I will admit, I was a bit heavy-handed yesterday in my assessment about some of what goes on down on the ground at Bonnaroo. I mean, yes — that stuff DOES happen, but I gotta be fair. It’s not like the only things that happen are grandparents trying to cop weed and kids flopping their collective breasts and dongs in the summer air. Far from it; in fact, this year’s Bonnaroo seems to offer a lot of safe, fun activities for everyone including a new water slide, continuously improving greening initiatives (for which they won a Greener Festival Award), and the Food Truck Oasis — a delicious and reasonably-priced collection of savory gourmet food trucks that serve everything including homemade popsicles.
The monetization aspect of Bonnaroo notwithstanding, there were plenty of inexpensive ways to spend your day. The most important things are to stay cool & hydrated, especially with temperatures pushing 100 degrees with heat indexes even higher. There’s free water, shady trees, and of course great music everywhere.
I started my day off with Rachel from The Vinyl District where we had the pleasure of seeing Sharon Van Etten, an artist whose star should well be on the rise. Taking the Which Stage early in the day can occasionally be the skids for a breaking artist. Sharon’s dynamic, bona fide and occasionally precious performance more than won over the noonday crowd. It was one of the highlights of the festival for me so far.
I spent the better part of the afternoon wandering between stages, seeing a bit of a sober & refreshed Justin Townes Earle, a touch of Matt & Kim, a few minutes with Atmosphere, and ending off with a performance from Hesta Prynn at Cafe Where?. I find it utterly criminal that in a world where some girls manage to get a huge record deal off of one song and one video, Hesta Prynn (who has worked hard, put in her dues and exudes talent) doesn’t get more attention. She was highly energetic, intelligent, fun, and consistent. Shortly after Hesta finished her performance, My Morning Jacket took to the What Stage at 8:00pm and, without digging for any hyperbole, persisted in putting on yet another in a series of great performances at Bonnaroo where, it would appear, they deem it to be a spiritual homecoming for them.
If I told you I had any idea what would happen next, I would be lying to you: I was convinced to see a band that I’d only heard others talk about called Jeff The Brotherhood. The two piece from Nashville, quite simply, torched the On Tap Lounge with a sweat-soaked psychedelic punk rock set that left only dehydrated and blistered humanity in its wake. A recent signee to Warner Brothers, let’s hope and pray that they keep with the formula they’ve adopted of improvising within their own songs to keep their sound fresh. Jeff The Brotherhood should get and stay on your radar.
I had a choice to see either Big Boi or Lil’ Wayne. Now, I like both of these artists, but I knew that I would have other opportunities to see Big Boi where Wayne is such a wildcard. It seems that with his newly-found sobriety, Wayne’s performance appeal has slacked off temporarily. He lacks the same fearless interaction with the audience that I’ve always seen in live footage and interviews and seemed, at times, as if he was simply going through the motions. With all respect to Wayne’s talent, commodity and intent, last night was kind of disappointing for me personally. I’ll be glad to hear arguments to the contrary if you were there.
The night continues into hyperdrive with visits to That Tent for one of my favorites, Pretty Lights, and The Other Tent for a very anticipated performance from French electronic duo Ratatat. Both performances carried the magnanimity of what anyone could expect from two of electronic music’s best touring & performing acts. On the music tip, the Ratatat show was completely other-worldly and easily outpaced Pretty Lights (even though the latter played until the wee hours of the morning). But, as you would expect from a band called Pretty Lights, the light show was dramatic from beginning to end.
Day 3 begins now, so I’m gonna try to get 5 minutes of sleep before I go check out more music and comedy.