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.