BONNAROO : : THE BIGGEST & BEST

Bonnaroo. The word means more than ever. Consider this: Lollapalooza was being pushed as the summer's big fest, and with the lineup Perry Farell had sewn together there was a chance. Lollapalooza recently canceled their entire summer tour due to lack of sales. Bonnaroo sold out with no advertising at three times the ticket price. While the booking of the bands may have followed a similar ethos, these two festivals differed in approach and perception enough to make one soar and one sink. Part of this is no doubt due to what these two respective words have come to mean. There are so many damn "Palooza's" these days that to be honest, it's hard for me to take anything serious with that ring to it. Further more, the festival has never reached the heights it did over ten years ago, and while I empathize with the cause and can see the potential, the deployment of their plan was full of holes.


Warren Haynes :: Bonnaroo 2004 by M. Weintrob
Now take that one word "Bonnaroo." It has come to mean something. In 2004, when festivals fold, promoters loose their shirts, and one unremarkable festival bleeds into the other, Bonnaroo is blowing it out and throwing the biggest baddest party of the summer (well that Phish thang in August oughta be cool... but that's a whole 'nother story). Bonnaroo is succeeding in every sense of the word while the majority of the music world is scratching its head trying to figure out how the hell they are going to survive this slip in structure. Clear Channel is buying everyone, people are burning music, CDs will become irrelevant soon, the radio still sucks, no one wants to be called a "jam" band, or an "indie" band, yet Bonnaroo brings together acts from vastly different audiences and creates an atmosphere where the goal is actually met: a weekend-long (that is part of the key, the actual stationary "I'm here, I don't need to go anywhere, I even got my late night party" festival atmosphere) party where people are getting turned on to new music while raging to the bands they already love. Mixing bands and fans, sleep deprivation and heat is no easy task, but Bonnaroo has yet again pulled it off... and with more mud than most of us have ever had to deal with, they managed to still make it more fun than anyone thought possible.

So on we go, to Bonnaroo 2004... let's sling a little mud.

FRIDAY :: 06.11.04

New Monsoon :: Bonnaroo 2004 by Adam George
NEW MONSOON
One of the highlights of giant, multi-band festivals like Bonnaroo is the chance for younger, up-and-coming acts to turn it on in front of a huge audience. For these acts, the large, receptive crowds are not commonplace and the collective energy really propels the band to new heights. Such was the case for San Francisco's New Monsoon. The band's set at the "Another Tent" at 12:30 p.m. Friday was one of the festival's first but easily stood out at the end of the weekend as one of the event's highest energy shows. The blazing mid-day sun may have kept the tent hot, but the band was what was really turning up the heat.

Several hundred fans arrived early to line the rail and get a good spot to see the band, many for the first time. By showtime, the tent was overflowing with well over three thousand grooving fans, new and old. In addition to the several thousand standing and dancing, many more huddled in the nearby shade to cool off and give a listen. There was little doubt the band was winning fans quickly with its high energy, eclectic mix of Latin, Indian, African, funk, rock, and bluegrass styles. Many in attendance were seeing their first New Monsoon performance but explained that they had been interested in the band and hoping to see them for some time.

The band was noticeably stronger than usual and all its members stepped up to the occasion by blazing through an hour-long set of strong original material, charging the atmosphere with energy and vibe. The raging set and large crowd is surely only a sign of things to come in this vibrant band's future.

-Jeffrey V. Smith


Bonnaroo 2004 by Adam George
THE BLACK KEYS
Hailing from Akron, Ohio this was the first band of Bonnaroo that I had to see. The duo of singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney on drums had impressed me with their Fat Possum Records release Thickfreakness and I was eager to see what the gritty garage rock outfit had in store for me live.

One minute. I'd say that's how long it took for me to realize I'm a fan of The Black Keys. Dirty, crunchy vocals and even rougher guitar solos over skin breaking drums; I'm in. I shit you not when I tell you that Carney slams on the drums about as hard as anyone I saw all weekend... and at Bonnaroo everyone is hitting their hardest, singing their loudest, playing their best; this is part of what makes Bonnaroo Bonnaroo. While both men did a nice job strutting their stuff, the set also showed some fine interplay between the two, focusing on Auerbach's nasty, distorted slide guitar. Pushing the already-heated crowd into the weekend, Bonnaroo seemed taken by The Black Keys' inspired set of rock. Drawing some apt comparisons to the White Stripes this band is one to keep an eye on.

-The Kayceman


Bonnaroo 2004 by Jeremy Jones
JOJO AND HIS MOJO MARDI GRAS BAND
Here's the deal. I would do just about anything I could in order to get myself a seat inside ANY venue Mr. JoJo Hermann is playing. Since Panic has decided they would try a hiatus on for size, us fans can only see the songs of our favorite band through the member's various side projects. This fine group consists of, obviously, JoJo Hermann on vocals and keyboards, Johnny Few on bass, Hunter Williams on percussion, Kevin Mabin on drums, and a man that can blow the sax with the greats, Max Abrams. The set opened with a smoking "Stagger Lee" and an intro to boot. In between the playing of the intro and the song itself, JoJo grabbed the mike and screamed, "It's great to be back. This gets better every year!!!" I think the next two songs he followed up with were "Ain't Got No Hair (Bald Head)" and "Baby How Long." Sticking with the Dr. John/Professor Longhair-influenced set, he unleashed a rare treat for any Panic fan, "Baby, Let Me Hold Your Hand." It would only be appropriate that this Widespread Panic member invited others onstage to participate in Bonnaroo's version of a mini Mardi Gras. Who better than some members of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. They rocked out in the afternoon sun to "Boogie Woogie Blues." And since we know that the more the merrier, JoJo brought up another new friend of his, Rich Soto, the guitarist from deSol. From there the set jumped into another Panic rare cover, "She Walks Right In" > "Shake, Rattle, & Roll." The set was winding down, and we all knew it. JoJo said there would be one more tune and as he so appropriately claimed, "I've got my mojo working" before screaming, "I've got my red beans cookin'!" Then JoJo and the crowd traded screams back and forth as the song spiraled into a chaotic frenzy until the set was over.

