Friday began our Morning Routine. This is how our Morning Routine went. It would be light outside and I could sense an increase in activity in our area. I would lie there for a few moments and adjust to the fact that I hadn’t been asleep that long. Then Carl would start rustling around next door in his tent doing what I can only imagine were the kind of things that I would have been doing if I had a clue what you are supposed to do when you camp…at least I hope this is what he was doing. So then I’d be like, “Hey Carl.” And he’d be like, “Yeah.” And I’d be like, “What time is it?” And he would reply that it was somewhere between 7:30 and 8:30. At this point I would go “OK” and start crawling out of my tiny tent which was sort of difficult. I stumbled over to my car and pulled the chairs out of my trunk and grabbed a couple Dr. Pepper’s for each of us. Then we sat. Then I stumbled over to the trees and then back from the trees. When I got back I pulled out the days first beers and we continued to sit until it was time to head in to the festival. At some point we each applied sunscreen. Maybe ate some cherries. The Asian-Southern-American lady usually offered us some watermelon. Then we would head toward the festival, usually around 11.
Friday there was a longish line to get in. Oh well. We had two beers each for the walk/wait. Which we finished. Friday morning is such a fresh faced time at Bonnaroo. Everyone is excited and nobody feels like shit. Apparently somebody died on Thursday. He was obviously doing it wrong. Who the hell dies on Thursday?
We started with Graveyard. Graveyard is a pychedelic / metalish throwback band from Sweden and they rock pretty hard. Definitely a fun way to start a very long day. Crowd wasn’t too bad at this point and there was plenty of shade.
Next we headed to Phosphorescent. This was the first time I had seen them. I don’t know a ton of their music but they sounded good and the lead singer looks like Hyde from “That 70s Show”. I really like the album of Willie Nelson covers…not sure if they did any of those or not because I had to leave halfway through to line up and get a ticket for the Lewis Black comedy show late in the afternoon.
After getting a bite to eat (I found a place where I could buy some delicious Jambalaya…ON MY CREDIT CARD) we headed over and got a spot for The Sword. The time right before I got something to eat was my first valley of the weekend. I quickly learned that these sixteen hour days of music were full of peaks and valleys. There were multiple times each day where it just felt like…shit, there’s no way I am making it to 4 in the morning. But then, every single time, something awesome would happen and I’d snap right out of it. This time it was the beginning of The Sword. I really don’t listen to too much metal (or really any) but I always like checking out a band like The Sword at a festival. And they immediately pulled me out of my funk. It was nice to see a genuine mosh pit at a show since pretty much nothing I go to has one. Of course, I’m still not a huge fan of the genre and after about three or four songs everything got a little bit samey sounding. We stuck it out for a while but soon headed out for the comedy theater.
The comedy theater is a brilliant idea. It holds 1700 people and it is AIR CONDITIONED. Granted, it is not necessarily COOL in there (I suppose depending on where you sit) but it is certainly a welcome change from the 95 degree heat and sun. Definitely worth a show a day to refresh, even if the comedy is sub-par. And in this case it was definitely somewhat sub-par. I generally find Lewis Black entertaining, but it seemed like too much anger and not enough humor. I get that that is how his humor works but I thought his punch lines weren’t funny enough. It could just be that he didn’t really fit the laid back aesthetic of the fest. There were some other comedians there…most not that funny. Eugene Mirman was the best part by far. I left the show a little early and headed over to the main stage (for the first time!) for the triple-header of Decemberists, My Morning Jacket, and Arcade Fire.
The Decemberists set focused heavily on their new album…they played most of the tracks on it. This was ok with me. I like the album and I’ve seen the band enough times that I wanted to hear mostly new material. It translated pretty well live. Jenny Conlee was absent as she continues to fight cancer and was replaced by…oh fuck…I can’t remember. Colin Meloy was in fine form, introducing “Dracula’s Daughter” as the worst song they had ever written and challenging Bela Fleck to a pick off during an extended set-closing “Chimbley Sweep”. The most pleasant surprise of all was that by the time they came on stage (5:30) it already seemed to be cooling off a little….at least to a bearable level. My first full day dealing with the Roo heat wasn’t too bad at all.
