John Mahar's Blog

Education, Spanish, Travel, Poems, Bonnaroo reports, and more.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bonnaroo 2011

I’m fresh off my return from Bonnaroo—so fresh I still smell a little ripe despite a shower and I still can’t hear very well. Either it’s from the ridiculous bass of the late-night shows or maybe the dust stopping up my ear canals. It rained all of about 10 minutes in the 4 days, so the air was thick with waves of sound and dust particles. The day-time high temperatures were above 90 degrees, and usually by 8AM it was too hot to continue sleeping. If it sounds uncomfortable so far, just keep in mind I’m getting the negative stuff out of the way first—except for one thing, the festival was even better than I expected. And my expectations were very high, considering how much fun I had in 2009.

The images are still dancing in my head: the glow of the lightshow on an ecstatic crowd, everybody dressed for the beach, coolers with cases of beer, big shade trees with people cramming together to get out of the sun, and thousands of tents.

I didn’t go in this year with a huge list of things I wanted to see—I didn’t really do any research on bands I didn't know, but luckily the bands I saw mostly blew me away in one way or another. To keep this organized in such a way that you don’t have to plough through a bunch of my potentially less-than-thrilling commentary, I’ll bold the bands I saw and link to a video of theirs so you can skip my words and just check out the music.

A more detailed story is in the next post, but here are the music highlights:

Thusrday is usually a warm-up, but Sleigh Bells killed it and ended up being the favorite show of some people. Musically it’s Iron-Man style 70s guitars, dance beats, and a chic singer. I couldn’t get in to it cuz I’m too old for all that bass (a theme that emerged as I stood by speakers repeatedly). But when I listen to the studio recordings I do like the synthesis of the new beats with those old grinding guitar riffs.

Friday was a total knockout, with great shows for me all day, but my favorite two shows of the festival were My Morning Jacket and Arcade Fire. They played back to back on the main stage and both killed it. My Morning Jacket played with a horn troupe to fill out their already big sound, and Arcade Fire has enough members they didn’t need any additions. My Morning Jacket reminded me physically of Metallica with their head-banging and hair, but also their starpower. This is one of the songs they played that I thought was great—imagine it with a horn section and bass loud enough to remind you how old you are. Arcade Fire’s video work was the most interesting I’ve ever seen at a show, multiplying the coolness factor. This song was my favorite performance of Bonnaroo. They brought it so hard it brought tears to my eyes.

Earlier in the day I heard Florence and the Machine for the first time and was knocked over by her voice and power. She looks a little like David Bowie and belts like maybe she could have an opera career. The only female performer I’ve ever seen live with a more powerful stage presence is Lauren Hill. The difference is that Florence has a sweet side too.

We all thought Saturday day was going to be a little slower, but thanks to Eugene Kutz’ curation of the Other Stage, we started off with maybe the most unique performance of the weekend with Hanngai. This band is from Mongolia and their music is sometimes reminiscent of Irish drinking songs. We thought we were going to sit down for the show to save our legs for later but it was too fun to stay still.

Another wild performance was given by Omar Souleyman, a Syrian whose onstage presence seems more like a politician than an artist. As he sings at times he holds up one finger as if he’s explaining how he’ll solve the debt crisis. For all I know that’s what he could have been singing about. When finished with songs he puts his hands out to the side and waves like he just finished an acceptance speech.

I left Sunday, but had to see G. Love and Special Sauce before I left. I’ve always liked him and he gave a great fun performance. The best might have been his rendition of Booty Call, in which he free-styled about hooking up at Bonnaroo. His new material is great, a lot better than the songs on Lemonde, in my opinion. He’s doing a Paul Simon cover too, which was a lot of fun.

The next post will have the detailed version with more band links and recs. Here are the few photos I took. I'm missing a cord, so more will follow soon.


Post a Comment

<< Home