Bonnaroo 2010: Words & Photos

The 2010 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival is now in the history books!
Enjoy our reverse chronological run-down of this past weekend below, or skip directly to a day by using these handy links:

Thursday, 6/10 :: Friday, 6/11 :: Saturday, 6/12 :: Sunday, 6/13

Words by Wesley Hodges, Photos by Dave Vann

Sunday, June 13 – Day Four

"We had the best time at your party" -Ween

John Butler Trio by Dave Vann
The final day at Bonnaroo was all about survival as temperatures neared 100 degrees by midday and produced a fairly subdued Sunday crowd just trying to stay vertical and manage to catch many of the can't-miss acts closing down the fest (and, as per usual, conflicting with one another). Bonnaroo veterans John Butler Trio opened a technically flawless set on the What Stage with "Used to Get High," and the Aussie frontman graciously thanked the early crowd for braving the oppressive heat to check out his set.

Next, it was off to The Other Tent for Blues Traveler, where a crowd member challenged John Popper to a harmonica duel with a handmade sign after "Run-Around," to which Popper replied that they would need to take it outside after the set. This was the band's second appearance at Bonnaroo (first since 2003) and the set was both well received and well attended in the smaller Other Tent. After an interesting, dubbed-out reading of Radiohead's "Creep," it was time to head on back over to What Stage, where John Fogerty was making his Bonnaroo debut.

John Fogerty by Dave Vann
The 65-year old still has the same vocal talents that accented Creedence Clearwater Revival's signature swamp rock sound in the early '70s. The legend showed off his often overlooked chops on "Green River" and ran through a mix of the CCR catalogue as well as a number of tunes from his most recent solo record, The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again, which I strongly recommend.

Listening to the bare bones, stripped down Kris Kristofferson performance while laying in the grass in front of the tent was a fairly transcendent way to spend a lazy Sunday. After seeing John Prine on Saturday, it'd be hard to pick a favorite between the two monster talents of the songwriting universe. There was something very raw and exceptionally soothing about listening to one man slowly play his guitar and sing into the mic after seeing so many varied musical displays throughout the weekend. Sometimes less is truly more.

Ween by Dave Vann
Next, things heated up over at Ween, who highlighted the final day of this year's 'Roo, while deservedly playing in front of a large Which Stage midday crowd after a few previous Bonnaroo appearances in the smaller tents. We arrived just in time after a short stop at the aggressive Dropkick Murphys set to catch "Roses Are Free," "Voodoo Lady," "Your Party," a bangin' "Buckingham Green," and an excellent cover of David Bowie's "Let's Dance." You could tell the band recognized the opportunity to win over hordes of fans in the crowd unfamiliar with their music, and they didn't hold back on busting out the big guns while playing a set with added gusto.

Medeski Martin & Wood had a fun little sit-in by Bonnaroo scenester and unofficial mascot Beatle Bob, who was goofily gettin' down and playing one of Billy Martin's many percussion toys during a dark, heavy improv exercise. Travel arrangements caused for an early departure, but not before catching Phoenix's set in front of an enormous crowd comparable to Weezer's the previous day. It was a cool early evening scene with a colorful, picturesque sunset and numerous red and black balloons floating around at the front of the audience. The band's most intricate arrangement from the Grammy-winning album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, "Love Like a Sunset," was appropriately placed in the set just as dusk was beginning to sweep across the Manchester skies and was a beautiful way to cap off the weekend.

The cultural phenomenon that is Bonnaroo once again produced an amazing four days of diverse artistic offerings, and for the fifth or sixth year in a row, the weather wasn't too much of an issue (once you get over the heat part). Here's looking forward to the 10th Annual Bonnaroo festival in 2011!

Top 5 Shows of the Weekend
1. Jay-Z
2. LCD Soundsystem
3. The Flaming Lips with Stardeath and White Dwarfs performing Dark Side of the Moon
4. Dr. Dog
5. The Melvins

Favorite Random Artist of the Weekend
Nortec Collective presents: Bostich and Fussible

Best Day
Saturday. Getting to see Stevie Wonder, Jay-Z, John Prine, Steve Martin, Thievery Corporation, Jeff Beck, The Melvins, Jimmy Cliff, and Conan O'Brien in the same day was exceptional, even for Bonnaroo.

