Unforgettable Bonnaroo 2010

29 Jun

It’s hard to even find a place to start when reviewing and remembering Bonnaroo 2010. This was the first outdoors, large-scale music festival I have ever been to, combined with my first time being in the dirty South, and my first time road tripping. It’s an intimidating combination of circumstances, and when examining the full velocity of Bonnaroo, it’s a set up for an unbelievable time. I drove down from NYC with two girls I met on craigslist rideshare (who turned out to be awesome) and my good friend and fellow music-lover Allie. All of us were volunteers at the festival, which meant that in exchange for 18 hours of work over the 4-day festival, we received a free (would have been $275) concert pass, free showers, free camping, and food coupons.

This turned out to be a very good decision, not only because all of us were too broke to afford the ticket, but also because working really did give us a sense of involvement with the festival and I knew that I was making a difference for the organization and aftermath of Bonnaroo. While working was not demanding and actually a lot of fun, it did take away valuable rest and concert hours- for some volunteers, shifts were at the worst possible times, during their favorite concert or even a 12-hr overnight shift.

I, however, really lucked out with my shifts because I made my decision to go to Roo in April. applied early, and once accepted, got my deposit in right away. I had all morning shifts, for which I sacrificed precious sleep time for concert time later. Because of this, I got to see almost all of the concerts I wanted to see, (save those that conflicted) which was incredible.

Most things you have heard about Bonnaroo are probably true. It’s HUGE- yes, located on 700 acres of farmland in the middle of Manchester, Tennessee. It’s CROWDED- there were about 80,000 people attending this year. There is a shitload of MUSIC- hundreds of bands, live music playing 18-20 hours out of the day.  It’s really HOT- temperatures reached 105 degrees this year and everyone got sunburnt and heat-stroked. It’s GROSS- the port-o-potties were the grossest I have ever used, and showers were $7, so most people refrained, EW. People were FUCKED UP- of course, assumed, but still surprising to see so many people tripping balls at the same time while breathing the same energy.

Last stereotype Bonnaroo fills is that It’s AMAZING- people who complain about Bonnaroo simply do not love the music enough to let the performances dominate the more uncomfortable bits of the festival. The band things include: like the stench of portapotties, the long wait for water, the overpriced alcohol, the batch of bad drugs, and the danger that exists when there are this many interested and excited people in the same place. However, in recollection, I can proudly say that this was one of the best experiences of my entire life.

NOW, for the music.  There are 2 main stages and 3 tents, as well as many small performance stages throughout Centeroo.

Here are the performances I saw rounded into a top twenty. Yes, TWENTY ARTIST REVIEWS.

ARTIST IMAGES BORROWED (not taken by me!) from NPR’s Roo coverage.

20. Norah Jones- Sat 2:30 pm

Norah Jones never fails to impress with her stunning voice and cool energy that made her show a relaxing one. For some of the older-timers at the show, Norah Jones was a staple and pulled a large crowd. I was disappointed to not hear much of her older stuff, which I love.

19. The National- Fri 5:45

These guys also pulled a remarkable all-ages appeal. I’m not a huge fan of their music alone, but in combination with the concert they did a great job. More relaxing than engaging, at least for me, the concert was a nice one to experience between louder and more demanding performances.

18. Regina Spektor- Sun 3 pm

Gorgeous, commanding voice was a crowd favorite. I fell asleep during her set only because of heat and exhaustion, but the piano melodies played into my rest nicely.

17. Here We Go Magic- Thur 6 pm

One band I was extremely excited to see going into Roo was Here We Go Magic. They did not blow my mind but I was impressed by their collective stage presence. Very good live sound, but again, they didn’t play enough of their older (much better) album.

16. Tenacious D- Fri 630 pm

The only song I knew or cared to hear was “Tribute,” because this song was literally a huge memory of my childhood. The minute after I got there, they began with this heart-pounding joke of a ballad, to which the crowd screamed our hearts out. It was magical. The rest of their performance features hard rock, some good covers, and video close-ups of Jack Black’s hideously awesome face.

