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Published: 2005/07/07

Drag Bunts, Wooks and the Good Word: A Bonnaroo Diary

THURSDAY : Of Absinthe Fairies and Drag Bunts
5:45PM
An empty expanse of cow pasture slowly yet assuredly, is morphing into Tennessee's third largest city. Meanwhile, somewhere near Centeroo, the first major drum circle has been borne, significant enough in stature to drive Eric Cartman into a murderous fit of paranoid rage. Or vice versa. A large crowd of hippies dances spastically around the drummers, jerking and contorting their bodies in varying rhythmic coherency, a blast of sinister ritual voodoo which would suggest the sacrifice of something larger and more meaningful than dignity or trust fund. Middle-aged sunshine couples vault giggling into the air on a giant swing set, while others walk bewildered through the Sonic Forest, playing itself through 16 foot tall cylinders containing audio speakers, lights, and photo electric cells activated by passing fans. Though Bonnaroo has evolved musically past its fledging commune identity, the aesthetic remains touchingly and stubbornly irrevocable.

6:30PM
A trio of batting cages has been set up in the left corner of the main concert field courtesy of the MLB Roadshow, and shirtless, helmeted neo-bohemians stand in syrup-eyed expectance as festival staffers launch balls in their direction at speeds which must seem, in their viscous frame of reality, to be more than unreasonable, The wooks, broken in intervals by musclebound twenty-something ringers with close-shaven crew cuts and barbed wire tattoos, take effeminate pleading swings at the buzzing orange spheres and walk out grinning toothy self- effacing grins. "Jesus", I say to the director. "Isn't this dangerous?" "Nah", she smiles, " We've been here long enough to know all the signs". She stares into the closest cage, where a dreadlocked hipster, shoeless, nods solemnly at the staffer to begin the assault, only to wheel around abruptly, squaring himself to the machine and lay down 6 well placed bunts before trotting out of the cage clapping his hands. "What do you make of that?", I ask her. Who says hippies are selfish.

11:00 PM
Charlie Murphy, brother of Eddie, oftimes friend, oftimes lackey to Rick James, is offered a joint by a front row spectator as he works through a series of intellectual observations in the Comedy Tent, ranging from Rousseauean vexation ("It's like we came out of the jungle and got all technical and shit"), steroids in professional sports(" I think everyone should take them. I want my money's worth") to tips on how to cope with a nasty case of "ball collapse". " No thanks man", Murphy says, grinning down at his teenage fan. " I mean, I smoke and all, but I wouldn't be very funny". "I would mostly just stare at you."

"Yeah, just like that."

12:00 AM
Everyone, presumably, has their own individual absinthe fairy, with its own individual talents and agenda. Some, for example make articulate, well-constructed arguments advocating the virtue of a drunken late-night phone call. Les Claypool's, which has the initial advantage of having a cool name like Gabby La La, also plays the sitar, ukulele, Theremin, and toy piano under a collection of playful pop melodies sung with the eccentric, borderline creepy falsetto of a fairytale pixie or Gwen Stefani entourage member. In fairness, Claypool has done much more than I have to promote his fairy's career, so he's entitles to certain amenities, but in general, that's why Claypool is a successful musician and I'm a romantic failure.

Delivering a witching hour performance set to the anticipatory tension of the festival's nascent hours, the neon pigtailed, ruby slippered La La's toy piano tiptoes coyly over the sinister elasticity of Claypool's bass, morphing her child-like ditties into macabre soundscapes of juvenile acid-tinged dementia. "Backpack" finds her laying a groundwork with her ukulele, as a sprightly, radio-friendly tune floats carelessly above another cooking bass groove, while the looped sitar lines of "Be Careful What You Wish For" create a winding middle eastern hypnosis broken by the familiarity of the pig-masked Claypool's primal funk .The duo casts a pair of ghoulish elongated shadows in the pale crescent of the tent's spotlight.

FRIDAY : Fell in Love with a Girl
1:50PM
The press area at Bonnaroo , consisting of one trailer, a tent for conferences, and a small expanse of intermediate grass for schmoozing, name-dropping, and arguing with well-meaning production members over the intricacies of a universe of multicolored wristbands, laminates, and other miscellaneous credentials, is a kind of anguished Dantean limbo between festivalgoer and artist. Ominous vibrations abound, and an unnamable desperation hangs tangibly above a tangled mess of plastic, paper, industry sewage, and liberal freak-outs. Working suspiciously through the fray, Artist in Residence Herbie Hancock shoots the breeze with Headhunters lead guitarist John Mayer, while Matisyahu accepts a Jewish admirers lavish praise with complacent gratitude. Within the fits press conference, Saul Williams draws an unexpected comparison between George Bush and 50 cent. "You can take me to court, I'll kill you. That's what 50 cent says on his album and what does Bush say. That's what Republicanism is today, gangsterism." Simultaneously, reverberations of Joss Stone's soulful, sultry take on the White Stripes' punk-rock rager "Fell in Love With a Girl" invade the tent. Despite the fact that the performance is a good enough advertisement of the still teenage Stone's stage comfort, sex-appeal, and vocal virtuosity, somewhere Jack White isn't a happy man, but maybe that's a good thing, and, perhaps, so it goes in the great cyclical confusion of pop music. Ah America, immense beauty, tragic-comedy and sadness, always the same composite refracted through lenses of all shapes and sizes, and Bonnaroo no different.

