Ahh, Bonnaroo. It is the Best of times, it is the Worst(ish) of times. But somehow the Best always outweighs the Worst(ish). And I say Worst(ish) because it’s really not the actual Worst of times – it’s just a big pile of stress, surrounded by the best music in the world.
And my own personal Bonnaro stress comes in various forms – first I got stressed because our tent site was a full mile from the entrance to the Grounds (which was actually a blessing because it was slightly farther away from the music that’s BLA-BLA-BLASTING ‘til 5AM), then I nearly had a panic attack because our tent/car got illegally hemmed in by other tents/cars, so we couldn’t drive out to get the LIQUOR that I so badly needed since there’s no stinkin’ liquor at Bonnaroo – only beer – and this homie don’t drink beer (but the fire marshals soon cleared fire lanes so I got my liquor), then I got stressed by the excruciating pain from the internal organ damage I inflicted by not drinking enough water (because I didn’t want to have to be constantly going to the port-o-potty during concerts). And of course, there are the dense crowds of 70,000 people, the concerts you get excited about where you can’t even get close enough to HEAR much less SEE (like the Lumineers, boo), the port-o-potties that are ripe with aroma by day 2…
On the flip side, there’s THE MUSIC. Somehow, the quality of music is so f’in good that all the bad stuff is worthwhile. Here are my five most favorite concerts, and my single least favorite concert:
1. PAUL MCCARTNEY! Every single person at Bonnaroo was SHOCKED by the fact that he gave the best concert of the weekend. Macca (I just learned his nickname) rocked it like a 30-year-old man. He had a first-rate band, played mostly Beatles songs (!!!), and he was funny and charming and endlessly energetic for nearly 3 hours. He had 70,000 people singing Eight Days A Week, Live and Let Die, and most joyously, Hey Jude. The “nah nah nah” end of that song was such a loud exuberant sing-along that I bet you probably heard us in your dreams and started singing along too. He also did Blackbird, which is one of my favs. Here’s the entire, ridiculously awesome set-list: http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/paul-mccartney/2013/great-stage-park-manchester-tn-bd9d10a.html. Oh and did I mention that we were RIGHT UP FRONT??????
2. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes – just a big bucket of FUN from start to finish. The main guy (whose name is actually Alex Ebert) looked like he had crawled out of a dumpster – his old clothes were filthy and his hair clearly hadn’t been washed in days. He even said at one point, “I fucking hate these pants. I’m all out of pants!” Here’s a photo - http://cdn2-www.craveonline.com/assets/uploads/gallery/bonnaroo-2013-edward-sharpe-the-magnetic-zeros/img_9702.jpg . Despite his dumpster-y appearance, he and his 11-piece band were faaaabulous. They play rock music like it’s gospel music, and everyone in the audience was smiling non-stop. Alex kept running out into the audience to sing, and at one point he was just standin’ a few feet away from me, crooning amongst the crowd. During “Home,” Alex asked for stories from the audience and one guy said “A year ago you came and visited me in my hospital room in the cancer ward – I had a transplant that day that saved my life!” Alex recognized him, flipped out, gave him a huge hug, and brought him up on stage to play tambourine for the rest of the song. And that’s pretty much how the whole concert went.
3. Bjork! This brilliant woman is from another planet, and gives a crushingly unique and memorable show. She wore an outfit that made her look like a nebula (http://cdn1-www.craveonline.com/assets/uploads/2013/06/DANNY_CLINCH-04911.jpg) and her choir of Icelandic girl-singers danced like manic rock volcanoes. The best song of the night was “Declare Independence,” which she screamed at us so emphatically that we all felt like she was our Inner Conscious come to life. There is nobody like Bjork, and there never will be, even in this world of derivatives. Oh and did I mention that I WAS IN THE FRONT ROW???? (I spent a lot of my time just waitin’ for the shows I really wanted to see so I could get the perfect vantage point)
4. Wilco. Hadn’t ever seen Wilco live even though I looove that band, and I was not disappointed. I was somehow unaware of the virtuosity of the guitar player (Nels Cline) and drummer (Glenn Kotchke). Fab set list, including Via Chicago and California Stars, so I felt like they were playin’ the sound track of my life. Was also right up front for this one. J
5. One of the best moments of Bonnaroo: We had gone to see Portugal. The Man (that period annoys the crap out of me) during the day on Saturday but it was super crowded and we couldn’t see them except on the big video screen. Then late that night as we were heading back to our tent, we saw the band throw down their gear in a random spot and start playing. Like, just for us. (And about 100 other people, but whatever). I was literally right in front of them - when I put my drink down, I put it on one of their amps. The event staff shut them down after a few songs, but they clearly didn’t want to stop playing so I said to the lead singer (John Gourley), “I will personally hold back the event staff if you’ll play one more song!” So he played that awesome track, “So American,” just for moi (and 100 other people, but whatever).
I could go on about other great shows – Rayland Baxter (singer-songwriter), John Fullbright (blues singer-songwriter), Passion Pit... But there were also some big disappointments. Mackelmore was boring and way too self-righteous in my opinion (but apparently tens of thousands of people disagree with me). And my biggest disappointment was Father John Misty (also known as J. Tillman), who was ATROCIOUSLY cheesy and melodramatic. I love his music, but he has no business dancing like he’s Jim Morrison on acid. HE’S A FREAKING FOLK SINGER and needs to get over himself. I walked out.
Ok, that’s quite enough about that. Probably, that’s more than enough. And I still didn’t say it all. But therein lies the nature of Bonnaroo.
I hug you all. xo