The final day of any Bonnaroo is never a day I like because I know that all the fun I have been having watching various bands and making new friends is coming to an end. My feet may hurt and I very well may want nothing more than a few extra hours of sleep to make up for all of the late nights but honestly I could do this for four more days easily.
The fourth day started a little late for me once again as I just could not get myself up and moving in time to see some of the acts that started on Sunday late morning. I made it to the day lot in record time and was not searched at all. It would appear as if the Bonnaroo crew was getting just as tired as all who were attending the festival.
Thanks to my late start I missed Dillenger Escape Plan and am dying to know how their set went. I also missed Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. Knowing that I was running behind, I made sure to go directly to the tents of the acts I wanted to see without stopping at vendor tents or making random conversation.
Everyone seemed a little slow moving as we made way to the Café Where to see Kent, OH native Jessica Lea Mayfield play with her band. The Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys) protégé played to a decent-sized crowd many of who were very familiar with her material. At times when Mayfield sang I thought of Mazzy Star mainly from her stunning voice. It was a great set to get the day rolling for me.
High On Fire could be heard from across the festival grounds thanks to their brutal metal display they provided to all who showed up to That Tent. Sunday was definitely a metal Sunday thanks to High On Fire playing as loud and heavy as possible. It was actually nice to hear some heavy metal for once at Bonnaroo. Nine Inch Nails can be heavy, but High On Fire melted faces.
With ringing ears and a sore neck from mild headbanging we went to see Andrew Bird at the Which Stage play a couple of tracks. If there is one thing people need to know about Andrew Bird it is this: he is a talented musician. The guy can whistle like no other and plays the fiddle by plucking it and using a bow all during the same song making for very neat music. His vintage speakers and amps also helped provide a unique sound.
While checking out Andrew Bird, I took some time to people-watch and saw a group of people on the VIP bleachers that caught my attention. For a few moments I had the pleasure of seeing a group of hearing-impaired Andrew Bird fans take turns signing the lyrics to the songs that were playing to one another. It was quite beautiful to see as well as proof that Bonnaroo really is for everyone.
Country legend Merle Haggard played a solid set at This Tent to a huge crowd of adoring fans, many who waited all weekend just to sneak a peek at the legend. Despite his age, he looked and sounded astounding along side his band The Strangers. Playing through an array of songs like “Momma Tried”, “Big City”, a new track titled “I Had A Gal”, and “Okie From Muskogee”, fans were going ballistic for the country artist. Everyone was singing along, dancing, and loving every moment of the set especially when he played a couple of Johnny Cash tracks, "Folsom Prison Blues” and “Jackson”. Merle’s performance was a highlight of my weekend.
Speaking of highlights, Coheed & Cambria played one of the last sets before the final performance started. They were another band I was looking forward to all weekend to seeing live and I was at That Tent before they even took the stage. I skipped out on Snoop Dogg, Neko Case, and even Band Of Horses to see Coheed play live. I wish I could have seen the other acts live but given the choice I picked Coheed.
I sang along at the top of my lungs when they broke into “In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth: 3” as well as “Ten Speed (Of God’s Blood & Burial)” and shockingly I was not the only one. I loved hearing “Welcome Home”, “Favored House Atlantic”, as well as the newer “No World For Tomorrow” and “Mother Superior”.
The surprise to my ears during the set was when the band broke into the Church’s “Under The Milky Way” as well as Peter Gabriel’s “Red Rain”. Both covers blew me away but the ultimate Coheed moment for me was when they played an extended version of “The Final Cut” complete with Claudio playing guitar solos behind his back and also with his teeth. Adding to the impact of the song, Travis Stever played some serious guitar solos complete with his trademark voice box. In an attempt to go beyond amazing, there was an almost ten-minute drum solo making for the greatest performance for me all weekend.
I opted to skip Phish to get a head start on my voyage home and I was not the only one as I was stuck in a traffic jam for over an hour. Later in the evening I found out that the closing Phish show was something I maybe should have stuck around for seeing how Bruce Springsteen took the stage. I guess you win some and you lose some. I know I was happy with the shows I checked out. My Bonnaroo was complete.
To each their own when it comes to Bonnaroo, and that is the beauty of it. You are free to do what you want all weekend, see who you want to see, and most importantly be yourself. I was excited to drive there and even more so excited to walk the grounds. I felt as if I was at a music summer camp with almost 80,000 other people.
The flow this year seemed much better than when I went to my first Bonnaroo in 2006. This year there were a few water stations in Centeroo offering free drinking water to anyone who had a usable container. The food was not too over-priced and the actual campground was not out of control or anything of that nature. It was a good vibe all over the farm this year. Everyone had a great time.
Props to all of the people behind Bonnaroo for continuing to make everything run smoothly and safe in 2009. There were hardly any problems and everyone seemed to be happy minus a few grumpy souls wandering the grounds. This year's Bonnaroo was a great experience to be a part of and I will never forget it. Sure, it had a toll on my body and sometimes I think I am getting too old for stuff like this but at the same time I am thrilled to have been a part of such an important event.