Friday, May 20, 2011

Saturday at Bonnaroo

By Jon Stone | @jwstone - June 13, 2010 

Saturday at Bonnaroo is all about endurance. And pace. And, if you can get it, a bit of rest. I would say that around 5% of the folks here follow those important rules of thumb (which is to say I saw a lot of people passed out today. At 1pm). If Friday was a day of sampling, Saturday was a day of full sets, and I was lucky enough to find most of what I was interested in happening in one place. The fatigue is setting in, so I’ll be as brief as I can (with promises that with Sunday’s report -- coming Monday! -- to offer some final words on the fest once it has had some time to sink in).

Before parking my aching bones in That Tent for the day, I had a few stops to make:

11:45 – Dawes: I’m quickly becoming a groupie, aren’t I? We showed up early for the Sonic Stage set. I stood on the front row, sung along to every word, frequently yelled “Griffin!” during the set, hoping the drummer would notice me. I’m only kind of kidding. The set was similar to last night’s with a John Prine song thrown in to honor the performance from JP later that day. All day I told everybody who would listen about Dawes. I’m obsessed.

12:55 – The Avett Brothers: Remember that Chase Freedom lounge place I was talking about in the last update? Yesterday the Avett Brothers played that little tent for a handful of fans. It was a very rare opportunity to see one of my favorite bands in what could have easily been my front room. They played their way through a nice eleven-song set and I was charmed, once again, and my brother is their newest fan.

1:55 – Brandi Carlile: After the Avett’s I began my four hour residency in That Tent for what turned out to be a wonderful, indeed, historic afternoon. Carlile got us warmed up. This was my first time hearing her play live and while my tastes are more in line with the kind of stuff Jill Andrews was playing yesterday, Brandi’s songwriting and swagger were great to hear. She has some very devoted fans; several women, I noticed, were crying through some of the numbers.

3:15 – Dave Rawlings Machine: Dave and Gillian Welch are two of my favorite artists, hands down. Seeing them, regardless of who’s material they are focusing on, is a privilege and I was very much looking forward to their set. I should also add that Rawling’s record has been one I’ve played more than most over the last year. Though it took me a while to figure it out, the rest of the “Machine” was filled out by members from Old Crow Medicine Show, who, during “Sweet tooth,” would engage in some synchronized dancing. The band played some great songs, highlights for me included the epic “Method Acting/Cortez the Killer” and the appropriate-for-Bonnaroo “To be Young (is to be sad, is to be high).” Gillian also played “Miss Ohio.

5:00 – Mumford & Sons: This was the historic part of the afternoon. It began when the major-buzzing English bluegrass (for lack of a better designation) band took the stage. We were already close to that stage since we’d been there for so long, but people packed in to see M&S. I was a little turned off by the huge fan influx, to be honest. That little too-cool-for-school voice in my head wondered what the big deal could be (this, even after loving their record – suppressing that inner hipster is tough sometimes. I’m not proud of these thoughts). The major question I had, and I think it is a legitimate one, was this: does band deserve the hype it was getting? I had to wonder and I kept wondering until about halfway through the first song of the set. It only took that long. I’ll spend some more time talking about why I think that M&S deserves every bit of hype that they are getting when I have a few more minutes than I have now, but I will say now that Mumford and Sons is a band well beyond the years of its young members. I hope they will be around for a long time. The last two songs was a big hootenanny of Dylan’s “Wagon Wheel” and an Old Crow song with a name that evades a the moment (so bad without the internet for these details, folks.)

Here’s the rest of my night in a few words: I stayed in That Tent for about half good ol’ John Prine’s set. Ran into Taylor from Dawes again (who is a big fan). Tried to repress the urge to hug him. Wandered away in a daze. Tried to get into the press seats for Stevie Wonder. Realized I was not even close to cool enough for that. Regardless, however, I had the time of my life (and I’ve never felt this way before) watching Stevie play some of my favorite songs of all time (“Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” “Sir Duke,” & “Living for the City”). I was told by the woman in front of me that I was singing loudly but that she liked it (a passive aggressive move, I think). And, most significantly, I think, had a moment watching Stevie Wonder – Stevie Wonder – play the harmonica during “For Once in My Life” where I had to fight the tears and pinch myself.

Great day.

Tomorrow I’ve got Calexico and Lucero on the agenda with the intention to pop around a bit to see what I can see. We have to leave a bit early tomorrow so I can make it back to teach a class on Monday (Summer session starts at the U of I!), but will look forward to catching Phoenix at Lolla later in the summer.

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