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Columns > Annabel Lukins - Both Sides of the Rail

Published: 2009/06/29
by Annabel Lukins

That Bonnaroo Feeling…

After working my 8th Bonnaroo, I felt a sense of pride, a feeling of contentment that I was part of something so big, so electrifying. Then add Phish to the mix and it becomes something even more.
See, because Im in the music business, when people see me at a Phish show, they ask if I am working. I reply, I never mix work and Phish. Well, this time, I had no choice. And you wanna know who won on Friday night at 1:15am when I was lying down in the pit during Velvet job. Boys and girls, I left my first Phish show in 16 years. I started work at 7:30am that morning. By 1:15am, I couldnt stand any longer.
Friends told me that I was growing up.oh, is THAT what its called?
So lets start at ThursdayI love Thursday at the Roothe city comes alive and all the people arrive. Traffics sorta brutal the first day.

After dinner, I wanted to spend some time with Kuroda so with Strawberry Mochi in hand, compliments of Ice Cream Man, I went out to the board while he was working his magic. Not only did we speak of a power and resilient force called Phish, we reflected on our personal experiences during the years off (2004-2009). I asked him all sorts of questions about how he creates such a massive light show. He taught me how to readjust the board from show to show. It was a special moment.

Well, Thursday gave way to a lot of much that we were prepared for a wet weekend. But that didnt stop my girls and I from dancing in the tents to Chairlift, Hockey and other great up and coming bands.

Lets move onto Friday. Now, if youve read my columns before, you know that I am fortunate enough to book, manage, and emcee the Sonic Stage. A lot of the bands I book are my friends so its pretty easy, I either contact them and within minutes, they have a slot, or in this case especially, they call me before Bonnaroo is announced and say please hold a good time for moe. Ok, no problem, I mean, DUH!
Not only is moe. one of my favorite bands, but they are my friends and this is the 3rd time they played at my stage. And folkshands down, they had the biggest crowd. It was sunny out, everyone was in great mood and they showed their fans how great they really are.

Once in a while, I interview musicians. A few years ago, Bela Fleck and I had a nice chat on the stage. This year, I brought my buddies Robert Mercurio and Ben Ellman from Galactic up there. It was quite pleasant and fun.

Oh my favoriteBela. This was also the 3rd time he played on my stage. I love being able to call the manager of my favorite musician of all time and have him say, you know Bela will do whatever you want. I assure you it gives me butterflies of gratitude.
Even though he was playing with Toumani Diabathe brought along Abby Washburn & Casey Driessen to hang out. I couldnt have been happier.

Catching a great photo of Bela smiling is sometimes difficult, but I nailed it right here. He is clearly proud to be playing with Toumani. Bela asked me afterwards as I was walking him to his CD signing, isnt that beautiful music? Come on, Bela. I shook my head, grinned and nodded. But words cannot describe how beautiful I think his music is, ESPECIALLY what hes done with this African Project.

RJ on the Blet me say it louder R J ON THE B!!! For all who have never met Ron Johnson, I urge you to go give him a hug the next chance you get. If you havent caught him with Karl Densons Tiny Universe, then make sure you see him with Brett Dennen. Hes one of the greatest people in the history of the world.

Grace Potter & The Nocturnals thrilled about a thousands dedicated fans on Saturday afternoon. Not only did she look smashing as usual and rock that Axe like it was her job (ok, I know its her job, but you get the expression), she warmed all of our hearts. I love Grace for many reasons. Shes sassy and fun to be around, shes incredibly brilliant, but she EXUDES confidence. For many women in a male dominated scene, its challenging for us to express ourselves in ways that increases our self-esteem. Grace Potter reminds us that anything is possible.

Who is one of the cutest and greatest new musicians out there? Brett Dennen. I call him a 6 foot cabbage patch kid but refrained from introducing him as that because its sorta my pet name for him. Three years ago, my friend and I were on a hike and she handed me a CD, youve got to hear my buddy play, youll love it. Little did I know that he would be one of not to miss artists these days. Hes got insight, passion and a whole lotta soul.

Speaking of insight, passion and soul, these two jerkies sure do their best to impact the scene we love oh so muchAndy Bernstein is one of my best friends and if I could have had a male bridesmaid, it would have been him. Pete and I grew up together. Weve been friends since high school and I couldnt be more proud of his accomplishments. I love these two with all Ive got.

