For those sitting at home, wondering how Bonnaroo kids survive on practically no sleep for the entirety of the fest, the answer is simple: it’s too hot to sleep. Though most had been up until 4 a.m. Friday night with LCD Soundsystem, the humidity made it hard to sleep past 7 a.m. Which kind of sucked because there wasn’t too much going on at Bonnaroo until the early afternoon. And it especially sucked because the day was only going to get hotter.
The high temps didn’t damper the spirits of Pennsylvania’s Langhorne Slim. Langhorne Slim is like a non-pop version of Jason Mraz, which I would argue, is the better version. Langhorne’s music was laid back folk rock. Even the surprise appearance of a little kid dancing around the stage didn’t disrupt their good-mood. In fact, it improved it. Langhorne incorporated the kid into the act, dancing with him, lowering a mic to his height and even giving him a high five. Adorable.
Next, it was time for perhaps one of the biggest buzz acts of the fest: Conan O’Brien. Conan’s band performed an introductory jam that had them all out playing their saxophones and trumpets out in the audience, and giving high fives in between notes. The band returned to their spots and a video appeared projecting Conan: bearded and in a fat suit. He looked like Santa’s cousin. The video followed Conan around looking miserable and being depressed: he was eating junk, ignoring his daughter, etc. But then he gets a call: “Want to do a tour? Are you in shape?” Within moments, the beard was trimmed and the fat suit dropped. Then Conan himself appeared in the flesh. The jokes were a mix of being kicked off TV quips and jokes about Bonnaroo…and of course, some that combined both:
“In six months, I’ve gone from hosting the Tonight Show to performing at a refuge camp.”
The set was also highlighted by the appearance of Andy Richter, Dion Cole, a Triumph the Insult Dog video message, and of course, the infamous Walker Texas Ranger clips. Although, the Walker clips did inspire the audience to chant “aids, aids, aids,” which might not be the most appropriate thing ever. Other cute moments included when Conan took the time to take a picture with a fan in the front row.
This being a music festival, there were also plenty of musical aspects, too. Joke songs and White Stripes covers (just two days before, Conan recorded a live album with Jack White). There was even Meatloaf‘s bat out of hell inflatable. Hideously awesome.
When the show ended, the audience demanded more, so Team Coco obliged with a cover of The Band‘s “The Weight.” During an instrumental break, Conan went out to give hugs and high fives to the audience. A nice gesture, but one that almost got him killed as people swarmed him for a chance to touch that infamous red hair. But he handled it well and was all smiles as 15 minutes later he worked his way back to the stage. Too funny; too cute.
When I came out from the Comedy Theatre, the soulful singer and pianist Norah Jones was performing on the Which Stage. Unfortunately for the talented writer, her tunes aren’t the best to experience in the sun outdoors. They became swallowed up in the dead air and she became more like bore – ah Jones, not Norah.
Disappointed with Jones, I returned back to the trusty comedy tent to catch the Bonnaroo Roast with Roastmaster Jeffrey Ross. Ross did a funky walk out to to some jam music freezing to point at an audience member, “Ugly,” then the sign interpreter at the front, “Deaf,” then himself, “Fat,” before going up to twirl with his attractive female stagehand, “Yeah.” The Roast was pretty funny and Jeff took the time to make fun of Bonnaroo bands, people in the audience, himself and even the heads of Superfly productions: “Nice work, guys. Really. You got thousands and thousands of people to come, but only have seven bars of soap.” He even took a jab at Jay-Z: “Think he’ll perform Empire State of Mind for like the millionth time? Always ripping off “New York State of Mind. He’s not Jay-Z. He’s fucking lazy.” Also, I must say, that sign interpreters have the hardest job at the fest. The comedians sure put this interpreter through some uncomfortable hand gestures.
As fun as it was to take a laugh at ourselves, I ventured out of the Roast a little early to catch some of the talented Avett Brothers. They’ve got some beautiful harmonies going with their blend of bluegrass rock and I love their use of strings on their songs.
Speaking of great harmonies, Mumford and Sons owned That Tent with their performance. The UK group absolutely blew me away and I think it is just a matter of time before these labelmates of Phoenix blow up. They play pretty mellow folk music a la Noah and the Whale style, but they still brought plenty of rock, with one member lifting his upright bass above his head while playing it…those things aren’t light. The band seemed to be having a great time and so did the audience. This was just one of those feel good performances and perhaps one of my top performances of the fest.
