Saturday, June 13, 2009
Bonnaroo Day 2: Friday
The Decemberists' Colin Meloy and Jenny Conlee talk backstage by Steven Smith of Fuse's "Steven's Untitled Rock Show"
Friday brought much needed relief in the form of bright skies and high temperatures as a slew of big stars descended on the fields of Manchester, Tennessee. With the new day a new set of rumors emerged, The Superjam, a Bonnaroo staple that brings together diverse artists for a free form jam had yet to be scheduled and as of Saturday morning was revealed to be canceled for the 2009 year. However Jimmy Buffet has been confirmed via Facebook to be joining a group of musicians the star discovered in Africa, ILO & The Coral Reefer AllStars, for an early Saturday session, sure to be getting campers up bright and early. As for the biggest rumor, Big Hassle Media would neither confirm nor deny that the living remnants of the Grateful Dead are here amongst the never-ending sea of tents. In response to the query from the press, Ken Weinstein a Big Hassle Media spokesman would only offer the statement that “the Dead are with us always.”
Following Katzenjammer, Dirty Projectors took the stage at That Tent early Friday afternoon, the band was a part of a David Byrne curated lineup that included folk songstress Ani DiFranco and the pop savvy Santigold. The Dirty Projectors rocked the small tent quickly warping from drum-heavy freak-outs to funky pop mixes that found both of the bands female vocalists trading impressive notes. The band kept tent-goers on their toes and saved the best surprise for last, an impromptu performance with Mr. Talking Head himself. David Byrne modestly joined the band for their last track, choosing instead to accent the track with backing vocals rather than over shadow the talented young band.
Leading off with “My Girls” and “Summertime Clothes” off the group’s latest album Merriweather Post Pavillion, Animal Collective were the first highly anticipated set of the day drawing a sizeable crowd with their unique blend of mixing the art of the turntable into the traditional band format. Draped by fluorescent lights that were all but impotent in the daytime, the group’s music suffered from the brightness and scale of the outdoor setting. Though it was something that the band were able to eventually overcome as they pulled out an assortment of musical tricks including mixing live drums and guitar into songs like “Lion in a Coma” and “Brother Sport.”
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Despite the mixed reception to the New York band’s latest album, “It’s Blitz!” the Yeah Yeah Yeahs came out to a tumultuous applause, particularly for lead singer Karen O who dominated the stage with her wild woman persona. With an even mix of old favorites “Cheated Hearts” and new material, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs kept things tight and fast, the new material benefitting from the atmosphere and energy of the set. The trio was joined on stage by a keyboard player who added accents to old and new songs while Karen O pranced around the stage garbed in a leopard skin tights and a vivid blue parka. Karen O. proved adept at able to turn violent screams into soothing “la la las” with the force of a whirlwind, eventually breaking down on stage, pulling her hair erratically and demonstrating her ability to hold a microphone without hands. “Zero” and “Gold Lion” brought the set its highest levels as guitarist Nick Zinner proved an equally enamoring stage presence as the charismatic front woman. Indeed the real strength of the band was the maximization of the details, with simple chord changes producing song-altering shockwaves. The group stumbled toward the end with Zinner’s guitar succumbing to the heat, forcing the group to play their smash first single “Maps” acoustic for the crowd. Overall, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs proved an odd fit for the mid-afternoon heat, cracking smiles, working the crowd and proving despite their black attire and trashcan tunes, that they can be a surprisingly fun and engaging attraction even to casual fans.
Around evening time, soul legend Al Green brought his groove to the main stage playing songs from his latest Grammy-nominated album “Lay it Down” amongst old classics. Green proved an adept showman, letting his signature yelp leap through the speakers backed by a gospel quire and steady back-up band that brought more than just old fans to the main stage.
TV on the Radio
Festivalgoers flocked to the late evening set by Brooklyn’s TV on the Radio. Fresh off their latest album, the commercial success “Dear Science,” the group led off with slow jam “Love Dog.” Lead singer Tunde Adebimpe’s high energy yelp was in full force as he pogoed around stage often trading vocals with bassist Gerard Smith, a prominent fixture on the set due to his dense thicket of hair and bright yellow overalls. However despite running through stellar versions of new album tracks like “Crying,” “Halfway Home,” most of the new songs proved too slow for the eager crowd. Thus the band was forced to integrate old stand bys like “Dirtywhirl,” and “Wolf Like Me” early into the set. Overall, the quintet played impressively but failed at integrating the crowd at the same level as the stage’s previous residents, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Hip-hop legends the Beastie Boys came out swinging with renditions of classics tracks “No Sleep til Brooklyn,” “Sabotage” and “Remote Control.” On the later tracks the emcees brought out fellow NY rapper Nas for a brief collaboration. However both acts were left proving their live prowess for a crowd that was largely there anticipating the first of Phish’s two shows. Despite working against the current, the Beastie Boys played a diverse set that featured the trio grabbing instruments and jamming through tunes from their recent album “The Mix-Up,” even dipping into punk rock tunes that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Black Flag album. Mike D, MCA, and Ad-Rock backed by the speedy hands of DJ Mix Master Mike kept things loose and up-tempo extending songs and dipping into freestyles with the group declaring “this is not a tape or an I-Pod, this is real, live music.”
Elsewhere the alternative to the Beastie Boys was former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne. Byrne placated the festival crowd with the entire second half of his set dedicated to material from his former band including a stirring rendition of “Burning Down the House.” Byrne, clad in an all white wardrobe was flanked by a group of similarly dressed back-up dancers providing visuals to go along with the music, the bodies even forming human waves during “Once in a Lifetime.” Byrne also dipped into more recent material from his latest Brian Eno produced album “Everything that Happens will Happen Today” before leaving the stage with enough time for the eager throngs of people to depart for the day’s main attraction, Phish.
See Sunday Review.
Playing their entire album “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back,” Public Enemy provided a full force show for all the “real hip-hop heads” looking to find an alternative to Phish. Flava Flav and Chuck D traded verses on stage flanked by their classic logo and a few others clad in military camouflage. Flava Flav was hard to miss on stage draped in an orange t-shirt with yellow shades and his signature clock and Viking helmet. In a humorous back stage moment, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog traded barbs with the VH1 star, quipping that Flava Flav wears a clock so he can “keep track of how far he’s set back the civil rights movement. On stage Flava Flav brought the humor if unintentionally, as he was unable to recall the album’s release date needing a reminder that it was released in 1988, not 1987. On stage though Public Enemy proved they are a powerful live act, with backing guitarists and bassists that were equal in talent to those of their rock counterparts. Public Enemy powered through the classic album with DJ Lord mixing behind them, and if they were unable to recall the album’s date or had difficulty communicating just exactly what they wanted to change about the “prison industrial complex,” none of which affected their music that seldom missed a beat.