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Columns > Annabel Lukins - Both Sides of the Rail

Published: 2008/06/30
by Annabel Lukins


At the end of Bonnaroo this year, one of the partners of Superfly came up to me and were talking about how great the event is every year. He said, well, it isnt Jam Cruise. I said, taking the compliment to heart, I know, its Bonnaroo.
I love Bonnaroo Ive worked all 7 of them. Ill gladly spend 10 days in nasty hot Tennessee weather to be a part of something so fabulous.
Arriving early in the week to set up is so cool, seeing the stages being built, fences painted, tents coming alivethe calm before the storm. One of my favorite annual traditions is riding in a golf cart solo around the site taking photos before everyone arrives. This one is always in my photo album.

Good morning Bonnaroooo!!!!! I was the guest DJ on Radio Bonnaroo at 8am Thursday morning. Yep, I know I am looking all chipper but what a GREAT way to start the festival. Plus, traffic was pretty backed up so I hopefully was able to make peoples drives more fun. I played a random mix of Daft Punk, Mike Doughty, Galactic, Talking Heads, Michael Jackson and of course, an ode to Pearl Jam to finish up the set.

OK let me give you a little description of my job on site. Once the bands are booked, the promoters allow me to contact each artist and ask if they want to play a 2nd gratis performance on the Sonic Stage. Its only a 30 minute set and great promotion for them. The stage runs Noon-7pm Friday-Sunday. Plus, the CD signing tent (I book the signings too) are right next to the stage, yet another way for bands to get hype. My list of top-notch musicians continues to grow year after year. The extra bonus is that I get to book, manage and emcee the stage.
Its definitely an advantage to be friends with a bunch of artists in the scene because they will come to play my stage just because I run it. Umphreys is an example. They have played Bonnaroo 4 times and this was their 3rd year at the Sonic Stage. One of the other highlighted bands on Friday was State Radio they had a massive crowd.

Now, obviously there had been chatter throughout the year about Metallica being booked at Bonnaroo. People had major apprehension about a mosh pit in the front. Well, let me nip all that in the bud. They were fabulous. James Hetfield besides being super hot, engaged the crowd with every song, interacted with them, and put on a major rock concert. I was quite impressed. Plus, I loved my view of James butt from the side stage.

Everyone comes to Bonnaroo. Its like a reunion every year and since I dont live in NYC anymore, I anticipate getting to see friends like these 3 clowns. OK, they arent clowns, but they are cute and dorky Jewish music biz friends whom I love with all my heart and have known for years: Mike Greenhaus, and Adam Haft. I have known them since 1999 Berkfest, Phish tour, etc.its so great that we have all grown up in this business together.

Oh Saturday at the Sonic Stage.Oh Donavon, how sweet you are.

One of my favorite returning bands is the Wood Brothers. Ollie and Chris could not be cuter or more talented. I completely love everything about them and their music. Yes, I was wearing boots because it had poured the night before for about 3 hours leaving the ground muddy. It quickly dried up and no rain was seen again.

Its rare that I get to see any other music during the day when my stage is running, which is really ok for the most part considering I try to book bands that I would want to see anyway. One artist who I was not going to miss, was Levon Helm. As soon as the cute Jackie Greene finished up on my stage, I ran over to the tent where Levon was. I have such a history with the Band, my mom and dad both love them, my husband plays in a rendition of The Last Waltz, I have been listening to their music for years, plus I grew up with his daughter, Amy. Well, as soon as I got to the tent, I was riveted by how powerful the performance was. I mean, he had like 10 ridiculous musicians up there with him! Levon is a living legend. And his sweet daughter Amy was up there singing the Weight, to close the set. Oh my god, am I happy I was there to witness such magic.

On my way to get a spot for Pearl Jam, I ran into Ryan Stasik, AKA Pony. Whats up brother, lets boogie!

I found a spot in the pit in front of the main stage and literally watched the entire Pearl Jam set by myself. I didnt want to socialize, I just wanted to be present and take in Eddie. The show was phenomenal. I didnt dance, I satmy feet were tired. But my soul was on fire. So was his.he almost cried talking about how amazing it was to see so many thousands people living together as a community. He gets it.

This is Solomon Burkes throne before completion. I had to sit in itgive me a lollipop and I look like Lily Tomlin in the Incredible Shrinking Woman. Hes a very strong and big man.

Everyone asks me, who is your favorite musician, you seem to love everyone? Well, drum roll please Bela Fleck is my hands down #1 since I was a teenager. My dad started taking me to see him when his album Drive came out. At at this point in my career, he is my friend. Not a bad perk to have your favorite musician growing up to end up being your friend. Here we are in Sunday afternoon silliness.

Next up on Sunday afternoon was Broken Social Scene these boys merited the biggest crowd of the weekend. Here are two shots I took from the soundboard looking in both directions.

I am humbled to be able to book the Sonic Stage. And as I mentioned above, I know that my relationship with some of the musicians influences their decision to come work with me. Susan Tedeschi was the one artist that I would have canceled others for. I spent months asking them. Finally, she said yes and I have to say, her performance was angelic. Shes just such a loving presence; I dont know how many of her fans have ever seen her solo, so heres a photo of her from behind the stage and of course, since her husband was there watching, I had to snap a shot with him because come on, hes Derek Trucks.

Now, I am going to be BRIEF about this Kayne West thing but hes a total loser who is digging himself deeper into a hole. If he had any respect for his fans or the promoters, he would have apologized on stage for being so late and causing us all such angst. Instead, his ego was so large and in charge that he blamed everyone else. This guy suffers from a disease called, dont you know who I think I am. Its a festival asshole, not a Kayne West show, tone your production down like everyone else does! So, here you go, as all the walls at Bonnaroo so CLEARLY stated:

Lets finish on a high note, Sunday evening the Sonic Stage is closed for the weekend, its time for a little Widespread Panic closer, my favorite way to end Bonnaroo. I prefer to sit on the side of the stage and just watch same sorta thing as Pearl Jam. Theres a time for socializing and there is a time for just listening.

My good buddy sat in with them for some stellar songs including Ride Me High. As great as it was to see him play, it was even more fun to spend time with him. Robert and I used to see each other once a month or more for years. Now, we are lucky if we get once a year in. We had a good time horsing around at Panic.

I love this one because its just plain cute. We both just got married so we were sharing stories and reminding ourselves how grateful we are for our lives. Love ya, Robert!

Now.I have to end with a sunset shot. For me, Bonnaroo sunsets are one of my favorite parts of the festival. I chase them nightly at 7:30pm. This was Sundays sunset, a beautiful ending to a wonderful weekend. I am FILLED spiritually, professionally, personally and mentally. I love my job at Bonnaroo.

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