It’s been two months since Bonnaroo 2013. Have you recovered yet? If so, you’ll be stoked to know that Tennessee’s biggest non-Nascar, non-football event announced dates for its 13th annual four-day weekend installment of music, arts and other shenanigans. According to Twitter, Bonnaroo 2014 returns to Manchester’s Great Stage Park June 12-15. For the second year in a row, those dates won’t coincide with dates for the 2014 CMA Music Festival, which will once again overtake LP Field and greater Downtown Nashville June 5-8, a spokesperson for the country fan fair confirms.
Well, The Spin survived once more, by God. From the opening strains of Ri¢hie to the final notes of Tom Petty and his Heartbreakers shutting it down with "American Girl," we entered the trenches for the 12th annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival and came out with another fresh set of battle scars. Now, for the final round of this year's war stories ...
Alas, the first victim of the new Bonnaroo performance benchmark set Friday night by Paul McCartney might have been the festival’s closer: a somewhat oddly chosen Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, who opened with The Byrds’ “So You Want to be a Rock 'n’ Roll Star” just as the skies literally threw cold water on the party. (The rain stirred the crowd a few songs later to a defiant sing-along with “I Won’t Back Down.”) As if aware they were filling a slot occupied in the past by a closing-night jam, Petty and his bandmates stretched out on extended versions of “A Woman in Love (It’s Not Me)” and his Traveling Wilburys’ Springsteen goof “Tweeter and the Monkey Man”; hell, he even tossed the jam base a bone with a nifty cover of “Friend of the Devil."
Everyone’s exhausted by Day Four of Bonnaroo, but the superfans of childhood memories, the stoners, the precious babies who are dying for a little air conditioning (raises hand), the comedy nerds, the out-of-towners and the inappropriately young children (we saw a 7-year-old walk out of Bob Saget’s first set!) still line up for hours of their one human life for a taste of that sweet, sweet comedy.
Comic Jared Logan opened, and spoke at length about his Pentecostal childhood. Referring to the Holy Ghost as “Jesus’ cousin who died, or something,” he provided an example of the babbling voices practitioners use when touched by The Spirit, and how sometimes when his grandmother was touched, the opinions of the Holy Ghost seemed to mesh up with the very opinions she herself held. Though religion was scary for him as a child, he said, an effective horror movie for kids would be something along the lines of a film called Divorce. “And it’s all your fault,” the tagline goes.
The Improvised Shakespeare Company was pretty dang hilarious. The six young men, clad in tight breeches, stockings and flowing pirate shirts, created a play out of the audience suggestion “Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nothin’ to fuck with.” This quickly escalated into a totally off-the-cuff story of “good king Macklemore," his lady wife, “a Tribe known as Quest,” and, uh, Vanilla Ice. A great deal of the improvised dialogue was actually in couplet form, and they also managed to work in song titles and facts about the assorted musicians. Oh, and then it was revealed that Tupac was alive and warned everyone against rap rivalries. Impressively nerdy and very funny.
Bonnaroo Saturday is, without a doubt, the pinnacle of the party. Even if the headliner turns out to be a dud — as some might say Jack Johnson is, triumphant as his last-minute sub-in really was — Saturday is party day, like it or not. Anyway, with a lineup peppered with greats, locals and promising newbies alike, The Spin slathered ourselves in sunscreen, downed a couple of complimentary drinks and dove into the action whole hog. Let's do this, Bonnaroo.
First things first: We were unable to get tickets to see Ed Helms' Whisky Sour Radio Hour thanks to a very early-forming line that seemed to be longer than the one for noted vagina dentata victim Daniel Tosh. Disappointing for us personally, but heartening to know in practice. Hat-tip to Jane from Nashvile’s Corporate Juggernaut comedy collective for letting us know that he was joined by David Cross on some banjo shenanigans, plus The Lumineers, so good for those early birds.