What This Year's Bonnaroo Will Be Remembered For
1. 80,000 hands moving along with Jay-Z
2. The diversity of talent on display, balancing Bonnaroo's free spirited neo-hippie vibe with sounds of the present
3. Excellent weather
4. Conan O'Brien MC'ing What Stage throughout the weekend
5. A legendary Saturday
6. The addition of the annoying Lunar Stage
7. The absence of a Panic, Phish or a Dead-related headliner
8. Stevie Wonder's long overdue debut appearance at the festival.

Who would YOU like to see headline in 2011 at Bonnaroo's 10th Anniversary? Share your thoughts in our comments section. Never know what happens when you dream aloud!

Saturday, June 12 – Day Three

Conan O'Brien by Dave Vann
In a word, Bonnaroo Saturday was legendary. With appearances by Jimmy Cliff, The Melvins, John Prine, Jeff Beck, Stevie Wonder, and Jay-Z on the docket for the day, there wasn't much time for any of the numerous non-musical activities in Centeroo, or downtime in general. Despite only a few hours of sleep on Friday, we managed to check out 16 different artists on Saturday, ranging from small gatherings in the Latin-themed Other Tent to the 75,000 strong love fest at Jay-Z. As was the case on Friday, scorching temperatures baked the farm in the early afternoon before overcast skies brought a cool air of relief to lobster-red-sunburned patrons. All in all, it should be noted that the weather this weekend was abnormally excellent, if you don't mind a little heat.

Nortec Collective presents: Bostich and Fussible was one of the more unique bands I've come across anywhere. The group consists of a tuba, accordion, guitar, an iPad, and a NASA-looking control center with various electronic capabilities. The songs had a campy Latino/polka feel with dance floor undertones and the 300 or so gathered to check it out all seemed to be perplexed and ultimately impressed. Plus, in a three-minute span, I got to see the best accordion, tuba and iPad solo I've ever seen.

Next, it was over to Dave Rawlings Machine to hear "This Land Is Your Land," "Ruby" and "To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)" before a quick jaunt over to see one of Isis' final shows of their farewell tour. As very threatening skies loomed overhead, Jimmy Cliff sang his seminal hit "I Can See Clearly Now," and he must've had some kind of meteorologist insight because the almost sure thing electrical storm narrowly skirted by the farm without causing any problems. A good many people seemed to be hiding out until the late afternoon, as notably small crowds at many of the daytime tent sets allowed for ample space and some great vantage points, even for artists like John Prine and The Melvins. After Cliff, it was over to The Avett Brothers for a bit to check out "January Wedding" and a host of other new tunes off last year's breakthrough I And Love And You.

Jack White by Dave Vann
The surprising show of the weekend for me was undoubtedly over at The Melvins, who zoned us in, causing a cancellation of our Mumford & Sons plans. Largely unfamiliar with their music (although aware of the band's huge influence on bands like Nirvana), it was a wholly epic display of guitar heavy, hard rock, grunge- tinged badassery. These old men still got it. Don't miss your chance to see them if you haven't before it's too late.

The Dead Weather was a bit of a disappointment at What Stage and provoked a little more 'Prine Time' then planned, which was a treat to see the master songsmith at work. Jeff Beck wowed a decent-sized crowd, but more impressive was Beck's bass player, a diminutive in stature, but larger-than-life female bass player with some serious talent on the slap bass and some shockingly bluesy vocals. It was reported to me after we left that Beck blew through an amazing array of cover tunes including "A Day In The Life" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

Weezer by Dave Vann
Weezer played to a MASSIVE crowd at Which Stage, and gave the masses what they wanted, busting out the big guns with a Blue Album heavy set and a bust-out cover of "Kids (MGMT) > Poker Face (Lady Gaga)." Frontman Rivers Cuomo could not be contained, singing from backstage, on speakers, jumping on trampolines, and finding every conceivable reason to animate the performance and rile the enormous crowd. Weezer wrapped in time for us to head over to What Stage to take in my first Stevie Wonder concert. As he had done throughout the weekend, Conan O'Brien played main stage MC and introduced Stevie, saying that he was genuinely thrilled to be within 500-feet of the man. Wonder came out, keytar in hand, and busted the funk early and often. The crowd showed Stevie a great deal of love and provided some booming backing vocals on a few call-and-response verses. Wonder was an excellent choice for a Saturday night headliner, but what occurred next ultimately overshadowed all other performances before and after on this third day of Bonnaroo.

