So the winners of Road to Bonnaroo 2012's second installment were Wild Cub. Second place was Five Knives, and third place was Evan P. Donohue.
With that out of the way, why doesn’t the company that owns the parking lot across the street from Mercy Lounge just build a multi-level garage? The Spin was directed to distant parking by no fewer than three attendants, who were all trying their best to corral confused drivers and yell warnings to oblivious pedestrians that maybe it is not such a hot idea to cut in front of that SUV. Garage. Entrance. Exit. It’s too common-sense to work.
The glut of automobiles on Cannery Row on Monday night was due not just to the second round of Road to Bonnaroo, but also to the sold-out The Head and the Heart show downstairs in the Cannery Ballroom. Already running a few minutes late (because we decided to make a new friend in our local convenience store employee — thanks for placing an order for Shiner, dude!), the traffic situation did nothing to quell the growing realization that it was going to be yet another overwhelming Road to Bonnaroo all-nighter. Until, that is, the music started. We were decidedly whelmed all evening — having grown used to several years of Road to Bonnaroo props, gimmicks, bribes and begging, each of the bands basically just went out and played a three-song set.
According to Drew Mischke, the night’s MC, eventual third-place winner and first act up Evan P. Donohue wanted to enter the stage on a motorcycle, but he settled for a using a special guest on his last song: Caitlin Rose. But Rose, for all her charms, is not a motorcycle, and we really think the exhaust fumes would have enhanced our appreciation for his breezy-but-loud pop rock (as, in this case, backed by The Weeks).
It was about this time we noticed that Mercy Lounge had pretty well filled up, which was a bit surprising — we honestly expected the competing benefit show at the Exit/In to swallow up a fair percentage of showgoers — but neo-funk outfit Marquee Mayfield ended up performing to a decent-sized crowd. The Spin loves a horn section as much as the next dork, and we get the impression that this sort of thing would go over very well at Bonnaroo. But the Jamiroquai-inspired band seemed to send too many folks to the smoking deck. Kind of a shame.
And now for something completely different. Five Knives (featuring folks from The Worsties and maybe a band that rhymes with "Moona J-Lo"), clad in what appeared to be Rorschach-style face masks, active-rocked their way through an incredibly loud set. Literally vibrating from toes to teeth, we had to move to the back of the room, but then the problem was too much bass and we couldn’t understand shit. Not that there was much to understand. It was surprising to learn they ended up as the runners up, because it seemed like there was minimal crowd reaction when they were done — it was awkward.
Winners Wild Cub were next, and don’t ask how, but the Chris Martin-meets-“Bastards of Young” melody on the first of three new songs hit that elusive sweet spot of melody plus sing-along that every pop-based band should aim for. Deserving winners, no gimmicks. Unless you consider a prominent snare drum a gimmick.
Static Revival was “like .38 Special meets Incubus,” said a nearby companion, whereas The Spin described them more along the lines of what you’d listen to if you’re getting finger-banged next to a creek — 105.9 drive time. Southern rock, is what we’re saying. You get it.
As soon as they were done, we realized it was about that time the commitment to being a fair observer becomes trying, not just for The Spin, but for the whole audience. People were slowly starting to drip out of the room, even for the ever-popular Tesla Rossa and The Running — bands that both fall into the “these are bands” category of bands. No huge surprises. Trad country songstress and Cream fave Nikki Lane was the unlucky artist shafted with the last slot, playing to a room roughly half-full. Everyone was tired. It’s not her fault. At long last, tabs were closed, votes were cast, and we finally managed to get the hell out of there, across a deserted parking lot back to our car that was somehow a block farther away than we remembered.