Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bonnaroo In Ten Words

Kidding. But here’s my take on the whole shebang. You already know we camped and got dirty.

Manchester Orchestra. Forget my natural bias towards what is arguably my favorite band at the moment. These guys owned up to every last bit of hype they’ve built up over the past year +. Period. No click, super tight, in the pocket, faster jams than on record, dual drumming. No gimmicks, just honest, straightforward rock infused with more Wilco-esque breakdowns than I saw coming. And they played Wolves, which they’ve apparently cut out of recent sets.
Temper Trap. Generally hit or miss but when they were on, they were ON. They broke out of the gates with a nasty up tempo jam in 5/4 time, at which point I decided I’d stay for the hour and a half set. I’m not convinced their frontman’s vocal styling complements their sound 100% of the time, though I was usually too distracted by their bassist’s mean fret runs and captivating stage presence to care.
Wale. Who said he’s putting DC hip hop back on the map? Garbage. Couldn’t have been more disappointed. He went on far past his time, was presumptuous and defensive about the crowd not being into hip hop, talked too much, all of the above. Blame it on the goose, blame it on whatever, I’d have been more content watching his backing band sound check.
Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue. Caught my attention, I stopped and watched the whole set. Couldn’t stop. Prototypical horn-driven, NOLA roots raditude for the feel-good spirit in all of us. You wanna dance? Let’s dance.
Gaslight Anthem. I can get down with Brian Fallon and company any day of the week. One of the more genuine, stripped down, rock-soul revival acts whose massive buzz I gladly support. They looked like they were enjoying themselves and Fallon possesses the rare intangible quality of your everyday man who’s comfortable displaying his flaws. That IS his star power. Opened with American Slang. Look what you started, I seem to be coming out of my skin…
The Gossip – unbelievable. Groovy, high-energy, commanding, flawless. That’s a woman. That’s a FRONTwoman. Contender for best live show, bar none.
Kings of Leon – if someone had told me I’d ever see the men behind Aha Shake Heartbreak play to 80,000 people when I first heard that record, I’d have stuffed cotton balls in their mouth. Then I’d go listen to the record again….and again….and again. I still separate my raw musical sensibilities from my pop inclinations, but what I saw gives me hope that even the former can cut its teeth for the masses while preserving credibility. Minus a majority of the crowd being unfamiliar with, ahem, a familiar Pixies cover, this set was a huge highlight. For their size, they still maintain a believable sense of authenticity and substance. Charmer was on the set list, so we’re cool.
Daryl Hall and Chromeo. Fun. Heavily favored towards Hall & Oates classics early on. Probably because they were afraid the fan on Daryl’s hair would die out before he got done with those beauties. Liked the big number of musicians on stage – 8? 10? Either way, contributed to the full sense of ‘party’. I hope to sing Bonafied Lovin with that many people again.
Flaming Lips – I missed the memo that alcohol-only consumers wouldn’t enjoy this. Sign me out.
LCD Soundsystem – they’ve cornered their sound. Nobody does it better. Total groovin rager. Upbeat, bass heavy, complete crowd participation, enough glowsticks to rival the Vegas lights. This is a band at the top of their heap, not a loner or two behind tracks. Sometimes thought this is what the Talking Heads might have been had a market for the sound been as prominent in their prime. And had David Byrne picked up a synth before guitar. Stop making sense.
B.O.B – cool, but bring the band out first. Five intro songs on tracks?? Lost some interest when I didn’t want to. Surprised by number of people catching your set. Wait, you do that song Aeroplanes, yeah? Word.
Jay-Z. Biggest regret was only catching the last 40 minutes of his two hour set. Don’t ask. That said, he’s Jay-Z. And he owned shit.
Weezer. Most complete, balanced, and arguably one of the most entertaining sets I saw. Kudos to Rivers for being one of the most awkwardly engaging and energetic frontman I’ve ever seen. Perhaps it was the World Cup. Or his birthday the next day. Homeboy’s 40. Anyone who involves Josh Freeze in their music gets might vote and having him behind the skins for all but two songs was one of the better surprises of the whole experience. Pat was on guitar, freeing up Mr. Cuomo to exercise his full frontman potential. Hey Brian, want to play something off Pinkerton? Why bother, it’s gonna hurt me.
Against Me! Still one of the best live bands around, but nowadays, I’ll stay a little further back from the madness. I’ve seen them play to 200, and now, 8,000. Very cool seeing about half of those bring the pain like we’re still on the Axl Rose touring cycle. A welcome and fresh new vibe with five stage members, new album, and a new drummer in tow. You know we’ve entered a new stage when they’re not closing on Danger, but a couple thousand die hards telling you they’re Molotov cocktails and you’re a Dom Perignon can’t be a bad thing.
Dropkick Murphys. You love Boston and you get rowdy. Love it, but unless I’m catching one of your Beantown St. Patty’s gigs, I’m assuming I’m seeing the same shenanigans every time. Caught Sunshine Highway and dipped.
Phoenix. Floored by their live show. Imagine 30,000 or 40,000 people dancing and bopping through dusk to these guys. Came out with Lizstomania. Closed with 1901. Old and new scattered in between. Light show on point. Talented, tasteful musicians. Drummer is wack and I eat it up. Filled a two hour set to the brim. They don’t need to be in your face to kill it.
DMB. Yes, it was my first time seeing Dave. Yes, he was ridiculous. Need I state the obvious in that they’re all nasty on their instruments? How about the fact that Carter’s feet are enormous? Probably a little more interesting. They have their jams and more impressively, all the madness in between them, down to a calculated science. That’s what it is – madness. It’s silly how on time they are. Silly. Suppose that’s what twenty years will do to you. Play on.


  1. Awesome recap, Chris. Thanks for sharing. BTW, totally agree with you on Gossip. Probably my second favorite dance punk band behind !!!

  2. nice one, dude! seems like they had a real cool line-up this year. my friend jake was pretty much givin me the same recap of the festival ;) cheers xx