Missed Music

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Bonnaroo Recap Part 2: Saturday and Sunday

It’s 8:00 AM. You left the show last night at about 2:30 AM, walked back to camp, and had a beer before crawling into your sleeping bag. You didn’t sleep until after 3:30, but the sun has cleared the trees and is now heating your tent to somewhere over 100 degrees. Time to get up. The first show today is at noon, so you’ve got a few hours to cook up some eggs, wander over to the Port-o-Lets, maybe walk over for a couple bags of ice for your campsite’s food and beer coolers.

By the time you get today’s clothes on and roll out of your tent, somebody’s already making coffee on a Coleman stove. Nobody’s cooking food yet, though. OK. Today will be your turn to cook. You dig eggs and shredded cheddar out of your cooler and ask if anyone has sausage you can stir in. The sky is blue and someone in camp is already drinking a beer for breakfast. As the eggs cook, you look over the concert schedule again to see where you’ll be spending your time. It’s going to be a good day.

The Roo, baby.

The Roo, baby.

I covered Thursday and Friday’s shows yesterday. Today I will write about what I saw on Saturday and Sunday.


Heartless Bastards
I was really impressed with their front woman, Erika Wennerstrom, who sings and plays guitar and piano. It’s possible the whole band is really talented, but it was hard to tell because they all played back. No one showed off at all. The songs were solid and Wennerstrom picks interesting vocal melodies to sing over the chord progressions. Here they are on Letterman.

Allen Toussaint
This was a guy I must confess I knew nothing about. This is one of the best reasons to go to Bonnaroo. I was delighted by the live show. Apparently, he is a long-standing fixture in the New Orleans R&B scene. His songs ranged from Honky Tonk to almost a Motown sound. Here he is at the Jazz Fest in New Orleans in 2007.

Booker T and the Drive By Truckers
I wasn’t sure if this was the same  Booker T who put out Green Onions with the MGs all those years ago. It is. Booker T’s long experience and jazz sensibilities blended well with the DBTs to produce a cool southern rock jam. Here they are in April of this year.

Raphael Saadiq
I was very excited to see this show. I have written about Saadiq before and his fantastic Motown sound. Sadly, I must report that this was one of the biggest disappointments of the festival. The band sounded great, but I think someone told them this was a Rock n Roll festival and they changed up their sound. They played the first half of their single, 100 Yard Dash, straight, but then turned it into a rock tune that made me stop dancing. Then they played another rock tune. Then they played Sure Hope You Mean It at about 150% normal speed, which was simply too fast for the groove. When they just did their thing, they sounded great, but they were trying to do a high-energy “rock show” and it just didn’t work. Plus Saadiq spent an inordinate amount of time asking the audience to adore him. Dude, just play Stayin’ In Love and we will adore you. Knock off the schtick. This is what he should have done.

I’m a huge Wilco fan. I have all the albums and I’ve seen them a few times already. This was probably the second best show I saw all weekend (behind Phish’s Friday night show). Jeff Tweedy is a personable and charismatic front man and each of the band members are creative and talented on their instruments. They achieve true synergy with the band adding real inventive depth to what would otherwise be relatively simple songs. They are fearless and manage to pull off pretty much whatever they try. Check out some live magic on Austin City Limits.

Bruce Springsteen
I like Bruce. He is a great songwriter and his band can achieve a sound bigger than Jupiter. His live performances are the stuff of legend. He was scheduled to go for three hours and is known for not taking set breaks. I was pumped. Then I was crushed. He opened with Badlands and rocked it. Then he moved into some lesser-known stuff that completely lost me. In fact, he did a tune called Outlaw Pete, which I thought was frankly dreadful and he never won me back over. The songs were simplistic and the arrangements were stale. I left after about 6 songs. Most of my friends couldn’t believe it. There were about 4 of us from our group, though, who agreed. We like Bruce, but we didn’t like the concert he played for us Saturday night.