-Mark Oxborough



Jeff Tweedy :: Bonnaroo 2004 by Adam George
WILCO
Wilco cancelled earlier dates such as Coachella because of front man Jeff Tweedy's stint in rehab, so the large crowd assembled for the band's afternoon slot on the main stage was anxious to hear how the rejuvenated Tweedy would sound. During the joyous and beautiful set, Tweedy asked the masses, "Who here is high?" The ensuing ovation produced a grin from the newly clean and sober Tweedy. He proudly said, "I'm not," and received an even bigger cheer from both the VIPs watching from the side of the stage as well as the crowd enjoying the musical strains of one of America's best bands.

Debuting material from their new album, A Ghost is Born, the band was in fine form and the appreciative audience seemed to boost the spirits of Tweedy. Songs like "Handshake Drugs" detailed his addiction with a literary style of Lou Reed and a voice like Elliott Smith. With the latter being a casualty of his addictions, it's nice to still have Jeff Tweedy. Credit the organizers for exposing Wilco to the jam audience, who appreciated the music as much as Wilco appreciated the new fans. With the cancellation of Lollapalooza, the only other scheduled date for the band in the United States this summer is at the Newport Folk Festival in August, so this show proves to be even more special in hindsight.

-Forrest Reda


Ani DiFranco :: Bonnaroo 2004 by Adam George & Michael Weintrob
ANI DIFRANCO
Just like the diehard fans of Dave Mathews, Trey Anastasio, The Dead, Bob Dylan, Primus, moe., and the String Cheese Incident, there were people at Bonnaroo explicitly to see Ani DiFranco. Bonnaroo is a fantastic event because the lineup includes so many high caliber acts like Ani D that have built careers from live performances. Ani's set showcased the triple threat of DiFranco's poetry, incredible skill on the guitar, and beautiful voice. Combined with her musical talent, her intimacy with her crowd makes any journey for music priceless. It was hard to stare at Ani DiFranco testifying to her fans and imagine a more Righteous Babe. Her contributions to music elevate her into a special class of musician, an elite group that is known simply by their first name, and not because it said so on a press release, but because the fans hold them that close to their hearts. Playing songs from her new, self-recorded new record Educated Guess along with classic songs like "Untouchable Face"," DiFranco had the crowd singing along, showing another example of an appreciative crowd getting something extra from an appreciative artist and another Bonnaroo moment.

-Forrest Reda


THE SOUL OF BONNAROO

J.J. Grey of MOFRO :: Bonnaroo 2004 by Jeremy Jones
MOFRO
Something I found has been missing from my musical escapades of late is the presence of true gritty soul expressed through vocals. Thanks to my friend and desk neighbor The Kayceman, I inadvertently learned to appreciate the vocals of JB (John Bell of course) in the last year and things have changed for me since then. This year at Bonnaroo, I was lucky to find two such singers that were all heart and soul: J.J. Grey of MOFRO and Chris Robinson of New Earth Mud. The MOFRO set was beautiful and REAL - everything out there for you to see and feel. It was sweaty in that tent and the band seemed perfectly comfortable. They played lots of crowd favorites (they were pretty much on home turf) and a few from their new upcoming album Lochloosa. People, get ready for this album - it's gutwrenchingly good!

Chris Robinson :: Bonnaroo 2004 by Adam George & Jeremy Jones
CHRIS ROBINSON
Chris Robinson is a real live rock star and he was at OUR festival! That's what it felt like to me. As seasoned as he is, he also seemed to be really taken aback by all the shiny happy people that make up Bonnaroo. I caught him doing an interview on the XM Satellite Sonic Stage where someone tossed a baby onesy at Chris on the stage. The interviewer commented that it was a lot different from getting bras and panties thrown up on stage to which Chris said, "A lot of things have changed." Chris Robinson and The New Earth Mud had a stellar set later that afternoon featuring many songs from the new album, This Magnificent Distance, including, "the hit" "40 Days," and a guest appearance by Warren Haynes. Each member of the New Earth Mud band rocks hard--Rob Barraco and Audley Freed were both particularly impressive. And the incredible vocals--soaring and soulful, exciting yet comfortably familiar--make this a band to pay attention to.

-Super Dee



Bonnaroo crowd during Bob Dylan by The Kayceman
BOB DYLAN
Bob Dylan led the Bonnaroo crowd on an obscure tour of his career and paid tribute to other American troubadours during his daytime set on the main stage. As he increasingly does in the twilight of his career, he played keyboards, leaving the guitar in the capable hands of his band mates, who gives it a country, honky-tonk twang that matches Dylan's raspy, sultry voice. By allowing his band to dictate the flow of the show, the music is tighter: Dylan does more for his music by playing less. The covers of "Samson and Delilah" and "Pancho and Lefty" were superb and to watch Dylan onstage is still mesmerizing and an absolute pleasure. Ever the joker, when bassist Tony Garnier experienced some technical problems and switched to a stand-up bass, Dylan told the crowd, "We're having some bass trouble, you might have to wait around for a few minutes." This was funny because Dylan's set started late for no apparent reason and his set-list was aloof enough to perplex fans listening for familiar versions of his classics. It would be special to be transported back to 1964 to see Dylan and his guitar, but this is 2004, and Dylan is making the music he wants to make. He is one of our national treasures and the fact that he is still mixing it up after 40 years is reassuring. America needs the music of Bob Dylan more than ever. A timely start would have been nice though; ­ there was way too much music happening to waste time waiting for Dylan.

-Forrest Reda



String Cheese Incident :: Bonnaroo 2004 by David Vann
STRING CHEESE INCIDENT
When SCI opened with "Dudley's Kitchen," I was pleased with my tough choice of what to witness at this dicey time slot on around 7:00 p.m. on Friday. Without the loss of a single beat, the tempo of the music increased and we found ourselves marching into the intro to Michael Kang's own "Desert Dawn." After a quick break, Kyle Hollingsworth dropped the keyboard funk of "Lost," a song that tells us if we slow down and take everything in patiently, we won't be lost. After some fine tunes we finally got Kang to pick up that violin. When Kang fires up that fiddle it's hard not to hoedown--with or without a hula hoop! Suddenly we were all pushed into the eerily omniscient sounding "Sirens." The contrast between the dark "Sirens" and the bluegrass number "One Step Closer" was very striking as the hot Tennessee sun started fleeting. The combination of the retreating sun and the amount of new fans rushing to the Which Stage inspired some audience participation. I wouldn't necessarily call it a group hoot, but it was pretty darn close. After the "hoot," it was time to move on. They played "Way Back Home" and followed that up with a nice "Joyful Sound" > "Valley of the Jig" combo.


