Writers note: I am sorry this piece has taken me five months to write! Life has very much gotten in the way. And if you read my columns then you know I surely run around the country living life. I had attempted to finish it on the plane for a 36-hour trip to LA to see Phish at the Hollywood Bowl! Now it’s Sunday evening in November and I’m sitting in front of my TV watching War Games and hoping I can get it done in this seating.
I got a Facebook post from a friend saying “5/26/11, don’t you think it’s time for another one?” When I asked him what he meant, he said, “Jambands column!” Ok, I guess you do read what I write…sorry everyone. On
to the column!
Manchester…home of the 3rd largest city in Tennessee for a week every June. Manchester, TN, home of Bonnaroo…the greatest land festival ever.
It was nothing short of perfect as we celebrated 10 years of the astonishing event.
One of my most cherished life accomplishments is being a part of the team for 9 years.
Here’s my history: Year one, I created the Bonnaroo compilation, a free 2-CD mix of many of the artists that played the fest. Superfly was apparently impressed with my ability to wrangle so many bands to opt in that they offered me an onsite position helping to run the Sonic Stage which was essentially an interview platform.
After a year of assisting in that role, they asked if I would run the department and book as many bands as I could. Sirius Radio sponsored the stage and I ended up booking it solid for 3 days and turned our little interview stage into a multi-entertainment area…essentially, performances became more frequent than straight up Q&As.
Year after year, I packed in the short 30-minute sets (with only 15 minute change-overs, mind you). Greats like Herbie Hancock, Buddy Guy, Rat Dog, Umphrey’s McGee, moe., Amos Lee, Bela Fleck, Bruce Hornsby, Jerry Douglas, Del McCoury, Blues Traveler, Ralph Stanley, Michael Franti, Medeski, Martin & Wood, Warren Haynes, Susan Tedeschi, Allan Toussaint, Brett Dennen, Broken Social Scene, Clutch & John Butler and MANY MANY MORE performed. Want to hear something cool? Not one band has ever gotten paid to play the Sonic Stage. It’s purely for the love of their fans and the ultimate love of music.
Every year, I say, “It was the best year on my stage!” And as I look back on the magnificent list of musicians who have graced the Sonic Stage, I can’t really say one was better than the other. But I will say that for Bonnaroo X, my 3 favorite artists of all time played: Bruce Hornsby, Amos Lee & Bela Fleck. It was actually Bela’s 4th year at the festival and 4th year on my stage. “I could never say no to Annabel,” he says. Are you kidding me? Someone PINCH ME!
So let’s start the photo recap…
Manchester, TN wasn’t even on the MAP before Bonnaroo. And since we visit every year, the town actually gets excited. Most of the locals truly appreciate the financial improvement while some, naturally, resent having 80,00o hippies take over their small and quiet town. The liquor store across from my hotel has the same sign EVERY year and I’ve always taken a shot of it in the day time but liked seeing it light up at night.