Saturday, June 12 – Day Three
In a word, Bonnaroo Saturday was legendary. With appearances by Jimmy Cliff,
Melvins, John Prine, Jeff Beck, Stevie Wonder, and
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.
Conan O'Brien by Dave Vann
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.
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.
Jack White by Dave Vann
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."
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.
Weezer 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!
Stevie Wonder by Dave Vann
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.
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.
Jay-Z by Dave Vann
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
Continue reading for more coverage from Friday's Bonnaroo and check back later today
for words & photos from Sunday...