Bill Nershi :: Bonnaroo 2004
By Adam George
Coming out of this was the monster, "Outside Inside" which would prove to be the first of three knockout songs to close out this monumental Bonnaroo set. I realized that it was the beginning a few special tunes when the first few notes of the Red Hot Chili Peppers "Give it Away" slid right out from under "Outside Inside." In all of the novelty covers I have been lucky enough to see from any band, this would rate pretty high up there. Not only was it exciting to watch SCI bounce around, they did a pretty darn good job of emulating the Chili's energy. Sure, there were a couple flubs, but "Give it Away" is a hard song to sing, even for someone holding the lyrics. My personal highlight of the medley was when "Give it Away" ever so smoothly became "Rollover." This fine song passes back and forth from a very simple melody into a delicate style of reggae, calypso, jazz, and rock. This had been the first time "Rollover" was presented to the Bonnaroo masses, and it aimed to please. Complete with a fully funked-out jam, this extended dance version kicked the first night of Bonnaroo into full swing for everyone in attendance. After a quick stage departure, SCI returned for two more cuts before Dave and Friends began owning the first night of Bonnaroo. Nershi and the boys played a two song encore. "Good Times Around the Bend" was the first selection and the second song dealt with the law in a small town of "Texas." To please the crowd though, Nershi managed to rearrange the words once in the chorus from Texas to Tennessee. Fitting.

-Mark Oxborough


Yo La Tengo :: Bonnaroo 2004 by Jeremy Jones
YO LA TENGO
I love Bonnaroo. Where the hell else am I going to see Bill Laswell, Buckethead, Wilco, David Byrne, Femi Kuti, Gomez and Yo La Tengo? And that's only the ones off the top of my head. Anyway, Yo La Tengo. Another band I've wanted to check out for some time, yet simply haven't found the right moment. And in many ways that is the beauty of Bonnaroo. There are many bands that one may be familiar with on record, or maybe you've simply heard the name, or better yet perhaps it's a totally new band that one simply stumbles past, Bonnaroo can serve as a taste test for what you want to pursue. I wasn't able to catch all of Yo La Tengo's set, but I know enough to spend the dough and see them next time they come through my town. The first thing to strike me as I watched this Hoboken, New Jersey trio is the manner in which they switch up instrumentation. Lead man Ira Kaplan plays a scorching guitar drawing images of Lou Reed at one moment and switches to soaring keys and soft vocal harmonies the next. His wife, Georgia Hubbley, is an insane drummer. She's awesome, damn near stole the show... well, her and Ira both stole the show. When I see someone with such touch and deliberate drive on the drums able to sing such gorgeous lead and back up while drumming, I am forced to break out my little black notebook and record such feats. Yo La Tengo was full of these moments. The choreographed singing/dancing song made me think of the Talking Heads, but it was the feedback freakout moment that stopped me in my tracks. At one point Ira started swingin' his guitar around in the air and pushing it against his amp. Eventually he let the axe drop to the stage as he threw his pedal past the drums on his way over to go noise happy on distorted keys. This was when I turned to my boy and said, "This is the best shit we've seen." He clearly agreed.

-The Kayceman



Dave Matthews and Friends :: Bonnaroo 2004 by David Vann
DAVE MATTHEWS AND FRIENDS
After a long hot day of 90-plus degree heat, Dave and Friends let the craziness of the day fade to black as Bonnaroo's first night of music rolled in. While Dave and pals performed many traditional favorites like "Trouble" and "So Damn Lucky," they also threw in some covers that had the crowd howling. "Up on Cripple Creek" appeared halfway through the first set, just as the sun was setting and the sunburned skins finally cooling. It was a lazy summer tune that brought a welcome feeling of togetherness to the crowd. Dave then went solo for a moment on "Some Devil" before letting Tim Reynolds go absolutely nuts on "Dancing Nancies." Dave fans enjoyed the new song "Thing," an improv/scat tune apparently done just for the occasion, where Dave let loose and got into the Bonnaroo vibe where anything goes. A rousing "Tell Me Something Good" brought the set to a close.

Dave Matthews and Friends :: Bonnaroo 2004 by Adam George
For this writer, the encore was what made the Dave and Friends show. While it's always good to hear Dave do Phish tunes, Dave and Trey's quiet rendition of "Waste" felt extra special on this hot Tennessee night. The magic of 90,000 people singing, "doo doo doo" and screaming, "We love to take a bath!" during "Bathtub Gin" was a rush that remains indescribable... as if that was the moment we had all come for and it was only going to get better from there. Sly and the Family Stone's "Thank You" was a fitting close to Bonnaroo's first headlining act. Dave danced wildly on stage encouraging the fans to do the same... and the party only got crazier from there.

-Sam Hanford


Vida Blue :: Bonnaroo 2004 by Jeremy Jones
VIDA BLUE
Vida Blue's late-night set showed several thousand Bonnaroovians how it should be done. The midnight show got the late-night scene started right with an energetic "Most Events Aren't Planned" and stayed funky until the wee hours of the morning. The Spam Allstars sat in for the entire set, adding a tremendous energy to the already powerful combo of Page McConnell, Oteil Burbridge, and Russell Batiste. Bringing horns and percussion beats to the mix gave the music that New Orleans Jazz Fest-type vibe that seems to suspend time and makes 2 a.m. feel like the middle of the day. The show was energetic from start to finish and utilized a plethora of loops and electronic tricks to spice it up. The horn section moved rhythmically together at times while at others they let loose and got funky on their own. A perfect combination of great weather, good music, and great energy in the crowd made Vida Blue a definite weekend highlight.

