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Monday, Jun 15, 2009
Words and Pictures by John Bohannon

As Bonnaroo came to a close, it’s obvious this is an operation that sets the bar for the entire modern festival circuit. With supreme organization, arguably the most diverse festival line-up in America, and an atmosphere conducive to all walks of life, Bonnaroo births its own little civilization for a short period of time each June. While my body is moving like Jell-O and my legs have reached a level of pain I had once deemed unthinkable, there is a certain energy that carries you through the weekend. Another big advancement for the festival was the decreasing dependency on drugs, which can really change the experience (or maybe this was because I didn’t make my way to either Phish show). People seemed to truly embrace the music this year, allowing bands like Passion Pit and Portugal, The Man to play to the biggest audiences they have probably ever seen.


Bonnaroo 2009 also gave bands in differing genres—metal for example—a chance to expose their music to a completely different audience. The tent was pouring with love for Dillinger Escape Plan, who played the absolute craziest show I’ve ever witnessed at Bonnaroo. With a moshpit that took over half the tent, this festival, for a brief time at least, became less about peace and love, and more about angst and brutality. The band’s members were taking nose-dives into the audience and flying off the top of PA speakers, making sure the crowd didn’t lose interest for a second, and they did their job right. The highlight was their revered cover of Aphex Twin’s “Come to Daddy”, which doesn’t make its way on to just any set list. With all that peace and love, I guess you have to release your pent up anger somewhere. Bring on the metal, Bonnaroo.


While I said earlier that drugs seemed to be less prevalent this year, the stench of weed hung in the air long before stoner-metal legends High on Fire took the stage. The sound guys at Bonnaroo were adamant about the low-end, and thank god for this. The sludge from the depths of hell shook my guts in every direction humanly possible and the crowd’s faces looked like they had never seen anything so damn heavy in their lives—and I’m sure they haven’t. Frontman Matt Pike was in his element, roaring to a new generation of stoner metal junkies.


By the end of the day, the only remedy was a little bit of Neko Case. As I walked into the tent, I came across Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog ragging on Case. He claimed, “These people are so high, they’ve probably seen four talking dogs today.” Shortly after, Case and Triumph did a duet of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” to a crowd of befuddled and amused Case fans. Needless to say, she was hitting the notes just slightly better than ol’ Triumph. For the remainder of the set, she was nothing but grateful of her fans. Her voice is so pure and lovely it was the perfect antidote for all the anger that engulfed the earlier part of the day, and it was also the perfect ending to another year at the Bonnaroo Festival.



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Monday, Jun 15, 2009
Photo credit: Sachyn Mital

While a free show at 2 pm on a weekday in the tourist-teeming Rockefeller Center from a multiplatinum musician should draw a huge crowd, Moby’s small acoustic performance at the NBC Café had only been briefly mentioned on his website so people were not packed shoulder to shoulder. Those folks ‘in the know’ and those fortunate enough to be there all witnessed an intimate showcase with Moby as he played a grab bag of songs and humbly chatted in-between.


When not creating music, Moby has made occasional guest appearances at NYC’s comedy venue the Upright Citizen Brigade Theater. At the café, he got to share some of this lighter side. In between songs, Moby jokingly stated that the first goal of showmanship is to interrupt a song as often as possible, or rather during, switching from piano to guitar or when part of a song eluded him. The intimacy even allowed him to offer sandwiches and fruit from the green room to the audience.


Accompanying Moby was Kelli Scarr, his friend and former lead singer of Moonraker. She has lent her talents to his forthcoming release, Wait for Me and in return he is producing her debut release Piece. Scarr’s warm voice substituted for the old gospel very well on “Natural Blues” and “Honey”. She also sang the title track from his new album and “Southside”.


Moby also sang a couple of covers for which he requested help from the audience. People eagerly sang “doo doo” in Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” and vocalized the trumpet within Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”.  Finally, despite requests to play all day, Moby ended his brief show with a Neil Young cover. Clocking in at around 45 minutes, the show was a great way to spend a lunch break. Seeing an artist in a venue where the sound of a blender can overpower the singing makes a person feel a part of something special.



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Sunday, Jun 14, 2009
Words by John Bohannon

Segueing into Saturday after Friday’s festivities, I came to the slow realization that my body can’t quite handle these events like it used to. After a barrage of beat-driven acts on Friday, my goal on Saturday was to seek out a relaxing array of music throughout the day in preparation for the day’s headliner, Bruce Springsteen.


One of the most pleasant surprises came in the form of a press exclusive performance by Nonesuch newbies, The Low Anthem. Combining the droning element of a pump organ and the subtle nuance of atmospheric tones, the band hit a perfect chord, especially the vocals, which were absolutely phenomenal and as pure as can be. Their debut Oh My God, Charlie Darwin will be making it into my hands as soon as the festival is finished, and I suggest it makes it into yours as well.


Now, for the record, I have always had an avid hatred for the music of Jimmy Buffett. I’ve stayed as far away as possible from hotel resorts that might pipe out his tunes as I check in, and you’d never find me in one of his Margaritaville restaurants. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a giant smile on my face during his set with Ilo Ferreira and the Coral Reef All-Stars. There is something mighty charming about the man in person. Whether you like Buffet’s music or not, he knows how to make an audience feel good—and one can do nothing but commend that.


