Sunday, June 12, 2011

Buffalo Springfield at Bonnaroo's Which Stage, 6/11/11 — For What It's Worth

Posted By on Sun, Jun 12, 2011 at 1:27 PM

Don't be fooled by the incredible camerawork — the above video was NOT shot by Haskell Wexler.

We staked out a spot fairly close to the right-side speakers at the Which Stage about half an hour before Buffalo Springfield, right near a college-age woman who got up to leave shortly after we sat down. Moments later, my friend Hugh looks down and says, "Hey, someone lost a wallet," and after checking the driver's license, we realize that, sure enough, it was the just-departed woman. We'll call her Mary — since that is in fact her name. No problem! We should be able to find her in the dark in this crowd of 80,000 people!

Well, savvy social media types that we are, we get on the Bookface, friend her and send a message. After about 20 minutes and no response, Hugh does a little Googling and somehow manages to figure out Mary's father's name and phone number. He calls, and her mom answers and says that Mary called crying a few minutes ago, and she'll be thrilled to get her wallet back. Mom get's Hugh's number, yada yada yada — Mary has her wallet back. If Hugh and Mary get married some day, it'll make a helluva story at the wedding. Most importantly, Mary's mom is baking us cookies next time we are in Chattanooga.

Buffalo Springfield took the stage at 9:30 and kicked into a decent rendition "On the Way Home," but it wasn't until the second song — the more well-known "Rock & Roll Woman" — that the familiar harmonies of front men Richie Furay, Stephen Stills and Neil Young really started to resonate. The Furay-fronted numbers (which also were the slow ones) were snoozers, but considering he co-founded Poco and went on to be a church pastor, perhaps not surprising. Stills was solid, and his guitar work got better as the night went on, and Young, as usual, was electrifying. Dude still sings as well as ever, and plays guitar like he's possessed by demons. (Perhaps Furay helped him exorcise them after the set.)

In fact, the Young numbers were among the best Bonnaroo moments. Things really took off midset with a blazing "Mr. Soul" — still one of my favorite ’60s gems, even if the riff is a blatant "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" ripoff. Few people can bash out a hook on a Les Paul like Young. "I Am a Child" — the song that would be the template for the acoustic guitar/harmonica sound for much of the Young catalog — was utterly gorgeous.

Stills had some shining moments too, including an epic "Bluebird," complete with an extended psychedelic freakout. (For a moment, I saw Stills' face morph into the visage of William F. Buckley, and thought someone had dosed my Gatorade. But I soon realized that, no, Stills actually looks a little like Buckley.) A rousing "For What It's Worth" had the entire audience — most of whom were born 20 years after Buffalo Springfield broke up — singing along.

But the highlight was the encore, an incendiary "Rockin' in the Free World" (also born 20 years after Buffalo Springfield broke up). The Young staple, a not-so-found shout-out to George Herbert Walker Bush, featured Young's best guitar-abusing of the evening. If ever there was a tailor-made festival rock song, this is it. My girlfriend even looked at me and said, "I was never a fan of this song on the radio, but now I totally get it." Judging by the response in the above video, so did everyone else.

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Bonnaroo, The Black Keys, Buffalo Springfield, 6/11/11

Bonnaroo, The Black Keys, Buffalo Springfield, 6/11/11

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