Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

Bonnaroo 2010 recap: Saturday

Saturday is probably the most grueling day at Bonnaroo. Thursday starts late and ends early. The first few years, there wasn’t much music at all on Thursday. Now there is music, but it’s an abbreviated day. Friday is your first full day, with music going from noon to 4:00 AM, or thereabouts, but you’re still pretty fresh. Sunday starts at noon also, but ends at around 11:30 PM when the final headliner ends. But Saturday… You’re coming off a long Friday, you probably haven’t had much sleep, and it’s another noon to 4:00 AM day.

The weather varies from year to year, obviously. Some years it’s hot, dry, and dusty. Some years it’s rainy and muddy. This year we had rain the week before so people were setting up camp in some mud, but once the festival started there was no rain (except for a blessed 10 minutes on Saturday afternoon). Temperatures and humidity were both in the low 90s. You’re so sweaty and oily with sunscreen that your skin becomes flypaper for every particle of dust that wafts your way. There is a fountain for people to play in, but I think the same water flows in it all week, so you have to be pretty dirty for that water to actually make you cleaner. You can buy a shower for $7 or do the old shower-in-a-bottle between cars at the campsite. I have done both. Still, the crowd is all in it together and no one is there for comfort. It’s all about the music.

One of my companions knows The Melvins' road manager, Dave. We got backstage passes and met a variety of cool people.

I stayed in camp a little longer Saturday to rest (OK… and to drink) and headed for the venue shortly after noon. I caught a few minutes of Norah Jones. Jones is as talented as she is adorable but a lot of her music is a little too sleepy for me. I like the more upbeat, poppy direction she took on her latest album but the few live tracks I heard were very mellow. I was headed in search of larger game so I didn’t stay long.

The first full show I saw Saturday was Isis. If you aren’t familiar with this band out of Boston (via L.A.) they play metal that ranges from math rock to slowcore, reminiscent of Neurosis or Tool. They played a great set that was heavy and tight, which is why I was disappointed to discover the band has announced they are breaking up after this summer’s tour. If they have any dates left in your town, go check them out as it looks like they won’t be around in the fall.

Immediately following Isis on the same stage came The Melvins. This was apparently no accident because Isis and The Melvins are reportedly releasing a split EP together in July of 2010. The Melvins’ stage presence is strange. All four guys were in different dresses, from one of the drummers’ pizza print dress to the bass player’s 70s futuristic gown (think Logan’s Run or Battlestar Galactica) to lead singer King Buzzo’s black frock. I thought the set was just going to be heavy and weird. Well, it WAS heavy and weird, but it was also very engaging and extremely cool. I had never heard much from The Melvins, beyond what came up on some of my friend’s iPods, but I was much impressed and will start going through their 20+ years of albums (suggestions, anyone?).

I went from there to the main stage, where The Dead Weather was playing. This is Jack White’s (White Stripes, Raconteurs) new new band. The music on their debut album was good (I have but have not listened to the new album) and the performance was intense, but I couldn’t help wishing that the Raconteurs were playing again. In fairness, I only got to see a little bit of their show because I had to go see a personal favorite, Ozomatli. (whom I have written up more than once: here and here).

Ozomatli never disappoints. Amazing energy, individual talent, tight work as an ensemble, and great songs make this a danceable show every time. I was also delighted when Trombone Shorty (see my previous post) joined them on-stage. This was a highlight of the weekend for me.

I watched their entire show and then went to the great highlight of the entire week: Stevie Wonder. I have been excited about this show since the line-up came out. I thought I would never get a chance to see Stevie Wonder but the music gods smiled on me this year. Conan O’Brien introduced him, saying, “Let me get real serious for a moment. There is no one better than Stevie Wonder. I am honored – honored! – to be standing within 500 yards of this man. He has done it all.” I was glad Conan tried to give the kids some perspective and I couldn’t agree more.

Stevie, wearing a pure white dashiki, was led to his keyboard and the music began. He had 12 or 15 musicians on the stage with him and you know that to get the gig in Stevie’s band you have to be an absolute monster. The band were all great improvisers and tightly rehearsed. Stevie would occasionally call out, “Go to A flat!” or, “Go to E! Now F!” and the band never missed a beat or a note. The singers danced and Stevie sang with all the energy and fluid power you remember. He hasn’t lost a step. It was a celebration. He played songs spanning his entire career, including a few from my favorite, “Songs in the Key of Life.”

My only complaint about the whole show was that Stevie kept asking us to sing. Please, Stevie, don’t make us sing. You have almost as many Grammys as I have teeth. Please sing to me. I came here to hear you, not the drunk, off-key schmo next to me. Anyway, the show was amazing and all too short.

I ended my Saturday with a set from Thievery Corporation. Theivery Corp is ostensibly just DJs Rob Garza and Eric Hilton. However, they had a two-tiered stage filled with a variety of instrumentalists and singers. Their music touches dub, chillout, jazz, bossa nova, and other world influences. It was a cool set and I sank into the grass and relaxed after a long, hot day.

I had intended to write a single post covering Saturday and Sunday, but I think this is enough for today. I’ll cover Sunday tomorrow, though it was a short day and I only took in four shows.


June 21, 2010 - Posted by | Alternative, Classic Rock, Hip Hop, Metal, Popular, R&B, reggae, Rock, Soul


  1. Well you didn’t disappoint! You made me feel like I was there, I could see Stevie playing Bonnaroo in my mind. That’s sweet that Conan introduced him. I’m so happy you had a chance to see him play live. I hope I am so lucky. Let me know if you come across the show anywhere online. Hopefully Bonnaroo will offer it.

    I’m not familiar with most of these bands, so thanks for giving me some new ones to check out.

    Comment by Jenn | June 21, 2010 | Reply

    • Thank you. These posts are particularly easy and fun to write. I have seen both Stevie and Van Morrison in the past year, both of whom I thought I would never see.

      Comment by missedmusic | June 22, 2010 | Reply

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