Jack White’s current project, The Dead Weather, with The Kills‘ Allison Mosshart soon took over the What Stage. Jack White primarly plays drums in this project, proving that the man can and will do absolutely everything in music with near perfection. He does come out from behind the set to sing and even play guitar. However, with how big of a name as White is, Mosshart was the star. The woman prowled the stage while singing, cigarette down to her side, making her look and even soundlike the classic movie image of those smoky lounge singers – and I do mean that as a compliment. I love how her voice fits into this southern rock style. In fact, I like her much more in this than I do in the Kills, and from the looks of it, she seems to enjoy this more, too.
Weezer is not how you typical think of rockers, with their frontman Rivers Cuomo being a Harvard graduate and a stereotypical image of a geek as opposed to one of those high school drop out rock stars that don the leather jackets and always have a flask of Jack Daniels at their side. But I’m glad this band has managed to defy stereotypes to become one of the biggest, and longest lasting groups around. Almost every song in their very long set list has been successful on the radio – these guys just know how to write a catchy tune. Their set was also improved by the change that has come over Rivers in the last six years. When I first saw the band in 2005, though the songs were familiar and catchy, the performance was stale. The band just did not seem into it. Now, six years later, it is like they’re a whole new band. Rivers has a renewed energy and wonderment – almost like a kid at an amusement park. “Hello, plane. Hello, plane with banner behind that plane!” shouted Rivers. At another point, he stole the camera from a photog in the pit and snapped a crowd shot. Then, his quirkiness hit a new extreme during the encore when the band played a mash of “Kids” by MGMT and “Poker Face,” by Lady Gaga. When he got to the Gaga lyrics, Rivers put on a blonde wig and began thrashing around. Hilarious. I love when music is simply fun.
Speaking of fun, how about the epicness that is Stevie Wonder? The crowd at Bonnaroo tends to run a little younger, so the demographic here kind of missed out on Wonder’s prime, but that doesn’t mean everyone wasn’t still excited about the legend’s performance. I think everyone was surprised by how many of the tunes we all knew and Wonder did a great job of helping the crowd singalong.
Kanye. This is how it is done. Rapper Jay-Z started about ten minutes late. That’s it. And it was Stevie Wonder’s fault for starting his set late. Then Jay-Z played a set full of his hits and he was nice about it. No attitude. He thanked Wonder, fellow artists like Alicia Keys for their help on his record. We bounced with him. We froze him. We sang with him. It was great. The only disappointment was that with Beyonce side stage for all the set, it was a bit of a bummer that she didn’t come out and join him for any of the female vocal spots on his tunes. It’s not like we were promised that, but it would have been cool.
As hard as it was to part from Jay-Z, there will some other great performances getting ready to start over at the tents.Thievery Corporation got people dancing with a blend of India-influenced DJ beats and their singer’s strong vocals amping the crowd up. However, this performance couldn’t even begin to compare to the crazy dance parties that were about to erupt over at This Tent.
Dan Deacon Ensemble was interesting to say the least. The stage was covered with xylophones and drums and keyboards as well as a glowing, green skull. Like I said, interesting. Before even playing a song, Dan Deacon tried to put everyone in the same mood: “Put your fist in the air. Then point your finger. Now put your left foot just behind your right foot. Now rock back and forth. Now rock down so you’re on your knees.” We all obliged, chuckling. Well, we all obliged save one guy in a white hat: “Too cool for this,” said Deacon. “Everyone point at this guy. Now stare at this guy.” It was weird, but bizarrely fun. After this “crowd bonding” moment was over, the ensemble finally exploded into their crazy dance jams. At some point in your life, go see Dan Deacon with the full ensemble. It will probably blow your mind and be one of the best moments of your life.
Dan Deacon wasn’t the only one with crazy stage theatrics. Gwar was playing a stage over from Deacon. The nordically clothed rockers began with a video history of their odd inception. Then the costumed warriors appeared, showering everyone in waves of blood and rock. Even the Bonnaroo Fountain got in on the crazy Gwar action and was turned red for the night with LED lights.
But for those wanting to dance into the twilight hours, the party was at This Tent. DJ Deadmau5 was playing the his beats well past 5 a.m. to an enthusiastic crowd covered in glow sticks. The mysterious Deadmau5 wore giant mouse ears and sat high up on the stage in DJ booth. It was like he was the electronic lord and we were his dancing minions. He held such power. With a raise of his arms, we’d dance harder and faster. He was still going strong by the time I finally made it back to my tent to rest for the final day of Bonnaroo.