Bonnaroo 2007

When I left Thursday afternoon, I felt like shit with an ungodly case of mono and, apparently, Lyme disease. I thought I might die there, but by Friday, I felt much, much better. It may be stupidly-named, but Bonnaroo apparently cures all ills.

Friday morning, the suffocating heat within my tent woke me up, and I wondered why I had chosen to subject myself to such extremes once again. It was so damn dry and dusty all weekend that it looked like the Steinbeck’s Dust Bowl; I swear I saw a woman breastfeeding a grown man.

The bandana-wearing banditos in the crowd and I humped it over to see Tortoise, my first pick of the day. Much like their albums, Tortoise’s show is strange, funky, and wonderful, except they stick with a groove longer. They’re an incredibly tight live act.

Next, I peeped a bit of The Nightwatchman‘s set, which is Tom Morelleo’s protest folk alter ego. Morello had good stage patter, and he rocked the house with nothing more than an acoustic guitar in a Springsteen Nebraska kind of way. Morello also played a folk version of Guerrilla Radio, which was a nice novelty.

The Black Keys
Photo by Jonathan Purvis

I was really waiting for what came next, The Black Keys. These two guys were insanely fucking loud, and they rocked the house for 90 minutes. It was intense, loud, and filthy-funky. After The Black Keys, my friends and I took a little time off and then went to see Tool.

Maynard and Co. put on an amazing show: dark, intense, precise, and very trippy. Their lights, lasers, and backdrop—coupled with the slinky exactitude of their sound—led to a hypnotic evening well spent. Tool are extraterrestrials. Also, Tom Morello came out and played a guitar solo with them.

After that, I saw bits of: STS9 a decent but a bit boring techno-jam band, El-P (wish I’d seen more), and a band called Benzos. They were awesome live, and as soon as I get the album, a review will follow. We crashed as the sun rose.

Saturday: more heat. I decided not to leave camp until either: 1) the sun was eclipsed or 2) it cooled down at least a little. I napped under our pavilion after everyone else had left, and so I missed the Hold Staedy. I did stretch and smack my lips, and wake up in time to see half of Ween‘s set. Those guys are really funny and supoib live. My friends and I vamped midway through their set to see Franz Ferdinand, who were unexpectedly good. Then, after a needed respite at camp, The Police.

Frankly, I was disappointed. The show was an hour shorter than scheduled, and Andy Summers seemed sloppy and out of synch. Sting and the boys played some good songs, but again, I found it to be anticlimactic.

Not anticlimactic, however, was Girl Talk‘s Gregg Gillis. This little guy promised a party for an hour, and goddamn, did he deliver. Asses were shaking non-stop. Girl Talk rocks the house; see him if you can. Couple of bands later, a few minutes of the Flaming Lips, some Gov’t Mule, and a bit o’ Galactic, and it was bedtime again.

Sunday: Even more heat. Didn’t leave camp until it was time for Wilco. Hey, guys, I know I was a little hard on your last album. Let me say, unequivocally, that the tracks I heard live were more than redeemed. Live arrangements of the new songs gave me a new appreciation for Sky Blue Sky. It was a rad set.

The White Stripes
photo by Carrie Musgrave (LiveBabyLive)

Then, I hustled my ass over to the White Stripes, as did everyone else, apparently. That motherfucking stage was packed. We were what seemed like 3 miles away, back in Grapes of Wrath land. The sound from that far away was kind of shitty, but they put on a hell of a show. It was some radness.

Finally, the last show of the weekend was Widespread Panic. While I’m not a big fan, I have to admit that they are a killer live band, and they put on a great show.

Other highlights: people who by all rights should have been in the hospital simply because of their sunburns. When the color of your skin resembles those pickled hot dogs sold at the gas station, it’s time to get out of the fucking sun. Apparently, these jerkasses came from a land where sunblock had not yet been invented, and then proceeded to turn their flesh into sweat-cured bacon.

Passed out wookies. Now, I know that Bonnaroo is supposed to be the festival equivalent of Vegas (what happens at Bonnaroo stays at Bonnaroo?), and once you enter the venue, no one will fuck with you about anything. But some people take advantage of this and pass out wherever they happen to be at any given time. And for some reason, these festival-goers are generally large, hairy people (although the diminutive attendees are not immune). Do people check on them? No. If passers-by even notice, they do one of two things: laugh at them or take a picture.

There’s a lesson in all of this: check on your wookie brethren. They are people too.

All in all, it was a blast. I can’t wait until next year, and I can’t wait until Pitchfork.

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