Bonnaroo 2010: Words & Photos

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...

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