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Concert Review: Bonnaroo 2009 – 06/11/2009 – Day 1

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It seems like it was only yesterday when I dropped a good penny on a Bonnaroo ticket in February telling myself how I would have to wait four months until the fun began.  Fortunately for me time flew by and here I sit at my hotel room satisfied from day one of the four-day music and arts festival located in Manchester, TN.

Playing it smart, my friends and I left a day early for Tennessee so we could be rested and ready for the event that compares to a modern-day Woodstock.  Choosing a hotel over camping we made way around the lunchtime hour to the event a little worried as the weather was calling for thunderstorms throughout the day.

Entering the Bonnaroo farm was not as painless as I had thought it would be thanks to the Manchester Police as well as the Tennessee State Highway Patrol keeping things organized outside of the farm.  In fact we only were stuck in a traffic jam for about an hour an a half before making our way into the farm many would call home for the weekend.

My car was briefly searched by the kind folk at Bonnaroo to ensure that I did not have glass containers, illegal drugs, or weapons.  Once the frisking of my vehicle was completed I was handed a Bonnaroo guide and two trash bags – one for trash, and the other recyclables.  I was then pointed to the day lot.

We parked the car in the day lot, a sectioned off area that lies on the edge of the farm opposite of Centeroo, the main area where all of the shows occur.  After packing up some items in backpacks and dousing myself with sunscreen we headed through the camping community for Centeroo.  

Thanks to a late start on the day and the traffic jam, I sadly missed a few of the earlier performances such as Roger Allen Wade but was quick to take a tour around the grounds to refresh myself on where the stages were located.  

We started off the festival at That Tent to check out Alberta Cross and indie rock band that reminded me of Band Of Horses mixed with My Morning Jacket. I enjoyed what I heard as did all of the other folk around me packed into the tent.  After about three songs, we left to search for the Troo Music Stage.

Dodging folk who were already engaging in experimental activities, I thought to myself how many of these people were going to make it through the whole weekend let alone remember it.  To each their own of course but when you spend that much money on a ticket one would think you would try to absorb in as much as you could.

The Black Lillies were jamming out by the time we found the Troo Music Stage.  The band was a fun twangy folk act that for some reason reminded me of the Allman Brothers with their vocals at times and had this great bluesy feel to it.  Three songs in to their set I had to bid goodbye so I could check out another band who was playing at This Tent.

Thanks to late-morning thunderstorms the grounds were not exactly dry.  While trying to get from one stage to the next I made sure I kept a good eye to the ground to avoid slipping in any mud puddles.  I also kept looking at the sky as it just had this unsuspecting vibe to it.  The clouds let the sun in but also suggested another round of thunderstorms might just be brewing up.

Making it unscathed to This Tent, the White Rabbits were running a little late but the crowd did not seem to mind.  I liked this band a lot because they sounded like a mix of The Flaming Lips and late '90s alternative emo.  I got a kick out of the duel percussionists as well as the piano playing that was Ben Folds-worthy.  

As the sun started sinking into the western horizon we hit up the Other Tent to see Def Jux artist Murs bring a heavy dose of hip hop to the crowd.  Murs, who has one of the biggest dreadlocks I have ever seen, announced "it's hip hop time" before tearing into his set.  I honestly think he was shocked at the size of the crowd that gathered to see him.  Murs was quick to apologize to anyone with sensitive ears but explained "that's hip hop" and continued his thing.

Seeing the hippies dance to his hip hop masterpieces humored me but in all honesty it was great to see everyone having such a good time.  Jumping high in the air and touching his toes while dancing and rapping, the crowd was going insane for the Southern Californian rapper.

Those Darlins were to play a set at the Troo Music Stage around 8:30pm so we left Murs to get a good place to stand.  We arrived in time to see the three local cuties do their sound check.  

Starting off with "Wild One", Those Darlins played their little hearts out to a nice crowd full of friends as well as first time listeners.  Their country sass was welcomed to everyone as they played select songs off their debut release including "Snaggletooth Mama" and "Ringy Dingy".

Having and entire hour to perform music it looked like the girls outplayed their set list and started playing random songs including a great cover of a local band named Funsticks.  One of them even mentioned that they were playing like they used to in local Tennessee bars.  

Once Those Darlins finished up the rain started to pour and lightning started to strike.  We were then informed that there was a tornado watch in effect for the area and for everyone to please be careful.  I put all my electronics in my waterproof box, threw on my recently invested raincoat, and decided it's time to go to the hotel and call it a day.

I was bummed to miss the People Under The Stairs' performance due to my decision but the rain was really coming down and the lightning strikes were becoming a little uncomfortable.  With these conditions I was not the only one who decided it was best to head to their tents / hotels.  

One day down and three to go – I am hoping the weather lets up a bit but refuse to let it bother me.  Tomorrow looks to be a full day with performances by Al Green, the Beastie Boys, David Byrne, Phish, and Public Enemy.  That does not even include all of the other random bands I plan on checking out for a first taste.

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About Brian McConville

  • I went last year and am jealous. have a great time

  • Sneed

    I saw the Knux and People Under the Stairs which both played on the same tent as MURS, it was awesome, both put on fantastic and entertaining shows. I hardly noticed the rain because I was near the front row and when the crowd hear thunder crack people would roar and cheer while continuing to party.