Stevie Wonder by Dave Vann
As in 2006, there was a bit of a skepticism expressed after it was revealed that Jay- Z would headline the Roo, especially in light of the 2008 Kanye West debacle (unfit to print spray paint tags still dominate the Bonnaroo walls devoted to the much-maligned - in these parts at least - rapper). Nevertheless, HOVA picked up the festival and put it on his back, taking a crowd as far as the eye could see on a two-hour feel good journey through his catalogue, sampling and performing just about every conceivable hit song from the rapper's storied career (eleven #1 albums, surpassing even Elvis Presley for top honors). Standing on the hill stage and peering out over the audience with 80,000 hands moving together was an image that will forever remain emblazoned in my memory bank - what a sight!

On Saturday, Mr. Carter was all about fostering a vibe of positivity and love and is perhaps the only artist I've seen on such a big stage with the ability to make his performance feel profoundly personal to each and every fan out there. One of the neatest elements of the performance occurred when Jay-Z hollered at about 50 different audience members ("I see you in the Bob Marley shirt," followed by a verse from "Three Little Birds;" then, "I see you in the Charles Oakley jersey," "I see you with the Brooklyn flag," etc.) and then made a gal named Maggie the happiest girl on earth by pulling her onstage and getting the crowd to serenade her with "Happy Birthday." The vibe created by Jay-Z was exactly the kind that Bonnaroo organizers have always strived for, and they hit the nail on the head with the choice of Jay-Z to take over the festival. Carter was nearly moved to tears at one point as he thanked each and every audience member for the support, not only on this night but throughout his career. He shouted out to Jack White, mentioned that he couldn't wait to tell his mama that Stevie Wonder was taking in his set, and gave love to the fallen rappers that influenced his music, shouting out Tupac, Biggie Smalls, Pimp-C and many more.

Jay-Z by Dave Vann
After being crowned the king of Coachella by most critics, I'll gladly give him the title for this weekend as the rapper didn't slip up at any point throughout the peerless performance and his beaming, genuine personality was a nice change from the Friday night headliners. It was arguably the most important and best headlining performance I've seen in 8 years (the toss-up being Radiohead at the 'Roo) and one of the best anywhere. Bonnaroo was the center of the musical universe on Saturday night - it felt like possibly the world at the time - and if you could've bottled and sold the youthful energy flowing across the field you'd be a rich man. This perhaps marked another sea change in the Bonnaroo landscape, and if Jay-Z's performance is any indication of what's to come in the future of Bonnaroo, things are looking better than ever for the 2011 10th Anniversary edition of the festival.

As was the case last year after Phish's Friday late night headlining performance last year, everything after Jay-Z seemed secondary and hard to zone into. The show had been stolen, the spotlight remained on Jay-Z, and even The Disco Biscuits' Marc Brownstein noted at the beginning of their show just how amazing the night had been, saying, "This is so fucking sick," referring to the opportunity to see Stevie, Jay-Z and Thievery Corporation in the same night. Barber said he wanted to see some sun by the time they were through.

GWAR put on a hilarious show that fit right into to the zany atmosphere that usually emanates on Bonnaroo Saturday, as patrons try to soak in one last big night at the farm. All in all, one of the best days on the whole I've had at the festival. Bonnaroo has outdone themselves again by programming one of the more diverse and star-studded lineups yet. On Sunday, we'll check out John Fogerty, Ween, Dropkick Murphys, Phoenix, and at long last, my first Medeski, Martin, & Wood show. Please don't ask how that's possible that a JamBase writer hasn't seen them (it's embarrassing, I know).

