Bonnaroo 2008 - Saturday, 14 June

[15 June 2008]

By John Bohannon

While Friday was on point, Saturday left thousands exuberant and others –- well, a little bit pissed off by the end of it all. Notoriously the day for everyone to put their lives on the line for consumption of drugs and one heavy dousing of alcohol, this was the year to do it if you were planning on it -– the weather lay overcast above the throng of thousands in their finest.

Mastadon

Mastadon

To kick my ass in to gear, there was no other possible way to start my day than seeing Atlanta metal gods, Mastodon. There were times during this set I thought the entire tent was going to come crashing down while the bass-heavy notes were shaking my insides left and right. That could also have to do with the fact that I ended up in a mosh pit unintentionally (two mosh pits so far at Bonnaroo, it’s the beginning of a new era) and ended up with a handful of blood smudges on my wonderful white shirt from those that had a little more anger pent up than me at the time. Premiering new songs (hopefully from the upcoming record they are working on with Brendan O’ Brien) and spending time backtracking their catalogue –- there was no evidence of disappointment at this show. It’s possible that because I’m in a somewhat newly acquainted metal stage in my life that Metallica and Mastodon up to this point had been the most successful shows of the weekend. It’s also possible that these audiences are finding a new appreciation for the genre while they usually aren’t exposed to it in this environment. Mastodon fan or not, you left this show fucking shook up -– and it was beautiful as can be.

Shortly after, I had quite the change of pace over at Cat Power –- when her usual anxiety ridden self makes the most awkward stage movements of anybody since Ian Curtis. That’s just fine though, considering her voice is so damn sultry that one can’t help but swoon (not to mention she is one of the most extraordinary looking humans on the face of the earth). That’s not to mention she always puts together one of the most killer bands in the business, featuring backing bands that perfectly compliment her voice. I think it’s the only way she can really perform nowadays, considering her famed solo performances never quite went off without a hitch. [Download Cat Power set]

Cat Power - Tracks of My Tears

Lying in a hammock in the VIP area while taking in some of B.B. King’s stellar set was next on my list of priorities. Playing to a crowd that really felt like winding down, King brought em’ on home and layed it down with the usual showmanship that included call-and-response style conversations with his band and the audience. The man shows no signs of slowing down with age, and this performance put the fact that he has a record coming out in the fall on my radar.

B.B. King

B.B. King

Bonnaroo’s still relatively new Somethin Else’ Tent (named after the classic Cannonball Adderley record) highlighted New Orleans this year -– charging a $5 entrance fee for donations to the revitalization of the city taken down by Katrina. The thing that absolutely blows my mind is that Ivan Neville’s Dumstaphunk, a band full of artists from the ol’ bayou with the Neville stamp, was the damn giddiest I had been all weekend from an artist. Maybe packed with 150 people, everyone from the front to back got together for a common cause of funk and danced in the tent-formed-New Orleans style club. Anyone associated with the Neville family never fails to deliver the funk.

Sigur Rós

Sigur Rós

While I tried to muster up the strength to make it to Pearl Jam, it just didn’t quite happen. A long night was ahead considering Sigur Rós and Kanye West were scheduled to play back to back with late night sets, and chances were, my ass wasn’t sleeping. I was a bit apprehensive about how a Sigur Rós set would go over at Bonnaroo –- but other than a few technical difficulties, it was as close to perfect as it could get. Experiencing them in this environment, as odd as this sounds, the band finally felt human. After the technical difficulties, it broke down the audience between performer and audience, and made the whole thing a much more intense, emotional experience. They’ve changed their show for the new record, and have abandoned the giant screen for a more regal, straightforward approach, which could also help breaking down the aforementioned barrier. Everyone was dressed in their best attire and a horn section joined for cuts off their upcoming record, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust. The new tracks, such as “Gobbledigook”, transfer beautifully live –- and in case you were wondering -– they make them just as epic as the previous tracks. It’s absolutely wonderful to see them head in a new direction, and it works for em’ –- the set felt completely organic and inspired.

This however, could not prepare us for what the hell Kanye was about to pull. Scheduled to come on at 2:45 AM, he finally took the stage after stalling, in Kanye fashion, until 4:15 AM. The glow in the dark tour seems like a totally watered down version of 2001: A Space Odyssey and was cheesy as get out -– but you pretty much had to go into the set not expecting too much. There was rumors spread that Daft Punk was going to show up (of course, untrue) and people seemed ultimately let down as the sun was coming up at the end of West’s set.

At the end of it all, everyone was a bit pissed off –- but what the hell else were you going to do at 5:00 in the morning, go back to your tent? Kanye’s show was of epic proportions, and although cheesy, that man’s confidence is arrogant, yet empowering. Anyone who can still be that big and attract that many fans at 5:00 in the morning, has some clout, and rightfully so. Pissed off or not, people stayed and are still going to buy his records -– so at the end of the day he wins.

So as I make my way into another day of Bonnaroo, Saturday remains another success, and Sunday may wrap up on the best festivals in its seven-year history.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/post/bonnaroo-2008-saturday-june-14/