Bonnaroo 2010: Words & Photos

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...

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