Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Bonnaroo Part II: Fanfuckingtastic Friday

"Three shots of Jager for a bag of weed!"

That's what one kid screamed at the top of his lungs late Thursday night as we left the campgrounds. He walked around with a bottle of Jagermeister and hoped to trade three big swigs for a bag of nugs.

There's a Sonic on the way to Bonnaroo. We ended up stopping there all four days. Change100 was a Sonic virgin and never ate at the fast food chain. She popped her cherry the night before. She got addicted to the Texas Toaster bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich. I ate two of them on our ride into the festival.

We showed up early on Friday because BTreotch wanted to see Ben Folds. I caught one Ben Folds Five concert in the late 1990s before they broke up in 2000. Ben Folds is an exceptional musician and songwriter. He played piano and sung a couple of his more commercial hits. He also played a song that he wrote in a Waffle House and performed a collaboration that he did with Jay-Z.

We didn't get to see Andrew Bird who came on early. He's been recommended to me from several friends of mine. Bird is a music professor from Chicago and used to play fiddle for the Squirrel Nut Zippers. We also had to deal with scheduling conflicts for the first time. We missed Seu Jorge from Brazil but Molly caught some of his set. He's become famous as an actor in the Brazilian flick City of God as Knockout Ned. Seu Jorge composed a few songs on the soundtrack for Wes Anderson's film The Aquatic Life.


We also missed Steel Pulse in favor of Ramble Dove. They played at Vegoose and we skipped them there too. A commentor on PT (a Phish message board) described Steel Pulse as a bunch of wookies. They're a reggae band from England with heavy ska-punk influences. They also do a ton of charity benefits ranging from Hurricane Katrina victims to Africa poverty. Steel Pulse performed at Clinton's second inaugural ball, which is further proof that Slick Willy tokes the weed.

We caught a bit of the folksy Devendra Banhart, who I saw at Vegoose. We focused on getting a good spot for Ramble Dove featuring Mike Gordon from Phish on bass. They are a country and honky-tonk band that had been gigging up in Burlington, Vermont a lot. The closed their ninety minute set with a delicious cover of Johnny Cash's Jackson. During that set, an older guy handed me a beer. For free. I have that vibe where random people give me free stuff at shows like drugs and alcohol. One time at a Phish show with Molly at Nassau Coliseum, a guy handed me an entire fifth of Smirnoff during setbreak.

Mike Gordon & Ramble Dove went up against three bands that I didn't mind seeing. But I ended up skipping indie-rocker Bright Eyes, the SoCal folk trio Nickel Creek, and the rap-funk of G. Love and Special Sauce.

I had another scheduling conflict during Oysterhead. They were on the main stage up against three other acts that I could have seen. I skipped Robert Randolph and the Family Band because I've been to thirty or forty Robert Randolph shows since 2000. He grew up playing African Pentecostal church music in New Jersey and made a tremendous splash on the NYC music scene combining traditional gospel with blues. His pedal steel rifts will appear on Clapton's new record.

The influx of indie rock kids had a tough choice on Friday as well. They had to pick between Death Cab and Cat Power. We skipped Cat Power and the Memphis Rhythm Band. Fronted by Chan Marshall, Cat Power is another one of the many indie rock bands that were added to the Bonnaroo schedule. The Memphis Rhythm section injected a taste of soul and southern rock to her performance which would have been sweet to hear, but Oysterhead won out. We also skipped Death Cab for Cutie. I saw the indie rockers play for like $6 in Seattle, when they first formed in 1997-98. The crowd at their shows back then were filled with tweakers and runaway kids who snuck in. Some of their songs make me want to OD on Valium and write wrist-slitting poetry about spoiled sorority girls who broke my heart back during Bush I's sole term in office.

Since Oysterhead was a super-group that rarely performed, it was a no-brainer to see that group over bands that I can see any other time. Oysterhead got back together specifically for Bonnaroo. If you don't know, Oysterhead is a trio of some of my favorite musicians which included Stewart Copeland from The Police on drums, Trey Anastasio from Phish on guitar, and the out-of-this-world Les Claypool from Primus on bass. Claypool walked out on stage with a pig mask, which Trey sported two long sleeve shirts in the 90 degree Tennessee heat. Stewart Copeland looked like he was riding in the Tour de France. He wore shorts and a green soccer jersey with white fingerless gloves.
6.16.06 Oysterhead Setlist, Bonnaroo, TN

Set 1: Little Faces, Oz Is Ever Floating, Mr. Oysterhead, Army's on Ecstasy, Radon Balloon, Rubbernecking Lions > Jailhouse Rock Jam > Shadow of a Man, Birthday Boys, Polka Dot Rose*** > Pseudo Suicide

Encore: Owner of the World
Claypool described Oysterhead as "audio sodomy." It was good to see Trey again, but the set was flat. I didn't expected much and wondered how much practice time the trio had before the Bonnaroo gig? They played their material from their only album Grand Pecking Order, which reminds me of Frank Zappa. The encore was a song written about Fish, the drummer from Phish. Trey busted out the "matterhorn" which is a weird guitar with antlers on it. Claypool had a few odd alien instruments that he played as well.

We stayed in the same spot for Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers which had the headlining show for Friday as everyone at the festival filed into the main stage area. I haven't seen Tom Petty in six or seven years. He looked drunk or wasted on stage, but the Joker suggested that he was "just getting old."
6.16.06 Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Setlist, Bonnaroo, TN

Set 1: Listen To Her Heart, You Don't Know How It Feels, Won't Back Down, Free Fallin', Saving Grace, Mary Jane's Last Dance, I'm A Man, Oh Well, Handle With Care, Stop Draggin' My Heart Around (with Stevie Nicks), I Need To Know (with Stevie Nicks), Melinda (with Stevie Nicks), Insider (with Stevie Nicks), Learning To Fly, Don't Come Around Here No More, Refugee, Runnin' Down A Dream

Encore: You Wreck Me, Mystic Eyes, Gloria, American Girl
Petty played a new song called Saving Grace which appears off of his new album. They also did a Traveling Willbury's tune Handle With Care. Stevie Nicks came out for a four songs plus part of the encore. She can still bring it. The crowd got into Gloria and American Girl.

