Belatedly Bonnaroo

It’s been two weeks since Bonnaroo and I keep failing to write about it. That’s been the way of my blogging lately; something will happen that seems blog-worthy but so much time will pass before I write about it that it no longer seems worthwhile.

For those who aren’t aware, Bonnaroo is the US’ biggest grossing music festival, and also one of the largest around with 80,000 attendees this year. It grew out of the ‘jam band’ (Grateful Dead, Phish, etc) phenomenon, and still has roots there, but has diversified of late to have a wide range of indie artists. It was the lure of the latter that motivated us to drive south for ten hours (nicely broken up by a night in Nashville on each side).

My lasting memory of the event will be the heat. Even when I didn’t have sunstroke, we spent every spare minute searching out water and shade. It kept us from moving close to the stage for any act, and it felt like it also sapped quite a few sets of energy. The only truly disappointing set was from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!—whose album I love, but whose vocalist seemed unable to reproduce the songs live—but a number of others didn’t quite live up to my expectations and I suspected that was because the artists were having to battle the temperatures just to perform.

Nevertheless, there were some excellent sets. Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint‘s mainstage (or ‘What Stage’ for those following Bonnaroo’s idiosyncratic naming conventions) set exuded class and was a good way to wile away an afternoon. Devotchka were a delight on the first evening. Bright Eyes’ set was worth catching, especially for the cast of guests that joined him (Gillian Welch, David Rawlings, Jim James, Gruff Rhys). Radiohead‘s set list was excellent and the lack of atmosphere at the back of the crowd was almost made up for by the number of new songs they played. Stephen Malkmus was the last artist we saw, and played a very strong set. It was Beck, though, who provided the most entertaining set of the weekend through creative use of marionnettes (see this blog post) and a bear costume (video here).

Two of my regular MP3 blog stops, I Guess I’m Floating and You Ain’t No Picasso have been doing a much better job than I of writing it all up, and also seem to have had a much more positive impression of quite a few bands than we did (perhaps due to their passes allowing them better access to the stages?). Paste also had a good overview in their most recent podcast.

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