Bonnaroo Update!

Hello all! As Bruce Springsteen begins what is sure to be a lengthy encore, I thought I’d pause and fill you in on some of he happenings I’ve witnessed so far at Bonnaroo.

Weather was a factor on Thursday, but this event has nonetheless turned into one of the best weather situations possible. A huge storm missed us on Friday and then ushered in cooler temps for the nighttime hours.

The first music I saw was Alberta Cross, who have a very My Morning Jacket-like sound mixed with dashes of Brit-rock. They were my favorite of a day that also included sets from Hockey, Passion Pit, People Under the Stairs, and Zac Brown Band. Zac Brown was quite impressive, pleasing the crowd with his genre-hopping country roots rock sound.

Friday, I hopped between Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and Galactic after starting my day with a true treasure – a “From the Archives” Phish radio show by their archivist, Kevin Shapiro. TV on the Radio simply owned the Which Stage in their late-afternoon spot, and the intoxicating combo of David Byrne and the Beastie Boys – achieved by camping out where I could hear both stages the bands were playing on – was utterly delightful.

The Friday Night Phish Fry was one of the most well-performed, carefully planned Phish shows I have ever seen. While the setlist doesn’t read like a classic, the playing was stellar. The band seemed to have something to prove in their first appearance at this farm, where so many other have and will offer legendary performances.

Public Enemy obliged my hopes by performing their landmark album It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back in its entirety. It’s one of the formative albums of my life, and the 40 minutes of the show that I caught was nothing short of a religious experience.

Saturday has been eventful and will only get more so, as I can now hear the growing crowd at the Which Stage howling in anticipation of Nine Inch Nails. Gov’t Mule put on a routinely inspired show that included covers from Radiohead, The Grateful Dead, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, U2, and Neil Young, and my first Wilco show turned out to be perfect. I couldn’t have asked for more, and Wilco might be my favorite moment of the festival so far.

Russian Circles trashed and motored their way through a well-attended spot at the Troo Music Lounge before Bruce Springsteen began. The Boss is still going strong as of 11:55 central time, and he’ll likely fill the rest of his three-and-a-half-hour time slot. I’m going to ready for Nine Inch Nails and anticipate an amazing finale tomorrow with Phish, Merle Haggard, Okkervil River, and Band of Horses, among others.

As always, Bonnaroo is measured by what you miss, and I’ve missed plenty – Jon Fishman of Phish sitting in with Del McCoury Band, Jimmy Buffett running through his hits during his band’s lunchtime set, and Nas appearing with the Beastie Boys. I did, however, get to se Flavor Flav and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog verbally joust for a TV spot in the press area.

See you soon with pics – not that there are many – and the full review!

Bonnaroo Bound: Coverage Update and Weekend Links

EmptyRoo - for now...

As you can see from the photo above – which was taken yesterday by my friend Annabel Lukins Stelling – the Roo is ready for us.

The car is loaded to the hilt, I’ve spent 48 hours in various states of readiness and non-readiness, and now I can’t wait to get over the hills and into Tennessee. Here’s everything the vicarious Bonnaroo watcher needs to survive the weekend:

The Wounded Messenger Twitter Feed will feature a steady stream of updates and setlists from a festival veteran – me. If my laptop cooperates, there will also be posts on this blog each day.

Fuse TV’s Tweetaroo gathers tweets from all Bonnaroo artists in one place. They will also be broadcasting from the festival and airing past performances all weekend – check here for more info.

AT&T will be webcasting portions of Bruce Springsteen, Phish, The Beastie Boys, MGMT, Zac Brown Band, Snoop Dogg, and many more performances from the festival.

Inforoo will no doubt be bustling with all kinds of news, randomness, photos, and miscellaneous electronic debris from the event.

Here are some pre-Bonnaroo links of interest:

Coffee Country Readies for Bonnaroo – Local Winery Boasts Bonnaroo Wines

Ashley Capps Interview – He’s the “AC” in AC Entertainment, who puts on the fest

Check back here for more links, updates, photos, and such as the weekend – which has already begun for me – unfolds.

