Bonnaroo truly is like a box of chocolates, never knowing what you might get. Bonnaroo v.2007 was no different. This was my fifth time in attendance at this particular festival - it's only an hour drive away, so I typically end up going (I missed the third one in '04).
I had issues with this year's festival for many of the same reasons noted by many other people across cyberspace. I thought that the organization of the festival was as bad, if not worse, than in 2002. Most of the smiling faces wore by the staff of the festival were replaced by frowns and harsh tones. The feeling of having 80-100,000 neighbors dwindled itself down to being able to trust only those camped within your compound. I felt like I was being watched, and that wasn't a result of being twisted and torn out of my mind. I just felt like the communal vibe of the festival was lost. I felt that last year also, but not from the staff, the vendors, and the paying patrons. The Manchester police staff were more friendly than those inside the gates. It pains me more than anything, because we had something special here in my homestate, and I feel like we are losing it.
But enough about the fading positive spirit in which this festival was started; I'll touch on some of the high points:
There were some genuinely friendly folks that I met this year. I'll especially remember the two guys from Montana that played neighbor to our campsite. They were some cool ass cats. They always greeted our group with a smile, and they were more than willing to help us set our camp up, which was an awesome way to kick off festival Thursday. Our other neighbors from Indiana were awesome as well; these details play a major role in the "comfort" level one can expect at Bonnaroo, so I was relieved that camping was a breeze this year.
I also saw some really good music. My favorite set of the weekend was played by Dubconscious on Thursday night. I'm a big fan of watching bands in awe of themselves. DubC seemed to really be grateful for their turnout and reception they received from the crowd, and it really did shine in their music. Each song had this crazy, psychedellic build, and was resolved in a funky, unique twist with strong roots reggae overtones and intense leads. I especially enjoyed the bass bombs coming from the bass guitar - dude was on fire w/ his bass, and he was having the time of his life on stage.
I also soaked in a good set from a lesser known, somewhat local band - jescoe; I always enjoy being introduced to new music. They had a mean rhythm section that really shined through their psychedelic rock compositions. I promised the person that handles their booking that I would go check them out, and I am sure glad that I kept my word - they proved to be the surprise of the festival for me.
I, like many others, thought the headliners were sub-par. I don't and didn't enjoy Tool, though their visual show was out of this world. And I must admit that hearing Tom Morello come out on stage and shred a solo was pretty damn invigorating. The Police were out of place, and I thought their set left a lot to be desired, especially since they quit an hour and a half before schedule. Which leads me to another gripe.. why did Bonnaroo not allow the late night shows to begin shortly after The Police? The Flaming Lips tried, but were immediately shut down. And why were there no music options during those headliners? There were last year for the first time in my memory; I was disappointed that they didn't offer that again this year. I was also disappointed with the late night Friday shows. They all were done by 3, 3:30 tops. That sucks. I had my most energy on Friday night, and wandering around aimlessly looking for something to do at 3:30 is definitely a change for Bonnaroo (for the worse).
Saturday proved to be a long, dusty day at the ole Manchester farm. I took it easy in lieu of keeping my lungs healthy and body motivated for a night of raging. Rage it did. Galactic's hip hop show left a lot to be desired as far as funk was concerned, the classic Galactic songs were just totally uninspired. The hip hop aspect of their show, however, was incredible and full of energy. I wore a smile through most of the show and the freestyles over Galactic's improvisation was a lot of fun. But again, why was this show over at 3?? It just wasn't of the magnitude and folklore that Bonnaroo late nights had gained over the course of 6 years.
I was perturbed enough by the atmosphere to leave early Sunday, missing highly anticipated sets by both Ratdog and Widespread, but I'm not mad at it. I don't know if I'll return for my 6th installment of Bonnaroo. I have a lot on the table between now and then including trips to both Jamaica and Jam Cruise. If the lineup is there, so will I. But based on vibe alone, Bonnaroo has lost their way.
I'd rate Bonnaroo 3 out of a possible 5 stars for festival alone. You can't deny the sheer enormity of this festival.
Staff gets 2 out of 5 stars; there were a couple genuinely nice folks working the festival that I met.
Music gets 3 out of 5 stars; there just wasn't enough passion in it for me this go 'round.
Maybe next year will be better with them owning then land now. We shall see. I hope everyone enjoyed themselves that went, and I'll see you somewhere down the road...
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Permalink :: Fri 6/22/2007 11:13 AM