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Bonnaroo Beat 2003

Published: 2003/06/17

‘Oh, The People You’ll See’ from the Sunday Bonnaroo Beacon

photos by Jeff Waful {1,2,4] and Erika Goldring3

by Josh Baron
"I hope they have this every year," exclaimed Flaming Lips lead singer Wayne Coyne from the group’s sardined late night set at That tent. If today was any indication, Coyne just might get his wish.
Day Two saw another spectacular line-up that kept people dancing into the wee wee hours. Early on, The Wailers warmed up thousands’ dancing feet as they carried on Bob Marley’s legacy while Jerry Joseph touched appropriate chords with a cover of the late Michael Houser’s "Airplane." Bluegrass phenoms Nickel Creek lit up Which stage shortly after, flawlessly picking and harmonizing with the help of new bass player Mark Schatz. "It was amazing, this crowd is so participatory," said mandolinist Chris Thile. "They are here to involve themselves in an experience. It really felt like they were putting on a show for us." The following set, fans did get a chance to help put on the show as Robert Randolph facilitated a wireless mic into the crowd, giving them a chance to sing back, "I need more love everyday of my life." Susan Tedeschi and her baby Charlie sat in for a cover of "I’ll Take You There" as well. The 25-piece collective Polyphonic Spree dropped jaws with their multiple keyboardists, horns, choir and Thermin player (among other traditional components). Part rock, orchestral, gospel, prog and psychedelic, their sound defied any real definition. Oh- and Emmylou Harris’ set on the main stage wasn’t too shabby either.
Early evening was a real nail-biter: Allman Brothers Band, The Roots, Mike Gordon and Leo Kottke and Garage A Trois. Despite the high caliber of each band, it was The Roots who had people jumping- literally. Cody Chesnutt sat in for their collaborative hit, "The Seed" and later, at the beckoning of lead MC Black Thought, thousands threw their arms in the air, turning the crowd into a rippling lake.
"We’re excited to be back. This environment is great- it’s not a city," said Widespread Panic lead guitarist John Bell before their set. Panic played for over three hours, without break, running through much of the material off their latest album Ball. Warren Haynes, who sat in four for songs, fit right in, particularly on "Don’t Want To Lose You." Robert Randolph joined the party for a set closing "Chilly Water." Nodding to the occasion, the band kicked off the three song encore with "Down On The Farm."
Late night was bustling despite the weekend’s first real rain. Flaming Lips put on the biggest spectacle of the weekend, bringing out 20 people in animal suits donning high-powered flashlights. Coyne proceeded to douse himself in fake blood, throw confetti and envelope the crowd in a fog from a handheld smoke machine. If that wasn’t enough, they covered a portion of Pink Floyd’s Darkside Of The Moon as blips from the Wizard of Oz played.
Meanwhile, across the way, Medeski, Martin and Wood explored their spacey, funk jazz with the help of Luther Dickinson and Cyro Baptista. Coming back for a second round after last year’s big set, Particle took fans into the morning light, getting a little assistance from moe.‘s Al Schnier.
With another Bonnaroo nearly complete, performances, conversations, new friends and minor mishaps begin to congeal into a collective, multi-sensory experience. While faces and songs may fade, the festival’s namesake and meaning remain clear: Bonnaroo is a real good time.

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