Bonnaroo | 06.12 - 06.15 | Manchester

Words by: Sarah Hagerman | Images by: Rod Snyder & Dave Vann

Bonnaroo :: 06.12.08 – 06.15.08 :: Manchester, TN

Bonnaroo 2008 by Rod Snyder
"I hope each of you find whatever 'Roo you are looking for." –Sam Bush

I'm attempting to distill the memories from this weekend while I wipe the mud stains off my feet and apply aloe to my sunburn. It's been a popular pastime on certain music site message boards to kvetch about this festival, and indeed some complaints are justified. The unforgivably outrageous prices in Centeroo (with that in mind I would like to give a shout out to the fine folks at Bearly Edible, whose dollar grilled cheese in the campsites kept me fed throughout the weekend), the clashes that force you to make sometimes heartbreaking musical choices, occasional slow moving security searches, the odd technical difficulties and the prevalence of corporate sponsors (did anyone seriously get a shave at the salon?). But, the blank canvas and numerous tools this festival throws you give license to paint your weekend in whatever shades you like (musical or otherwise). I would point to the above quote by Sam Bush from the Bluegrass Allstars set – in the gently rolling Tennessee hills, thousands of people each set off on individual adventures. This is the story of one writer's journey through the mud and heat and back again.

Thursday, June 12

Walking by the cavernous What Stage on my way to the media area, the field was clean and the air was clear. Long tracks and thousands of stories would be dragged through this field before the weekend was over, but at this moment the space was a peaceful shrine. Thursday night offered serious substance on the smaller stages. I heard What Made Milwaukee Famous were excellent; "What Sparta should sound like," was quoted to me. Catching the end of Newton Faulkner, whose quirky hippie act came off as more grating than genuine, I am officially declaring that "Bohemian Rhapsody" is up there with "Freebird" in overplayed crowd pandering cover song territory. As Superdrag pumped out alternative rock nostalgia at This Tent, I wandered over to the Other Tent to watch Grand Ole Party. Riot girls may have a new queen in lead singer-drummer Kristin Gundred, whose wail is reminiscent of Corinne Tucker and Beth Ditto. Their funky/punky energy hit the first high note of the weekend for me. I traveled from their skillful channeling of the best Kill Rock Stars label influences to channeling the best classic rock influences with Isle of Man's Back Door Slam. Raw, timeless bluesy riffing when they covered CSNY's "Almost Cut My Hair" made an older hippie jump to his feet and start shouting and dancing in unbridled release.

Tyondai Braxton - Battles :: Bonnaroo 08 by Snyder
Unfortunately, I couldn't feel this level of excitement about MGMT. They were a plane that never quite took off; stalling on the runway of rock tricks without offering a musical challenge. Although they juggled a few ideas, the combination of weak vocals, big beats and build-ups-by-numbers failed to live up to their hype. I sought refuge in the Troo Music lounge with The Weather Underground, who took a while to soundcheck (the first of several sound related issues over this weekend), but once their monitors stopped blaring feedback the emotional blaze of lead singer Harley Prechtel-Cortez shone brightly. By the end, he was sweating and shaking more than the audience. Their surface music is almost criminally catchy, but the literate soul and genuine conviction they bring to the project had a lot of folks in the lounge captivated.

The technological mind-fuck of Battles suggested Aphex Twin's younger, prankish brother. You could make a valiant effort to dance to the machine gun beats and the layers of prog noise but anytime they hit a steady groove they would throw a wrench into the machine. Glow stick wielding music this ain't. This pushes aside the "E" love fest in favor of synth dipped in the blackest acid. As the fire flares raged behind me from the "Art of Such and Such" area, Battles burned a hole in my brain and I loved it. Continuing the fire and brimstone was The Felice Brothers. This may have been the highlight of my Thursday, and set off a bands-of-brothers motif (we'll get to the Avetts and Lees later). Southern Gothic Springsteen dripped with dark zydeco, humid passion and a touch of misanthrope, The Felice Brothers told all the dishonest folk to get out of the tent. This is a band that walks in an arena of morality and isn't afraid to call you out on your bullshit.

Lez Zeppelin :: Bonnaroo 08 by Snyder
From the confessional to the church of metal, my town of Austin's The Sword had the devil horns flashing and the heads banging in That Tent. They even looked the part with Flying V-guitars and manes of hair. They would slay Vampire Weekend's ass in a dark alley any day. Like MGMT, this band's hype has been almost inescapable. Where MGMT gets points for effort, I found VW to be irritatingly twee. Maybe after the emotional baptism of The Felice Brothers and the mental violation of Battles, I just was not in the mood for sugary songs about meeting chicks on the quads of college campuses.

