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Concert Review: Bonnaroo 2009 – 06/13/2009 – Day 3

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Today literally just flew by and I am shocked that it is over. I will admit that I overslept this morning and did not get to the festival at the time I'd hoped. I am not used to being in the sun all day and then staying up into the wee hours of the morning so I guess this it to be expected.

Once I arrived to the smorgasbord festival of music I quickly hoofed it over to the Café Where tent to see William Elliot Whitmore who was already performing to a nice-sized crowd. In between songs he would stand up from his perch and give out hi-fives to anyone standing close enough to the stage, saying, “It was important to do things like that.” The mostly sorrowful folk singer seemed tired of being alone on stage and invited all who could fit onto the stage to be closer to him as he performed.

I took advantage of the situation and made way behind him where there was less of a crowd. Whitmore played a few more songs and I cannot even tell you how many smiles I saw from all the fans seated around him. It was really an up close and personal experience. I know I was thrilled to be standing so close to him and I even stayed for the duration of his set.

After I left the stage in the Café Where tent I headed to the Which Tent where Booker T and the Drive By Truckers were playing. Booker T was not actually playing with the Drive By Truckers when I was checking them out but I think he came out moments after I left the stage to go see Raphael Saadiq at That Tent. Saadiq and his live backing band were amazing and had the entire crowd under the tent signing and dancing along to all of their songs. 

While on the way to see Dan Dyer at the Troo Music stage I spotted a scary fellow who was clearly under the influence, smiling and holding out a little bottle of white-powder stuff. I avoided him in every way possible and checked out Dyer rock out to the crowd with his electric keyboard. I really got a kick out of his music and I especially dug the distortion pedal hooked up to his keyboard, which made for some interesting sounds. During his set he even covered a Dr. John song but sadly the title of the track escapes me.

The sun seemed to be cooling down by the time I made way to The Other Tent to check out the Del McCoury Band, an amazing country/bluegrass group. Their set was very genuine and had a warm, welcoming feel to it — Appalachia at it’s finest. While I'm not usually into bluegrass, I was really getting into the songs; and I wasn't the only one. Folks all around me were clapping their hands and dancing around, indeed having a good ol' time in the tent. 

One of the bigger acts I wanted to see all weekend was already playing at That Tent by the time I trucked over there. The artist, Jenny Lewis, had a huge gathering checking her out, including someone who was going to play the same stage later on: Elvis Costello. He ultimately joined Lewis to perform “Carpetbaggers,” which I'd actually suspected since the two worked together on that song previously.

I had a very tough time actually seeing her on stage, though, as there were so many people blocking the view, but her voice was strong and beautiful regardless. I envy all who could see Lewis and her band play, but I still feel fortunate to have been in attendance, especially when she covered the Traveling Wilbury’s “Handle With Care.”

With the performance time slots so close together, I had to make a quick choice of who I was going to check out next, finally deciding to head over to the What Stage to watch Wilco for a couple of songs and then return to That Tent for Elvis Costello.

Wilco was amazing and I really wish I could have seen more than I did. I enjoyed hearing “Handshake Drugs” as did thousands of others who flocked to the main stage to catch their performance. After soaking in a couple of tunes I made my way back to see Elvis Costello who stated his performance would include some special guests.

He played “Radio, Radio” as well as the Beatles’ “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away.” And his special guests wound up being Jenny Lewis and Allen Toussaint. Overall, Costello's set was strong and all of the fans were asking for more by the time it was over. Personally, I was thrilled to have heard “(What’s So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding?” and "Veronica."

It’s no secret that Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band was one of the major acts of the weekend. In fact, they were the only band to be playing live from about 9:00pm till 12:30am. Incidentally, while waiting for them to take the stage, I could hear Cotton Jones in the background at the Café Where tent.  

The Boss and band began at around 9:30pm to a full — and loud — house. This was the first time I'd ever seen Bruce Springsteen live and so I hardly kept my eyes off the stage. 

I recognized a couple of songs but it became clear that I'm a novice when it comes to Springsteen’s catalog. I enjoyed hearing “Youngstown” as well as one particular track I never thought I would hear live in my life. Actually, it was a sign request — albeit an improbable one — but Springsteen apparently saw the humor in it and proceeded to play “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.” It was more than I could have asked for. 

People of all ages soaked in the almost three-hour set with some singing along and even more dancing and enjoyment of the cool evening. Springsteen admitted that Bonnaroo was only the second festival the band had ever played, their first being in Norway recently. Festival or not, The Boss played a full show complete with an encore as well as a great cover of Steven Foster’s “Hard Times Come Again No More.”

I laughed when Springsteen would ask the crowd if they were “all Bonnaroo’d out yet”. I was sure getting there, but I didn't let my heavy eyes prevent me from enjoying other tunes like “Glory Days,” “Dancing In The Dark,” and “Rosalita.” I later heard that it was quite rare to hear all three songs played live during the same show and I consider myself lucky to have done so.

Once Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band finished up, the crowd made its way to the other side of Centeroo where more artists were to deliver late night sets. I immediately headed for the Which Stage as Nine Inch Nails were about to give a taste of what they do to Bonnaroo.

Nine Inch Nails were another act I was pumped to see and apparently so was a major portion of the crowd who made it to the Which Stage before I did. I stood further away than I would've liked but I still enjoyed their awesome set, which included songs like “Terrible Lie,” “March Of The Pigs”, "I'm Afraid Of Americans,” “Burn,” and “Gave Up.” The showstopper, though, would have to be when Dillinger Escape Plan joined NIN on stage for “Wish.” 

While other bands played on and with many of my fellow festivalgoers beyond hammered, I thought it would be wise to call it a day. I wasn't interested in seeing MGMT or Moe and I really was lacking energy so day three at Bonnaroo was concluded.

Sunday marks the last day of Bonnaroo and there are a few more artists I plan on checking out, including Jessica Lea Mayfield (a fellow Ohio resident), as well as Merle Haggard and Coheed & Cambria.  The weather held just fine on Saturday and I hope it will do the same on day four. 

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About Brian McConville

  • dirtyrickshaw

    Springsteen wasn’t the only one playing at the time. Jeff Bujak was playing on another stage. Check ‘yer facts, folks.

  • theglenburnie

    You’re such a newb. You probably should have hung out with the guy with the white powder–we would all be better off for it. It might have made for a more interesting review.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Sounds like a good time. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Brian!

  • jack

    Meh, I would have appreciated a more critical review of some of the artists. Did you really think they were all that great? I herd several people complain that Wilco sounded bland and complaints from others that the Boss’ voice sounded shot and his song selection was weighted far too much in favor of his more recent collection rather than his classics (considering this wasn’t a typical Springsteen audience, this was a poor choice on his part).

  • paul

    the dr. john cover dan dyer performed was “i walk on guilded splinters” (on dan’s self-titled album)

  • Corey

    “I wasn’t interested in seeing MGMT or Moe and I really was lacking energy so day three at Bonnaroo was concluded.”

    This confirms that you are a douche.

  • Layton Johnston

    Just read a great interview with the festival’s co-founder, Jonathan Mayers, that might interest you guys.