-Sam Hanford


Umphrey's McGee with moe. :: Bonnaroo 2004 by Adam George
UMPHREY'S McGEE
From start to finish, the Umphrey's McGee late night set was absolutely rocking. Taking the stage at around midnight (to an ENORMOUS crowd chanting "Umphrey's! Umphrey's! Umphrey's!") and not leaving until about 4:30 a.m., this was a triathlon of music. Umphrey's played 98% original music most of which was from their new album Anchor Drops. Their covers are usually amazingly right-on and really fun but the band wanted to show Bonnaroo who they really are. The word has definitely gotten out but I'm sure you'd like to hear it again. As Umphrey's was jamming out "The Triple Wide," a familiar group of guys rotated onto the stage--five guys named moe.. moe. rocked out for about a half hour (with a visit from Michael Travis on percussion) and then the best thing happened. James Hatfield came out and sang Metallica's "Enter Sandman" with moe.! Ok, it wasn't really James Hatfield--it was Vince Iwinski, Umphrey's manager--but he NAILED it! After that all hell broke loose with Kris Myers running out to take over the drum kit in his Speedo and the rest of the Umphrey's boys assuming their positions. Just when you thought they had to be bringing it to a close at some point, they played for another hour. The encore was the scary yet gorgeous, "Miss Tinkle's Overture" > "Mulche's Odyssey" which sent the Bonnaroovians into the early morning with Umphrey's pounding in their minds. The Umphrey's boys looked like they were having the time of their lives on stage and their sound and communication with each other is better than ever.

-Super Dee



Praxis :: Bonnaroo 2004 by David Vann
PRAXIS
If there was one person I was coming to see at Bonnaroo it was WITHOUT question Bill Laswell. Sure there were other people I was excited to see, but Praxis and Material were all you had to say and I was booking planes and taking days off. This is the glory of Bonnaroo: where the hell have you seen the names, Praxis, Material, or Laswell? That's right--you haven't, and you probably won't. Bill Laswell is an underground god (not even really underground, you just have to be paying attention). No time for a history lesson now, let's just say it would behoove you to do some diggin' if the name isn't household in your lil' domicile. It's Friday Late Night and there are some big acts going down (albeit acts I can and will catch in a matter of months as they inevitably land at another festival I'm at, or perhaps swing past San Francisco), which happened to make it all the more sweet at Praxis. Finding a nice spot up close for what was about to go down I was ever so pleased to not see one microphone on stage... gimme the instrumental freak out! At this point Bernie Worrell (P-Funk, Talking Heads, etc) comes out and sits down at the keyboard for a wonderfully weird solo intro. Next thing you know there's Buckethead, all seven-plus feet of him, white mask, huge hands and of course the KFC bucket. A quick note on Buckethead: he may be the best guitar player I've ever seen. Such claims are entirely impossible to quantify, but one thing is for sure--Buckethead is in a class all his own. His mastery and control of the instrument is unparalleled, and he continuously melted my head on several occasions at The Roo.

Praxis :: Bonnaroo 2004 by David Vann
As Bucketfreak is doing the nasty all up and down his pristine white tricked-out Les Paul, Brain the skin basher comes out and just as smooth and eerie as any of the hundreds upon hundreds of albums he is responsible for, the man, the myth, Bill Laswell slips on stage dropping the low end theory from moment one. Throughout their late night engagement there were hints and teases from my childhood. Little notes from cartoons or nursery rhymes kept popping up, but by the time I could even get a word out to hombre number one to my left, or homegirl number two to my right, it was gone. These four masters absolutely blew the late night shit up. It was one of the most impressive pieces of music I've ever seen. So much to the point where words ceased to be needed and were really of little value. I would just look over my shoulder at my crew and the eyes said it all, "Yes this is insane. Yes this is beyond my scope of vocabulary! Yes, now get your fuckin' eyes off me and back on that shit up there!" From heavy hip-hop beats to a prog-rock attack and all types of sonic anomalies, this was out of hand. I clearly remember thinking, "I don't care if Trey and Fishman are sitting in with Page at Vida Blue, there is NOWHERE else I could even consider being." To add to this insane evening was the young lady on electric violin doing "Maggot Brain." Yeah, you heard me, Buckethead and some Jean-Luc Ponty lady doing the "Maggot Brain" up in your ear... I simply cannot say enough about Praxis, it was Friday night and I already got my money's worth.

-The Kayceman

SATURDAY :: 6.12.04

Kings Of Leon :: Bonnaroo 2004 by Jeremy Jones
KINGS OF LEON
The Kings of Leon are more than sons of a preacher man; they are bona-fide rainmakers. How else to explain the storm clouds that moved in and began dumping rain as the band kicked off Saturday's rain soaked musical marathon? As lightning struck to kick off the set, The Kings rocked, justifying the amount of press the band has garnered. A large crowd was gathered in the tent, shaking away the cobwebs as lead singer Caleb Followhill channeled the spirit of Bonn Scott and bassist Jared Followhill worked his ass like a go-go dancer. The Kings are still young and prone to getting off track after a miscue. The crowd didn't notice until Followhill made note of the fuckup. Two songs later he was still bummed out expressing, "I'm really upset we screwed up that song." Some new material that has yet to be perfected slowed down the set's momentum, but in the end, the guttural screams of "Trani" proved they are the real deal, not yet kings of rock, but princes.

-Forrest Reda


Bonnaroo 2004 by Adam George
GRANDADDY
Grandaddy was another of the rising indie bands that found their way onto my list. It's funny that the band is from the state I call home (California) yet I had to travel straight across the country to see them. But once again, Bonnaroo is the testing ground. I'm already here, all I gotta do is walk 50 yards that way, and boom, now I'm checking out Grandaddy. In my Grandaddy petri dish I found musicians who act somewhat like carpenters, building a song from the bottom, adding subtle nuances and guitars, keys, and flourishes. As I was impressed with Yo La Tengo's ability to switch up instruments, Grandaddy showed themselves to be capable of such multi-tasking as well. Singer/guitarist/keyboardist Jason Lytle leads the band through their sonic creations with sweeping movements of music. Another band that has piqued my interest, and another band to check out when Gomez isn't playing.

-The Kayceman



Gomez :: Bonnaroo 2004 by The Kayceman
GOMEZ
On my way over to Grandaddy at That Tent I couldn't help but hear a few licks of Gomez from Which Stage. My plan was to check out most of Grandaddy and a bit of Gomez, but after the wee little tease Gomez sent my way I had to split from ole Grandaddy after about 20 minutes and get back to baking in the sun with Brit-rock hot shots Gomez. Seems like Gomez has really caught fire as of late, and I guess I'm just behind the curve on this one, as they impressed me far more than I had anticipated. They brought the ROCK part of their game far heavier than anyone had told me! Screaming guitars, strong songs, a bunch of noise, where the hell have I been? At one point the lead guitarist hit a piercing, high-pitched solo that brought on the good kinda pain. It was 3:00 p.m. and Friday night had finally fallen off my back thanks to Gomez... I was back, and ready for more more more.