Both the Grateful Dead and Led Zeppelin have made music that means more than what can be put into words, and Dark Star Orchestra and Lez Zeppelin keep those flames burning. It's always soul feeding to see Dark Star. Watching old Deadheads come alive with genuine joy, memories of shows and lots past flickering in their eyes, always touches me. But, I've seen Dark Star numerous times and only stayed for the first few songs, getting my dance on with opener "Not Fade Away," before dragging myself away to check the Lez get the Led out. As a woman who loves genuine balls-to-the-wall rock music, I was excited about this concept. Sadly, it didn't kick as much ass I wanted. Lead singer Sarah McLellan didn't let her vocals out enough to match Plant's scream (to be fair few can, but if you are in a Zeppelin cover band you should at least make the effort) and songs such as "Dazed and Confused" were played loud but markedly slower than the originals. And last time I checked "Sunshine of Your Love" is not a Zep song. Perhaps I was expecting too much, but I didn't quite find the rock sisters I was looking for.

I ended my evening at the Somethin' Else Tent, whose lineup this year featured all New Orleans musicians. Although you had to pay to get in, the money was all going to charities that help NOLA musicians, so I was willing to fork out and join the NOLA dance party that had booties shaking to Porter-Batiste-Stoltz. It felt like a secret backroom party as these three funk masters had the plywood dance floor pounding long into the night. But, the combination of ear bleeding bass levels and the knowledge that I had several more days to go led me back through the campgrounds, where the shakedowns were starting and the domino-effect of cheers rolled across the endless sea of tents.

Friday, June 13

Umphrey's McGee :: Bonnaroo 08 by Vann
"Bonnaroo, this is your motherfuckin' early mornin' wake up call!" Patterson Hood preached before the Drive-By Truckers launched into "The Living Bubba." It was a rollicking, emotionally-charged set to start the day under the baking hot sun, but the Truckers were consistent and strong and helped us power through the heat (as well as those girls behind me who kept spraying me with water – I've never been so happy to see a super soaker in my whole life). Ripping through material from the new album and hitting classics like "Puttin' People On The Moon," the set was landmark Truckers. Hood introduced "18 Wheels of Love," as he usually does, with the story of his mom and Chester the truck driver. But this time, there was an extended version of the tale. Chester nearly died recently, miraculously recovering to return to the road and his lover's arms. According to Hood, Chester and his mother were driving to see the daughter Chester thought he would never see again while we were partying down. I will not attempt to recount this word for word - there are some wells of feeling too deep for writing to illuminate - and typing this is choking me up as I think back on Hood screaming, tears in his eyes, "You may not believe me but every word of this is the goddamn truth!" As my brother said later that day, "I have never cried at a festival before."

After the cathartic sweat and tears of the Truckers, I caught the end of the Fiery Furnaces. Cardboard cutouts of Furnace siblings Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger floated about the crowd assembled in That Tent. It didn't move my soul (although after the Truckers any band would be hard pressed to do so), but the fast tempo changes and the change-ups between delicate and heavy sounds made for a fascinating listen. But, the sun was catching up to my head and I needed shade, water and a chance to check out Umphrey's McGee.

The Raconteurs :: Bonnaroo 08 by Snyder
There was some upset over UM not being given a coveted late night slot, but they approached this afternoon set with ferocity and epic fervor. There were stirring heights that broke down into driving beats and metal screams with a seamlessness that I have always been told is there by friends who love this band but had never quite witnessed myself. Subsequently, I have always written them off as "too proggy" at the odd show or festival slot I'd caught, but they completely won me over with this set. Say what you want about this festival, but (most) musicians bring their A-plus game to these stages. Their impressive technical skills ripped and rolled with enough whimsy to make the sound warm, and they looked like they were having as much fun as the grooving audience. UM were joined by Jeff Coffin (Bela Fleck and the Flecktones) who added his sax to the stew as I was being drawn towards the Other Tent and The Bluegrass Allstars.

