The Bonnaroo Bump
Like many of you, I spent a few days in Manchester, Tennessee last week. The weather held up, as did the music. I had nary a doubt about the latter although I will admit I did receive a few emails leading up to the festival about how Bonnaroo had “jumped the shark.” In response let me just say that to my mind the phrase “jumped the shark” jumped the shark the moment it first left Pat O’Brien’s lips (on his infotaining TV show not his infotainted harassing voicemail). Then again you may well feel that the whole concept of suggesting that “’jumped the shark’ has jumped the shark” haswell…jumped the shark. Yes, yes, it’s quite all bit metacrit and inside baseball, which is why I think we should step back and rely on the visceral.
To my mind this year’s Bonnaroo very much realized the potential of what that festival can and should be. Yes, there are challenges and debilitating decisions to make with so many simultaneous performances (someone I know approached spontaneous combustion on Saturday afternoon when Beck, Les Claypool, MMW, Cypress Hill, Blues Traveler and the Disco Biscuits all appeared on various stages at the same time). Still the majesty of Bonnaroo (much like a event such as Glastonbury, Reading or the granddaddy of them all, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival) is that it offers one the opportunity for exploration (“See something new!”) even as it offers one the opportunity for exploration (“Revel in musical improvisation”). I hope that you made a point to light out for the territories and check out that band you’ve heard of but perhaps never actually heard before even as you gravitated towards the debut of the Anastasio-Benevento-Gordon-Russo Quartet (okay ,GRAB if you wish to rearrange in non-alphabetical order), Scofield with Phil Lesh & Friends, moe. and the Umphrey’s>Biscuits late night tent.
All of which brings me to the title of this column (and by the Bonnaroo Bump I am not referring to the tree stump which left me hanging last year at the fest). Instead, I am always intrigued to discover the group or groups who build on their performances and carry that momentum beyond the Coffee County borders (even as they become entwined with the DNA of the festival). It has happened to quite a few artists over the years, beginning with Robert Randolph and the Family band in 2002.
As for 2006, well I have some thoughts here although certainly time will tell (and I have to admit I couldn’t begin to hear or hear about everyone who performed this year). My personal picks though, include: The Cat Empire, Amadou & Mariam (I regret missing this set from the blind married couple more than any other), Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (or perhaps they are already beyond this point?), Brothers Past (who were given a beefy slot on Sunday’s Which Stage), Preservation Hall Jazz band (I hope) and Steel Train.
In a bit more insular Jambands.com / Bonnaroo Beacon category, I’d place writer Taylor Hill (following on the heels of Mike Greenhaus, defending champion for a few years running, who has long since established his status) and photographer Jon Bahr (who does so many others things, that sometimes I forget he shootsuntil I spot him in the Bonnaroo press trailer at 3AM, camera in hand).
What say you (on the musical side not the Beacon realm)? If you were at the festival send me an email and share your thoughts on this year’s Bonnaroo buzz.
Later days and peace,
P.S. As previously promised, more on Wetlands Preserved to come