I spent at least 10 hours watching Bonnaroo live streams/feeds this weekend. It happened by accident. I turned it on Friday night to see Radiohead out of curiosity. I turned it on about 20 minutes into the set and boom, wouldn't you know Thom Yorke and crew suck me into their vortex. I was mesmerized, I could not turn away.
I figured it would end there.
But then Saturday afternoon came around and I saw that El Mariachi Bronx was playing. So I figured, why not? Everyone has been buzzing about this band. So I watched. I tried to like it. I was sorely disappointed. They looked utterly bored. I wanted more. I wanted to see another Radiohead. But Saturday came and went and I was out and about and doing things.
And then Saturday night came. Red Hot Chili Peppers was on the stage.
Now, I'll admit I caught the set late, but hot damn if Anthony Keidis and Flea didn't stop me in my tracks. Suddenly, I didn't want to go to bed, I wanted to see this thing to the end. And I'm glad I did. Quite honestly, I don't know how the band still does it. All the drug use. All that time away from the spotlight. And Lord if they didn't slay it. I have no idea who that new guitarist is. Josh something or another, but man, he certainly is no slouch. I understand he's no Frusciante, but few are. All I'll say is he's a worthy replacement. Then I thought, I was really done. Enough Bonnaroo for the weekend. Time to watch something else.
So I logged on and saw Gary Clark Jr. was playing BAM! Freaking Bonnaroo had hit me again. Then I looked at the day's lineup. Oh man. So many good bands, so much to see. And man if it didn't knock the cover off the ball.
Without further ado, here's some bullet points on what I saw:
Gary Clark Jr: One word: incredible. Amazing guitar solos. Top notch backing band.
The Antlers: Worth the praise. A lot more peppy than I expected. Peter Silbermann is the consummate musician.
Here We Go Magic: Really engaging. One of the surprises of the weekend. Did not know this band had that much talent in them.
Grouplove: One word: legendary. As good a live show as I saw all weekend.
City and Colour: Strong. Started off slow, got good towards the end. That Neil Young cover at the end was a delight.
Kathleen Edwards: Near-perfect. She hit all her notes. She was gritty, she was angelic. Man, she whipped it with a belt.
Ben Folds: Dazzling. Has it really been 12 years since they were last on stage? You wouldn't have known it. Folds also seemed genuinely humbled by the moment, and he's an egotist. That's a rare thing.
Bon Iver: I only caught some of it, but he is worth the hype. "Skinny Love," and "Beth/Rest," alone were worth the viewing.
The Shins: I always thought they were mid-tempo and boring. James Mercer changed my mind in a hurry. "Phantom Limb," and "Australia," alone sent shivers down my spine. "Bait and Switch," and "The Rifle's Spiral," were no slouch either. They also ended with a bang. "Sleeping Lessons," and "One By One All Day," most particularly.
Young the Giant: Better than I expected. I saw them live in Tampa earlier this spring and they were just as good, if not better. "Camera," in particular sounded the best. They've really got that one down pat. Can't wait to hear it on the new album.
Fun: One of the highlights of the weekend. Nate Ruess was made to perform. This was a first-class, first-rate concert. Truly awesome stuff. They deserve all the hype and praise.
The Civil Wars: Another highlight of the night. Considering every band listed thus far had a rhythm section, and an army of help, it was shocking how just two voices and one guitar could say and do so much. I have the albums, I've read the hype, I've never heard it live. Until now. If this band isn't on your radar, you're really missing out on something truly extraordinary.
Phish: Alright, I get it. They are top-notch musicians. But does every song HAVE to be at least 6 minutes? Can they utilize more guest vocalists? I don't think a single person in that band has a voice that I can listen to for more than 20 minutes. If anything, they get props for throwing in a swath of great cover songs. Not many bands can pull off TV On the Radio, Velvet Underground, Kenny Rogers, Son Seals and Lynn Anderson. I love their ambition, I love their talent, I just sort of wish they were an instrumental band.
And......Kenny Rogers, really? Really? I love me some country music, but seriously? Was Barry Manilow busy?