This was a rare and wonderful chance to see these masters of bluegrass – Sam Bush, Luke Bulla, Bela Fleck, Edgar Meyer, Jerry Douglas and Bryan Sutton – together on one stage. The relative intimacy of the Other Tent gave good sightlines to appreciate their picking skills, and as I approached the edge of the crowd, Douglas' throaty dobro was calling. The mutual respect and love between these musicians is obvious, and their infectious sense of fun, led by Bush's hilarious stage banter, spread to the audience. Bush introduced "Polka on the Banjo" by saying Fleck had invented a new genre of music "that combines polka and bluegrass. What do you call it Bela?" Fleck stepped up to the mic and dryly replied, "Poke ass." New songs that veered into jazz and free form territory were thrown in the mix with bluegrass standards such as "Molly and Tenbrooks" and "Sitting on Top of the World," with generous chances for each musician to solo. This music has been my bread and butter lately and I lingered for this entire set as the gray clouds overhead hinted at the weather that was to greet us after sundown.

Willie Nelson :: Bonnaroo 08 by Snyder
Friday afternoon turned into a great wander, through !!!'s dirty dance party in That Tent (complete with frequently pantless frontman Nick Offer), Steel Train on the Sonic Stage (which failed to grab my attention although they had an energetic and fro-tastic stage presence) and Les Claypool's signature I-can't-believe-I'm-seeing-this bass, before finally settling on The Raconteurs on the main stage. Any chance to see Jack White play is welcome, and although The Raconteurs have never lived up to The White Stripes in my mind, what I saw at this set was solid, frenzied rock peaks with shadows of psychedelia. "Steady As She Goes" bounced with guitar crunch while "Rich Kid's Blues" was spacey without dwelling too long in that territory. White is perhaps too young to be considered a legend yet, but in a generation or so he will no doubt be introduced to main stages with the kind of reverence that was pervasive during this weekend of musical gods and monsters.

One of those gods was Willie Nelson, who audibly could not quite compete with the sound bleed from M.I.A.'s That Tent set despite it being at the other end of Centeroo. That made it difficult to fully appreciate Willie's style, whose instantly recognizable dryness crackles with untold heartbreak and hard living. "On the Road Again" and "Always On My Mind" were greeted as old musical friends, and the guy behind me was imploring everyone to hush up during "Always" ("Everyone shut up and listen to this song!"). Although I hated leaving Willie's quiet revolution after "Take Back America," the Third World revolution coming from M.I.A. was making total absorption in the set impossible.

Chris Rock :: Bonnaroo 08 by Vann
I came to M.I.A. in time to see the stage invasion, and as the dancers were brushed off the stage at the behest of security, M.I.A. implored the sound guy to turn her bass down. It hardly made a difference. Nevertheless, her cutting edge beats and worldly energy shone through the sound issues, thumping with the muddied tribal beats of "Galang." Since this was apparently her last gig for a while, I'm glad I got to see her before she takes a purported break.

The best comedy comes from anger, from the Jeremiad shout, and Chris Rock was in many ways a fitting choice for a year when no one could quite block out the outside world with climate change, gas prices and a presidential election on everyone's mind (and on a lot of musician's minds considering the amount of times I was implored to vote during this weekend). Chris Rock having a main stage slot worked better than I thought it would, although not all of his new material is quite up to par. He reappeared later to introduce Metallica. I am not a huge fan. I feel they rely too heavily on predictable metal tricks, but I will give credit where credit is due. They played an enthusiastic show and seemed genuinely moved by the crowd reaction. "We support live music," James Hetfield made a point of saying, in an effort to quell negative feelings still left over from the Napster fiasco. Their set roared through the numbers everyone was waiting for – "Justice for All," "Nothing Else Matters," "Enter Sandman" - with Kirk Hammett's thrashing fretwork and Hetfield's demonically possessed stares. And in spite of the worries about meatheads taking over Bonnaroo, I found the Metallica fans I encountered were respectful and curious about the other music (I think I saw at least one Metallica shirt at every show I went to).

My Morning Jacket :: Bonnaroo 08 by Vann
The rain came in spits and spatters and occasional heavy pours during Metallica and continued into the late night, with the ravenously anticipated My Morning Jacket slot. It's a rare and privileged moment to feel you are watching something that has the potential to go down in musical history, and this monster had that feeling etched in stone. MMJ came out to a glow stick war and the chills I was feeling weren't just from the rain. The air was electric and lightning was about to strike. They consistently elevate rock 'n' roll to dizzying heights of gut wrenching beauty, and Friday night's four-hour plus beast of a slot was out of the stratosphere. The new material from Evil Urges is as solid live as any MMJ classic, especially the rip roaring "Highly Suspicious." Kirk Hammett joined the band just before the setbreak for "One Big Holiday." But what made this set was the daring funk and soul covers, including "Hot Fun in the Summertime" and "Across 110th Street" complete with a horn section and Jim James sporting a cape and some slick moves.

