like it's some kind of shamanistic perscription, Silent Disco Sunday w/ DJ Motion Potion, Moody's inappropriately morbid comments about Nine Inch Nails, hearing Bon Iver perform "Skinny Love" on Saturday afternoon, seeing the ghost town that was Bonnaroo as we departed Monday afternoon, counting down the days til Thursday night 2010 back on the farm.
LINK TO COMPILATION VIDEO FROM THURSDAY AND FRIDAY INCLUDING PASSION PIT, SANTIGOLD, TOUBAB KREWE, ANIMAL COLLECTIVE, moe., DAVID BYRNE and PHISH: