Saturday, August 14, 2010

I Think We Broke Time


We're headin' on down to Bonnaroo gonna have ourselves a time...


I had heard of Bonnaroo - I didn't know if I could handle "that much" jam music. I admit - as I have been called a music snob (by my husband - because he is the only one who could get away with that) I admit that I was a little leary of a four day jam festival. I had a great time in 2003 in Music Midtown Atlanta. It was a good mix of all different types and decades of music: Def Leppard, B-52's, Dylan, Buddy Guy, Les Claypool, Govt Mule - you get my point. I can't listen to too much of one thing for too long - my brain just can't hack it. After a concert - I can't listen to that band for days. After Faith No More this summer, I went home and listened to Amy Correia. Maybe something ain't wired right up there, but that is just how I am.


In the winter of 2007 I agreed to blindly buy Bonnaroo 08 tickets, knowing that I would at least know our friends from Dark Star Orchestra playing there. To the disappointment of Bonnaroo purists - 2008 was not going to be filled with jam only bands. The metal gods, the grunge gods and the rock and roll gods shined their light down upon the fields of Manchester TN and gave me the following main stage line up: Metallica, Pearl Jam and Robert Plant.


I could not get to Tennessee fast enough.
Bonnaroo hasn't looked back ever since. Besides the "Kanye mistake" that year, I think that Bonnaroo had finally found the perfect mix of jam, rock, blues and crazy. Read on.


Thursday night, after these Brooklyn kids finally put their studio sized tent up, we ventured off to see some new bands before DSO went on. I have to admit - there is a communal-ness to Bonnaroo. The town lets us make them the third largest city in Tennessee for four days and there are only a few common sense rules: don't kill anyone, try to keep all your clothes on, share your things and say sorry if you step on someone. I had to say sorry a lot the first night as I was not prepared for so many people just lying on the ground.


Two great acts went on before DSO: Nicole Atkins and the Felice Brothers. Amazing performers!! Nicole is a Jerseyite with a killer voice and the Felice Brothers made their way from singing in NYC Subway Stations to a good gig at Bonnaroo (if you like the Band and are fond of whiskey - I highly recommend these guys).


Now, I had seen our friends perform a gazillion times before. That night would be special since they sang Tennessee Jed and it automatically became the anthem for the weekend. We would hang with Dino, one of their drummers, for the rest of the festival. First night in and I knew I would like the festival. It was time to get some sleep - for tomorrow, Metallica would play.

Saturday I was able to finally figure may way around the farm without a map. So many great bands played! Umphrey's McGee, Drive By Truckers, the Raconteurs, Les Claypool, Willie Nelson, to name a few. The hours tick tocked by until finally, the time had come. I don't really think Billy knew me 100 percent until the moment Chris Rock said these words: Are you ready for Metallica!!

I transformed into the adolescent skate board punk teenager and screamed every word to every song. Dino couldn't believe I knew all the words. I am sure that when Billy heard me shout Die, Die, Die at the top of my lungs during the opener Creeping Death, he had seen it all. Every song but one or two were from the Black album and back. The Bonnaroo crowd loved it! I loved it. I hadn't seen Metallica
in a while and they had the energy they did in the early 90's. Billy enjoyed it for two reasons, I am assuming. First, because he saw what the music did to me. Second, they played Nothing Else Matters, a song that was played at the funeral of his firehouse brother, John Florio, after 9/11. John was a huge Metallica fan and everyone around the firehouse knew it. Even James Hetfield, lead singer of Metallica knew it. He penned a letter to John's widow after reading his bio in the NY Times.


Saturday was a day of new bands and performers I had never seen play live. I was able to see Little Feat and Levon Helm in The Other Tent. In the band lounge with Dino, I kept on asking who was playing outside on the Which Stage. I didn't know who Gogol Bordello was but I was determined to find out. I was not prepared for insane time that would follow. Gogol Bordello are a gypsy punk band with members from everywhere. They play, what my friend has deemed, hard rock polka. Their jams are contagious. Fiddles, girls in red spandex banging drums and cymbals, a lead singer straight from the Ukraine via the
lower east side, accordions (this was like the year of accordions, I swear). I began to dance with a kid from Manchester Michigan. It felt like we were flying as we attempted to keep up with the music. At one point, he looked at his watch and proclaimed: I think we broke time. My watch isn't working. I went back stage as soon as they were done to share with Billy and Dino my new favorite band. Dino (the drummer)was in an all out Guitar Hero dual and Billy was talking to a writer for High Times Magazine. I wanted to move to Bonnaroo!
This was the night of the Kanye controversy. If you would like to read more about it...google it. He didn't get the let's all get along policy at the front door. So anyway, Jack Johnson was on right before Pearl Jam. Yes PEARL JAM. They hadn't played a festival since the 90's when eight kids were crushed to death at a festival in Europe. That, mixed with the political climate of the presidential election and Kanye West's antics, I knew this would be a great set.

Pearl Jam was tight that night. Eddie again and again commented how great it was that so many people could get along. We were 100,000 strong - a small town as he called us, before he went into that song. Billy went off to take a nap as Dino and I watched into the third hour of Pearl Jam, Release, Porch and Hail Hail were given to us like gifts from Andrew Wood, who I am sure was looking down at his former band mates from Mother Love Bone and smiled fabulously (as only Andrew could).


From Pearl Jam we were on to see Phil Lesh and Jackie Greene (who we had seen on the Sonic stage earlier in the day). First we had to find Billy and make sure no one stepped on him while he napped (how do you nap during Pearl Jam?). I wanted to stay up all night because tomorrow was the last day of Bonnaroo!! We left as soon as Phil and Jackie ended and went back to our tent.



Sunday was like Christmas, the Fourth of July and my birthday all rolled into one. That day, June 15 2008, I would finally see Robert Plant. I left Billy and Dino to go and see Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi while I staked out the perfect seat for Robert.I should also note that Alison Kraus was playing with Robert. Not that I don't like her, she is an amazingly talented artist but I was biased. I had to see my Golden God of Rock and Roll.


Then it happened. At 6:15 (Bonnaroo is always on time and that is awesome except when you're Kanye West) Robert and Alison strolled onto the stage singing Rich Woman. I knew that the audience was split 50/50 for who they were there to see. We were so close to Nashville so a lot of folks came out just to see her. My kneed buckled. I was in the presence of Robert Plant, lead singer of Led Zeppelin. Singer of all of those songs you made out to in high school. Wearer of too tight pants and apparently buttonless shirts. I was awed for almost two hours. He sang Black Dog and In The Mood. They sang the Battle of Evermore together. It was quite a unique experience to sing Down to the River with 50,000 fans.


I didn't want to it end. Sadly, after watching Widespread Panic at the What Stage, it was time to move on. It was a perfect festival. I was with my husband, friend and 100,000 people who love music as much as we do. We sang, we laughed, we met new friends, we ate, we drank, we saw bands that made us remember memories of the past. For four days in 2008, I was a citizen of the third largest city in Tennessee. I go back each year to the farm, as we call it. It will never be the same as that year, but going back always evokes those memories of that first time I went to Bonnaroo. True to its Creole name, Bonnaroo is a really good time.
 


 
 

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