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Music DVD Review: Various Artists – Live From Bonnaroo 2009

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For those who couldn't attend the festival and for those who did but were having so much fun they either couldn't see everything or can't remember what they saw, Live From Bonnaroo 2009 is now available on DVD. It opens with a great but all-too-brief 30-second montage of festival sights. The artists are then presented randomly. First up is multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird and his band playing "Fitz and the Dizzyspells" on Sunday afternoon followed by singer Santigold with "L.E.S. Artistes" on Friday afternoon.

On the main stage, the Beastie Boys perform their hit "Intergalactic" in front of a giant, enthusiastic crowd. Elvis Costello joins Jenny Watson and her Sound for "Go Away" from his album Momofuku, which Watson provided backing vocals on. Upon seeing this pairing, it strikes me as odd that with all the musicians gathered together there aren’t more collaborations.

Bonnaroo is nearly a 24-hour event and the only act presented from a late-night set is Ben Harper and Restless 7 at 1:45 am. Nearly twelve hours later, Cage the Elephant deliver the rockin' "Ain't No Rest For The Wicked." The Tennessee heat must have got to the lead singer who strips off half his costume once on stage.

From Mali, Amadou & Mariam showcase the diversity Bonnaroo provides because if you were ever curious about world music, here would be the perfect opportunity to sample it. They are followed by Zac Brown Band, a country act you'd expect to find up I-24 in Nashville, but the audience they play in front of makes them feel just as welcome.

After Coheed & Cambria, the heaviest band in the collection, there is a two-track lull as Snoop Dogg delivers a short, forgettable song and while Passion Pit's "Little Secrets" has a good dance vibe, the lead singer's high-pitched voice is grating. I can’t believe with all the material available, these two performances were chosen.

The programmers at Bonnaroo are well versed in musical history. They bring in artists like the Del McCoury Band, led by a man who has been performing bluegrass longer than many attendees have been alive. In a similar vein, Raphael Saadiq's "Keep Marchin'" sounds like classic soul and R&B.

The reunited Phish, who performed three sets over two nights, had to make an appearance on this DVD. Taken from Friday night is, not surprisingly, the longest song of this collection, "Down With Disease." Coming in at over 15 minutes, each member gets to shine as they jam. After some more festival sights and attendee sounds, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band closes out the disc, but rather than one of his classics, he chooses the recent "Outlaw Pete," making for a lackluster conclusion. I can't imagine ever sitting through it again.

Live From Bonnaroo 2009 offers a good mix of artists in different genres of varying levels of notoriety, and for those interested in the music, it should make for a satisfying purchase to those with eclectic tastes.

However, as an attendee of Bonnaroo 2008, I find a single DVD is woefully inadequate in bringing home the experience as the four-day event with well over 100 artists performing is compressed into 107 minutes showcasing just 16 songs. Imagine eating an appetizer sampler while others have dined on a seven-course meal. Plus, the most fascinating material is of the concert-goers. I would have preferred a documentary about the people who attended and hearing their thoughts and stories over the course of the weekend.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS
  • http://www.themidnightcafe.org Mat Brewster

    Wow. Unbelievable its only a one disk deal.

    You going this year?

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    I doubt it. Hoping to get to Coachella though.