-The Kayceman


THE LADIES OF BONNAROO
RACHAEL YAMAGATA
One thing I found very refreshing this year was the presence of "the sacred feminine" at the festival. Two groups in particular were Rachael Yamagata and Antigone Rising. I saw Rachael for the first time a couple of months ago when she was opening for Liz Phair and stole the show. She was with just a guitar player then and at Bonnaroo she had a six-piece band that included a string section. Rachael has staggering vocals and her songs are mesmerizing. She had great poise and power as she performed her afternoon set at Another Tent in the sweltering heat. Please go see Rachael do her thing if you have the chance!

Yamagata (left) & Antigone Rising (right) by Super Dee
ANTIGONE RISING
Antigone Rising is a force to be reckoned with. If you have not yet seen or heard, they're definitely worth checking out. While their recorded studio music sounds very (*gasp*) poppy, their live performance is amazing. It is truly gratifying to see five girls on the stage rocking out! Unfortunately I missed their full band tent set (by the time I trudged through the mud to get over there, it would have been over). Yet the stars were on my side and three of them performed an acoustic set right in front of the JamBase booth at the XM Satellite Sonic Stage. Proudly hailing from New Jersey (and singing songs about the Garden State), Antigone Rising has become one of my favorite new bands of 2004.

-Super Dee



Gov't Mule :: Bonnaroo 2004 by David Vann
GOV'T MULE
I remember sitting in the relentless sun on Saturday afternoon, sweating bullets, waiting to be greeted by the Mule. Suddenly, we were treated to a passionate announcement about the state of the world and how chaotic it is and how, luckily we all were to have something like Gov't Mule in our lives. As the speech was winding up, the sound of Warren's guitar was so familiar as it sliced through sultry southern air. They fabulous foursome wasn't about to take their time to build up. They were firing on all cylinders and wanted to show anyone who hadn't seen this new formation (Haynes, Abts, Louis, and Hess) that the Mule is back. Their song selection was superb for an afternoon Bonnaroo set. "Blind Man in the Dark" twisted into a solid version of "Bad Little Doggie" before the Zeppelin staple "No Quarter." Warren rocks that guitar with the fire of Page and sings with the passion of Plant. This was, by far, my personal highlight of the set. After bringing the sunburned crowd to their feet, the band followed with a rare treat, the Tom Waits classic "Going Out West." While it was enjoyable, I'm not sure that the song was worked on as of late since it seemed to be the biggest problem the set. After a brief pause, the tune "Rocking Horse" was suddenly in full swing. At this point, being the class act that Warren is, he took time to pay respects to the recently deceased legend Ray Charles. The Mule rocked a sultry version of Ray's "I Believe," and as you can imagine, the crowd went nuts as Warren belted:

Last night I heard you sleeping
and I heard you say
Oh Johnny
When you know my name is Ray!

Gov't Mule :: Bonnaroo 2004 by David Vann
The keyboard intro that soon followed was ever so familiar, as familiar as that friend you don't see for a long time, but when you finally reconnect, it is like you never parted. Personally, I find it impossible to not think of Allen Woody when I hear "Soulshine." As the set rounded off with "Young Man Blues" > "GMLSG" > "Young Man Blues" I made my way over to Another Tent. As it faded into the distance and all of the diverse sounds of Bonnaroo fell together, I felt elated and invigorated. Musically baptized as all previous Mule shows had made me feel. It was quite obvious that Gov't Mule was fully reassembled and stable as ever. No one needs to ever ask, "Where's My Mule?" with any uncertainty again.

-Mark Oxborough


Del McCoury Band :: Bonnaroo 2004 by Adam George
DEL McCOURY BAND
While I've seen the Del McCoury Band several times before, I don't think I've ever seen them quite like this. Bonnaroo featured much more bluegrass this year than ever before, and the Del McCoury band proved its worth. In the hot Saturday sun, the band performed a flawless set that varied from the more traditional bluegrass favorites to funkier tunes that illuminated the multi-generational strengths of the band. The set was light and energetic, allowing fans to dance open-heartedly in the heat of the afternoon sun. There was a certain awe amongst this show that made the audience want to tune in and watch intently as fingers flew across strings and smiles widened on the musicians' faces. It was a beautiful moment of ease and comfort amongst the intensity of the Tennessee heat and the storm that was brewing a few miles out. Del McCoury Band did their part in making an impression on fans looking to have a good time.

-Sam Hanford


My Morning Jacket :: Bonnaroo 2004 by Grace Dunn
MY MORNING JACKET
If ya missed it, ya missed it. This was one of the true highlights of Bonnaroo 2004. Anyone who has had even half an eyelid open this past year has caught wind of My Morning Jacket. For many they broke on the scene last year kicking off Bonnaroo 2003 with an opening slot. A year later and they may be the hottest band on the circuit. Playing a decent 4:00 p.m. Saturday slot on Which Stage (the smaller of the two huge stages) front man Jim James took the ball and ran. Their hour and half of music kicked off with "Mahgeetah" just as their monumental 2003 release It Still Moves does. Sprinkled throughout the emphatic rocking set were favorites such as "One Big Holiday," "Dancefloors," "Golden," and a few tracks I have yet to hear from the ever-evolving band.

My Morning Jacket :: Bonnaroo 2004 by Adam George
Now as we all know (or damn well should by now) music is some powerful stuff, and there are certain people who have figured out how to harness it's energy, and in turn how to affect the world at large. I'm starting to wonder if Jim James isn't one of those people. I saw Jim earlier that day around noon for a solo press show. While Jim was doing his hauntingly gorgeous solo thing the skies opened up and it rained hard! By the time he was done the sun was back and I simply smiled. Fast forward to about 5:00 p.m. and we're in the meat of MMJ's bomb of a set. Guitars are swirling, reverb is pummeling, the crowd is going nuts, hair is everywhere, and it's hot. Then on queue, with no warning here comes The Wind. And I mean it came. Now these are the moments that are hard to put into words. When Jim James brewed up this nasty storm he did so with grapefruit sized rain drops... maybe even hail? All I remember is Jim standing out past the roof structure being pelted with water as his wet mop of hair seemed to take on a life of its own. Guitars and vocals washing against a crowd that only seemed to get louder, larger, and better with the water, this was a quintessential "rock" moment, not only of Bonnaroo, but of my rock-filled existence. And as I slid away in Water World I began to wonder if maybe Jim James is one of those rare souls that can affect weather patterns, if he's one of the few that can change my world... either way we are certainly watching a rock star in the making.

