The best and worst thing about Road to Bonnaroo is that it is always, always packed. It’s great that people are getting out and seeing local music, but when the Mercy Lounge lobby is packed with people trying to avoid the cold, sleety weather a full 10 minutes before the doors are even open, you know you’re going to have a stranger’s hair in your face at some point. Luckily, a tight ship was run all night, because Bonnaroo is serious business.
“Do you think they like The Killers?” The Spin was asked regarding the first-up Vinyl Thief. We do! And it seemed like a fair amount of girls in the crowd liked Vinyl Thief, based on our unscientific measurement of screaming. Their second song (of the allotted three) was the best, more organ-driven funk as opposed to attempts at U2-style arena anthems. It sounded like it could be in a car commercial. Like, a good car commercial.
Psych rockers Ranch Ghost played two-thirds of their set behind a sheet — probably an idea that's much better in concept than execution. We think they thought it would look like shadow people playing, but the lighting plus screen projection (trees?) plus fog machine kind of washed everything out. We overheard someone mention they wanted to watch the band from the back, which wasn’t a bad idea. The Ghosties dropped the curtain during their third song — the sheet looked pretty cool billowing down — which, like the first two, was a loud, blues-infused garage-rock number. “Reminds me of the first time I smoked weed” and “sweaty?” are two of the more pertinent notes The Spin took during their set, which we think means they would go over well at Bonnaroo. Lots and lots of cheers for this band, and they seemed at the time like the crowd favorite of the night. Appearances, it would later turn out, are sometimes exactly what they seem.
Shannon LaBrie, unfortunately, started her set at the same time we started a bathroom break. We couldn’t see her first song, but she sounded like a smoky, dark female vocalist, like the evil twin of Vonda Shepard. Easily the most low-key act of the night. Ravello (auto-corrected by our phone to “rave lol”) was exactly the opposite: a straight-faced cock-rock act featuring such loud guitars that on their last song we literally could not hear any vocals during the chorus. Standing relatively close to the stage, we were vibrating from ankles to ass, which made us worry about the band’s eardrums. And our asses and ankles.
The crowd had begun to filter out and energy had started to flag by the time blues-riffin' duo Blackfoot Gypsies went on, but the bummer spot of the night (pity the band playing last) went to country-folk songster Andrew Combs and his tight band. Both acts maintained the night’s '70s-era rock vibe, which was capped off — just like at the end of Round One — by a "secret set" from Clarksville’s own (wink) Lazer Snake, the most energetic fake Ed Hardy band that is a real band, kind of. Many congratulations for staying in character all night.
So who took it? Longtime Cream faves Ranch Ghost took it, and congratulations. Your Bonnaroo-style music will fit right in. At Bonnaroo. Musically.