I’ve been trying to figure out how to write about my second Bonnaroo experience. There were so many aspects to the weekend, so I decided to break it up into topics instead of giving a rundown of my daily activities. I guess the first thing I should write about is the music and other entertainment. Overall I ended up seeing 20 different acts. By seeing I mean I stuck around long enough to watch a few songs. Technically I heard more acts but I didn’t really want to list bands that I saw in passing.
My five favorite performances (in no particular order)
1. Wilco. Who would have guessed, right? I’ve always made it pretty clear that they are my favorite band. It was a much better performance than their last appearance at Bonnaroo (Jeff Tweedy was just coming out of rehab back then). To me the highlights were Hummingbird and Woody Guthrie’s California Stars.
2. Phish: I’d never seen these guys before and was pretty excited about it. They were the headliner on Friday and Sunday night. I can’t say they blew me away on Friday. Maybe it was because I was worn out after a long day and a stellar Beastie Boy’s show. Maybe I had too many beers. Regardless, I went back on Sunday and was blown away, especially when Bruce Springsteen sat in with them for a couple of songs. I think the best thing about seeing Phish is how passionate and wild their fans are. I think all the glowsticks flying through the air look cool too.
3. Jimmy Buffett: This show was originally billed as Ilo and the Coral Reefers (Ilo is a talented west African musican Jimmy discovered). Somehow Jimmy ended up playing as well. It wasn’t as rowdy as a typically Buffett show would be, but it was good regardless. I thought the highlight of the show was when Ilo expressed how 48 hours before the show he didn’t know if he would be allowed into the US, and expressed how happy he was to be in our country.
4. Beastie Boys: The last time I saw the Beastie Boys was on the Ill Communication Tour back around 1994. It still ranks as one of the best shows I have ever seen. The guys are a little older and don’t have the energy they did back then, but they still didn’t disappoint. The highlights for me were the debute of a new song “Too Many Rappers” performed with Nas and Paul Revere. If you were alive when Licensed to Ill was released and you don’t know all the words to Paul Revere then something is wrong with you.
5. Public Enemy: If I actually did rank the top five sets that I saw, PE would fall into either the #1 or #2 slot. They tore it up. Chuck D and Flav walked out with the S1W’s and announced they would start by playing every song off the groundbreaking album It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold us Back (ranked 48th best album of all time by Rolling Stone, and one of my personal favorites.
A few performances I thought were overrated.
1. Bruce Springsteen and the E. Street Band: Bruce puts on a very high energy show, but he is pretty cheesy. So is everyone in his band. This is the second time I have seen him perform live and I’m still not impressed. I tried to stick it out but left after he played “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Who the hell plays that in June? I kind of wish I stuck around so I could see him perform with Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.
2. Animal Collective: I heard so much hype about Animal Collective, and thought they were pretty bad. Maybe they just aren’t a good live band, or maybe they need to play a later time slot.
3. Girl Talk: I love GT and have heard seeing him live is an awesome experience. I think if you get to the show early enough it probably is. If you don’t and end up in the back you kind of feel uninvolved. I was also a little irritated that the artists laptop kept cutting out and he had to stop the show a couple of times because people were getting crushed.
Five bands that exceeded my expectations
1. Hockey: I basically watched this band because I was too tired to walk to a different stage. They were actually pretty damn good. They had an interesting 70’s soul/funk sound. I really enjoyed this show and will probably buy their album.
2. Galactic with Trombone Shorty and Corey “Boe Money” Henry: Take one of New Orleans best funk bans and combine it with two of New Orleans best trombone players and you have yourself one hell of a party.
3. Ben Harper and the Relentless7: I went to see Ben Harper to kill a little time before MGMT played. I’ve always liked Ben Harper but get bored with his more gospel-like material. With the Relentless7 he just rocks out. Great show.
4. Bon Iver: I didn’t have high expectations about Bon Iver. His album “For Emma” has been lauded as one of the best of 2008, but I found it to be a little too slow and quiet. His live performance is nothing like that. They actually rock out. I got to the show a little late and soon wished I got there earlier.
5. Neko Case: I’m not a big female singer fan, but Neko sounded real good. I’m thinking about seeing her at the Ryman later this year.
Things I regret missing.
1. MGMT: I really wanted to see this band. Oracular Spectacular is pretty much dominating my CD player right now. Unfortunately I decided to take a disco nap and didn’t wake up in time. This is especially disappointing now that I know Drew Barrymore (Pic 15) was there.
2. Nine Inch Nails: I skipped this show because I had just seen them in October. Trent Reznor announced it would be their last North American show.
3. Phoenix: People were absolutely raving about this band. I checked the tour dates and every show is sold out.
There were several other bands I saw.
1. Crystal Castles: I really liked them but only cought two songs.
2. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Second time seeing them. Good show as always.
3. TV on the Radio: Second time seeing them. Great band. Good show.
4. Snoop Dogg: Pretty good as expected.
5. Passion Pit: I like their music. Live show was ok, but not outstanding. I liked the music enough to want to buy the album.
6. White Rabbits: Didn’t care for them but will give it another listen because Britt Daniels of Spoon produced their album.
7. Chairlift: Didn’t care for them.