On Saturday I woke up extremely early. Actually I was woken up because some dumbass thought the neighborly thing to do would be to set off an M-80 in the campground and then woop it up for a while. When I was recovering from that a dog started barking….the dog that lives in the enormous brick mansion that was inexplicably located next to our tents. Around this time I decided I really had to take a piss…so I got out of my tent and walked to the potties. The camp was very nice and peaceful…just a few people out, mostly all night partiers who were probably JUST getting back from the late night sets and early risers trying to beat the crowds to the showers. Somehow, somewhere along the way I found out it was 5:30 AM and I realized…shit…the reason I was so bleary eyed and yet not quite sleepwalking was that I had been in bed less than an hour. This wasn’t a middle of the night pee at all…it was that last pee of the day that you realize you have to take before drifting into deep sleep. Fuck.
I did end up getting some decent sleep for about three hours. Then we completed our regular morning routine and headed on inside. Phone charging was a constant struggle at Bonnaroo. My battery died on Friday night before Arcade Fire and this made me feel naked and unable to tweet, text, or take pictures. To make matters worse, my car charger wasn’t much good. I turned my car on for about two hours Saturday morning and was only able to get it up to about 30 percent. So we got in the fest a little earlier than usual and went to the Fuse charging station. The line to charge phones was extremely long but on the inside there were all kinds of outlets so we brought our chargers and plugged in and….all the outlets were turned off. Thankfully Carl is a scientist and he came up with the idea to plug into the side of the big screen tv’s that were showing music videos. I covertly did this…and it said the phone was charging…but I didn’t gain much charge in the fifteen minutes I stood there. So we said fuck it and got on with our day.
Saturday morning I was decidedly less eager to bounce around out in the sun. Carl and I each began our day at the Gypsy Tent dealie where some crazy ass Mongolian folk band called Hanggai was playing and they were flipping amazing. They did a bunch of throat singing ish and people ate it up. Between songs the lead singer would talk in Mongolian as if anyone in the crowd understood him (which sounds pretty silly till you consider that practically EVERY American singer does this when they tour overseas) and everyone went bananas. Occasionally he would translate and it would be something hilarious like, “This song…dragon. The village tail like night sky little girl see.” They were goddamn amazing.
Next came Saturday’s comedy show, a 2:30 performance headlined by Donald Glover, better known as Troy from “Community”. I missed his rap performance as Childish Gambino on opening night. He appeared with British comedian Bill Bailey and some guy I never heard of and all three were far funnier than anything on Friday. Also…it was nice and cool.
After the comedy show I had the benefit of a little down time. I wandered over toward the main stage area and lo and behold I realized the porta potty situation over there was the best I’d seen all weekend…no lines, immaculately clean, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer. I felt sort of bad for Black Uhuru, the legendary reggae group performing to a tiny crowd, but enjoyed the empty porta potty area. Then I grabbed some food and headed back to the other side of Centeroo.
At this time I went back to the Gypsy Tent where I was planning to meet Carl and a couple other people for Devotchka. I was plenty early but I didn’t have a whole lot else to do so I staked out a spot in the shade and listened to someone called Jovanotti. They were ok….lots of energy and were joined by the guy with the mustache from Gogol Bordello. When they finished, that guy announced that Gogol Bordello would be doing a special surprise acoustic set before Devotchka’s performance. I turned on my phone to text Carl and found that he had texted me to come to the sports bar where I could CHARGE MY PHONE! I got there to find that he had a nice little covert operation going on…he’d plugged into the power strip of the people who were in charge of checking out ping pong paddles to people. They didn’t know this (they knew this) so we had to be sort of careful about it. Since he’d been charging for a while and I knew he’d be much more interested in Gogol / Devotchka than me, I told him to go ahead and I’d stay with the phones, which I didn’t mind because it was cool, I had a beer, and they even had the Cubs game on. As you can tell, Saturday was a much more relaxed day than Friday.