15. Weezer- Sat 7 pm

We all know how awesome Weezer is. Their live concert was fun and way too crowded, and (a little) little played out, but Cuomo still rox.

14. The Entrance Band- Th 530 pm

Awesome threesome that I had not heard of before their enthralling and rare performance. They have a fantastic sound and look, could be compared to a less experimental and more rock n roll White Stripes. They covered the Seeds’ “Can’t Seem to Make you Mine,” one of my favorite 70s songs, and easily won my heart.

13. Phoenix- Sun 7 pm

As expected, everyone loves Phoenix, from Bros to nitrous-suckers to old-timers. The live concert was a lot of fun, although I felt the sound was a little bit thin. The lead singer charmed the crowd with his accent and popped up in the middle of it for an encore. For being the next big thing, this concert was tame, but impressive.

12. The Dodos- Thur 9pm

Dodos are an amazing band that is even better live. Seeing them made me hear that the full vibrancy of their sound is glossed over in their mp3s, muted compared to the fantastic dynamics they embody onstage. If you’re not familiar with these guys, you should be. Think a band that’s less country and better than Fruit Bats combined with a lighter, more guitar-based Grizzly Bear.

11. Flaming Lips- Sat 12 am

The Flaming Lips I have wanted to see for about 5 years. It finally happened and it took me through a large spectrum of emotions throughout. In some ways the concert was underwhelming- Wayne is simply too old and strung out to put on a show the legendary way he used to. His excessive and pathetic dialogue throughout the show cut the amount of music that could have been played in half. Honestly, the crowd was full of people buzzing and tripping so hard they could barely keep their feet on the ground, and all anyone really wanted to hear was music not someone mumbling on and on.  This lead to a sense of urgency and unsettled eagerness in the crowd (probably 20,000 people) that was uncomfortable. When the music was played, however, it was an explosion of wonderful sounds and fantastic visual imagery with huge balloons floating, confetti, glow sticks, and a huge plastic ball in which Wayne ran around on top of the crowd. Visually, it was one of the most impressive shows I have ever been to. They played their own music for about an hour and a half- and did a good job at pleasing the crowd by playing all of their best hits and favorites, including favorites “Do You Realize??” And “The W.A.N.D.”. Then came the testy half-hour waiting period while they set up for their famous performance of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Mood. A huge fan of the album, I did enjoy FL’s take on it, though I must say that they deemphasized many parts of the album that presented important moments of contemplation and transition, instead playing almost the whole thing at consistent energy level, which I supposed could be expected at a festival. The most exciting and psychologically twisting moment in the show was when they got to “Money” and actually through out huge balloons full of money. The irony of the lyrics and the crowd, who thrashed to get at the balloons made me step back and think about the entire message of Dark Side and made me appreciate what Flaming Lips were doing with it.

10. Neon Indian- Thur 830

Neon Indian is no newcomer to festivals and I adore the way he knows how to really put on a show, changing and free styling parts of his songs with every new performance. He played each song of his sole album Psychic Chasms with relentless energy. Also memorable was when a train of topless women dressed as Indians stormed the stage.

9.Blitzen Trapper- Th 10 pm

The acoustics were not prime but they tore up the show anyway. The mix of country and hard rock that they bring to the table was a big hit. Wonderful stage energy, I am a huge fan of BT.

8. She & Him- Fri 5 pm

Every single person at this concert was in love with Zooey Deschanel, including myself. When she is running around onstage with a tambourine, playing songs beautiful beyond their time, all while wearing a empire-wasted housedress, it’s impossible not to. Favorite moment of the show was when she encored with “I’ve Put A Spell on You.” The lyrics were too appropriate.

7. Dead Weather- Sat 6 pm

I was surprised Jack White’s newer band were placed on the largest stage and the stadium, and although turnout was in line with my thoughts, the DW did not disappoint. The chick lead singer definitely knew how to get the crowd going and Jack White on Drums left me star struck. Their heavy yet accessible sound was perfect for Bonnaroo, especially since most of the band claimed Tennessee as their home.

