Well, I'm back safely in Pittsburgh, no worse for the wear except for some sunburn and a smudged henna tattoo. And that means... time for me to BLOG about it instead of giving all of you faithful readers brief goofy twitter updates. I'm going to stick to the music, though there are lots of funny stories associated with the trip as a whole. To facilitate your reading, I'm going to bullet-point this, with a blurb about each of the artists I saw. Chronologically, yo.
One of the acts I've seen before (At NYU's Strawberry Fest, check previous posts to see Jim's blog about it). I only stayed for about half of their set so I could get a good spot for Portugal. The Man. Not much really sticks out in my mind about this show... it was solid, but nothing spectacular, hence, my indifference at leaving early.
Portugal. The Man
As usual, Portugal. The Man's drums and guitar impressed the hell out of me, and the singer made me cringe a little bit. Aside from a personal aversion to the vocalist's style, I think they put on a hell of a show. Energetic and loud are two adjectives I love to use when describing shows I've attended.
Easily the biggest surprise of Bonnaroo. I only showed up to Katzenjammer and The Dirty Projectors to ensure a front-row spot to St. Vincent (they were all on the same stage), but I'm SO glad I did. This group of four women from Norway kicked a disgusting amount of ass. I was literally blown away by their energy and stage presence and sheer amount of talent. They all played all of the instruments... between each song they ran around switching, tossing ukuleles and THE sweetest bass guitar I've ever seen to each other. There was also a bizarre amount of growling and grinning at each other... it must be a Norwegian thing. The highlight was definitely "Hey Ho On the Devil's Back," I recommend iTunes-ing their album (Le Pop) IMMEDIATELY for a super duper boost of delicious happiness. This was definitely the second-best show of the weekend.
The Dirty Projectors
All the 'Roo-goers around me were super excited for The Dirty Projectors, and after having such a SWEET experience with Katzenjammer, I was pretty pumped too. However, for the majority of the set, I was less-than-impressed. Everyone but the drummer and two of the female vocalists was lacking a certain... vigor. In fact, I'm pretty sure the keyboardist was asleep half of the time. None of them smiled! It was such a stark contrast to the previous show, and it was far from exciting. The high point was when David Byrne came out on stage and sang with them for their last song. In general, a pretty mundane show.
I hate to say it, but St. Vincent wasn't the best show I saw at Bonnaroo. Any of you regular readers know that I basically idolize Annie Clark, but I don't think she's that great of a fit for Bonnaroo... she needs to play in a small venue, not on a wide open stage in the middle of the day. That being said, she had some small amounts of technical difficulties that put me (and everyone else) on edge for the rest of the show. Her music is so complex, I'm always impressed when her backing band pulls it all off flawlessly. They even jazzed up a few songs... getting into the Bonnaroo spirit, I'm sure. I can't really comment on St. Vincent objectively, to be honest. I was smitten with the performance, but not blown away like I was with other shows.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
So, I unfortunately didn't catch much of Yeah Yeah Yeah's set. I was way up front, ankle deep in mud, the sun blazing down on my face and my shoulders, and then... I almost fainted. Gosh darn lack of water/shade. I had to go fill up my water bottle immediately and get something to eat... so I was pretty far away for most of it. From what I could tell, though, they did a lot of stuff from It's Blitz... which I'm not yet too into, so I wasn't that upset about missing some of the set.
Oh, Ani. This crowd was composed exclusively of 20-something women practically shitting their pants, and a few annoyed-looking boyfriends. Oh, and me. Ani has so much stage presence, and she knows she's idolized... she did some spoken word in the middle of her set, and everyone KNEW THE WORDS TO IT. My greatest-hits-Ani-fandom felt so inadequate, though I did enjoy 32 Flavors. Apparently, among hardcore Ani fans, it's not "cool" to really like 32 Flavors. ...oh well!
I could go two ways with this show. I could say that the majority of it was great, or the majority of it was fishy. Here's why: they closed their set (a lot of old stuff, a highlight was "Shake Your Rump") with "Sabotage." They started the song, and about 20 seconds into it, stopped, and said "Look at us! We're doing this shit without MP3's or any shit like that, this shit is live!" (I'm paraphrasing here, but that's the basic gist.) They proceeded to BLOW. Which makes me think... hey, Beastie Boys... was the rest of your set recorded? I mean... we won't blame you... you are getting pretty old... Anyway, at least Nas came out randomly for a song. That was pretty cool.