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Saturday, Jun 13, 2009
Words by John Bohannon and Pictures by Karen Dunbar

After the never-ending ordeal of plunging into the campgrounds, another prolific year for Bonnaroo is underway. Now in its eighth year, it has become one of the world’s most diverse and popular festival destinations and it’s parked dead in the middle of Tennessee. No different from previous years, the backpacked druglords and the eager and willing are in full force. After a setback on Thursday night that involved a torrential downpour and the quick scare of a tornado warning rumor, Friday proved to sit among the row of ducks for impressive days having taken place at the festival. On initial thought, the excitement I managed to muster up for this year’s trek in the mud was minimal at best. Communing with Phish and Public Enemy fans alike, the atmosphere filled with the smell of patchouli and weed smoke somehow draws me in to its, well, unyielding charm.


Friday’s madness kicked off with a phenomenal set from critical-darlings (and David Byrne advocates), the Dirty Projectors. Every little thing about this band is complex in its nature, but simple in its approach. Building layers of beautiful vocal harmonies and spastic guitar-lines, the band somehow finds a groove that is grounded in the pop world of Wings-era McCartney and Paul Simon’s Graceland, and the convulsive, quirky approach of Talking Heads. Considering they were playing on the David Byrne-curated stage, it only made sense for them to have him guest on the Dark Was the Night sensation, “Knotty Pine”—a beautiful way to end a near perfect set.


After having standards set high, it was inevitable something was set to fail. It just happened to be possibly the most hyped band of 2009, Animal Collective. Their set was a complete and utter failure. Full of electronic meandering and slowed down renditions of their otherwise, upbeat and sunny songs, their Merriweather Post Pavilion-driven set fell flat on its face to a monstrous crowd. In order for this band to take the next step in their career, they should spend time learning to wow larger audiences and how to adapt a set in stadium-sized situations.


BELA FLECK [Photo: Karen Dunbar]

BELA FLECK [Photo: Karen Dunbar]


Bonnaroo has always had a knack for exposing world music to American audiences, one of my favorite aspects of the festival. This year, they had the Africa Rising tent featuring the likes of Toumani Diabate & Bela Fleck, Toubab Krewe, Amadou and Miriam, and African beat legend, King Sunny Ade. The Nigerian-based Ade brought the funk from across the Atlantic. Known as the king of Juju, his new compositions sound just as fresh and soulful as those he created over 20 years ago, melding the best elements of the west’s approach to pop music with traditional Nigerian music. The only shame was this was probably the least attended performance I saw on Friday (probably due to the fact they were competing with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs). Ade and his band, the African Beats, showed artistic integrity and dedication to an art form unlike anyone else on Friday, and lets hope it paid off with a new, dedicated audience.


TV ON THE RADIO [Photo: Karen Dunbar]

TV ON THE RADIO [Photo: Karen Dunbar]


After a quick nap in the lovely hammocks behind the stage, I managed to get some liquid courage from the fine Tennessean whiskey and pummel through TV on the Radio’s set. I think its fair to say Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone are two of my favorite figures in modern music. They are so charismatic and inimitable with their approach, its hard not to love what they are doing. I’m not quite sure what the hell Tunde is doing when he dances, but after watching the man act in Jump Tomorrow and Rachel Getting Married—it makes complete sense. His awkwardness is his allure, and creates a stage presence that’s unparalleled.


DAVID BYRNE [Photo: Karen Dunbar]

DAVID BYRNE [Photo: Karen Dunbar]


After curating a stage for the day, David Byrne had a performance to take care of himself. There’s a reason why he is one of the biggest figures in the world of avant-garde pop music, and it comes out in every aspect of his live performance. Playing everything from Talking Heads era classics such as “Born Under Punches” and “Burning Down the House” to cuts off of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, Byrne is truly a seasoned veteran, controlling the crowd with every word and fluid movement. He also had the help of a brilliantly choreographed dance-routine that was about as offbeat and spastic as David Byrne’s music itself (which I’m sure was intentional). Truly sensational and one of the best experiences I’ve had at Bonnaroo in my six years attending.


PUBLIC ENEMY [Photo: Karen Dunbar]

PUBLIC ENEMY [Photo: Karen Dunbar]


Capping off the night was a solid performance from political-minded hip-hoppers Public Enemy. I have the feeling a good 75% of the crowd came out to see Flava Flav, and rightfully so—the man looks about 65 but holds it down like he’s 25. There’s a reason he was and is the best hype man in the game. Chuck D brought the brains to the operation, doing exactly what he has been doing for over 20 years, informing an audience that’s willing to listen and encouraging them to be socially conscious. That’s a deed to the death for Chuck D, and its obvious even in a constant party environment.


After a day of blistering heat and constant exhausting, the back of my car had never sounded so good (my tent got flooded the night before, which never fails to happen). Prepping for a Saturday of Springsteen and a hefty endurance test is on the horizon. Looks like Bonnaroo will be yet another success.


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Friday, Jun 12, 2009
Words and Pictures by Kirstie Shanley

Chicago was given a rare gift when St. Vincent (known to her friends as Annie Clark) stopped by the city to play on two consecutive nights. Both shows—a rainy Sunday at the Metro and on an overly humid Monday night at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park—were filled with songs such as “Black Rainbow” and “Marrow” that started out pretty and climbed to a transcendent climax.


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