Thursday, June 22, 2006

Bonnaroo Part 3: Superlicious Saturday

Besides having a wicked hard-on, I woke up on Saturday morning with three things on my mind... Radiohead, Beck, and The Super Jam.

We got a slower start to the day and ran errands before we went to Bonnaroo. We stopped off at the bank and Walgreens to buy supplies like water, folding chairs, and poker chips. We ate at Sonic again and I got my customary two Texas Toaster sandwiches. That would be the only thing I'd eat that day.

We skipped some of the early acts on Saturday which included legends like the Neville Brothers and Buddy Guy. I've seen both a couple of times. At 70, Buddy Guy can still unleash a guitar lick that can make the hair on your arms stand up and shout, "Holy fuck!"

I wanted to see jazz guitarist Bill Frisell but we got in too late. I caught him a handful of times before but couldn't recall anything specific about those shows. Frisell is one interesting cat. He used to jam with the members that would go onto to form Earth, Wind & Fire. He also studied under guitarist Pat Metheny at the Berklee College of Music.

"Untuck your shirt, and let's party!" the Joker screamed at a middle-aged guy who had a Van Morrison concert shirt tucked into his shorts.

The guy reluctantly did that as the crowd around us in Shakedown burst out into laughter. We were on a resupply mission in search of applicable party favors that would enhance Saturday's musical menu. One shirtless kid wearing patchwork pants was slingling molly. He barely looked 19 with a scruffy patch of hair on his chin and a dancing bear tattoo on his shoulder blade. He couldn't stand still for more than two seconds as hundreds of people rushed by us while vendors shouted out what they were selling.

"Is this good shit," I asked pumping him for info. No one likes to buy bunk drugs, especially on tour from a skinny college kid who hasn't slept in a week. "Have you taken it? Is it good?"

"Is it good? Fuckin' look at me man!" he said as I carefully inspected his glassy Oreo-sized eyes. My boy was rolling hard.

The Joker called Shakedown "the Wal Mart of Bonnaroo," because if you needed anything, you could head down to Shakedown to buy it, whether it was food, beer, water, drugs, a lighter, a pipe, or t-shirts. We bumped into Dan who was looking to buy pot brownies or ganja goo balls for a girl in his group. He also knew that he'd find it at Shakedown.

We stopped off at Molly's campsite before we wandered in to see Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah. If you don't know, Clap Your Hands are the celeb du jour in the hispter-laden indie-band scene. Formed out of Brooklyn where four out of the five band members live (the other dude commutes from Philly), Clap Your Hands started playing gigs at Pianos on the neo-trendy Lower East Side. I only caught one live show with Haley a few years back. We thought they were better than average. They reminded me of Modest Mouse meets Wilco with a strong Talking Heads influence driving their music.

The show at Bonnaroo was peppered with emo wunderkids and indie-rockers fashionistas wearing $200 pairs of ripped jeans and blazers in the sweltering 95 degree heat. The Joker loves making fun of those emokids who are "too cool to dance and show their enthusiasm about the band." He often suspects that they showed up "to be seen" rather than to "see the band."

I was curious about all the buzz they had been getting over the past year. I wondered if they got better or had some new avant garde material that I missed. Clap Your Hands played for about an hour and they sounded much better this time around. I'll definitely keep an eye on the quintet from Brooklyn.

We skipped a couple of bands to see Clap Your Hands and Gomez back-to-back. The Elvis Costello collaboration with Allen Toussiant was a casualty (sorry Mean Gene) along with Rusted Root and one of Bob Marley's many kids Damien "Jr. Gong" Marley.

