BONNAROO: THE PROVING GROUND
Regardless of how big a band is or how long they've been doing it, Bonnaroo is the pinnacle of the summer. Every performance could be the biggest of one's career, every note could possibly be heard by 80,000 and thus, every band marinates in the pressure and hopefully rises to the task.
|Jim James - My Morning Jacket (left) :: John Bell - Widespread Panic (right)
Bonnaroo 2005 by Jeremy Jones
DBT and The Duo
On Friday afternoon, the Drive-By Truckers certainly stepped it up while serving as the unofficial slip-in for Bonnaroo. Tennessee Whiskey on stage and in the crowd gave everybody strength as the Truckers continued to blaze their legacy as the most genuine, honest, and unforgiving rock band in America. The next mouth-open moment came from the Benevento/Russo Duo featuring Mike Gordon. The dicey instrumental version of Phish's "Foam" might have been the highlight of the set, but it could have also come in second to the crowd singing the lyrical portion of "Mike's Song" following Gordo's announcement that this would be the last Duo show with him on bass.
Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers :: Bonnaroo 2005
By Jeremy Jones
The Freaks Come Out at Night: The Mars Volta
By far the most eclectic, and perhaps the most highly anticipated set of Bonnaroo came late Friday night with The Mars Volta. Dark eyes met dark music as The Volta blew up Bonnaroo. Almost as much fun to watch as the band were the expressions on the faces as some inched closer to the stage, drawn to the fire like a bug, and others left searching for sanity with their fingers in their ears. Obviously way too much for many, like their albums, you are either in or you are out with The Mars Volta. There is no middle ground. You can't sit to the side and "check out" the band. You either give yourself one-hundred percent to the onslaught of punked-out, rocked-up freakiness, or you leave immediately. It's all or nothing with The Mars Volta, and having the pleasure of a late night lobotomy session with them at two in the morning on the first night of Bonnaroo would prove hard, if not impossible to beat.
The Mars Volta :: Bonnaroo 2005
By Jeremy Jones
The Soul of Bonnaroo: My Morning Jacket
My Morning Jacket has somehow managed to become engrained in the fabric of Bonnaroo. One would be hard-pressed to imagine Bonnaroo without these rockers from Louisville, Kentucky. Led by the haunting vocals and inspired guitar work of Jim James, MMJ again captured the crowd and embodied the soul of Bonnaroo. Emotionally-charged versions of "Golden," "Mahgeetah," "One Big Holiday," and "Bermuda Highway" mixed with songs that will appear on the band's highly-anticipated follow-up to 2003's It Still Moves. With a Sunday afternoon slot, sharing the stage with an array of twelve-foot animals, a conductor, and his bandmates, James drove the band through a weekend-stopping set of music that proved to be the one and only stimulant capable of bringing the masses back from two nights of non-stop fun and sleep deprivation.
My Morning Jacket :: Bonnaroo 2005 by Jeremy Jones
The Gracious Host: Widespread Panic
Who else but Widespread Panic could be called upon again to anchor Bonnaroo with two headlining gigs (as they did in 2002)? Welcoming a slew of special guest for both evenings, Panic was absolutely the host of Bonnaroo. Whether it was the more standard, two-set meltdown with Warren Haynes getting in on "Guilded Splinters" and "Maggot Brain" on Saturday or the all-star, come-one-come-all, non-stop, three-and-a-half hour campfire party to close out the fest, WSP again proved to be the class act, professional band that can. From the Sunday set opener "Space Wrangler" to the set closing (no encore) "Red Hot Mama," Panic welcomed Bob Weir, Herbie Hancock, Luther and Cody Dickinson, Derrick Freeman, Col. Bruce Hampton, and Robert Randolph to join in the fun. If you could play, you could sit in - a most gracious host indeed.
Dave Schools - WSP Bonnaroo 2005 by Jeremy Jones
And Then There Was Trey
Perhaps the most important responsibility that the press has is to expose the truth and keep those with the power in check. While clearly not as critical to public safety and the development of a healthy society, music journalists - like news journalists - have to be honest and hold those in power accountable for their actions. There was a day when Trey Anastasio was the leader of the Jam Scene. Without question his band Phish dictated policy for years. It's with all this in mind that the words are that much harder to muster. I had considered not even mentioning Trey's late night set at Bonnaroo, but to say nothing would be negating the responsibility of the press.
Bonnaroo 2005 by Jeremy Jones
The rumor mill is working overtime trying to figure out what has happened to Trey. Regardless of how or why, Trey has rubbed up against hard times. First he pulls the plug on Phish insinuating something about not wanting to become a caricature of himself, not wanting to be a novelty act, and desiring a new musical path. Then his Zooma Tour is cancelled for lack of sales. Then there was Bonnaroo. Billed as a "Special Late Night Show," the only thing special about it was how incredibly poor and unsatisfying it was. Having left a hot Secret Machines set to see Trey's "old man review" was, for lack of a better word, sad.
Perhaps the most confusing aspect of all this is the motivation. To see a band shoot for the stars and fall on their face is far more appealing than watching an incredibly talented musician flounder aimlessly. Seeing him play more covers than originals, one has to question the whole nostalgia act argument. Why leave Phish in fear of novelty to run through mailed-in versions of other people's songs? Top this off with an appearance by American Idol's runner-up Bo Bice, and it becomes impossible for the press to not call out one of the world's greatest guitarists. One does not travel to Bonnaroo to watch Bo Bice. This is in fact the exact opposite reason why 80,000 flock to Manchester. Bonnaroo is a way to escape the homogenization and commodification of our musical world. It's a place where creativity and originality are revered. Please leave American Idol out of it.
Lets be realistic and have some perspective on all this as well. While it's true that Trey's set was even more disappointing than expected, it is also necessary to view this situation with a bit of distance. Trey is clearly in a transitional period of his life/career. Break-ups and transitions are always difficult; Trey just has the good fortune to be doing this in front of a live audience. When life pulls us down most of us can hide on the couch, in the bar, or on the corner. Trey is a public figure he is not afforded such luxuries. Whether or not he should be opening the floodgates and headlining high profile events such as Saturday Late Night at Bonnaroo is an entirely different discussion, one that seems to have answered itself. But Trey was only one act amongst a plethora of amazing shows, if you're gonna let one set ruin your good time, well, then that's your fault.
Bonnaroo: A State of Mind
There were too many amazing, transcendent shows at Bonnaroo to list them all, so what we've done is compiled a list of "moments" from various sources known as the Top 3 From The 'Roo. So please keep on reading, and we'll see y'all soon. While it's true we have a whole year before our next 'Roo, Bonnaroo is really a state of mind - a place where inspiration drips from amplifiers and friendly faces mix with improvisational moments of brilliance. Bonnaroo is a music junkie's fix, and some of us live there permanently, constantly chasing our passions and filling our soul with the music that moves us.
Make sure to click "Continue Reading" for Top 3 From The 'Roo...