Continue reading for more coverage from Friday's Bonnaroo and check back later today for words & photos from Sunday... Friday, June 11th—Day Two

Bonnaroo by Dave Vann
Overwhelming heat was the modus operandi of the festival’s first full day of music as temperatures hit an apex near the triple digit mark by mid-day. A beautiful day of music and comedy awaited those ready and able to brave the sun’s wrath and thousands made it out early to watch Conan O’Brien’s first career festival stand-up appearance in the small Comedy Tent, which luckily (for us), was being simulcast on the new Lunar Stage. Walking to join Team Coco, we got a chance to check out New Orleans youngest star Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue running through a “When the Saints Go Marching In > Fire on the Bayou > When the Saints Go Marching In” medley on Which Stage. It was great to see Conan’s familiar face again after several months in obscurity.

Conan (whose birth name is apparently Jet Blaze) jokingly reminisced about being beat up by Tori Amos with a hairbrush at Lilith Fair, gained the audience’s approval for his new bearded look (saying he looked like the Brawny paper towel guy after a bone marrow transplant), and noted that the Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television tour was the first time anyone’s paid to see him perform. The appropriate jabbing at NBC came early and often, and Conan even gave us a spot-on Leno impression, which he sarcastically pointed out, for legal reasons, was actually an impression of rapper Ludacris. Truly a one-of-a-kind occurrence to see the legend at work, and as Conan chanted, “It was sorta worth it” to check it out.

Bonnaroo by Dave Vann
String bands were the thematic trend over in That Tent and Carolina Chocolate Drops, Hot Rize and the excellence of Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers carved out a grassy scene throughout the day. The communal Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros connected with the audience from the get-go, opening with the familiar “Janglin” from last year’s debut record and harkening up comparisons to Polyphonic Spree.

The oppressive heat finally subsided in time for the day’s highlighting set by Dr. Dog, in coincidence with the band performing “The Breeze”, off 2008’s Fate album. Lyrically, there are few better current bands out there than these Philly vintage rockers. The set was heavy on tunes from this year’s Shame, Shame and Fate including the excellent new tune “Where Does the Time Go” and “Hang On”. The band’s third appearance at Bonnaroo was a chills-inducing (even in the heat) performance and set the tone for the rest of Bonnaroo Friday as a smokin’ and stretched out rendition of “The Rabbit, The Bat, and the Reindeer” closed down this heater of a set.

Tenacious D by Dave Vann
Sweet Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward make up She & Him and a female- heavy crowd took in their vibin’ folky display in This Tent. Just a likable duo altogether and Zooey was only one of many Hollywood stars we came across throughout the day. Performances by Steve Martin, Conan O’Brien, Jack Black and a run-in with Superbad’s Christopher Mintz-Plasse at Tenacious D marked the star-studded day. The National made believers in the unusually scant crowd at Which Stage with their heady brand stern and directed rock music. Surprisingly, the band’s lead singer took a few trips out into the audience and was far less serious and more animated than I’d of guessed after listening to their somber new record High Violet. Tenacious D was hilarious and bandmate Kyle Gass quit the band after Jack Black received a phone call mid-set telling him that a sequel for The Pick of Destiny was in the works and Gass would be replaced with the guy from Paul Blart: Mall Cop.

Kings of Leon aren’t my cup of tea but credit should be given to the band for digging deep into their catalog for the career-making headlining set highlighted by “Molly’s Chambers”, and a cover of the Pixies’ “Where is My Mind?”. KoL was also the first band to rise through the Bonnaroo ranks from the smallest tent to the main stage and I think we’re looking at the American U2, as the largest U.S. arena rock band, for better or worse. After a run-in with a loose-talkin Caleb Followill in Nashville on Wednesday night, it was funny to watch the man at work on what may have been the most important night of the band’s career.

The Flaming Lips by Dave Vann
It’s no secret that Bonnaroo doesn’t really start until midnight on Friday and we arrived just in time for the spectacle of the chaos-embracing Flaming Lips on Which Stage. Wayne Coyne told JamBase how the idea to play Dark Side at the Roo came to fruition, saying “we didn’t really know if anyone would care when we thought to record the cover album.” Bonnaroo approached the Lips, asking the simple request “Why don’t you do something weird” to which the Lips responded “Why don’t we play Dark Side of the Moon and the rest is now history after the last night’s incredible display. As always, the visual element was top-notch with loads of confetti, dancing girls, lasers and a semi- circular LED wall behind the band taking the massive crowd to some far away places during “The W.A.N.D.” and especially during the Floyd set. Few people can do Dark Side right (although many try), and the Lips put a unique spin on the classic album, with a more gritty, raw and hard rockin’ version of songs like “Any Colour You Like” and the absolute burn-down-the-house, hide-the -children closer “Brain Damage > Eclipse”. As a huge Floyd fan, I was admittedly skeptical (although excited) and the Lips delivered the best Bonnaroo set of their career (also performed in ’03 & ’07). A short trip to the sparsely attended Galactic show was a nice change of scenery from the Lips brain- frying visual display before we were lured over to the party scene at LCD Soundsystem.

