Danbird’s Bonnaroo Review: 2013 Version

It’s been 2 weeks since Bonnaroo started, and I’ve only just now put together a review of the shows I was able to see and enjoy. Part of the reason why is because I’ve been working on the interview my press partner and I had with the fantastic band Futurebirds while we were there. If you have not checked that out, you really should….

Futurebirds Interview @ Bonnaroo 2013 from Dan Worcester on Vimeo.

Also my friend and press partner, Joel Frye’s photos can be found at http://flickr.com/gp/7849248@N07/d5SW5M/

And onto the review….

I was never planning on going to Bonnaroo this year. I found the lineup to be spectacular and the collaboration possibilities exciting as usual, but I never thought I’d make it. After being laid-off earlier in the year, it seemed like an impossibility. Then the phantom opportunity sprung it’s wonderful beautiful head and I wound up being able to join in the festivities. This would be my 6th year, with 2004 being my first excursion into the frantic musical unknown. I try to explain Bonnaroo to people that have never been. I feel like words fail to fully encompass the visceral musical survival experience that Bonnaroo really is. Even most pictures and videos fail to capture what Bonnaroo truly is. I did my best to take some quality videos & pictures of the key moments I experienced. I still fall woefully short. Here are the highlights of my weekend…

I camped on Wednesday night for the first year this year. We were parked out in BFE near pod 9. Being camped out that far guarantees that my trips to Centeroo will be well planned, and that, just being realistic, probably some plans will wind up falling by the wayside. Priorities will need to be assigned to the most important acts and activities, as making the 1.25 mile walk could only be done once a day, lest I possibly die. Onto CENTEROO!!!!

THURSDAY

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Thursday night I walked around a lot. All the shows were really packed, which is becoming more of the case every year, it seems. I caught some Django Django, who sounded really tight. Pretty much the show that you’d expect if you’re at all familiar with their albums. Went to Father John Misty shortly thereafter. FJM always puts on an eccentric and energetic show, but this one was just too many people for me to deal with the constant crush of people moving by me one way or the other. I left to wander.

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Maps & Atlases

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My main concern this Thursday night was to catch Maps & Atlases at the Budweiser tent. Why they weren’t in an actual tent, I’ll never understand. It was probably the most packed show I’ve ever seen over there. My first time seeing them, and they were spectacular. Bonnaroo is all about bands that can kill it live. Taking their solid albums and opening up the music. Making it come alive and enveloping the audience in a unique euphoric experience. These guys can do that. This was the first real “WOW” musical moment of the weekend. There would be many more to come.

FRIDAY

Friday was a beautiful day. At least it started out that way. After leaving camp and visiting the infamous INFROO BRUNCH for a bit, I headed into Centeroo yet again. The lines were long this year. The backpack searches were way too thorough or nothing at all. There was very little in between. My main concern for Friday was our interview then off to catch Foals and Jim James who would wind up being one of the shining stars of this years Bonnaroo as he usually is when he’s there with My Morning Jacket. This year he was on his own, touring behind his first true solo album. He would also be orchestrating a Soul Superjam on Saturday night.

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The first thing I did in Centeroo on Friday was go to the press orientation and 1st press conference of the weekend. The artists from left to right are Matt & Kim, Nicki Bluhm, John Oates, Ed Helms, and Michael Angelakos of Passion Pit.

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Also got a video of Ed Helms talking about his first Bonnaroo experience…

Next up was Foals and Jim James. Wish I had some pictures from Foals cause the lead singer was going absolutely insane. The part where he crowd surfed back almost to the soundboard all the while shredding his guitar was probably the highlight for me and many others. They played everything with fervent furiousness and it was just a really fun show overall.

After Foals I moved closer for Jim James.

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Really enjoyed Jim’s set, even if it was predictable. Jim + Bonnaroo = awesomeness no matter what. When Jim yells BONNAROOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! you can really feel the love exchange. It’s tangible.

After Jim, I posted up for a spot for Paul McCartney. Again, no good photos of this epic Bonnaroo show. I do not have nearly the emotional connection to these classic songs that so many others have. Paul put on a pretty amazing show for someone his age, and I don’t think there was anyone there that was not appreciative of the chance to see him in that ever unique Bonnaroo setting.