When the phones were good and charged I headed out to Devotchka and found Carl chatting with Carson, who promised to name drop me in his Consequence of Sound story. Not sure if he did or not as I rarely read CoS. I hung out for two or three Devotchka songs and they were fine but I got impatient and hot and set off for Wiz Khalifa. I’m not the biggest Wiz fan in the world but I usually try to fit the rappers in at a festival as long as there is no conflict. And I did actually enjoy his performance more than I do his recorded work. He pulled in a pretty nice sized crowd and got them really fired up. Hehe. Fucking stoner rap. It was about this time that I decided it was a good night to go ahead and get drunk. I had had a couple beers over the course of the afternoon…enough to kind of maintain my morning buzz…and the temperature was dropping so I decided may as well run with it.
Next I headed over to !!!. They played in one of the tents and they were GREAT. The crowd was incredibly sparse…sad for them but great for those of us who showed up and had plenty of dancing room at the end of a long day. I left their set a little early and headed over to the tent next door where Bootsy Collins was schedule to play at the same time to discover….Bootsy still hadn’t gone on! I hung out a few minutes and then decided I may as well head to the main stage for Black Keys. Worst plan. The main stage was the clusterfuck to end all clusterfucks. Apparently if I had gone to the far side I could have gotten a pretty good spot, which I should have known since I’m a professional at doing this at Lollapalooza, but it was getting dark and I didn’t really feel like messing with it. So now I can add Bonnaroo to the list of Black Keys performances I didn’t quite see. I headed back the other way, grabbed a bite to eat, and found Carl and Todd over at Bootsy who was finally getting started. Everything sounded wonderful. We hung out there for a while then went over to the stage to see Buffalo Springfield.
We found a spot pretty far back for Buffalo Springfield and as it turns out the sound was terrible…surprise, same stage as Lil Wayne. It lent itself even worse to a softer act like Buffalo Springfield. Between songs the crowd chanted “TURN IT UP” but they never did. People got more and more frustrated, began talking, and it became even more difficult to hear. To make matters worse, the only storm of the weekend rumbled through right around this time. It never really materialized beyond a little lightning and a light rain, but it was enough to deter some fans. But the worst part was the reports that came in after the set had ended that Bootsy Collins had proceeded to tear down his stage with a 2.5 hour set. In retrospect, if I had to do one thing differently at Bonnaroo it would be to have stayed at Bootsy’s set. Buffalo Springfield closed their set with a disappointing noodly “For What It’s Worth” and a jammy “Rockin’ in the Free World”, the only Neil Young solo song that was played.
Carl and I took off during “Free World” to get a spot for Eminem. We followed the advice on Black Keys by heading over to the far side of the stage and working our way in and we ended up getting a pretty decent spot. Eminem’s set was about exactly what was expected. It was hit-heavy with an under representation of the first two albums. He sounded good though and the show was a lot of fun. No appearance from Wayne or Dre (who people SWORE they saw backstage) but he did do some stuff with Royce. During the encore break Carl and I, comedians that we are, tried to start the crowd singing “Rebellion” again. It didn’t work but we kept at it. Then Em came back on and tore through “Lose Yourself” before fireworks lit up the Tennessee sky. More magic.
I was drunk and fading fast at this point but we headed back to the Gypsy Tent for Omar Souleyman. He’s from Syria and I don’t really know how to describe his music because I’m not from Syria, but he was super fun. I had one last rebound when I ran up close to the stage. It was a blast but I quickly faded again.
Next we went to check out Dr. John who was playing with the Meters. They were actually performing the album that Bonnaroo is named after, which I didn’t even realize existed. They were fine but I was pretty exhausted at this point.
My plan had been to close my day out with Girl Talk (who was playing till 4) but it became apparent I wasn’t going to make it at this point. I went with everyone (I honestly can’t remember who) to Gogol Bordello and stuck it out for about four songs. They were ok. Then I decided to just head back to camp. On the way out I stopped and caught a few minutes of Girl Talk. There were lots of pretty lights and it was quite a party but I needed to just get out of there so I did. When I left (shortly after 3 AM) Sound Tribe Sector 9 was just getting started. I can’t even imagine how late they ended up going but my assumption is the sun came up.
One day left.