(LACK OF SHOWS)
So, I was SO excited for Public Enemy and Girl Talk after Beastie Boys... but I unfortunately fell asleep at like 12:30. Embarrassing, and upsetting... but what can you do? I was EXHAUSTED.
On Friday, there were ALL kinds of rumors that Jimmy Buffet was playing a show on Saturday at noon... so I made sure I got there to check it out. Sure enough, there he was, "Cheeseburger in Paradise"ing it up. The crowd was mostly 40+... I actually saw an 80-year-old woman dancing with her walker. It was perfect. I grew up on Jimmy Buffet, so this show was pretty cool. Buffet's a PERFECT fit for Bonnaroo.
Why is Of Montreal SO hit-or-miss? Especially since Skeletal Lamping, which ranks up with Stadium Arcadium on my list of disappointments. They started the show strong, with lots of non-Skeletal Lamping stuff, but then brought out the weird costumes, and with the kitsch came the shitty should-be-B-Side stuff off of Lamping. I was in a state of despair until they ended their set with a delightful "The Past is a Grotesque Animal"... all 10+ minutes of it.
They played right after Of Montreal, and my thought process was: "Hey, I'm going to push my way to the front of the stage to get a good spot for the Decemberists!" Yeah... that was 5000 other people's thought process as well. After more pushing, shoving, and swearing (even crying) than I have EVER SEEN at Bonnaroo, we were all situated, packed in, with me about 10 feet from the stage (score!). Much to EVERYONE'S delight (though not Pitchfork's, I guess, but screw them, am I right?), Mr. Meloy hauled out the big guns and played the entirety of The Hazards of Love, beginning to end. Easily the best show of Bonnaroo. The crowd was entranced... everyone knew the words, we were all shouting and cheering and even silent at appropriate moments. I think The Decemberists looked surprised at such an immensely positive response. "The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid" was EASILY the highlight of the show. I was covered in goosebumps, and the kid in front of me and I kept saying to each other, "Holy GOD IS THIS INCREDIBLE." After they played their new album, they played a few standards ("The Engine Driver," "July, July!", etc.). When their set was over, the crowd stayed about 15 minutes chanting "One more song! One more song!" Until it became apparent that there wouldn't be one more song. We all embraced each other (seriously, we did) and left the stage in a daze. I NEED to see The Decemberists when they come to Pittsburgh in August.
Nine Inch Nails
Not much to say. I was probably 1/2 mile away from the stage, so Trent Reznor's voice was nothing more than a vague angry buzzing growl. I had a hard time even recognizing the songs he was playing, though I'm FAIRLY certain I heard "Closer"? And that was good enough for me. Bedtime.
A. A. Bondy
Sunday was an extremely chill day... I heard lots of artists (High On Fire, Erykah Badu), but didn't actually "go" to any shows except for two. A. A. Bondy was adorable, and seemed genuinely surprised that so many people showed up for his noon slot. He's really talented, and punctuated his set and his excitement with "I'ma get DRUUUNK tonight! That's not such a profound statement for this place, is it?" Enough said.
Oh, last show of Bonnaroo. I think Snoop kind of forgot where he was, to be honest. These are a bunch of hippies gearing up for a Phish show, not die-hard fans. He kept saying "Where all my sexy ladies at?" and I could almost feel the ladies in the crowd thinking, "Uh... I mean... I might be a sexy lady? But I'm just so.... dirty...." Consequently, when he sang "Gin and Juice" (was SO excited for that song), he only sang about half of the words, and NONE of the choruses. Was he expecting everyone to sing along? I mean, me and the lady next to me did, but there was awkward silence for the most part. "Laaaaiiiiiiid baaaack.... no? Uh.... guys?" Blahh, oh well. He was still Snoop, and Snoop is Snoop.
OVERALL. Bonnaroo was an excellent time... met lots of awesome people, did lots of awesome things, heard lots of awesome music... now, time for me to go nurse my sunburn and perhaps take another shower. Grosss. Don't forget to download Katzenjammer!