Monday, June 14, 2010

BlogAsheville goes to Bonnaroo 2010

(Conan O'Brian at Bonnaroo. Photo by Josh Rhinehart)

Bonnaroo looks like this.

(people gathering for the Stevie Wonder show)

It's a portable, break-downable multi-acre tent city with tour buses for musicians and air-conditioned office trailers for staff and VIPs. Golf carts and on foot is how you get around, on dusty dirt roads, avoiding the stench of the porta-johns.

Topless hippie girls with flower-painted breasts mince through the grass. Hoop dancers sway. Sweat and mud and the threat of heatstroke, sunburn, prickly heat and monkey butt surrounds.

Bonnaroo is a feudal city-state powered by pot, beer, pizza, funnel cake and filtered water. There are no police (only security), and billows of weed are always on the wind, day and night. You don't go anywhere without your trusty water bottle.

The crowd is young, the heat hideous and oppressive. And the music on SIX STAGES never stops.

I wandered from Daryl Hall to the Flaming Lips Friday night at about 1 a.m. On Sunday I passed Regina Spektor and Lucero on my way to Jamey Johnson, caught a great Weezer set as an afterthought on the way back. About 150 bands play, and the music lasts from lunchtime to nearly dawn.

(Daryl Hall by Josh Rhinehart)

76,000 people bought tickets this year. Most of the festival's 700 acres in Manchester, TN is devoted to housing tens of thousands in tents. If you look out over the general camping area where most of the attendees set up, I hear there's an endless sea of Easy-Ups as far as the eye can see. A hippie tent nation.

76,000 tickets probably means about $22 million in ticket sales, not including mega-sponsorships from Canon, Garnier Fructis, Vitamin Water, Ben & Jerry's, etc. The festival is put on by the Dave Matthews Band's manager, and I hear it's him in the mysterious helicopter that flies over us on occasion.

There are mist tents to cool you down, water stations, an air-conditioned tent cinema, carnival-style midway vendors selling veggie hot dogs and turkey legs and lemonade in the shadow of a ferris wheel. There's karaoke and comedy and movies and vendors selling paintings and clothing and jewelry and sky chairs.

I bounced like a sweat-soaked pinball from show to show, taking in several years' worth of genre-hopping concert-going in one grueling weekend.

GWAR turned the Bonnaroo center fountain into fake blood at 3 am with Margaret Cho. The Avett Brothers serenaded the crowd in rain that cooled a beastly afternoon, reaching the sweet crescendo of "Perfect Space" along with the weather. Jack Black and Jack White both performed. (The Avetts thanked the crowd for bringing the rain; Jack White said his band had brought it.)

(Jack White playing with his new band, The Dead Weather. Photo by Josh.)

Steve Martin and Conan O'Brien. John Fogerty and John Prine. Tori Amos and They Might Be Giants. Weezer and Ween. Jay-Z and Jimmy Cliff. The Flaming Lips doing Dark Side of the Moon in the sweaty, weed-scented midnight dark as I picked my way through the mud and prone bodies on beach towels. (Yes, Wayne Coyne brought his giant hamster ball and surf-rolled the crowd.)

(Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, photo by Josh)

(Jay-Z, photo by Josh)

IMO Stevie Wonder and Daryl Hall OWNED Bonnaroo -- even my jaded, music-biz co-workers thought so -- with outstanding performances that showed there ain't no school like the old school. Hall teamed with dance duo Chromeo to rock out updated versions of Hall and Oates songs for a new generation.

Stevie left his lame-o easy-listening side behind to rock out with "Don't You Worry Bout a Thing" and "Living for the City."

(Stevie Wonder killing it, by Josh)

I loved Americana act Dave Rawlings Machine (with Gillian Welch), and can't get their song "Sweet Tooth" out of my head. They covered The Band's "The Weight" (to die for, GORGEOUS four-part harmony) and Neil Young's "Cortez the Killer." Swoon.

I sat in the hot shade in my straw hat, drinking the good music in.

Me and my co-workers broke down our tent and loaded up Sunday as Phoenix played at sunset and the Dave Matthews Band played at dusk, and four insane days of sweat, debauchery and music ended as a fleet of fire balloons sailed over the camp in a flaming constellation.

NPR's archived Bonnaro webstreams

YouTube Bonnaroo Channel

Incredible Bonnaroo 2010 Flickr photoset from Josh Rhinehart

2010 Bonnaroo schedule

1 comment:

robin said...

wow, Jen. The heat & mud sound miserable. The rest sounds AHHHMAZING.