Luckily, we did get in to see the full Cross set on Saturday afternoon. We diligently queued up and made friends with a guy who said he “never really watched” Arrested Development because he was 12 years old at the time. His girlfriend, a voting-age human adult, would have been around eight. Thanks for that, kids. Anyway, opener James Adomian was pretty fantastic. A talented impressionist, he opened with a story about the people you’d meet at the Atlanta airport, like a man whose hobby is to be Santa Claus at Civil War reenactment battles. His New York people were brassy and dickish, his L.A. people were laid-back and dickish, and his Floridan accent was “just like Georgia with better cocaine.” About a third of the way through his set, he dropped the gay bomb (i.e., he is a gay man who does not necessarily "read" as gay). For the majority of his performance from there on out, he riffed on the Gay Villain stereotype in entertainment, from Transformers to The Little Mermaid.
Seeing as how McCartney is just about the biggest name to play Bonnaroo’s What Stage in the festival’s 12 years of existence, The Spin wasn’t too surprised when we encountered countless bottlenecks and cattle-herding-type scenarios as the Beatle and his four-piece backing band ripped through an opening trifecta of “Eight Days a Week,” “Junior’s Farm” and “All My Loving.” But once we made it into the couple-thousand-ish-capacity barricaded-off bubble down in front, McCartney was taking a moment to “drink this all in” for himself, scanning the crowd with a pleased grin. Then it was back to ripping effortlessly through lithe bass lines on that iconic Hofner of his, pointing his headstock skyward … well, iconically. That’s the thing about being an icon — everything you do is, by default, pretty much iconic.
As far as The Spin was concerned, all of Bonnaroo Friday was just a pre-party for Sir Paul (words on that coming shortly). A pre-party with an exceptional lineup, sure, but a pre-party nonetheless. Unlike Thursday, Day Two featured no major lineup shifts or secret sound-checks to speak of, but Wilco and the Wu both ping our Stoked Meter (on opposite ends, obviously), and some Saharan blues and British bubblegum filled in the space between rather nicely.
The big comedy deal of the day and logistical rigamarole for the hard-working folks at the Comedy Tent was the Daniel Tosh/Jerrod Carmichael cavalcade of douchebaggery. To be fair, the people who started lining up for the show a good four-and-a-half hours in advance were pretty cool: We ran into some nice kids from Chicago and some nice married men from Atlanta. But there’s no accounting for taste. Once the first group got into the tent, they were too excited to sit: There was intermittent pre-show cheering and three instances of the wave. The crowed skewed younger (late teens and early 20s) and male.
Jerrod Carmichael set the stage by starting off with a bit about Top Chef: Domestic Violence, wherein women make sandwiches, etc. You get it. There were a quite a few jokes like that. Beyonce song titles are “too ambitious for most of the bitches that listen to Beyonce” and some lite rape humor. He did make us laugh a little: His funniest bit was about his love for Denzel Washington, which extends to the point he’d like to have Washington play Rosa Parks in a film called Tyler Perry Presents the Civil Rights Movement.
About 15 minutes into his first headlining set at Bonnaroo, Tosh made a joke about “bloggers” who mock him, an obvious preemptive strike against lesser, unfamous people (like The Spin) who deign to not enjoy his particular style of casually racist, casually misogynistic comedy. He also mentioned that 15 minutes of fame is “averaged out,” so while you and me will never be famous, he will be famous for “20 years.” Yeah, that’s about how long Andrew “Dice” Clay was famous, right?
Bonnaroo Thursday isn't always an eventful day: Neither staff nor attendees seem particularly oriented, the 'Roo-mor Mill hasn't really started churning out anything worth paying attention to, and The Spin can never find an arepa stand. But before Day One of Bonnaroo 2013 was in the can, there had already been multiple lineup changes. Word came that Mumford & Sons canceled their Saturday night headlining spot due to bassist Ted Dwane’s recent brain surgery — the Mums are to be replaced by Jack Johnson, we would later discover — DIIV missed their Thursday performance due to a canceled flight, and Earl Sweatshirt dropped off of Friday due to illness. (DIIV will take over Sweatshirt’s slot Friday in The Other Tent.
Oh, but also, The Spin caught the entirety of Paul McCartney’s sound-check set at the closed-off What Stage. Sir Paul played to an empty field, and The Spin watched while hunkered in an otherwise empty catering tent. Thursday was an eventful day.
That's funny considering that Waters did 5 minutes on how he hates people giving him…
That was so good I think I'll listen to it again.
Thanks for the extra info, dudes! Two of my favorite local boosters right there.
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