-The Kayceman


Sam Bush Band :: Bonnaroo 2004 by Jon Schroeder
SAM BUSH BAND
The most striking thing about the Sam Bush Band gig was the reggae medley in the middle of the set. Who would have thought that a bluegrass/rock band would be able to pull off Bob Marley as if it was written for them? Sam Bush and his boys did this with style, energy, and ease as storm clouds gathered over Manchester.

Sam Bush Band's set brought a welcome yet unruly thunderstorm that helped fuel the fires on stage. While buckets of rain poured outside the tent's wall, inside the heat was on and the band was rocking. While most crowded underneath the shelter, many hippies danced in circles of mud outside, welcoming the huge drops of rain that cooled their sunburned skin. Sam Bush laughed and played wildly as the crowd sang along to his perfectly arranged Marley covers and bluegrass favorites. The music fit the mood: unpredictable, in the moment, and good old fashioned fun.

-Sam Hanford


Jazz Mandolin Project :: Bonnaroo 2004 by Jeffrey V. Smith
JAZZ MANDOLIN PROJECT
The cover of Led Zeppelin's "What is and What Should Never Be" confounded expectations of how that song would sound performed by a mandolin. Part of this was Jon Fishman's thunderous drumming that Bonham himself would have applauded, but the absolute virtuosic playing of Jamie Masefield is the heart and soul of the Jazz Mandolin Project. The crowd's reaction, as well as the triumphant feeling of a well-played set was still apparent on the face of the Burlington native the following morning when he performed solo at XM Radio's Sonic Stage. During his interview, right before he treated the intimate crowd to "Deep Ellum Blues," Masefield gushed, "That was quite an experience last night!"

-Forrest Reda



Galactic :: Bonnaroo 2004 by David Vann
GALACTIC
Bonnaroo's biblical rain delayed Galactic's set, but the New Orleans funksters fed off the weather and the opening explosion of Ben Ellman's harmonica and Stanton Moore's drums warmed the wet crowd, especially when Moore rose for his trademarked stand-up drumming. Ellman was also on-point, attacking his harmonica like a man fighting off the storm. Without Houseman, who was home sick, the band might have delivered a set of old-school instrumental mojo, but instead chose to stick with material on the band's newest album, Ruckus, and introduced Latrice Barnett, who is touring with the band, to sing Houseman's songs. Barnett sang well, but wasn't able to fully realize the songs, Houseman style. Still, "Bittersweet" was a Bonnaroo Moment, punctuated by lightning at the exact moment she sang, "touch me and you will be struck by lightning." "Bonnaroo, I know you just saw that," she said after the song, sounding like someone who had just witnessed something miraculous, and from the crowd it felt the same way. That experience energized her for a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love." J.J. Grey from MOFRO also joined the band for a rendition of "Sympathy for the Devil" that was more of a showcase of Grey's vocals than what could have been a Galacticized romp of the Rolling Stone's classic. However, underneath gray, menacing skies the song was dark and majestic, they way it's meant to sound.

-Forrest Reda



The Dead :: Bonnaroo 2004 by David Vann
THE DEAD
Two hours and several thunderstorms and downpours after The Dead were scheduled to go on, the set opening "Tennessee Jed" was well worth the wait. Fairly predictable, yes, but "TJ" gave the crowd the chance to sing out loud what they'd all been humming all weekend long. It gave a sense of camaraderie to the crowd, close to 100,000 people experiencing the same sense of rapture in the same pouring rain.

Set I was impressive with covers like "Good Lovin," "The Weight," and "Me and Bobby McGee" mixed with Dead favorites like "Jack Straw" and "Casey Jones." It was a solid performance of great sing-along tunes that had everyone forgetting the moat of water surrounding them and focusing instead on the beautiful clearing skies above.

The Dead :: Bonnaroo 2004 by David Vann
Second set made the show. Starting with a ripping "St. Stephen" that led into an amazing "The Eleven," the set already had character as the crowd could sense great things about to happen. Bobby's powerful performance during "Dark Star" had energy peaking as the band rolled into "Shine on You Crazy Diamond," an unexpected Pink Floyd cover. "Help" > "Slip" > "Franklin's" is a top request of any Dead fan, and gave a very special feeling to the show. Smiles were everywhere and the rain nearly forgotten.


Bonnaroo 2004 by Michael Weintrob
Fitting encores of "One More Saturday Night" and "Box of Rain" were perfect caps to an incredible performance and kept the energy high for the several hours of late-night music to come.

-Sam Hanford



Bonnaroo 2004 by Michael Weintrob
CAMARADERIE
Once the rain had settled and the storms had passed, several feet of mud had collected in the streets where cars were soon to traverse. A memory that will never escape me is that of sitting at the campsite with strangers camped all around, waiting for the next car to roll through and get stuck. Without question, and often with a lot of laughs, anyone camped within a few feet of the stuck car would stand up in unison and come to the driver's aid. We pushed in groups, probably 40 or 50 cars before noon. We gave advice and cleared the way as the drivers then revved their engines and gunned it out of sight. We laughed for a few moments more, contemplating how far the car might get before another group would gather behind it to push it out of more mud. Those moments made Bonnaroo for this writer: 90,000 strangers helping each other and laughing about it all weekend long.

-Sam Hanford


Ween :: Bonnaroo 2004 by David Vann
WEEN
Ween unleashed the demonic fury that only they can and when the late night madness was complete the band left the stage without coming back for an encore. It didn't matter--Ween kicked the crowd's collective ass. One fan turned to me and said, "That was so fuckin' good that they don't need to come back on." Songs like "It's Going to Be a Long Night" showcased the band's potent mixture of white noise and melody, laying waste to the gathered masses and at least one acoustic guitar, which was sacrificed to the Boognish during "I'll Be Your Jonny on the Spot."