Nine Inch Nails
I haven’t seen NIN since the first Lolapalooza in 1991. Their show hasn’t changed at all. Reznor alternates dark and oozy ballads with a wall of light and noise. He sounds great live. Here he is doing one of the quiet ballads.

Ben Harper & Relentless 7
Harper has been at Bonnaroo many times and this year they put him at The Other Tent at 1:00 AM. He is too big an act for that stage. I couldn’t get close enough to see him and the sound was poor as far away as I was. I heard him bust out a Zeppelin tune (Good Times Bad Times?) but had to leave after that.

I have seen moe. live a bunch of times. I’ve even been to their festival, moedown, twice. They are talented jammers and good songwriters. They were slotted to run from 1:00 AM to 4:00 AM, but I am told they played straight through until 6:00 AM. I didn’t make it that long. Here is a look at their psychadelic show.


The Lovell Sisters
Sunday started for me with the lovely and talented Lovell Sisters. Organic bluegrass, some standards, some original tunes. It was a fun show. It was also the only Bluegrass show I’ve ever seen that made my pants fit funny.

Dillinger Escape Plan
I wrote these guys up last week. They are very talented and have a great sound but make no mistake this was an earplugs show. I think the concessions folks across the way were struggling with them a bit, but their fans were rabid for them. Here is a representative complex and heavy song.

Citizen Cope
I love Citizen Cope. I left Dillinger to see them and it’s hard to imagine a more incongruent transition. Cope crafts slow and beautiful, groove-oriented songs. They paused for as much as a minute between songs. I stayed for every minute of this one. He played some favorites and a few from the forthcoming album, which sounds like it will be great. Here’s a taste of one of his classics.

Erykah Badu
Badu is an amazing talent and her band is very tight. Her songs have all kinds of transitions where the whole song turns on a dime and shifts to some weird groove for 16 bars, then something else for 16 bars. The band was right with it all. I have to say, Badu comes off as a bit nutty, but it was an amazing show. The sound quality of this clip is poor, but here is a look at some of the musically tight weirdness I was talking about.

Merle Haggard

While I don’t like much of the overproduced poppy crap that passes for Country music these days, I do like some of the older stuff. Merle is a fine example. Even at his age (72), he put on a good show. The crowd was all in, as well, which was fun to see. While I probably wouldn’t buy a ticket to his show, I was tickled to have the chance to see him in this kind of setting.

Snoop Dogg
What do I need to say about Snoop? He was Snoop. I thought it was a great show, but I heard plenty of people who didn’t like it. I would tell you to go see him if you get the chance, but don’t take the kids.

Neko Case
I really like Neko Case and this show was great. The weird thing was the women she had singing with her. Honestly, one of them seemed angry and her jokes weren’t that funny. In fact, they seemed to express contempt for the audience, which is never a good thing. Still, it didn’t stop me from enjoying the music. I love this song.

Coheed and Cambria
I expected these guys to be pretty good, but they absolutely blew me away live. Their deep and structured hard rock was fantastic. I will watch for them to come to town by themselves and I’ll be looking deeper into their catalog as well. What a great show. Someone has already posted a video of them taking the stage for their Bonnaroo performance this year. Check it out.

The festival closer. This show wasn’t as tight as their Friday night show, but it was still great. I’m so glad to have Phish back on the road. You may have heard by now that Bruce came out and played with them. I was a little bummed at first because I thought it might ruin the evening for me and I was afraid he would stay. Instead they did three songs, including a brilliant Mustang Sally and a cool Glory Days. It was great. I actually liked Bruce better out of his element. Less pageantry and more rocking. It was cool. The rest of the show was great as well and it was a perfect way to end the festival.

Another great festival, another successful trip. I will be going back for the foreseeable future and I encourage you to consider going as well. I haven’t been to another festival like it in terms of scale and line-up.


June 18, 2009 - Posted by | Alternative, Classic Rock, Folk, Hard Rock, Hip Hop, Jam Bands, Metal, Motown, Popular, R&B, Rock

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