Words by: Kayceman | Images by: Rod Snyder & Dave Vann
Bonnaroo :: 06.11.09 - 06.14.09 :: Manchester, TN
Bonnaroo has got the goods. They've got the respect (from ticket buyers to industry insiders), influence, balls, money and vision to do what no other festival can. Who else can bring Phish and Bruce Springsteen to a festival? No one. This is the only American fest Bruce will play all year and Phish hasn't done a festival (other than their own) since the mid-90s.
|Bonnaroo 2009 by Snyder|
Bonnaroo started as a jam-centric event bringing out the hippies for acts like Widespread Panic, Phil Lesh & Friends, The String Cheese Incident, moe. etc, and while they still honor these roots and welcome these acts back, the 'Roo no longer adheres to any genre distinctions, and, in fact, relishes the opportunity to bring wildly different artists together on the same stage. When I asked David Byrne, who both performed with his band and curated an entire stage at this year's party, how Bonnaroo developed into the landmark event it is, he said: "I've noticed that in the lineup and organization they just kind of widened their scope. It used to be known as the jamband festival some years ago. And it was for a while – but it seems to have widened out a lot since then. And, it kind of brought the audience with them, or vice versa. It's hard to tell who is leading who."
Byrne hit the nail on the head. Genres no longer matter. People who love music love ALL KINDS of music. We don't just like jambands, or just indi, or just rock, or just hip-hop; we love bits and pieces of it all and that's why 80,000 people consistently flock to this giant, humid field in Tennessee every summer. This is America's premier music festival. It's our Glastonbury, and it's where we got to see The Boss play with Phish, Nas sit-in with the Beastie Boys, Erykah Badu sing with Snoop Dogg, Elvis Costello perform with guests Allen Toussaint and Jenny Lewis, Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) with Elvis Perkins, and David Byrne join the Dirty Projectors. There's nothing like the 'Roo, and these high-profile superstar collaborations only highlight this point.
What follows is one man's journey through the field. With over 140 acts on ten stages, not to mention the Comedy and Cinema tents, there's no way one dude could catch even a fraction, so like everyone else at Bonnaroo, I went where my ears led me. I hope you enjoy the journey even half as much as I did...
Thursday :: 06.11
Thursday was a shit show. It was travel day for many patrons and the plan was to get settled and head into the site to catch some of the action that was getting under way around 5:30 p.m. Mother Nature had other plans. Driving from the Nashville airport we experienced some of the heaviest rain I've ever encountered. As the sky opened up there were stories of tornado warnings, hail threats, tents being blown away, pathways turning to mud, stages drowning and lots of out of state ticket-holders getting stuck in connecting airports. The weather wreaked havoc on the first night and although music kept getting pushed later into the evening, I didn't even get in to Manchester until almost 3 a.m. Bummed to have missed acts like Alberta Cross, Delta Spirit and The Low Anthem, it was the forecast for the next few days that was truly troubling. Although all reports pointed to more rain, oddly enough the weather turned magical and we didn't see a drop of water the rest of the weekend.
Continue reading for Friday's coverage...