Bonnaroo Preview: Phish

When the first Bonnaroo took place in 2002, Phish had been “on hiatus” for nearly 2 years, and there was relentless speculation that Trey Anastasio’s festival-closing set would transmogrify into the band’s comeback. The rumors never panned out, but the possibility electrified the weekend. You could feel the excitement in the stiff Tennessee air for three days.

PhishImagine, then, what it is going to be like to actually have Phish on the farm. Bonnaroo began as an event aimed squarely at the band’s gigantic fan base, and now, after 8 years, they’re finally coming to Manchester. It could have never happened. After 2004, Phish could have been done forever. Bonnaroo would have gone on, but not having a Phish performance would have been one giant gap in the still-evolving history of the festival.

Now, with the event firmly established as world-class attraction, Phish has helped create one of the most unique Bonnaroos ever. For the first time, a headliner will perform twice without the two performances happening on consecutive days. The band will perform the festival’s first-ever late-night headlining set on Friday – and no, I’m not counting the debacle that was Kanye West at dawn in 2008 – and the festival-ending set on Sunday.

While Phish have welcomed guests with open arms in the past, sit-ins have gotten less frequent over the years. It’s hard to say if anyone will join Phish during their sets, or if any band members will appear during other performances. In any case, the possibility is there – the band is on record as fans of King Sunny Ade (performing Friday at the Other Tent), they’ve occasionally covered “Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys (performing just in front of Phish Friday night), and even hobnobbed with David Byrne (performing Friday on the Which Stage) in the past. It’s no stretch to fantasize that even Snoop Dogg could be invited to rap with the band, since Jay-Z did just that in Brooklyn during Phish’s 2004 “farewell” tour.

All of this speculation and anticipation begs the question – is Phish still worth catching? Is their fans’ excitement justified?

Judging from the band’s recent performances in Boston, MA and Wantagh, NY, they’ve tapped into enough of their old mojo to give solid, if not legendary performances. It seems like the band is right on the verge of performing to their capabilities, and who knows – with another week of warm up time, Bonnaroo may be the place where Phish officially gets their groove back.

-Make sure you follow The Wounded Messenger on Twitter for the best Phish setlist and performance updates during Bonnaroo, along with lots of other stuff from the festival!

Phishy links:

Official site

“Sample in a Jar” from 1996’s Clifford Ball festival:

Bonnaroo Preview: Grace Potter and The Nocturnals

Nothing is more certain than change. Oh, and that people who see Vermont’s Grace Potter and The Nocturnals (GPN) in concert don’t soon forget the occasion. Potter is a firecracker of sensual and playful energy, and a righteous vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist. She leaves her mark on everyone who catches her in the act, and that act is informed by influences from Tina Turner to Neil Young.

Grace Potter and The NocturnalsThe band is one of many that will perform at Bonnaroo 2009 in the midst of exciting times and recent changes. In March, they lost an original member in bassist Bryan Dondero, but gained two more members in May, picking up some unique new musical elements in the process.

Catherine Popper, who has backed Willie Nelson and Ryan Adams, has joined the group on bass. Also joining the band is guitarist Benny Yurco. Yurco is already part of the band’s family, having formed the experimental rock project Blues and Lasers with the Nocturnals’ main guitarist, Scott Tournet.

Any time a band changes members, the fan base ripples with reaction. But these changes have altered more than just the lineup fans see onstage. In April, the band hit the studio as a three-piece and began work on their next album with producer T-Bone Burnett. Burnett, who has become one of the most recognizable producers in the world, brought in monster players like guitarist Marc Ribot and bassist Dennis Crouch to fill out the album’s sonic spaces.

Now, on May 28, the band begins its first tour with the new lineup, and Bonnaroo serves as the centerpiece for their new beginning. They’ll play all summer, stopping at Gathering of the Vibes, Floydfest, Celebrate Brooklyn, and Wanee, but the 27-show tour is built around a 3-day stay at Bonnaroo.

A very flattering afternoon spot at This Tent on Friday precedes two more shows that complete one of the most fully realized Bonnaroo experiences that a band can have. One will be a 30-minute Saturday set on the Sonic Stage. Located in the heart of the festival, the Sonic Stage’s rapid-fire showcase format often produces intimate, one-of-a-kind shows, and Potter’s personality will challenge the tiny stage’s capacity for sass. The band will probably sign some CDs afterward as well.

