After a full, solid nine hours of sack time in my own bed, under the sultry breeze of air conditioning, the last thing I honestly want to think about right now is Bonnaroo. In fact, any cognitive effort at all is asking a bit much right now. But hey, I gotta job to do, so let’s do that.
It really is a wonder more people don’t die at this thing. I mean, really. Drugs, heat, dirt and rock ’n’ roll all together in this kind of quantity sounds like instant death. I eventually found my mind and body playing a lethal game of chicken, each charging full speed ahead on no more than three hours of sleep per night and loaded up with enough chemicals to euthanize any number of small farm animals (appropriate, I guess, ’cause Bonnaroo was like a farm or something). But also, there was music.
I saw Conan O’Brien — sort of. The line outside the comedy tent to see Coco started forming around 5 a.m., so by the time the 1 p.m. show kicked off, it was long since at capacity. However, by some miracle we managed to catch the live feed in the equally packed cinema tent. O'Brien proved himself several times over a world-class entertainer with an old-school variety show including but not limited to stand-up, song parodies, and special guests mostly taking jabs at his recent fiasco with NBC. Definitely would have been at least 63 percent more awesome watching it in person, but I guess that’s what I get for going to bed at sunrise instead of getting in line.
Friday was pretty sparse in my givings of a shit as far as most bands were concerned. I caught a little of Dr. Dog’s swingin’ throwback pop. Walked past Tori Amos, who was no doubt blowing the minds of a few hundred current and formerly misunderstood teen girls. Tenacious D played goofy novelty folk-rock faves like “Fuck Her Gently” and “Wonderboy” backed by an expertly capably backing band to what appeared, at least in my vicinity, to be a vast chorus of bros and baguettes who no doubt paid good money to see Pick of Destiny and have not since regretted it.
Eventually, my crew and I parted ways when I chose Flaming Lips over Chromeo. I soon, however, grew tired of standing several football fields back all by my lonesome with only the blinding-ass light of the Lips' stage show for company. So I sold out and hit up Chromeo instead, who I found were beating the shit out of “You Make My Dreams Come True,” and which I somehow mean to be a good thing.
I’m told I saw LCD Soundsystem. I’m still taking someone’s word on that.
Saturday was a whole different story as the shits I was giving were ample and generous, and made for a solid-ass day of world-class entertainment. For example, I enjoyed the Avett Brothers’ distant punk roots filtered into a smooth folk-rock blend while waiting in line for Aziz Ansari tickets. One Trashley Spurgeon was kind enough to hold my place in line while I caught 40 minutes of The Melvins.
I like to think it’s no coincidence the clouds gathered and the skies started to rain right as the world’s best known sludge-core outfit provided the thunder that shook down those refreshing tears from the heavens. Sadly, I’m really only familiar with a handful of Melvins records — all from the ’80s — but did listen to their latest The Bride Screamed Murder enough beforehand to recognize a few new cuts — which even include *gasp* a ballad that even in its soft and sludgeless tone was still pretty goddamn amazing. They did tease with a few minutes of what I thought/hoped/prayed was the opening riff to Bullhead’s “Boris.” It wasn’t, but that’s cool, ’cause I had to bail anyway to see Aziz. I won’t steal The Spin's thunder by describing it, but shit was hilarious.
Immediately upon my exit from the Comedy Tent, my fears concerning the Weezer set were slightly alleviated. I could already hear the chorus from “Surf Wax America” blaring from Which Stage. In fact, despite the inherent awfulness of their last several records, the set was a cherry-picked “best of” culled from the band’s entire catalog, using only the most tolerable of their latest material. But the transformation that displeases so many long-time Weezer fans isn’t just a sonic one — Weezer is the new Journey. They’re an all-ages arena-rock family-time band; a live-action Rock-afire Explosion. Where once Rivers Cuomo trumped his own geekdom from behind his squealing axe, he now ditches the guitar often in favor of dance moves similar to the ones your dad does when he’s imitating the rappers you like.
There’s nothing else I saw Saturday night that won’t already be covered by someone else already designated and more qualified to write it. And then there was Sunday.
Sunday morning, the Cream Camp agreed we’d collectively hit that metaphorical wall of our physical and mental limitations. Some of us fought it with coffee, others with more sleep. I fought it with half a dozen margaritas in rapid succession and goddamn if I didn’t soon feel like a million bucks. I didn’t even know I liked Japandroids, but the opening ditties of their two-man assault on indie garage-pop was enough to make me a fan for at least the afternoon. I caught Against Me! dropping some furious political science disguised as popular punk music.
By the time Ween played, I was pretty much having the time of my life. Never once in the last five years of Bonnaroo-going did I feel like more of a Bonnarooster than when I was pumping a fist from an Indian-style stance along to “Booze Me Up and Get Me High.”
And then I hit the wall again. After slowly deflating along to the Frenchy grooves of Pheonix, my new mission in life was to GTFO before I heard a single echo created by the Dave Matthews Band. I succeeded. See you next year, Bonnaroo.