Next came My Morning Jacket. We moved up a little and stood by the railing that encloses the sound booth and this is where we would be for my first truly surreal Bonnaroo experience. About half an hour before MMJ took the stage the enclosed area around the booth started filling up with people. As the half hour progressed we spotted Tom Colicchio, Jon Benjamin, and the guys from “Workaholics”. Who knows who else was in there. It definitely made the wait for MMJ more interesting. When the band came on stage it REALLY became a party. It was weird…usually you think of a true VIP area like this being sort of lax and spending the show mingling. But these celebs GOT DOWN, drunkenly dancing and singing along. Colicchio was smoking pot. And the energy was totally contagious…I felt like I was part of the party standing just on the other end of the rail. Not like we needed it…My Morning Jacket, simply put, tore shit to shreds. The new material sounded great and the old staples were a party. Plus Jim James was rockin’ some pretty sweet Uggs. Towards the end they brought out the legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band who lent their talents for “Highly Suspicious” and a really fun “Dancefloors”. MMJ closed their set with “One Big Holiday” of course. It was during this epic set that the sun set and the glowsticks came out and it was pretty amazing to see hundreds of glowsticks thrown into the air perfectly choreographed with key points in the songs. All in all…a fucking blast and a euphoric experience.
After My Morning Jacket we held our place and waited for Arcade Fire. At this point we made some friends on the inside of the enclosure. Carl snitched on a guy who jumped the fence at one point and the security guard gave us all water (!) and since we were setting up a buffer between the party and all the douchebags who were trying to hop the fence people on the inside were pretty cool and gave us water and occasionally sips of drinks. And then this happened. Some weird little things flew over our heads AND TURNED THE FUCKING SKY INTO BLUE GLITTER!!!! Everyone went bananas and started freaking out because the whole sky turned blue (and a good portion of the crowd was on drugs.) It was incredible. Definitely one of those peak moments.
But oh yeah! I almost forgot…we still had Arcade Fire to come. They had their work cut out for them if they wanted to top My Morning Jacket. Truth be told, they didn’t, but they did come damn close. It was pretty much the same show I saw at UIC Pavilion in April…which was what I expected and not a bad thing. The one negative was that the crowd really packed in around us, which wouldn’t have been so bad if not for a couple assholes who spent the whole set pondering whether or not they could make it into the enclosure and join the party. One of them finally jumped the fence thank goodness…the other stayed and alternated between talking about jumping and jumping up and down on my toes. But the music was as good as always, especially when they finished the main set with “Power’s Out” -> “Rebellion”. When they went off stage the crowd kept singing the “WHOA WHOA” of “Rebellion” for the entire encore break. Then Arcade Fire returned for an epic “Wake Up” sing along and “Sprawl II”. This was the tail end of maybe the best seven hour stretch of music I’ve ever experienced.
But it wasn’t over yet! It was time for my first experience with Bonnaroo late night. I was very excited about all this. The down side is so is everyone else. I sort of thought it would empty out a bit after Arcade Fire but it turns out pretty much EVERYONE goes to the late sets. And walking from one side of the park to the other is not particularly easy when EVERYONE is doing it at the same time. Still we made it in time to see Big Boi taking the stage. He’s certainly added a lot to his stage show over the past couple years, performing with a band (including a horn section) and choreographed dancers. He kicked things off with a rousing medley of Outkast tracks that included “Rosa Parks”, “ATLiens”, “B.O.B.” and others. Then he broke into music off Sir Lucious Leftfoot. We ended up leaving the set a little bit early to catch Lil Wayne’s full set and that seemed ok since I’d heard what I really needed to hear from Big Boi at that point.
As it turned out I maybe could have stayed with Big Boi till the end. Wayne’s set was an absolute madhouse and the sound was shit, especially from as far away as we were. This meant that the crowd was not really into it which always takes away from a rap show. Factor in the sound bleed from Bassnectar (shudder) and it was pretty much a letdown. On top of that, Wayne focused WAY too much on post-C3 material so he sort of lost me. Then he lent way too much time to vastly inferior Young Money rappers. He did finish with a nice 6’7.
My plan had been to check out a few minutes of Ratatat after Weezy finished but I was pretty wiped out. I met Carl (who had checked out some of Ratatat) and we headed back to camp. This may have been the night Carl had a great idea for a shortcut that ended up taking us over an hour. I don’t know. They all sort of run together.