On Sunday, the band will participate in the festival’s Planet Roo experience, which focuses on environmentalism and sustainability. They’ll give an interview and performance on the Solar Stage, the oft-ignored venue that will be a much hotter spot this year with GPN, Brett Dennen, Del McCoury, Ben Sollee, and more making appearances.

The original GPN lineup amassed a devoted following based on their soulful, raw music and joyful stage presence. The Summer of 2009 – and more specifically, Bonnaroo – will usher in a new era for the band, and their story will be one of the most interesting to watch in a year full of engaging musical news.

Links to learn about GPN:

Official Website
A great live show from last December featuring many cover tunes

Live Video of “Apologies”

Bonnaroo Preview: Okkervil River

Bonnaroo has done Okkervil River no favors.

The Austin-based band will perform at the festival’s geographically-challenged Other Tent on Sunday afternoon, when exhausted fans will be doing more hunkering than walking. Other bands have fallen victim to the sinister stage and schedule spot – even an increasingly rare stateside Broken Social Scene performance couldn’t lure the amount of people it deserved in 2008, and the stage has seen one deserving artist after another play to relatively modest crowds over the years.

Okkervil RiverOkkervil River’s entire set takes place within the time frame of Andrew Bird’s Which Stage appearance, which will be a huge competing draw within the Okkervil fan base. Their bio page at the Bonnaroo website currently houses an overtly wordy and minimally revealing cut-and-paste job that won’t exactly enchant those who aren’t familar with the band. Portions of the text will no doubt wind up under their name in the festival program as well.

Good thing, then, that 2009 is turning out to be Okkervil River’s year to break through. Riding the acclaim and momentum of the September 2008 release of The Stand Ins, the band performed on The Late Show With David Letterman in January 2009. Having already performed at Coachella, they’ll make the most of their summer by playing Bonnaroo and touring the Western U.S. with Wilco for a week before heading to Canada, Great Britain, and Ireland.

Given their recent luck, the band’s Bonnaroo set should turn out to be just another leap forward for their popularity. Songwriter Will Sheff’s intelligent, poetic lyrics might be just perfect on a lazy Sunday, and the band’s multi-instrumental work will doubtlessly provide moments of jubilation, sorrow, drama, laughter, and everything in between.

Music lovers of all types will find something pleasing in Okkervil River’s indescribable sound, whether it be the music’s inherent lyrical verbosity, its moments of joyous guitar jangle, the constantly changing instrumental dynamics, or the wide range of moods that manifest during their shows. The band finds itself in an enviable position this year, and Bonnaroo is another colorful feather in their considerably conspicuous cap.

Links to learn about Okkervil River:

Official Website
Music, T-Shirts, and Limited Edition Posters
NPR page with live show download, photos, and interview, and more

“Lost Coastlines” Video

Bonnaroo Preview: Turbine

Since their beginning around 2004, New York City’s Turbine have evolved from a blues-folk duo into an exploratory quartet that is never predictable. Bonnaroo’s Troo Music Lounge will be the secret hotspot of the day on Saturday, with Turbine opening up the beer-laden tent at noon and the aforementioned Russian Circles set later in the evening.

TurbineBonnaroo is just one of several key gigs for the band this summer as they ride the last swells of success from their wonderful 2007 album Reward. According to their website, there’s a new album in the works and they’ll be playing two shows at Bonnaroo, with Saturday’s Troo Music Lounge show confirmed and a second show TBA. They’ll also perform at the always interesting Wakarusa festival, Telluride Bluegrass Festival’s “NightGrass,” and a Phish aftershow party in Knoxville.

Don’t dismiss Turbine as another “jam” act just because they happen to be orbiting Phish for a few days. These seasoned performers bring an anything-goes intensity and unmistakable sound to the stage. Position yourself in front of them for a while and you’ll hear sounds as varied as dark, bluesy rock, crisp vocal harmonies, frenetic guitar work, scientific electronic funk, energetic improvisations, and traditional American music, all performed with a down-and-dirty NYC edge. Adding to their distinct sound is the oft-synthesized harmonica of Ryan Rightmire, who plays guitar while adding all manner of sonic colors via the hooked-up harmonica.

Find out more about Turbine at these links:

Band Website
Sonicbids Press Kit
Turbine YouTube Channel