2:59PM
As one fledgling diva struts her vocal histrionics on the opposite side of the festival, the decidedly low-key Allison Krauss takes the mainstage with her band Union Station wearing overalls and a floral knit shirt. Weaving throughout lilting harmonies and taut acoustic romps built around her flooringly beautiful tenor, Krauss's remarkably effortless delivery conjures all the force of Stone's melismatic fireworks, tempering it with a grace, command and authenticity that suits her romantic, brown-edged photographs of Americana. "That woman has won 17 Grammys", an overweight man sitting in the guest bleachers drawls laconically. He wears a hat that reads "Professional Sex Instructor". "That doesn't surprise me", the woman next to him replies flippantly. "She blows every other country/bluegrass singer I've ever heard out of the water." She's right. The two sit in silence listening to Krauss drift delicately through a take on Michael McDonald's "It Don't Matter Now", as a man sprints in front of them wearing a gold dress and Spartan Style helmet plumed with peacock feathers. Lowering his head and spreading his arms out to his sides, he, weaves an aeronautical, serpentine path in between droves of bewildered festivalgoers. "Duuude", Krauss jokes, " So I can't believe we're at Bonnaroo man."

4:24PM
With Krauss tying a ribbon on her set, Jurassic 5 has launched into their own party on Which Stage, offering a sing- along Birthday tune for a crew member beneath an almost tangible ceiling of mid-afternoon heat and a sea of pummeled beachballs. Beginning with the loping funk groove of the ensuing "Quality Control", the remaining set illuminates the pleasing vintage MC quality of their approach to hip hop, which largely discards any ideas of gangsterism, republican or otherwise. "I wanna see how far back you can hear me", shouts Chali 2na. "Raise your hands if you can hear me." He gazes deeply out over the vast expanse of the festivalground sprouted with extended arms.

"Whoa, man."

4:46PM Sidestage within That Tent, My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James nods deeply along with the signature gravelly monotone of country legend John Prine, seeming to contain within it all the road-weariness, dark humor and heartbreak that courses through the body of his lyrical work. Backed by his suited trio of Southern Gentleman, at times spry acoustic work belies his coarse, diffident moan, in others, the band gives way to the emotional weight and rustic wear of his songwriting. James, and the rest of the fixated tent, sing in unison along with a heartfelt rendition of the Prine classic "Angel from Montgomery" in celebration of the fact that the songsmith still possesses his verve, irreverence, and, thank god, venom. The set also finds Prine dusting off the classic "Your Flag Decal Won't get You into Heaven Anymore" for the first time in 25 years, an occasion which he dedicates to Bush, quipping: "it wasn't a formal request, but believe me, he's asking for it". Moments later a crack of lightning lights up the expanse of grey afternoon sky, ushering in a light downpour. "Well", Prine says, "I guess we got our answer."

5:15PM
If the character of Bonnaroo lies in the way its brash eclecticism manipulates and, at times obscures genre categorizations, then the defining moments occur between stages. During the mud-soaked trek from Prine to the mainstagers The Allman Brothers Band we stumble into a sound pocket where Prine's backing slide guitar melts with random inexplicable certainty into Jurassic 5's subterranean DJ work, a Carlos Santana collective musical subconscious clichome to suspicious fruition. One thinks to himself, "Knights of Columbus, I'm beginning to sound like a hippie", and ultimately, in festivals such as these, maybe this is how dignity begins to drift away unnoticed, a passing dream sacrificed through small moments of perceived profundity.