-Forrest Reda


Primus :: Bonnaroo 2004 by Jeffrey V. Smith & David Vann
PRIMUS
It's muddy, real muddy, and it's getting late. The moon is hanging over an isolated tree and I'm feelin' kinda funny. Things are getting wet and weird as we start to roll over to what would have to be considered the half way mark of the weekend. Late Night Saturday at Bonnaroo and they decide to put their first late show ever outside, on Which Stage. The sea of weirdoes have aligned, a warm, (or is that cool?) breeze starts to whistle. What a time for Primus. Claypool and company brought a potent blend of their patented dementia rock that had me and mine twitching in the bleachers and the masses stomping in the mud. Primus very well may be the kings of psychedelic mind fuck music and something about their heavy metal ethos and obvious attention to the entire stage/show/sound allows for one hell of an engrossing affair. Mix that insane-o bass with searing guitar from Larry LaLonde and the heavy as nails, slam-nasty drums of Tim "Herb" Alexander and all of sudden you start to realize that the freaks really do come out at night. Featuring a wide array of material, the evening (or is it now morning?) really went berserk when guitar wizard and fellow freakazoid Adrian Belew took the stage. Having played with some serious heavies (Zappa, Bowie, Talking Heads, King Crimson, and more--yeah, if you don't know this cat start playing catch-up) you know shit's going straight to the hilt when a man of this stature picks up the axe. As Rush's "YYZ" starts to wrap up, Belew appears and the band launches into an extended "Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers." At this point the head was flopping and the hips were popping with Claypool pushing through "Lone Rhinoceros" that led to the Belew-penned King Crimson classic funk freakout "Thela Hun Ginjeet" (which Claypool plays frequently with his Frogs). The 12-minute "Thela Hun Ginjeet" was certainly the highlight, but the "Frizzle Fry" and "Harold of the Rocks" that followed were received just as warmly. Mud in the shoes, mud in my hair, mud in my eyes, and Primus in my head... it must be time for bed.

-The Kayceman


SUNDAY :: 6.13.04

MARC RIBOT Y LOS CUBANOS POSTIZOS


Bonnaro 2004 by Jeremy Jones
While walking up to That Tent at noon on Sunday, I racked my brain for all I thought I knew about Ribot. I remembered that I had heard of him playing as a guest of MMW on more than one occasion. I knew that he worked with Mr. Trey Anastasio on Surrender To The Air, and I think I had even heard about his work with both Elvis Costello and Tom Waits back some years ago. Obviously, the group is headed by Ribot. He is the vocalist (though it seemed that many of their songs were instrumentals) and the only guitarist. Anthony Coleman sits to Marc's right, and he plays the keyboards. Los Cubanos Postizos contains two percussionists, Eddie Bobe who keeps the beat with the standard skins, and EJ Rodriguez who works the hell out of the bongos and other devices. The quintet is rounded off by Brad Jones on the stand-up bass.

Now I don't know any of the songs he played, but I know that they got me and about 1,500 other people grooving in the early afternoon. You could say the band's sound is Latin-like, but to tie their style down to any classification or label severs its brilliance and loses sight with its uniqueness. I have never seen anyone hold a guitar the way Ribot does. He sits when he plays and arches his back right over the neck of his guitar. I would say that his eyes are only about three inches away from the fret board. His control of the instrument is a microcosm for how he leads his band. He speaks with his eyes to Eddie, EJ, and Brad, to control both the tempo and the volume. I would say that about nine songs in total were played during the set.


Mud Love by David Vann
Midway though the performance, Ribot didn't want to pass up his opportunity to pay a tribute to the recently deceased Ray Charles. His eulogy to us all was very brief. His speech could be paraphrased as such:

This is a tragic passing for us all amidst a time of horrible daytime television.

I don't know the name of the set closing song. What I do remember about it was how EJ Rodriguez didn't have a coronary banging those bongos. And as he really got cooking near the climax of the beat, he started singing at the same time. How he did that, I have no idea. The crowd, the band, and especially Ribot stared at EJ with jaws dropped. It was nearly 100 degrees and it appeared that EJ had four hands moving at light speed. Not to be outdone though, Ribot trumped him by laying down some incredible progressions on the guitar. It sounded like a mix between two mariachis and a Dick Dale-inspired surf guitar riff. If I ever get the pleasure of making it to another Bonnaroo, I will do all I can to seek out some musicians I am not too familiar with. Marc Ribot Y Los Cubanos Postizos helped me discover the real meaning of Bonnaroo. Personally, this set was the highlight of my experience of Bonnaroo '04.

-Mark Oxborough


DONAVON FRANKENREITER


Mud Fun by Jeremy Jones
Donavon Frankenreiter appeared to be right at home in the festival atmosphere and muddy weather of Bonnaroo, showing up for his afternoon show with a ripped shirt and mud all over his clothes. Even before he started touring with music, Frankenreiter was accustomed to traveling around in cramped quarters on surf trips and camping in all kinds of weather. Thanks to the help of his buddy Jack Johnson, music fans have accepted Frankenreiter with open arms but all this adulation would've been subject to change if he didn't bring it live. Smiles on the faces of those in the tent combined with the gentle swaying of the crowd and steady bursts of smoke proved that Donovan is the man ­and this summer's tour with Jack Johnson and G. Love & Special Sauce is going to be fun.

-Forrest Reda


moe. :: Bonnaroo 2004 by David Vann
MOE.
As usual, Warren Haynes was everywhere, playing with Gov't Mule and The Dead, but moe. was the busiest band at Bonnaroo. The venerable East Coast jammers dropped in on Umphrey's late night set and played a rain-delayed set at the Sonic Stage. The band really shined on the main stage Sunday afternoon, drawing a huge crowd and ripping through a set of classic moe. Keeping the masses splashing through mud puddles and sand bars that comprised the main field, playing Frisbee in the goop in the back or lounging with beers in lawn-chairs, it was fur for all at moe... muddy, hot, and perfect. A golden cow sat in the front of the stage and the boys were at the top of their game. Highlights included "Okay Alright" and "Seat Of My Pants" as well as an epic, 20-minute "Rebubula" that closed the set, complete with a beach balls distributed by the band. The crowd wanted more moe., but the band left, graciously thanking the festival's organizers and fans. Al came back onstage, but he just wanted to take a picture of the huge crowd. As the only band to play all three incarnations of Bonnaroo, here's hoping moe. is back next year too.