Saturday

I missed Friday late-night. Par for the course for me. There is usually one late-night that I wind up missing and it’s usually Saturday. Not this year. I couldn’t miss Saturday or I’d have to live in shame forever. I can live with missing Animal Collective. I could not live with myself if I missed the Soul Superjam on Saturday night.

Saturday started out with catching Futurebirds Sonic Stage Set. Pictures courtesy of Joel Frye…

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Futurebirds are an awesome band, and if you aren’t listening to them, I don’t know what the hell is wrong with you. After Futurebirds we wound up waiting in line for David Cross for the better part of the afternoon. I missed Lord Huron and Tallest Man on Earth while waiting, but I figured it was worth it. I’ve always loved David Cross’s humor and with him only having 2 sets this weekend, I figured it was now or never.

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That last picture is from a joke he told about a couples colonic. Overall the crowd did not receive Mr. Cross with a whole lot of enthusiasm. He berated the crowd at points. Talked about how apathetic and self-absorbed “your generation” is. It was a little weird, but I loved it. The Sandy Hook bit didn’t go over very well either. But I stood and applauded his moxie. It was everything I would have wanted from a David Cross show and then some. He’s always been on my bucket list. Bjork was next up. She’s always been on my bucket list as well. I wandered around and then headed over to see her.

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Without sunglasses

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With sunglasses

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This was the best picture I could get of Bjork. It sucks I know. Apparently no one was supposed to be taking pictures at her show. Here’s a good one I found regardless…

Bjork was everything I thought she would be. Adorable and extremely fun and weird. The aesthetic of her light show was pretty primal and elemental and amazing. The pyrotechnics at the end were a nice touch.

After Bjork it was over to wander some more and settle in for the Preservation Hall and the Soul Superjam. Both would feature Mr. Jim James.

jim light

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These were both from Jim coming out with the Pres Hall.

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The people are ready. Bring on the Superjam!!!! Let me just say that I’ve see a lot of late-night shows at Bonnaroo. I’ve seen a lot of Superjams at Bonnaroo. I’ve seen a couple late-night Superjams at Bonnaroo, but this was easily one of the best things I’ve ever been witness to. It was such a special event that Bonnaroo is making a documentary about it’s creation and execution. Here’s a bit of it from Billboard…

R. Kelly. Billy Idol. Brittany Howard from Alabama Shakes, along with others as special guests to an already stellar musical lineup made for one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Period.

Sunday

On Sunday my campmates broke down camp early which forced me to try and finish my beers before they took the coolers away. I did not have the luxury of driving a car down which made me rely on other people. There are benefits and drawbacks to taking this approach. This year, it was kind of a drawback. When I finally made it down to Centeroo, I was ready to just chill in some laid back crowds and not push too hard. Bonnaroo is a marathon, not a sprint. And by Sunday I’m exhausted and just looking to soak in the final hours of the festival in the least stressful way possible. So I headed to the bluegrass tent.

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Noam Pikelny from The Punch Brothers was the first set I caught. Just a laid back easy good time. After them, in the same tent, you could find only super legends in the genre of bluegrass. None other than Sam Bush and Del McCoury. Del is just an amazing performer and the way he interacts with the crowd seems somewhat out of place but it perfectly fits in at the same time. His old-timey demeanor is something that should not be missed. A true musical treasure.

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Next up was the navigating the giant conflict hell that is always Sunday afternoon. So many bands I’d like to see spread out over the whole weekend, but they’re usually all sandwiched into a 2-3 hour slice of Sunday. It sucks. It always does and I have no idea why they do this to me every single year. I went with The National on The What Stage. Their new album is spectacular. They always are. It was their first time on the main stage and I wanted to see the new material. I got one video from the show…

Tom Petty was after The National. It started raining and I took cover. I kept falling asleep at the picnic tables in the back and I decided to call it a weekend and make the 1.25 mile hike back to camp one final time. Tom Petty decided to play The Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil” at that exact moment and all was right in my Bonnaroo world.

Bonnaroo is a horrible, wonderful, exciting, exhausting, magical, friendly, frustrating, peaceful, extreme, and overall a terrific learning experience. From one year to the next a person learns about his or her limits and expectations. Those limits can try to be pushed or accepted. It’s all up to the individual to make Bonnaroo what they want to make it. You get back what you put into it. It’s cliche, but it’s true. I’ll hopefully be back someday soon. But not too soon.

Jim says hello.
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BONNAROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

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~ by danbird on June 28, 2013.

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