Bonnaroo 2011: Thursday/Friday Recap
Complete set of my photos here.
And I mean really early Thursday. Susong and I met up with Scotty and Avent at a hotel in Murfreesboro Wednesday night and slept for a few hours before waking at 4:15am to get going on the way to Manchester. We get into line at about 6:00am, make it through line and security by 7:45am and park. A few hours later, our tent compound (“206 McHipster”) is up in the camping only area and we kill a few hours before the first show.
I’ve seen Futurebirds twice in small clubs in Charlotte over the past 8 months, but it was great to see them bring the exact same attitude to That Tent, which probably holds somewhere around 5000 people, that they did to Evening Muse or Snug Harbor. An energetic set and a nice way to kick off the festival. From there, it was off to This Tent to catch some of Wavves before returning to That Tent to enjoy the first night’s sunset and half of School of Seven Bells' set. Not being too familiar with them, I enjoyed their set quite a bit before heading over to The Other Tent for Best Coast. Yet another solid set, and Thursday was off to a great start.
We headed back to the campsite to hang out and drink before the highly anticipated sets of the night a few hours later. However, the ten o’clock block presented a huge dilemma, with Twin Shadow and The Walkmen both starting at 10, and Sleigh Bells at 10:15 (which I didn’t get to see any of but apparently was insanely crowded). Susong and I opted to check out the first half of Twin Shadow before meeting back up with Avent and Scotty at The Walkmen. Twin Shadow got the crowd dancing to their 80’s-inspired indie synthpop, but unfortunately we had to leave before hearing “Castles in the Snow” - which is my jam. Thankfully, we made it back to The Walkmen in time to hear “We’ve Been Had,” “Angela Surf City,” and my personal favorite “The Rat” in what turned out to be quite a scorching set (or at least half of one).
Roughly 15 minutes after The Walkmen's set ended, Bradford Cox and the rest of Deerhunter actually came out and tuned their own instruments - something I had never seen before. Once the band came on for real, they played about 7 or 8 songs in their hour and fifteen minute set. At this point I have to mention Superfan #99 who resembled Garth Algar and was standing in front of me. Every single song got this guy so psyched (though hilariously he didn’t know the first song of the set, and he had a tweet ready to go to announce it to his followers). Deerhunter played a superb set including with extended jams for “Nothing Ever Happens,” “Memory Boy,” and “Desire Lines.” I definitely hope I get to catch them again soon. From there it was back to the tent compound to hang out a bit before turning in somewhat early after being up for about 20 hours. However, this was probably the most music I had checked out on a Thursday at Bonnaroo, and the weekend was off to a great start.
My first set of the day was a spunky, mid-afternoon set from Matt & Kim, who thanked the crowd for taking their Bonnaroo virginity and urged the ladies in the crowd to get naked, such as they did in their video for “Daylight” (with Kim oddly enough being the most vocal). From there our master plan to get in the pit for My Morning Jacket was in effect. We headed over to What Stage to get in line during The Decemberists' set about 3 hours before My Morning Jacket was set to go on at 8pm.
And our plan worked flawlessly. And My Morning Jacket's two hour set was a thing of magic. And though perhaps not as epic as their famed four hour set in 2008, they rocked our faces off nonstop for two straight hours. The songs from Circuital sounded awesome live - especially “Victory Dance” to kick off the set and “Holding On to Black Metal” with a live horn section. At various points in the set, Ben Solee, a Nashville horn group and Preservation Hall Jazz Band joined the band, punching up the sound nicely. And I will admit that as much as I made fun of Superfan #99 at Deerhunter the night before, I was very much a Superfan #99 for this set. Also of note was the visual joke of a guy next to us with a VIP pass using his iPad as a camera during the set. Most of my photos were taken during this set, and it will likely be one of those that I look back fondly on for years to come. Update: I forgot to mention the awesome, 5-minute glowstick fight that erupted directly behind the pit during the “Take your money and your druuuuuuuuugs” breakdown of ”Steam Engine” - one of the coolest things I saw at the festival this year.
Unfortunately, they kick you out of the pit after each set, so we went up on the grass of the amphitheater for Arcade Fire. It would have been nice to be closer for that set, but what are you going to do. Arcade Fire played for only 90 minutes but it was fun to see just how much they appeared to be enjoying the huge crowd watching them and vice versa (even before Win Butler riled the crowd up shouting “Come on you fucking hippies, let’s do it!” as they launched into “Month of May”). The one song encore of “Wake Up” was everything I expected coming in, with the 90,000+ people singing along triumphantly.
Late night brought us Big Boi (“Shutterbug” still bangs live), Bassnectar (crowd was going nuts), Lil’ Wayne (a little disappointing), and Ratatat (did not expect the late night rave feel to their set, which I would have guessed was a little too cerebral to dance to - boy was I wrong). So two days into the festival and I’ve seen 15 shows. I’m not sure I can keep this pace up.