6. Local Natives- Thurs 7 pm

One of my favorite bands, containing a lead singer I am admittedly obsessed with, won hears at Roo. Their sounds is melodic and on the slow side, but poppy enough to enthrall the crowd. Having referred to themselves as a band that simply sounds better live, I did not disagree; the harmonies they are most well known for lit up the tent. They were great.

5. Jay Z- Sat 11 pm

HOVA himself was the prince of Bonnaroo. In all black and sunglasses, he transformed a two-hour timeslot into a storm of rap’s biggest hits, from Dirt Off Ya Shoulders to Empire State of Mind. The crowd probably numbered around 50,000 and I don’t think anyone was disappointed- not many rappers can do this, in fact, I don’t think anyone but Jay Z could have pulled off a performance good as this. The Fireworks were the icing on the Jay Z cake. I only wish Beyonce would have come out from where she was backstage.

4. Disco Biscuits- Sunday 3 am

Believe everything you’ve heard about this band and then totally disregard it. All you need to know is that they are FUCKING. AWESOME. Their sound is one-of-a-kind (really), mixing every style from trans to r&b to Afro pop to jazz to rock, all of it blending together through Jam like a lsd-laced razzmatazz smoothie. Fantastic! They played from 3 am to later than 6 am. SEE THEM.

3. Stevie Wonder- Sat 830 pm

Now, Stevie was the King of Roo. He rocked the crowd as hard as a blind man possibly could, which was harder than 95% of the other bands that played. He played every single hit and each was fresh- it was as if it were his first festival concert.  Truly engrossing and unforgettable, and I wasn’t even a big fan before the show! Also, I have never seen a grandma shake her ass quite like that.

2. LCD Soundsystem-Sat 230 AM

I feel lame that my first time seeing LCD play live was not in our shared home, NYC, but in TN, but I’m glad, because it was amazing. Unlike seeing James Murphy in a comfortable venue like Music Hall of Williamsburg (where he played last month), where most people would dance and cheer and have a pretty good time, the crowd at Bonnaroo was like a barrel of monkeys where everyone was dancing, singing, screaming, and truly loving the music. Murphy knows how to please a festival crowd and though on record his songs can be repetitive, live the repetition was what kept everyone on the same page. His freestyle rapping was fun and reminded me of his older music, which was great.

1. Dan Deacon Ensemble-Sun 1 am

A really great writer can successfully explain how awesome Dan Deacon is. Words probably will never fully describe Dan Deacon with an ensemble of 13 musicians playing different instruments onstage at Bonnaroo. The crowd was INSANE, the music was INCREDIBLE, the lights SPECTACULAR. The best part about the show was that it never slowed down, it only got better and better and better. When it was over the only thing I could really do was hug my friends in amazement. That is what a truly great show will do to you.

And that is my review of Bonnaroo. Bands that I didn’t get to see but I really wanted to and truly regret it include: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Bassnectar, Dr Dog, Miike Snow, The Black Keys, Deadmau5, Jay Electronica and The XX.

Some of my favorite images I took from Roo ‘10

crowd at flaming lips

roo pan

crowd @ neon indian

centeroo fountain

rv chillers

me and allie

see more of my fave bonnaroo shots here

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5 Responses to “Unforgettable Bonnaroo 2010”

  1. Nunez 06/29/2010 at 9:19 pm #

    Fuck Neon Indian.

  2. maria 06/29/2010 at 10:02 pm #

    you’re just jealous he’s been in the presence of topless women.

  3. ted 06/29/2010 at 11:18 pm #

    I had just gotten over the fact that I missed it this year. Going back for the 10th anniversary next year?

  4. maria 06/30/2010 at 10:59 am #

    yes definitely! i can’t wait to see you! i’ll be working again probs

  5. wflannig 03/23/2011 at 1:15 pm #

    Good post! Got to love The Roo.

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