-Forrest Reda


David Byrne :: Bonnaroo 2004 by Grace Dunn & Adam George
DAVID BYRNE
I'll tell ya what, David Byrne is the shit! I don't even want to consider where any of us would be without him. What the hell would have happened to music if the Talking Heads weren't putting out records in the '80s? Now that's a scary proposition. If one looks back over Byrne's astronomical and still blossoming career, it's downright amazing to realize how much ground this genius has covered. From nervous twitches and new wave pop to polyrhythmic worldbeat, highly underrated guitars, and some of the most intelligent rock ever put down, there appears to be nothing that David Byrne can't do on stage. And on top of it all, he only gets better with age. Every time I see him I'm astounded at how well he ages. Better than a fine wine, Byrne is the smoothest, coolest cat around. His voice is full of life and capable of showering huge crowds (as he proved at Bonnaroo) and his guitar playing still bites when needed. For the massive muddy crowd in Tennessee, David Byrne gave up a few newer arrangements but focused on what all seemed to desire--the classics.

David Byrne :: Bonnaroo 2004 by Adam George & Grace Dunn
"I Zimbra," "Naive Melody," "And She Was," and "Once In A Lifetime" all received favorable treatment, not too daring, but solid and ever so fun to dance and sing with. Of particular note was the "Psycho Killer" featuring a cool violin section and one of the more expansive guitar sections of the set. Capping of his classy set, Byrne busted out "Life During Wartime." Of course he did. The vibe during David Byrne was about as high as I witnessed all weekend, and this was coming Sunday night, after deluges of rain had certainly thinned out the crowd. Something about Byrne dancing, singing, and leading his rock solid band (equipped with a full string ensemble) through some of the best songs ever written was enough to bring all who were fortunate enough to be there to the next level.

-The Kayceman


Medeski Martin & Wood :: Bonnaroo 2004 by Adam George
MEDESKI MARTIN & WOOD
The storm clouds were already rolling in when Medeski Martin & Wood took the stage, so the trio of living legends wasted no time laying down some jazzy, highly-technical, and utterly head-bopping beats. Robert Randolph's pedal steel was set up onstage, creating a ripple of excitement that crested when the legend in the making joined the band. "Shine that spotlight on Robert Randolph," Medeski said, drawing a sheepish grin from Randolph and a roar from the crowd. In the true spirit of improvisation Randolph didn't come onstage and shred, but rather found a pocket within the existing groove and added a little bit of his voodoo. The ensuing magic was cut short by a sudden downpour, but what happened before was etched in the minds of those present as fans raced over to the other Super Jam.

-Forrest Reda


Material (Buckethead & Laswell) :: Bonnaroo 2004 by David Vann
MATERIAL
After what went down with Laswell and company at Praxis Friday night I knew damn well that Material was going to be some next level shit. I had incredibly high expectations, and just as with Praxis, Material exceeded them. I wasn't sure what to expect from this ensemble, but when I saw tabla/drummer/percussion master Karsh Kale warming up, a couple of keyboards, a DJ, a few percussive stations and good ol' Buckethead I knew shit was gonna get out of hand. Back in 1993 Laswell/Material dropped Hallucination Engine, and that shit changed the way I listen to music. Sure it came at a critical time in my musical development, but please take my word when I tell you to simply go out and buy it if you don't already know it... I'll give you a damn refund if you aren't satisfied. While Praxis was assaulting, scary, and abrasive, Material was worldly, rocking, and ethereal. With whom I believe is Laswell's wife doing Indian chants and gorgeous vocal work atop the tablas, bass, BucketGuitar and keyboards, I was swimming in glory as the music washed over the crowd. There are moments in one's musical life that you know will stick with you over the years... Material was one for the ages.

-The Kayceman



Trey Anastasio Bonnaroo 2004 by Michael Weintrob
TREY ANASTASIO BAND
The moment we've all been waiting for, the pinnacle of Bonnaroo: the Trey show. Wild predictions were being made--"Dude, Phish is totally going to come out and play"--but most people were very excited about the T.A.B. performance. We were informed via the Bonnaroo program and the ol' grapevine that Trey's first set would be a performance with the Nashville Chamber Orchestra showcasing "compositions from his new solo album, Seis de Mayo, as arranged for 40 classical musicians, plus various members of his solo band." If you've heard Seis, then imagine that string arrangement times ten. I missed the beginning of this set due to thunder, lightning, a downpour, Laswell, and Buckethead, but when I arrived I found Trey conducting a full orchestra and they were playing "Guyute." Honestly, it seems this is the way "Guyute" was always supposed to be performed.

Trey Anastasio Band :: Bonnaroo 2004 by Jeffrey V. Smith
Being a classical musician myself (and an admitted Trey addict), this new direction is very intriguing to me. Trey (dressed all classy-snazzy in a nice blazer) came out to speak and he thanked the Nashville Chamber Orchestra for taking a chance and doing this music in "real time." It seems as though this is a road Trey is certainly looking forward to walking down--a musical version of himself more simmered down yet potentially more intense technically than his current self. My classical ear found the arrangements very movie soundtrack-esque but I have enough faith in Trey that with enough work and flushing out, he could become quite a fine modern composer.

Ok, bringing out the big guns now for the second set... Phish did NOT come out, neither did David Byrne or anyone else for that matter. It was straight up Trey band, all ten of them, in all their glory. They came out blazing with "Mr. Completely" and continued with songs that have become quite anticipated--"Alive Again" and "Night Speaks To A Woman" to name a few. A couple of great covers made their way in there: "The Devil Went Down To Georgia," "Sultans of Swing," and "Black Dog" to close the set featuring the scorching Jen Hartswick as Robert Plant. The climax and the end of Bonnaroo was marked by a TREMENDOUS fireworks show that lasted beyond the Trey band's encore of "First Tube." A fine way to end The Roo!

-Super Dee


Bonnaroo 2004 by David Vann

Well there it is. Another summer upon us and another Bonnaroo down the hatch. We hope you have enjoyed the JamBase account of went wend down in good ole Tennessee.

 
"It's nice to see the Ray Charles funeral supercede the Reagan stuff for a minute. I'm a much bigger Ray Charles fan."

Keith Moseley, SCI

Bonnaroo 2004 Press Conference
 

Be Sure To Check Out More Bonnaroo 2004 Pictures Here!

Special thanks to images by

Adam George
Jeremy Jones
Jeffrey V. Smith
David Vann
Michael Weintrob
Jon Schroeder
Grace Dunn

And words from

Samantha Hanford
Forrest Reda
Mark Oxborough
Jeffrey V. Smith
Super Dee
The Kayceman

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