This excited cheer, chant, mating call, is still ringing in my ears from the past weekend, shouted countless times by myself and the other 80,000 Bonnaroovians. This girl became a woman this weekend, attending my first Bonnaroo and my first ever big music festival. I sucked it up and made the 16 hour drive from Syracuse, N.Y. Despite lots of gas money, not enough cd’s to listen to, venturing into many strange gas station bathrooms, and driving long hours through Virginia (there’s nothing but cows and churches), my friend and I finally made it to Manchester, Tennessee.
I’ll jump right into it: the music. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Radiohead, Phish, and The Beach Boys were the big headliners, and they certainly lived up to it. I’ve been a Chili Peppers fanatic ever since I was eight years old when my dad popped in one of their cd’s in the car. This was my first time seeing them in concert, so to say I was excited would be an understatement. I was unfortunately way in the back, but they still sounded great. They played a lot of their new stuff which wasn’t very mind- blowing to me; their earlier stuff, cerca Freaky Styley and Blood Sugar Sex Magic, is what really gets my blood flowing. To truly satisfy me I should have born at an earlier time and seen them in concert in the 80s. Oh well. But they whipped out some oldies and hearing the whole audience sing along to classics like “Under the Bridge” gave me goose bumps.
Radiohead was pure magic. They had these huge light panels that moved and changed colors behind them that complimented the magic beautifully. During their performance the guy behind me soccer-squat to relieve himself and the back of my leg got caught in the cross-fire. So to say Radiohead was still awesome while being peed on, is a pretty big statement. Check out “Lotus Flower” below:
The Beach Boys were surprisingly awesome. I was worried they would flub, but they still got it. They played a good mix of their old classics we all know and their new stuff, all of which sounded good. They were energetic, engaged the crowd, and can still harmonize like gangbusters. Phish had a four hour long set (twice as long as the other big three), so I left about half way through. They were great, jamming and jamming and jamming all night long.
There were a few bands that took me by surprise. One such band was Dispatch. I had a few of their songs on my iPod and enjoyed them, but wasn’t a stark raving fan. But now I am. My friend loves them so we got pretty close to the stage. This is one of those bands that is meant to play live; they play wonderfully and know how to rock a stage. The musicianship of all three members is simply amazing as they all trade instruments like baseball cards throughout the show. I was dancing around, stomping my feet, and screaming like a banshee. Check out their performance of “Flying Horses.” Warning: if you see a curly, blonde-haired chick who looks like she’s losing her mind- she’s not- it’s just me.
My friend as excited about Khaira Arby and Her Band, a band from Mali, that was playing at one of the smaller stages. I figured, “Why not? I have time to kill. And their stage is in the shade (which is a blessing in the blistering Tennessee heat).” We sauntered up to the stage and there was only maybe 100 people there listening. I arrived as an indifferent spectator and left as an enthusiastic fan. Holy jam session, Batman! The energy and love that radiated from their stage was unlike anything. The band, comprised of drums, bass, and guitar, were dressed in long colorful tunics and each spent time soloing, completely losing themselves in the majesty of the music each time. Singer Khaira Arby- how do I even begin to describe this amazing woman? Dressed in a bright colorful skirt and headscarf, her strong voice was filled with spirit and sass that seeped into everyone’s hearts. As I watched this confident, proud, beautiful, bold woman bust some serious moves as she belted out song after song, I decided that one day I hope to be half the woman she is.
One artist I was disappointed with: Ludacris. I’m not a huge fan, but I thought it would be fun at least. The sound on his stage was bad so it was difficult to hear him from where I was standing. But even if the sound had been normal, it still wouldn’t have been good. Half the time he didn’t even rap his songs; he played other artists’ songs that he was featured in and rapped his part. Lame. You can only listen to Fergie say “if you ain’t got no money take your broke ass home” so many times until you decide you have had enough and take your broke ass to get an adult beverage. Some other bands I really enjoyed: The Avett Brothers, Childish Gambino, Grouplove, and Rodrigo y Gabriela.
Well, I can safely say now that my Bonnaroo cherry has been popped, and I can’t wait for more. Despite not showering for four days and getting some funky sunburns, I met some really great people and satisfied my musical palette. “Bonna-ROOOO!”