Wow, what a day today was at Bonnaroo. I almost do not know where to start. Actually I’ll start from the beginning as my day was a little delayed thanks to total randomness.
While driving in to the day lot at Bonnaroo I was first denied an exit on the freeway and had to figure out an alternate route for myself. I was not really worried about it but I just found it funny that the local police shut down the exit because there was too much traffic, which I need to add, was nowhere to be seen.
I made it to the country road that trails to the back end of the Bonnaroo farm ever so slowly thanks to a drug task force making random checks on vehicles. It appeared as if they were making an extra effort to search cars to prevent drugs, glass, and weapons from entering the grounds. While normally I would be okay with such procedures, today I was not because they asked me to pull my car over and proceeded to search every cavity in the car. They also told me to fess up to the drugs and weapons or else I would go to jail if they found any. I had nothing to hide. I let them do their job and went on my way a little disgruntled.
With the drug task force taking their time pulling apart my car we lost some time and I sadly missed the acoustic performance by Portugal The Man. I suppose worse things could have happened though but still it would have been nice to start the day as I had planned.
Making way to Centeroo, the sun seemed a little bit warmer on my skin. The forecast called for scattered storms but nothing like we had on the previous day. Everyone seemed to be up and going in Centeroo as it was at least two times fuller than the previous day. Making my way through the herds of attendees I started my day.
I made a brief stop at That Tent to check out the Dirty Projectors. The male/female combo really did not have a classified sound as some songs seemed indie while others were almost noise. Later in the day I found out that David Byrne curated That Tent from noon till eight o’clock in the evening.
I managed to catch the end of Gomez’s set at the Which Stage where thousands of people had gathered to see the popular band. I kind of wish I could have seen more songs by them but with so many bands playing on so many stages, sometimes you have to sacrifice some sets.
After making a lap around Centeroo to check out the random vendors I found myself back at the Which Stage to check out Animal Collective. I had heard of this band before and wanted to see what the talk was all about. Sadly it was not the type of music I was looking for and took off after a couple of rather experimental indie tracks blasted through my ears.
As I was searching for the next artist to check out I passed the Troo Music Stage where I heard a fun country steel-guitar-playing Earl Watson do his thing. While he and his band played, people with Budweiser were throwing out ice-water-soaked towels to people in the crowd. I wasted no time in catching one and threw it around my overheated neck.
Having some time to kill before some more acts played at various stages, my friend and I made way over to the main stage, the What Stage, where we discovered a small hidden tent also known as the Café Where tent. It just so happened at the time we walked past the tent a act called Belleville Outfit was playing. This band was one of those bands I made a note to check out when I get back home. I loved the cabaret, jazz, and even folk sounds they unleashed.
Once they finished it was time to head all the way back to the other side of the festival where St. Vincent was rocking out at That Stage. This band was one of those bands I could not tell if I liked or not as some of their songs were upbeat and others just dropped to a mellow slur of sorts.
I tried to check out Bela Fleck & Tourmani Diabate at the Other Tent, but so did almost everyone else in Centeroo. There was limited space and I could barely see the band. After a couple of songs I decided it would be best to just move on.
Grace Potter & The Nocturnals were playing some amazing R&B cheery music over at This Tent so I made sure I at least checked out a couple of her songs. The female-driven music was perfect to just chill out to on a day like today.
Still wanting to try and check out every artist playing at Bonnaroo, I left This Tent and returned over to the Troo Music Stage where Dirty Sweet was playing. Not feeling them I headed over to the What Stage where Galactic with Trombone Shorty and Corey Henry were entertaining a massive crowd with their mix of jam and hip hop. I really wish I could have skipped some of the previous acts I saw to take in Galactic and friends' entire set. It looked like a lot of the people were having the time of their lives.
Santigold was one of the bands that played today that I really wanted to check out so I headed over to That Tent where they were already bringing down the house (tent) with an amazing mix of fun indie rock and Brooklyn-style hip hop.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs were playing at the exact same time as Santigold so I headed towards the Which Stage to see the exciting indie rock act. I could not believe how many people were there checking them out. There were people literally in the trees watching the Yeah Yeah Yeahs play.
