A few weeks back, I got introduced to a fellow live music fan and online media colleague, John Parsons. He blogs about music all the time on his personal site, big microscope, and we’re fortunate enough to welcome him to Live Music Blog to file some reports from the 2007 Bonnaroo Music Festival. He’s going to have a blast down there and he wanted to share his plan of attack with the rest of us.
For those of us not attending Bonnaroo this year, there’s always the AT&T Blueroom Webcast showing highlights from all three days. Have fun with that if you’re so inclined…and check back next week to see if John was kind enough to send us some more thoughts on the festival.
tomorrow evening i’ll be winging my way east on a red-eye flight to nashville via charlotte (and yes, i know about the shortest distance between two places thing. i also know about the cheapest flight thing) to meet friends, pick up a car and head down to manchester, tennessee on thursday morning. that must mean it’s bonnaroo time.
this will be my fourth pilgrimage to the farm (700 acres of tree-sprinkled grassland; superfly entertainment actually bought it outright prior to this year’s festival) and i have to cop to a bit of obsessive behavior about bonnaroo. there are very few times during the year that i am not thinking about bonnaroo in some way, shape or form. i find it to be an incredibly efficient means of witnessing a lot of incredible music in a short period of time, a great way to reconnect with friends i don’t get to see that often, and a catalyst for wiping the mental slate clean.
this year’s lineup continues the bonnaroo trend of diversifying from the festival’s jam band roots. with headliners like the police, tool and widespread panic, the ‘something for everybody’ aesthetic now seems to be the guiding principle. which is great, because one of the amazing things about the ‘roo is the discovery of new artists and new sounds. no matter how well planned your bonnaroo trip may be, it’s almost a guarantee that those plans will go wildly astray at some point during the weekend. and that’s usually a very good thing.
so without further ado, here is my pre-roo game plan (offered with the full knowledge that much of this will change due to circumstances currently unforeseen). in fact, i haven’t even addressed the time that i’ll probably be spending in between main sets in the blue note somethin’ else jazz tent. if you’re also going to bonnaroo, rest assured your mileage may vary. a lot.
thursday, june 14
over the years, thursday night has become not just a ‘bonus’ night of music with a few bands in a couple of tents, but rather an integral part of the festival. here’s my short list of ‘must-sees’ on thursday: the national and rodrigo y gabriela (check out their new video; my friend, george mays, directed it). i’ve got a few other things pegged in the maybe column (the little ones, the stanton moore trio), but there’s also the “surprise guest” playing the vip camping party. that’s usually worth a listen, because in past years we’ve been treated to the benevento russo duo and the preservation hall jazz band. bottom line: for most of the evening i will truly be playing it by ear.
friday, june 15
okay. now the fun really begins. i’ve got an ambitious day planned, so we’ll see how reality shakes out when all is said and done. from 1:15 until 8:00 pm, i’m hoping to catch most, if not all, of the following artists’ sets: cold war kids, richard thompson, gillian welch, and manu chao. that means i’ll miss an ungodly amount of great music, but if history repeats itself, i’ll probably end up catching snippets of the following, either in transit, or because i let myself go off-plan and get sucked into something unexpectedly wonderful: tortoise, kings of leon, hot chip, the roots and the black keys.
the headliner on friday is tool. i’m interested in hearing them, but i’m not going to go out of my way to get up front at the what stage. i’ve read that tool’s stage show is amazing (all white motif) and that they can whip up a sonic frenzy with the best of them. that said, i may be better off resting back at the campsite or in the broo’ers festival tent (their spelling, not mine) in anticipation of what will surely be a late, late night. at the end of the day, metal-tinged mope music ain’t really my thing, though i’d love to be dead wrong about my pre-show tool impressions.
after tool, beginning at midnight, i’ll probably split my time between sound tribe sector 9 and the superjam. the core lineup of the superjam will be john paul jones (yes, from led zeppelin), ben harper, and ?uestlove from the roots. with so many amazing musicians onsite, it’s anybody’s guess who’ll show up to join in the fun. at 2 am, i plan on heading over to see dj shadow. but again, i’m not casting anything in stone, as i’m well aware of how far off a plan you can be after the first 30 hours in manchester.
saturday, june 16
hopefully our 12-volt coffee maker will be able to crank out multiple pots in the morning, because i’m going to need some energy to kick-start saturday’s slate of activities. first up: dr. dog. then it’s either regina spektor or hot tuna, depending on whether i’m feeling like a hip indie kid or an independent old hippie. maybe both. this year’s festival is a little light on the reggae, but i’ll take what i can get and will probably head over to soak in some ziggy marley. then it’s off to the hold steady, unless that tent is unbearably crowded. if so, i’ll opt for the fountains of wayne before catching as much ween as i can handle.
the police are the headliners on saturday, and i’m excited to see them for the first time in 23 years. stewart copeland has been hinting at a ‘special guest’ approach for their bonnaroo show; i’m hoping for ornette coleman jamming on “bring on the night,” but won’t be holding every breath i take.
after the police, it’s over to the which stage for the flaming lips at midnight. but if that’s too much of a scene (and it very well might be), there’s always the scott amendola band with nels cline. either way, it will be another late night on the farm.
sunday, june 17
must. get. up. must. see. more. music.
sunday mornings at bonnaroo are always sluggish, and imbued with a tinge of sadness knowing that there is only one more day of music. it can be tough to rally early to say the least. luckily, there’s divine inspiration waiting in the other tent with my first pick of the day: mavis staples. then it’s off to get my rocks off, so to speak, with wolfmother. then, more tough decisions. much as i’d love to see the decemberists again (and they’ve promised special guests too), i will probably opt for junior brown. it’s been a while since i’ve seen junior and if i come home with a live recording of “highway patrol,” my five-year-old son will be ecstatic.
wilco on the big stage at 5:30 is a must. they killed it at the ‘roo in 2004, but i’d see this show even it was only to hear nels cline’s guitar through the massive pa. ornette coleman is tempting, but i did see him open for the dead in the early 90s. i’ll probably opt for getting close at the white stripes show, having never seen them before.
widespread panic closes the festival, and while i’m not a huge fan, i’m committed to giving them their due this year and settling in for the duration. special guests are almost a guarantee, and that usually brings out the best in panic. also, i love jimmy herring, and a widespread panic with jimmy herring is more interesting to me than it might be otherwise. all told, it should be a fine show to end the festival and a nice reconnection with the improvisational spirit that lies at the core of bonnaroo.
so that’s the plan. the only thing i know for sure is that it will be another amazing whirlwind event. i haven’t even mentioned the silent disco, the sonic village, the short acoustic sets on the solar stage, the ferris wheel and the whacked out shakedown scene out in general camping. it’s a bit overwhelming to even think about planning around all of those potential stimuli. but then you get there. and it’s just, well, bonnaroo.