Gomez is a band from England made up of a group of college friends from Southport. My buddy Gil got me into Gomez in the late 1990s. I love the story about how they got their name. They had left a sign out front of the pub where they were playing at intended for their friend named "Gomez." The pub goers assumed that was the name of their band and the rest is history. I especially dug the material on their first two albums Bring It On and Liquid Skin. A couple of weeks ago, I started listening to their most recent release. The Joker caught their show in Colorado a week before and said they played a mix of old and new stuff. We caught about half of their set before we left to get a good spot for Beck on the main stage.
6.17.06 Gomez, Bonnaroo, TN

Set 1: Bring It On, Love Is Better Than A Warm Trombone, These 3 Sins, Free to Run, Ping One Down, In Our Gun, Nothing Is Wrong, Here Comes the Breeze, Fill My Cup, The Way You Do the Things You Do, Bring Your Lovin' Back Here, Get Myself Arrested, We Don't Know Where We're Going, Revolutionary Kind, Whippin' Picadilly
The 6pm hour on Saturday at Bonnaroo had five bands that I would have loved to see, which meant that I had a scheduling nightmare to confront. That's the biggest setback to deal with at a large music festival like Jazz Fest or Bonnaroo. At some point, you're going to have to miss one of your favorite bands. It was a psychedelic version of Sophie's Choice. Which kid do you take? And which kid to you let the Nazis take?

Beck was our obvious choice. He won out over some serious competition that included Cypress Hill, Blues Traveler, Les Claypool, and Medeski, Martin & Wood. I caught my first Blues Traveler show in high school when they played gigs at Nightingale in the East Village with The Spin Doctors and God Street Wine. I already saw Les Claypool with Oysterhead on Friday. I've seen MMW over forty times (wow, I just realized that I've seen MMW as many times as The Grateful Dead). Skipping MMW was the hardest decision of Bonnaroo 2006 for me. But since I have the opportunity to see MMW more often than Beck, they lost that coinflip.

The Joker and I caught Beck at Vegoose. He ended up stealing the show. I knew he couldn't match the levels of his Vegoose performance, so I went in with an open mind. He didn't sound as good and at times the music was sloppy. Beck focused more on the presentation of the show than the music itself. Instead of running the normal video feed of the band on the two huge screens on both sides of the main stage, Beck ran the puppet version of the gig. In the corner of the stage, several marionettes played out the songs using puppets mirroring Beck and his band's performance onstage. His band also did the kitchen table jam where they used silverware to bang on plates and the table.

During the encore break, the video screens showed Beck's hilarious puppet movie where they all wandered around Bonnaroo. He made fun of the hippie lifestyle and mocked the insanity of all the walking that you have to do during the shows. I managed to get about 90% of it on video. Check out Bonnaroo Part I.
6.17.06 Beck, Bonnaroo, TN

Set 1: Devil's Haircut, Black Tambourine, Geuro, Hell Yes, New Pollution, Information, Minus, No Expectations > Hotwax, Whiskey Clone, Paper Tiger, Broken Drum, Lost Cause > Do You Realize > Creep > Golden Age > One Foot In The Grave (all solo acoustic), Clap Hands, Mixed Bizzness

Encore: Puppet Show, 10,000 BPM, Where Its At, E-Pro
The crowd swelled during Beck and it seemed like all 80,000 people at Bonnaroo were anxiously waiting for Radiohead's set. The indie-trendoids and emo wunderkids were out in full force for Radiohead as they filled the field in front of the main stage.

I've seen Radiohead almost ten times over the past seven or eight years. My roommate in Seattle was a drummer who was crazy about Radiohead. I used to swap Phish bootlegs with him for Radiohead bootlegs. Those got lost in a relationship breakup a few years later and I've been jonesin' for those shows ever since. I'm not familiar with Radiohead's studio albums. I couldn't tell you what song came off of which albums since I've only been listening to their bootlegs. I definitely had a grasp of the majority of their material when I saw them a few years ago at Madison Square Garden in NYC when they actually played Creep.
6.17.06 Radiohead, Bonnaroo, TN

Set 1: There There, 2+2=5, 15 Step, Arpeggi, Exit Music, Kid A, Dollars & Cents, Videotape, No Surprises, Paranoid Android, Gloaming, National Anthem, Climbing up the Walls, Nude, Street Spirit, The Bends, Myxamotosis, How to Disappear Completely