The one-and-only Al Green played the What Stage just as the sun was starting to feel a little cooler. The Reverend started off his set playing some of his gospel hits for everyone. I really wanted to hear some of the classics but had to wait though a couple of track from his newer albums before he broke into songs everyone seemed to sing along to, including “Let’s Stay Together”.
One of the highlights to the Al Green set was when he asked the crowd if they knew where romance comes from. He immediately broke into covers of classic R&B tracks such as “My Girl” by the Temptations as well as played some Sam Cooke and Otis Redding. It was quite the highlight of the set.
Once Al Green finished up, I slowed made way to the Which Stage to see TV On The Radio perform. As they played I looked around me and saw that many people were just hanging out now. It looked like the sun got the best of them but in reality they were just recharging their batteries for the duration of the day.
While waiting for the Beastie Boys to perform on the What Stage, my friend and I made a lap around the grounds again where we saw performances by The Features, Lucinda Williams, Ani Difranco, and also a great band called Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band.
During this small trek to kill time we also engaged in our first meal of the day. Blackened gator is actually pretty tasty as are fried oysters. I loved having such a huge selection of cuisine to dine on in Centeroo but the prices were a little steep.
By the time we were done eating it was time to head to the What Stage to see one of my highlight bands of the weekend play, the Beastie Boys. Mix Master Mike opened up the show with an insane scratching session and soon introduced the Beastie Boys to the stage.
Playing their own instruments on some songs, the B-Boys ripped through a nice selection of material spanning their entire career as a band. The were quick to play remixed versions of songs and entertain the massive crowd that stopped everything they were doing to welcome the B-Boys to Bonnaroo.
Hearing “Shake Your Rump”, “Body Moving”, and “Root Down” had me smiling but what happened next just had my jaw drop to the floor. The band announced that they had a special guest they wanted to invite on stage. The guest who was also a New York native was none other than hip hop artist Nas.
Nas joined the Beastie Boys on stage for what they called a “Bonnaroo Exclusive”, a song off their upcoming album that no one has heard yet. The crowd erupted with approval as Nas and the B-Boys played their new song that, to me, seemed like an "old school meets new school", hip hop song. I had mixed feelings with this song mostly because I am not used to the B-Boys collaborating with other artists.
They continued their set blasting through tracks I have heard thousands of times but still enjoy each and every time I hear them live. “Tough Guy” and “So What’cha Want” were two in particular I was excited to hear again. What appeared to be the end of their show, the B-Boys left the stage to let Mix Master Mike spin and scratch his little heart out to the approving crowd. Soon after the B-Boys took the stage again and belted through a few more selections before finally ending their set with “Sabatoge”. Their set was indeed a highlight of my day.
I tried to check out David Byrne at the Which Stage but found myself more interested in the band playing at the Troo Music Stage nearby. The band was actually Justin Townes Earle, an old-school, stripped-down country band. The lead singer Justin Townes Earle had a resemblance Hank Williams Sr. in his younger years. I got a kick out of their material as well as their manners. I liked Justin Townes Earle so much that I purchased the Midnight At The Movies LP from him after the show. Justin Townes Earl is in fact Steve Earle’s son and has just as much talent if not more than his father. This was the best surprise set of the day for me.
Skipping out on Phish I opted to check out a couple of other artists before calling it a day. First up was French electronic/indie act Phoenix who played That Tent. Shockingly there was a giant crowd in the tent cheering them on. I guess not everyone went to Bonnaroo to see Phish.
After Phoenix my friends and I went to check out one of the greatest hip hop acts of my time, Public Enemy. They took over This Tent just after midnight and performed just as well as they would have twenty years ago. Opening with “Bring The Noise” Check D and Favor Flav announced that they would be playing their 1988 classic It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back in its entirety. That right there was the perfect ending to a great day.
Day Two at Bonnaroo was much better than the first. It only rained for less than five minutes during the late evening and was nothing to be concerned about. All of the Bonnaroo festival-goers were in great moods and everyone was just having fun.
Day Three looks to be even a bigger day with performances by Heartless Bastards, Jenny Lewis, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, and Nine Inch Nails. I already know that tomorrow will be the longest day of the weekend for me so I think it would be best to get some shuteye at this time.