I did wander away at times, driven into the tents by the rain, to catch some of the Super Jam and The Disco Biscuits, walking by Tiesto, who had This Tent dancing hard. Super Jam started half an hour late, and I couldn't wait in the rain knowing MMJ were tearing it up a few hundred yards away, even with rumors that Tom Waits was going to appear. The jam ended up being most of Gogol Bordello and Claypool, which sounded, when I wandered back later, like, Bordello with more complex basslines. The Biscuits, not surprisingly, opened with an aggressive "M.E.M.P.H.I.S." and kept That Tent packed and moving with what I heard was a tight, cohesive set that included a fantastic cover of "Killing In The Name Of." But I was drawn to Which Stage again and again. Perhaps my best memory of that night was putting my face up to the rain during "What a Wonderful Man" and just saying, "Fuck it, I can't possibly be any more drenched." There was something transcendent in that moment as MMJ pushed me on in a moment of stubborn grace. Editor's Note: My Morning Jacket's Bonnaroo performance is available for download here.

Saturday, June 14

Two Gallants :: Bonnaroo 08 by Snyder
I began Saturday by soaking up some of the fiery troubadour flavor of gritty duo Two Gallants and the literary-minded folk of Mason Jennings, both of whom proved with their respective outfits that there is indeed unique territory to explore in the overstuffed world of singer-songwriters. But I wanted to see Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, whose pure booty-shaking soul made me want to feather my hair and shop for bell bottoms and platform shoes. She commanded the stage with her enthusiasm, encouraging the crowd to back up her belting vocals, and the Dap-Kings kicked it old school with funky horns and deeply authentic grooves. Then, in one of those total musical 360s that is a mark of Bonnaroo, on my way to see Abigail Washburn in This Tent, I caught some of Against Me!, whose big scream-along power punk was voiced by gravelly singer Tom Gabel with fervor.

Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet featuring Bela Fleck began with an atmospheric, moaning fiddle over Washburn's Chinese incantations. She explained the words meant, "We are one big family and our language is music," an appropriate sentiment for this festival. Their meditative, hypnotic sound is acoustic spiritualism of the highest order. I was transfixed by Washburn's lilting yet powerful vocals (and command of Chinese folk songs), and the easy slides between atmosphere and fast picking. Seeing Fleck play with another group drove home how versatile his constantly evolving banjo skills truly are – he is not one to rest on his laurels. Fiddle player Ben Sollee was also a standout in this awe-inspiring group, and performed his song "Bury Me In My Car" with sweet conviction. It's music that leaves you at an utter loss for pat descriptions.

Troy Sanders - Mastodon :: Bonnaroo 08 by Snyder
My husband's affinity for all things metal drew us to check out Mastodon, who combined dense lower-end complexity with heavy metal guitar fretwork. Like The Sword, this was another group who came on like an axe in the face. Umphrey's McGee guitarist Brendan Bayliss was watching some of their set from the side, perhaps taking some mental notes to further metal up his band. But, one of my favorite sets of the weekend came from North Carolina's The Avett Brothers. A passionate following packed the Other Tent, and although the Avetts certainly have shades of bluegrass, they are hardly pigeonholed in that genre. There were tinges of aggressive folk rock reminiscent of The Pogues, shimmers of gospel in their heart-rattling harmonies and lip biting, bare-it-all honesty in the lyrics. I've never seen an acoustic group move so much onstage. I absorbed the sun and the rousing salvation. This is a group you can throw your sins at and feel renewed and forgiven.

Since he is pushing on in years, I felt obligated to see some of B.B. King. Perched on his chair, the Buddha of blues, he let his guitar roll and reflected on his age with "I Need You." He mused, "I recorded this in 1949." But the sound was far too quiet if you weren't in the front throng of the What Stage, and although I appreciated the opportunity to see King, I made my way back to the Other Stage for another old time legend, Levon Helm. As dusk drew in and the Tennessee sky gradually faded to pink, I easily willed myself to dance to the brass-tinged blues-rock that opened the set. When Helm's outfit turned to his solo material, the Ramble On The Road band took us down the winding dirt paths in the heartland of America. Salt of the earth music, Helm played mandolin on several songs while his band took turns singing lead showcasing Teresa Williams' organ-worthy set of pipes. He saved The Band material for the end of the set, with "The Shape I'm In," "Chest Fever" and closer "The Weight," a song that never stops plucking my heart strings no matter how many times I hear it. He had the audience drawn in tight and it was the kind of set where you turn to your neighbor, slap them on the arm and are spontaneously inspired to start singing along together.

