BONNAROO : : THE BIGGEST & BEST

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



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