Bon Jour Bonnaroo
You are on the front steps of an infinite plethora of world music, meditation, yoga and some of the most important causes affecting your world and the environment around you. Either way, I think the overall beauty of this party is that you can sculpt it into whatever you want.
Now that summer is officially kicked off, it’s time for music lovers and art enthusiasts to decide (and budget for) which music festivals will infiltrate their souls and continue to inspire their passions throughout the coming year. For my general artistic sanity, it’s a no brainer… it’s BONNAROO! I don’t know if I can eloquently explain my unrelenting connection to this multifaceted monsterfest, but for the last 7 years, my wife and I have made an annual pilgrimage to the 700 acre farm in Manchester, Tennessee.
In 2006 (in the months following a bitch of a hurricane who shall remain nameless) I lost a close friend to a senseless act of violence. I was feeling extremely lifeless, frustrated and uninspired. Luckily, some friends suggested this camping getaway. At the time, Bonnaroo sounded like something I might not get another shot at. But when they told me Radiohead was playing, I was absolutely all-in and have never looked back.
Okay, I understand the 4 day weekend pass can be a little expensive, but where else are you going to find such a wide spectrum of music, noise and art that you actually want to see? Per day, it’s about the same price as New Orleans’ own Jazz Fest. News Flash! Jazz Fest is not a music festival… it’s a miserable festival. Sorry, that’s just me— and most of the folks I know who used to go when it was fun. And while Coachella and Lollapalooza might come closest in size and interest to this camping extravaganza, I’m just not seeing the variety in those schedules. Don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of the music they offer but no other venue can boast a history of comedy that includes David Cross, Chris Rock, Conan O’Brien, Janeane Garofalo, Flight of the Conchords, Dave Attell and Demetri Martin.
I am also well aware that Bonnaroo comes along with certain stigma but as you can see, this is anything but a hippiefest. Is it because of what a camping festival might imply? Is it something in the way of playing host to a handful of jam bands and their loyal following? Well, jam bands aside (and included), I feel like you’re exposed to some of the biggest and best names from every genre of music: Buddy Guy, Neko Case, Beck, Sigur Rós, Ornette Coleman, Animal Collective, Steel Pulse, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Bruce Springsteen (minus the force field of chairs), Common,Willie Nelson, Damien, Stephen and Ziggy Marley. You are also on the front steps of an infinite plethora of world music, meditation, yoga and some of the most important causes affecting your world and the environments around you. Either way, I think the overall beauty of this party is that you sculpt it into whatever you want.
Some personal highlights range from DJ Shadow cutting up a late night set (2007) to a short-lived reunion from the Police (2007) and a headlining juggernaut from the Beastie Boys featuring Nas (2009)! I will never forget the mind erasing, psychedelia from Tool or the thousands upon thousands of tiny, skydiving LED lights that floated over the crowd just before the Arcade Fire (2011) melted my face off! And of course, my fondest memory is a two-and-a-half hour set from Radiohead (2006), where we were treated to all of the classics, as well as the bulk of an unheard of (at the time) In Rainbows album. There was some legendary magic happening that night. Thom Yorke was later quoted, admitting that it “was one of his favourite gigs in years and years.”
This year marks the return of these masters of experimental songwriting and overall artistic aesthetic. On The King of Limbs tour, they are upping the ante with the addition of Portishead drummer (and Phil Selway doppelganger), Clive Deamer and will continue to push the boundaries of live production. Other acts to look forward to will be original punk/reggae band Bad Brains, the sassy Santigold and newly inducted Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famers Red Hot Chili Peppers! As you’re reading this, I might be watching noise rockers Mogwai or soaking in the sultry St. Vincent. Or I will probably already have seen Black Star’s fiercest dynamic duo of hip-hop, Talib Kweli and Mos Def (aka Yasiin Bey).
So as the Roo gears up for its 11th installment, I will be playing the role of field correspondent for ANTIGRAVITY. As one of my first orders of business, it is my duty to tell you to leave the outside world “out there.” Come to a place that is free of judgment and where the best shows in the world will pull out all of the stops. Bring your friends and consume inspiration together. This year will prove to be the largest, most diverse and well-organized music event to date. Expect nothing less!