Jack Johnson :: Bonnaroo 08 by Snyder
I skipped out on Jack Johnson to regroup, although he seemed to have drawn quite an enthused crowd (he's pleasant enough but I just can't get excited about beach bum folk). Returning from my campsite, I found the main stage was packed for Pearl Jam, who drew a noticeably larger crowd than Metallica. This set was a personal experience for me, as Pearl Jam was the first band I was ever obsessed with as an adolescent, and I have recently come to re-appreciate their body of work. They have the staying power that has eluded nearly every other band from the Seattle scene, and this powerful show proved why. They still bring gusto to the stage, whether on new material or radio staples from Ten. I was running to the stage when I heard the opening notes of "Corduroy" and they drew me in instantly with a thunderous set that shifted through brutal versions of standards like "Animal" and "Why Go," stopping to occasionally meander on a Mike McCready guitar solo or an extended jam, but moving with quick pacing. That is until Eddie Vedder's usual awkward, wine-fueled stage banter took over in the encores, but the sea of thousands of lighters raised for "Better Man" made him pause and muse simply, "That's beautiful," before continuing.

Late night Saturday once again consisted of wandering back and forth to and from Which Stage, where Phil & Friends played a joyous set. I hadn't seen this current lineup of Friends yet, and I was pleased with how well each member complimented each other. Although Particle keyboardist Steve Molitz can pepper the music with an '80s Dead sound, the rest of the lineup keeps the music tight and driving enough so the keys don't feel obtrusive, and the Dead's music remains alive, breathing and evolving. Chilling versions of "Loser" and "Dark Star" and a rousing "Stella Blue" provided rest from the dance, but this was Phil to get down and funky to.

Kanye West :: Bonnaroo 08 by Vann
I did manage to catch some of Sigur Ros, whose anthemic build-ups and frozen soundscapes are perhaps best appreciated when they don't have to compete with dance parties happening elsewhere, but they commanded the audience deep inside That Tent into reverential awe. Their sound requires a level of total absorption to truly appreciate, and I couldn't linger as much as I would have liked. Meanwhile, the best light show of the weekend has to go to the sinister, sexy electronic aggression of Ghostland Observatory. Lead singer Aaron Behrens embodies suggestion with his dance moves and wailing voice, and This Tent was turned into a latter day version of Studio 54, where it was tempting to seek out the darkest backrooms.

The late night set everyone was waiting for was Kanye West. I was interested in the spectacle, but his ego-driven decision to push his set back from 2:45 a.m. until 4:30 a.m. was blatantly done to make sure no other performers would compete with his stage time. I gave up waiting and threw in the towel, but reports came in quickly Sunday morning that when he finally made fit to drag himself be-grudgingly onstage he proceeded to play for less than an hour. As my brother's friend enthused the next day about how Talib Kweli and Lupe Fiasco, both true hip-hop artists, brought such love and true urban credibility to their sets, I thought, it's time to officially declare Kanye West a hip-hop has been. If we are lucky he shall be consumed by his own gravitational pull and catapult off to another planet, glow in the dark or not. There was palpable fury, and the presence of "Fuck Kanye" signs the next morning spoke to his stark contempt for the people who have gotten him where he is in the first place. There is a quote from Lester Bangs that nicely sums up his set: "The ultimate sin of any performer is contempt for the audience." There may not be enough atonement in music heaven and hell for West.

Sunday, June 15

Solomon Burke :: Bonnaroo 08 by Snyder
As anti-Kanyism spread throughout the festival, we were luckily graced with another day of music that proved Mr. West was the glaring exception to the level of gratitude and energy most performers brought to their Bonnaroo sets. The Lee Boys started the day off right with the a-freakin'-men of their sacred steel, gospel rock that had That Tent moving like James Brown's jumping church in The Blues Brothers. That Tent on Sunday was an arms waving, hands clapping affair with sets by Robert Randolph's Revival, the legendary Solomon Burke (who literally sat on his throne and schooled us in soul) and the Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi Soul Stew Revival. The Lee Boys were a perfect conversion to the congregation.