Encore: You and Whose Army?, Pyramid Song, Like Spinning Plates, Fake Plastic Trees, Body Snatchers, Lucky, Idioteque, Karma Police

Encore 2: House of Cards, Everything In It's Right Place
The highlight of the show was a four song stretch containing Paranoid Android, Gloaming, National Anthem, and Climbing up the Walls. That was some crazy shit and one of the highlights of the day. Aside from My Morning Jacket, Radiohead's performance was one of the best at this year's Bonnaroo. They stepped up and cranked out a monster set. Along with Tom Petty and Phil Lesh & Friends, Radiohead was one of the three headliners that got to play uncontested on the main stage. I didn't find out that Radiohead was playing Bonnaroo until a month ago. That was a happy discovery since I consider Radiohead as one of the top 5 live acts of all time. If you have never been to a show... go soon before Thom Yorke disbands Radiohead.

Radiohead played ten songs over two encores. I was pumped to hear Pyramid Song, Karma Police, and Fake Plastic Trees. Those are my three favorite Radiohead tunes and I got to enjoy them for the encore. The one thing that Radiohead can do during a live performance that sets them apart from other bands is the ability to take the crowd from an utter frenzy to a moment of peaceful stillness and tranquility and then spiral back into that insane frenzy.

For a six hour stretch from 5pm to 11pm, I was a lit monkey and faded during Beck and Radiohead's set. I think that everyone in our group reached peak fuckedupness during the end of Beck and beginning of Radiohead. We all peaked at the right time.

I had no idea what to expect out of The Super Jam. In the past, several musicians from different bands rotated in and out on stage over two hours as they played random cover songs or jammed out. We tried to figure out who would play this year. I assumed one of the Neville Brothers would sit in with someone from Medeski, Martin & Wood with Mike Gordon, Phil Lesh, or Les Claypool on bass, and possibly Elvis Costello or Trey Anastasio would play too.

There were rumors that Trey and Mike were part of the Super Jam. That was the buzz around the campgrounds among all the Phisheads who have been jonesin' for any semblance of Phish since they broke up after Coventry two summers ago. I didn't want to get my hopes up as I popped my second roll of the day waiting for the Super Jam musicians to take the stage.

As we walked up to the tent, the Joker commented, "It looks like Stanton's kit."

Stanton Moore is the greatest drummer on Earth because he's an alien. He's the backbone and glue of Galactic. I assumed that he was on tour since Galactic was not on Bonnaroo's schedule this year. Alas, the Joker swore that was Stanton's drum kit on stage. As we got closer to the stage, the Joker noticed Mike's bass. At that point we were anticipating Stanton and Mike. That's when the Joker spotted Trey's unique guitar.

"I see a Languedoc," he said.

Eventually four musicians took the stage. As soon as the crowd caught a glimpse of Trey and Mike, the tent erupted in applause as glowsticks filled the air and people rushed in closer to get a better view. Molly was back at her camp site and I sent her a message to get over to the Super Jam to see Trey and Mike.

During the first few songs, I swore that the drummer was Stanton Moore although the Joker assured me it was part of the Benevento/Russo Duo. Those guys collaborated with Mike Gordon in the past. I caught their NYE show a few years back. Trey and Mike are touring with the Duo this summer opening up for Phil Lesh and Friends at a few venues. The cool kids are calling that quartet of Benevento, Russo, Gordon, and Anastasio... GRAB. While others are labeling the band "The New Phish."

They were spectacular, but I still miss Page and Fish. The band was called Phish for a reason and named after that short acid-chmoping freak in the dress who played a vacuum. I don't know how those guys could be replaced. As is, playing with the Duo allowed Trey & Mike to play different songs without the pressure of playing the same Phish songs night after night.
6.17.06 Super Jam with Trey & Mike

Set 1: ? Opening Jam > Dragonfly, Good-bye Head, ??, Casey Jones (with Phil Lesh), Going Down the Road (with Phil Lesh), Mr. Completely, Seasons, Trouble, ??, Spin, ?? "Fred Savage Jam", ?? Fog City

Encore: Drifting
Dragonfly was kooky and sweet. They all ripped the hell out of Good-bye Head. While Phil Lesh tuned his bass, Mike and Trey had a mini-guitar duel. Phil Lesh sat in for two Grateful Dead songs and the crowd's energy level got raised during Casey Jones. The crowd went nuts during Casey Jones as Trey got to feel like Jerry Garcia for six minutes.