Each year on the Sonic Stage, I try to book a legend. Last year, it was Buddy Guy. The year before was Herbie Hancock. In 2009, Allen Toussaint graced the stage. We have never had a baby grand on our little 20×24 overgrown wooden platform. But if a man like Allen requests it, we figure it out. And boy was it worth it!

I had to snap a photo with him. He was such a delicate and gentle man. It was truly an honor.

Oh the McCoury familyhave you ever seen such a handsome group of bluegrass musicians? I sat Del, Robbie and Ronnie down before their set and said, listen boysa very very loud rock band called the Mars Volta is about to play on the 2nd stage right next to us so could we get the ball rolling here? Within minutes they were up and ready to go. Not only did they get a few songs in before the strong sounds of progressive rock thumped near by, but Ive got to give it to the acoustic boys, they held their own like nothing else mattered in the world. We all loved it.

So it really doesnt make a difference if one of my favorite bands like Govt Mule is playing on site while my stage is going, I dont get to leave and dance. And thats ok; Ive made that decision. But as I head to dinner after a long days work, of course I am going to run into some of my friends including the dear hearted Matt Abts. Mr. Pete Shapiro was proud of this shot he took, sorta mysterious and sexy at the same time. Thanks Shaps!

OkSunday morning we got the radio call that it was going to pour, I mean, thunder, the whole shooting match. I think Ben Sollee made the sun come out. Not only did this man, who ventures on personal quests, bike all the way from Lexington, KY to Bonnaroo, but he created a DYNAMIC musical experience for hundreds of fansSOLO no less! Hes one not to miss, folks. Ben is a prodigy that was put on this earth to do exactly what he is doing, play music, charm the pants off everyone that he surrounds himself with, and do extraordinary things in his free time. Bravo, my dear.

Gorgeous and filled with a voice of a true old soul, Elvis Perkins came to play for me for the 2nd time. His fan base has more than quadrupled since 2007 and I am so glad people see how inspiring and gifted he is. His band rocked the socks off a packed house.

For the first time ever, Bonnaroo launched a hot air balloon on a clear Sunday colorful evening. It was stunning to watch pass so elegantly over the site. And it was easy to get a clear shot over the Sonic Villageoh the Sonic Village, my baby for 7 years. I love you so…

As my stage comes to a close for the weekend I head to dinner and run into yet another dear friend, also a drummer! This time, unlike Matt Abts set, I wasnt going to miss this show.

Time for Phish. I slept PLENTY on Saturday so I wouldnt be tired for the phinal night. See, its incredible that Phish played Bonnaroo. The producers of the event came to the creators of all the Phish festivals years ago and said, Lets work together. Its been nothing but magic for the event. It was meant to be.
When Phish told us it was over, we all went our separate ways and grew up a little. Bonnaroo really GREW up. Over the years, the festivals wings have continued to spread. So Phish getting back together and coming to play at Bonnaroo was like a circle being completed. Question iswhats next? How ya gonna top that?
Speaking of a circleIve got a pretty strong one when it comes to Phish. We converged to one spot for the first set in the pit. I have seen so many amazing shows over the years with these people that it can do nothing but warm my heart

Bruce and Trey togetheryou could FEEL the smile coming off Treys face. It was pretty monumental I must say. Its also a HUGE testament to the event that the Boss stayed the entire next day hanging out and sitting in with Phish. He was that comfortable. How could you not be? Bonnaroo RULES.

For the 2nd set, I got the wonderful chance to watch the show from the stage right platform. It was virtually empty so I claimed my front row spot at setbreak. What a viewwhat a pheeling to be so close to the band I love with all my heart.

First of all, Chris Kuroda is a God. (But dont let him fool youhe says, Im just the light guy.) Look at this photofrom our little chat on Thursday afternoon to this colossal, ENORMOUS experienceradiance, sound, movement, a historic musical night, a weekend full of memories were had by all. Phish ended with Reprise, which of course comforts me knowing that Bonnaroo 2010 will also ride again.
I miss it already.I cant wait for next year. Lucky me, lucky us.

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