Afterwards I caught some of Serena Ryder and Ladytron. The earnest singer-songwriting and studied synth of each, respectively, weren't quite what I needed after my Lee Boys baptism, so I headed over to Orchestra Baobab. This was ideal Sunday afternoon music, as this hard-working Senegalese collective let their world of organic influences wash over the sunbaked grass, taking us from Cuban nightclubs to distant African shores. However, the Sunday afternoon set I was most excited about was Yonder Mountain String Band on the What Stage, and the boys didn't disappoint.

A. Krauss & R. Plant :: Bonnaroo 08 by Vann
A What Stage spot for a band like Yonder is a chance to win over new fans, and I think the kinfolk fold got bigger. "We will play our whole set," Jeff Austin reassured the crowd in a not so subtle Kanye diss, adding later in the set, "We'll do a damn glow in the dark set and won't blow it." The set was a strong choice of mostly Yonder originals, from an "Out of the Blue" kickoff that slid into a distortion heavy "East Nashville Easter" where Austin showed visible glee playing with feedback from his monitor. After a tasty "Angel" > "Follow Me Down to the Riverside" > "Angel" sandwich, a rollicking "Casualty" and so-fun-it-should-be-illegal encore cover of Ozzy's "Crazy Train," and my sandals were worn out from digging grooves in the dust. It spoke to Yonder's unique ability to draw everyone into their celebratory release that inspired a dancing throng despite the brutal heat.

It's been said before and it will be said again that Bonnaroo is often as much about what you miss as what you saw. I missed the acoustic Phil set due to almost complete exhaustion (readers, this is your chance to comment...), but regrouped in time for Robert Plant and Alison Krauss featuring T Bone Burnett. Krauss' silky voice was the perfect compliment to Plant's writhing. The vocal beatings he took during Zeppelin means he can't always hit those high notes for sustained periods, but his voice has aged with richness and gravity. Burnett's guitar was the extra twist in the cocktail as the fiddles and strings made for a set that felt spacious and grew to moments of rolling thunder. Revisiting Zeppelin to fit in with his co-conspirators, Plant still managed to strut with mic in hand during "Black Dog," the cocky rock star he once was tempered with wisdom and gratitude.

Since they rarely play together, I did hotfoot it to catch the tail end of Broken Social Scene, who led the audience in a scream along to "Personal Therapy." The audience in That Tent was a jumping sea of waving arms obviously feeling the breakthrough. But as the final day of Bonnaroo drew to a close, I had the fortune of catching Jake Shimabukuro in the Blue Room Café at the back of the What Stage area. If the ukulele is not an instrument you have ever considered seriously, Shimabukuro will bring you around. He made it sing with jazzy picking and lovely rolls through classical pieces and covers of "In My Life" and "Going to California." "There's nowhere else in the world I would rather be," he enthused, and I had to agree as the audience settled in for a long evening with fest closers Widespread Panic.

Widespread Panic :: Bonnaroo 08 by Vann
Somehow in my musical journeys, I have never managed to see Panic live, and what better setting than Bonnaroo? My brother, a Bonnaroo vet, is a diehard fan and he grabbed my arm and yelled, "You're FINALLY fucking seeing them!" as they took the stage. Alongside My Morning Jacket, John Bell and Co. have become synonymous with this festival, and although their set started off slow, it picked up midway into stretching, rowdy jams that kicked many of us who were sitting to our feet, although Bell's meaty guitar lorded over guest Robert Randolph. Even if Randolph didn't always quite mesh, the second half of this set was played with assurance as Dave Schools' hair floated behind his towering stature and stormy basslines alongside Bell's distinctive, gravelly howl. Chilly, hungry and being held together by a thinly spun web of inertia, coffee and tobacco, I headed for the campsite, "Tall Boy" fading gradually away, sound tracking my parting shot. Although many of my Spreadhead friends speculate their best years are behind them, I hope the momentum can keep this outfit going for a while to reach potential new heights in an already proud career.

I was drawn back to Sam Bush's thoughts as I wandered to the packed car, bound to Nashville and the trappings of civilization. What Bonnaroo was I searching for? One where musical honesty, never-look-back risks and rare opportunities present themselves at every turn, while fellow live music freaks mutually support each other through an often trying landscape. I am happy to report that Bonnaroo does indeed exist, and in spite of the inherent trials and gripes, there are countless inspired moments transcribed in my crumpled notebook. I'll paraphrase Patterson Hold here: You'll have to take my word for it, but every word I am saying is the goddamn truth.

Continue reading for more images from Bonnaroo 2008...

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