Late night, we skipped Umphrey's McGee in favor of My Morning Jacket and their Midnight show. I've seen Umphrey's a dozen or so times. I'm not into them as much as other friends of mine. I put them in the same category as moe. and String Cheese. I'd go see them if someone had an extra ticket, but I'm not actively looking to go to their shows and I'm not gonna follow them around the country to see them play. I had never seen My Morning Jacket before. Lori raved about their set at Bonnaroo last year. I've listened to a lot of their material since then including their last two performances at Bonnaroo, specifically live MMJ shows that I snagged off of Archive.org.

We met up with the Joker's friends from Colorado, Dan & Courtney. I met them at Red Rocks last summer when we caught the Sound Tribe show. Dan's a musician and was one of the guys who told me I had to see Andrew Bird. I got my Andrew Bird fix when he sat in for a few tunes with MMJ as he added his melodic fiddle to the mix.

My Morning Jacket is from Louisville, Kentucky so they had a lot of fans at Bonnaroo. MMJ recently lost two members of their band. As MMJ grew in popularity, the responsibilities of a successful group increased as well. Danny Cash and Johnny Quaid decided that that they could not put the necessary time into MMJ's rigorous tour schedule. They both quit which left the remaining band members in a bind. Lead singer and song writer Jim James (guitar), Two-Tone Tommy (bass), and Patrick Hallahan (drums) decided to continue My Morning Jacket as they added Bo Koster (keyboard) and Carl Broemel (guitar).

MMJ has a deep Southern rock influence that includes acts like the Allman Brothers and Widespread Panic. They also reminded me of Neil Young at times. They have a vast array of songs to play from that range from hard-rock head banging tunes to fluffier poppy tunes with a slight edge. They've worked hard on refining both the musical composition and the lyrics side of their music. Many bands have a tough time achieving perfection in both, while this comes easily for MMJ.

They energy in the tent was remarkable for that time of night as MMJ played two sets over three hours. The enthusiastic crowd soaked up everyone ounce of music as I witnessed the most raging set of Bonnaroo and the best concert performance that I had seen since Beck's Vegoose set last October.
6.16.06, My Morning Jacket Setlist, Bonnaroo, TN

Set 1: Wordless Chorus, It Beats 4 U*, What A Wonderful Man, One Big Holiday, Older Guys* > Head Held High***, Lowdown*, The Way That He Sings, Masterplan, At Dawn, Golden, Gideon**, Xmas Curtain, Dondante, Dancefloors, Anytime, Mahgeetah

Set 2: A Quick One****, Loving Cup$$ > Easy Morning Rebel jam >, Attitude$$$, Off The Record, Lay Low, The Dark, The Bear*, I Will Sing You Songs, Heartbreakin' Man, Evelyn Is Not Real, It's About Twilight Now, It Makes No Difference, Phone Went West, Run Thru

* with Andrew Bird
** Flying Burrito Bros. cover
*** Velvet Underground cover
**** The Who cover(first time played)
$$ Rolling Stones cover (first time played)
$$$ Misfits cover (first time played)
MMJ ended up being the musical highlight of Bonnaroo. MMJ blew me away during my first show. Only one other band impressed me to that degree and that was the first time I saw Galactic. MMJ also busted out a few cover tunes including a Phishy version of the Rolling Stones' Loving Cup. I dug the segue from Older Guys > Head Held High. I was pleasantly surprised to hear them cover a random Velvet Underground tune off of Loaded.

As I wandered off, I knew right away that I had a new favorite band. MMJ sounded even better than their bootlegs. They passed the "live" test in my eyes with flying colors. Their energy was immense and their set was tight. They totally took control over the crowd like very few bands can do these days. Of course, I left wanting more which is also an indication that their scrumcious flavor has infected my taste buds. BTreotch and The Joker both dug MMJ, as well as Change100 who caught her first MMJ show.

We stopped by Common's set after wandering around heckling all the spun out kids. Common is a hip-hop act based from Chicago, but he's originally from The Big D... Detroit. We listened to two songs before we got bored and wandered over to catch the end of Disco Biscuits. I guess I wasn't in a hip-hop kinda mood as my mind was fixated on processing the boisterous music that My Morning Jacket had just unleashed into my soul.

I've seen the Disco Biscuits at least twenty-five times, possibly more. That's where all the rolling kids were winding down the night during the Umphrey's-Bisco late night sandwich. We hung out in the back on the grass and smoked up. The Joker thought their light show was better than the music. I was indifferent as I kept thinking about My Morning Jacket's epic set.

Random Friday Bonnaroo Pics:


Weird Dudes


Les Claypool during Oysterhead


Heads

The music started out silky smooth on Friday and grew substantially better as the day progressed. I experienced an amazing run of 12 hours of kick ass music from Ben Folds's piano ballads to Mike Gordon & Ramble Dove's country fare to Oysterhead's "audio sodomy" to bona-fide rock stars like Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks to the au courant My Morning Jacket. Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks were making music before I was born and they were still cranking out some good shit. Plus Stewart Copeland was an 1980s icon with The Police, so to get to hear those legends of music perform at the same festival as an up and coming band like My Morning Jacket was special.

With two days down, we had two to go. We were plenty rested and ready to turn up the partying another notch during Saturday.

... to be continued

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