Largely unfamiliar with LCD until the release of their ultra-hyped newest record This Is Happening, I had no idea what we were getting into. Comparisons to the Talking Heads and can be made, and frontman James Murphy is an odd bird. At one point he curiously asked the crowd, “Why are you throwing things” and concluded that “This is a weird job, it’s weird, thanks” before lyrically improv-ing his way through the set. Their performance closed with a stunning and slow “New York (not sure if that’s the name)” replete with a verse from Jay-Z’s monstrous hit “Empire State of Mind”, serving as a nice transition towards Saturday, which will feature Jay-Z’s first performance at the fest on the main stage this evening at 11:30 p.m.

Continue reading for Thursday's recap and photos and stay tuned for more from Bonnaroo tomorrow...

Be sure to check out our real-time Bonnaroo updates at Bonnaroo Day One: Thursday, June 10th

Walking into Centeroo on Thursday is always a re-orientation of sorts and it was nice to see the kindly Which Stage bobbleheads decked out in World Cup jerseys and regalia for the big weekend. Multiple inches of Wednesday and early Thursday rain created a muddy environment, making veterans of the festival feel strangely at home. As much as things change in Centeroo, notably, with the addition of the bumpin’ new Lunar Stage, the vibe and layout of the festival’s power center remains largely the same.

Bonnaroo 2010 got off to a roaring start as per usual on Thursday afternoon with threatening skies clearing up just in time for Baroness who brought their gritty refined brand of jam metal, inflicting some bruise-inducing mosh madness at The Other Tent. These guys look to be in it for the long haul and delivered a powerfully gnashing set that was arguably the day’s best.

Miike Snow was unfortunately placed before dusk, but regardless an early club scene thrived amongst the youthful crowd. With numerous dance artists performing in the wee hours (where they belong), this time placement may have been Bonnaroo’s biggest head scratcher of them all.

Blitzen Trapper by Dave Vann
Local Natives’ harmonic indie pop was lost in the mix and failed to meet expectations, especially after producing one of the year’s finest albums (Gorilla Manor) earlier this year. An unplanned (but expected) break in the action caused your faithful writer to miss out on The Temper Trap, but we made it back in time to see Blitzen Trapper crank things up, opening with “Black River Killer” and “Wild Mountain Nation” to a crowd mostly unfamiliar with the young band’s work. Blitzen gave people a delectable array of tunes (including the set’s highlight “Furr”), spanning the band’s varied catalogue and treating the Bonnaroo crowd to a few new tunes off the band’s three-day old album Destroyer of the Void. A quick trot over to the packed Lunar Stage was a trip to take in, as thousands blew it out with the future sounds beaming from the decent-sized stage newly situated between The Other Tent and That Tent.

Lotus by Dave Vann
Lotus stirred up a familiar air in the Bonnaroo night, giving us Bonnaroo vets a taste of good ole jam flavor with a surprisingly juiced up rock set. Night One as always introduced the masses to a host of new bands and gave jam the band a long overdue chance to perform for a large Roo late night crowd.

This morning, festivarians were awakened to Primus’ “My Name Is Mud” from the What Stage’s absurdly powerful P.A. system. How appropriate, Day Two is underway…

p.s. As I’m typing this Dr. Dog is giving us media folks a special acoustic set. Very, very appropriate lyrics flowing:

What a strange day, maybe I was dreaming, nothing seemed entirely awake. What a strange night, it’s dancing with a candle, the atmosphere is scandalous. We’re all in this together, as we all fall apart

Truer words never spoken? Happy Bonnaroo 2010!

JamBase | Manchester, TN

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