Words by Stephen Taylor
There are many aspects of Bonnaroo that distinguish it from other summer festivals: the clocktower, the Comedy Tent, the giant shroom fountain, the Silent Disco (The Roo made it famous at US festivals), the TN heat, the confusing stage names, etc. Perhaps the greatest of these, though, is the Superjam. The inaugural Superjam, featured Micheal Kang (String Cheese Incident), Bela Fleck, Jeff Raines (Galactic), and Robert Randolph. Over the years, these spontaneous, mildly rehearsed sets featured some of the festivals most memorable moments on the backs of legendary musicians including Herbie Hancock, John Paul Jones, Dr. John, George Porter Jr., Kirk Hamlet, Trey Anastasio, Pino Palladino, and Mike Gordon.
After being left off the schedule for 3 years beginning with the 2008 festival, the Superjam made a triumphant Sunday return to its roots with New Orleans artists Dr. John and Preservation Hall Jazz Band, who were joined by Black Keys’ guitarist Dan Auerbach in 2011. One of the festival’s all-time memorable sets, this collaboration ultimately led to Auerbach’s production of Dr. John’s 2012 GRAMMY-winning LP Locked Down. One year later, Questlove carried the torch with a heroic late night featuring a top-secret comeback by reclusive R&B icon, D’Angelo.
The 2013 schedule once again ups the ante with three Superjams, featuring seminal artists from soul & funk, hip-hop, and bluegrass. To help prepare you for what you are about to witness, we have summarized the action on the Rock N’ Soul Dance Party and the hip-hop Superjam, which Bonnaroo has disclosed the most detail about.
ROCK N’ SOUL DANCE PARTY SUPERJAM | SATURDAY 12:00-2:00 AM
2013 marks James’ 6th Bonnaroo performance since 2003, a track record that has more than earned him the privilege and responsibility of curating this year’s Superjam. Anyone who has witnessed one of My Morning Jacket’s marathon sets over the years will tell you that James has the unique power to spawn energy from deep within even the most withered festival goer. It’s proven science. What’s also proven is James’ penchant for soul and funk music, the influence of which is laced throughout his 2013 solo debut Regions of Light and Sound of God. It’s also apparent in MMJ’s cover song choices (below).
Best known as the guitar playing/mustached half of the legendary 80’s duo, Hall & Oates. Oates helped create a genre through their fusion of classic soul music with elements of new wave and rock. H&O’s allegiance to classic soul and R&B is probably best displayed through their inclusion of original Temptations Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin on their 1985 tour, mixing the setlists with staples from catalogs of both groups. Check out a clip from their stop at the Apollo below.
Bonnaroo’s name, founding fathers, and Superjam concept are all deeply rooted in New Orleans musical heritage. It only seems appropriate that New Orleans’ drumming king, Zigaboo Modeliste, anchor the rhythm section. Modeliste unique syncopated drumming style he developed as a founder of The Meters became a standard in funk drumming and modern day hip-hop beats. Even at 64, he has not lost a step.
The Meters – “Cissy Strut”
PRESERVATION HALL JAZZ BAND
Another example of New Orleans royalty, Preservation Hall exists as a time capsule of traditional Crescent City Jazz and features some of the greatest horn players on earth. Their inclusion in this event is little surprise given their extensive live collaborations with Jim James over the years.
Preservation Hall Jazz Band w/ Jim James- “St. James Infirmary”
Also no surprise is the inclusion of My Morning Jacket’ lead guitarist, who was named one of Rolling Stone’s New School of Guitar Gods (via Stereogum). Broemel shreds, but has also become quite the multi-instrumentalist, adding saxophone and pedal steel to MMJ’s records.
This Superjam needed a soul vocalist and James nailed it with Bilal Oliver. Well known to some for his hook contributions over the years (Common, The Roots, Jay-Z), Bilal achieved a measure of independent critical and commercial success with his most recent album, A Love Surreal. His brand of spacey R&B should complement the James & Co. style perfectly.
As the original bassist for one of America’s greatest funk bands, Sly and the Family Stone, Graham is credited for inventing the slap technique. Graham later went on to lead funk group Graham Central Station, which had several hits and toured with Prince. All this to say, the man has the tools to maintain the low end.
Following an appearance at Jazz Fest 2013, the two are gearing up for a string of dates in August and James’ Superjam could be the perfect venue to rekindle the flame. Hall is no stranger to Bonnaroo, having performed a 2010 late-night set with Chromeo. A cameo for “You Make My Dreams Come True” would hurl this thing into orbit.
Shorty is more than friendly with the New Orleans musicians already on the bill, he has a show the next day in LA, but his band is used to tight turnarounds.
Kelly’s set ends at 1 AM on Which Stage, which gives him more than enough time for a cameo at the Superjam if he doesn’t bounce straight back to the motel party.
Idol’s set ends just in time for him to make it over to the Superjam. You have to believe that he and Oates probably know each other from Studio 54 in the early 80s.
Continue to Page Two for a breakdown of Friday’s Rap Superjam!