The highlight of the set was the jam in Mr. Completely. That was the best I've seen Trey play since the Miami run in 2003. The energy in the tent was frenetic and reminded me of the intense Phish shows that I caught in 1997-98 during the Year of the Funk.

They played a few new songs that they wrote like Seasons and Trouble. The Fred Savage Jam was smooth. We called it the "Fred Savage Jam," because he appeared out of nowhere in the crowd. He's a Phishead and we smoked him up. He had a wookie girlfriend (although I thought he was married). Well, she was a newbie wook and had only one natty dread as she grew the rest out. That fucker Fred Savage disappeared and stole my bowl too!

The Super Jam surprised me as it capped off one of the best days of music I had seen in a very long time. I've witnessed Trey's different side projects and Phish a combined 200 times and I honestly feel that Trey has not played with that much invigorated energy since Miami 2003. Trey played a subpar show at Oysterhead the day before. But he must have taken some good drugs in the down time and partied all night without sleeping. He was also wearing the same clothes from the afternoon before. He wore long sleeves too in late night Tennessee heat.

At one point the Joker turned to me and said, "So when are they just going to stop fuckin' around and play MoMa Dance?"

One girl from Colorado who stood next to us was so faded that she thought Phish had taken the stage. When BTreotch told her it was 1/2 of Phish she bolted for the front row and said, "I have to be up close!"

Late night we headed over and caught the end of the Dresden Dolls set. They're an interesting mix of "Weimar-influenced cabaret" rock and roll. We met up with Molly at Sasha who's a DJ from Wales. Molly had slept through the Super Jam and missed Trey's best performance in years!

On our way out, we stopped by Shakedown Street. Bonnaroo is already filled with freaks, but the really sketchy strung out characters can be found around 4:30am. That's when the wastoids wander around aimlessly and the professional party people kick it into high gear. We spotted one skinny kid who looked like he was sleep walking. He carried a large fluffy pillow and wore jeans with a ripped t-shirt. He also had on an expensive blazer.

"Whooo hooo! Indie-rock kid needs a place to sleep!" the Joker yelled out.

The kid mumbled something incoherent as I shined my flashlight into his face. We continued walking when we came upon a Hare Krishna. They're all over large festivals like Bonnaroo. They figured they can scoop up a lot of wasted kids and indoctrinate them into their cult. One guy held out a book called Yoga for the Modern Age while he also had a stash of Bhagavad-Gita in his bag.

"Are you interested in a free book on meditation, spiritual enlightenment, and yoga?" the Hare Krishna asked us as I shined my flashlight into his soulless eyes.

"No thanks," said the Joker as we rushed by, "I live in Boulder, Colorado. They have plenty of that shit there."

A couple of steps later, we came upon a passed out kid slumped on the side of the road near a row of port-o-pottys. Upon closer inspection, we discovered that he was a wookie. He had a fresh cut on his face and was missing a shoe.

"How fucked up do you have to be to be homeless at Bonnaroo?" screamed the Joker. "Get your shit together!"

He was right. All the kid had to do was pass out twenty-five feet away in someone's camp site. Instead he passed out in front of a leaky shitter.

The Joker scolded the passed out wookie as we left the third day of Bonnaroo which featured a nice blend of indie-rock and the new reincarnation of the Phish. And yeah, Radiohead kicked ass. Aside from My Morning Jacket's midnight show the night before, Radiohead and the Super Jam became the other high-water marks at Bonnaroo.

Here are some random Bonnaroo pics from BTreotch:

Video show during Radiohead

... to be continued

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