5:30PM
With the Dead dissolved into its individual parts and the usual line-up of dinosaur rock legends absent from the bill, the Allman Brothers Band has assumed the patriarchal position in the 2005 festival, taking the What Stage to juxtapose its still swinging jazz-rock interludes with gritty southern explosions built around rock's best combination of lead guitarists in prodigy Derek Trucks and the irrationally ubiquitous Warren Haynes. Trucks' guitar lines, screaming ethereal slide-driven pleas of emotive power entirely underplayed by his complete physical stillness, vault into the air only to be sucked back into a guttural growl by the collective gravity of the band's cohesion. Haynes sings the high end of Midnight Rider's classic harmony as if he were still a fan and not the band's fulcrum, and perhaps ultimately he's both. Showcasing the density of its sound as well as its sensitivity to absent friends, the band veers everywhere from its touching version of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" to a positively searing take on "Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad" that conjures up the vivacity of Duane Allman and Clapton's duelings on Layla, honoring the former while neatly summarizing the dichotomy of tradition and change that has allowed for the band's perpetual relevance.

6:45PM
Artist in Residence Herbie Hancock fulfills the first requirement of his position by sliding onto the Which Stage with his Headhunters 2005 ensemble. Hancock's keys skip with playfully feigned nonchalance over greasy jazz-funk jams decorated by frenetic trumpet lines and the kinetic full-bodied syncopation of Marcus Miller's bass. Ultimately, though, it's John Mayer's boiling leads that steal the show. Over the last year, the twenty something pop darling has taken steps to embrace his coruscating delta virtuosity through a variety of sideman positions, a working bluesman pathos that has had the inverse effect of launching him into a new stratosphere as a guitarist and musician. A Latin, percussion heavy jam veers into the jazz-rock realm of early Santana, broken by the urgency of Mayer's Slowhand fills and decorated by Hancock's scat-like retorts. The ensemble also provides a slinky, bass heavy take on Edgar Winter's Frankenstein. Whether Hancock, who looks taken aback when the crowd explodes in response to the driving lead, is aware of the tune's alternate status as a longtime Phish standby, isn't exactly clear

7:31PM
A tweaked out teenage hipster passes us wearing a red T-shirt, replete with Rainbow and smiley-face which reads: "I Hate Myself and Want to Die".

7:35PM
The phenomenal Benevento Russo Duo, assisted by Mike Gordon, delivers what is easily the festival's best non-stage performance. Welding the hyper-speed precision of Russo's drums to the booming syncopation of Gordon's signature low end bombs, the ensemble washes the two over with the immensity of Benevento's keys, which careen through a variegated sonic spectrum of cabaret delicacy, sweeping distorted guitar, and storms of chest-buzzing ambient haze. In Gordon's last official gig for the near-future with the temporary trio, the band bookends a collection of volatile originals with an impressive breeze through musical nods to the bassist, beginning with the Carnivalesque labyrinth of Phish's "Foam", expanding the controlled chaos of the twisting composition into a cross between a grueling rocker and a warp speed hoedown. With Benevento twisting his mike out into the photo pit, an appropriate closing rendition of the Gordon penned jam classic "Mike's Song" finds the ecstatic crowd eagerly accepting the sole responsibility of lead vocals. " That was great", we congratulate the twenty-four year old Benevento as we run into each other on the way out of the stage area. He grins. "Shit yeah it was great!"

8:30PM
Given his irrefutable role in advertising the virtue of live performance and their even more committed liberal agenda, one would think on some level that Dave Matthews would be heroes in what is often loosely defined jam community. Yet it's in that particular sphere that he's maligned, for his sensitive approach to songwriting, for his music videos, and for the band's mainstream appeal. Despite those attacks, which oscillate violently between fairness and campy idiotic pretense, Matthews continues to draw fans, pen substantial and crafted lyrics, and generally tickle the fancy of teenage trustafarian flower princesses around the world. More importantly, he remains a ferocious and commanding performer, and his Friday night headlining performance serves noticed to that fact.

Working through a Set built around Carter Beauford's always-impressive percussion and the alternating tremendous power and sly inebriated cheekiness of his vocals, the band manages to honor the romance of Matthews' songwriting while tempering it with the latent darkness that pervades his existential vignettes of death, insecurity and time torture. Contributing to that cause are all-purpose axemen Warren Haynes and Robert Randolph, the former emerging to inject the vocal timbre of his vaunted slide work into an extended jam out of "Jimi Thing", the latter to add the gospel cry of his lap pedal steel to "Louisiana Bayou." Randolph, who seems to increase assured status as a guitar legend with each performance, sticks around for the DMB standby closer "All Along the Watchtower, bringing a mostly dead cover back to abbreviated life, leaping onto the chair behind his lap pedal steel, jackknifing his body in half to elongate the howling lines he's laid above the band's smoking jam. The entirety of the crowd, some forgetting themselves, others screaming in rapturous vindication, chant Matthews' name in unison until the band re-emerges for a "Tripping Billies" encore.

12:00 AM: We encounter this advertisement in the _Bonnaroo Beacon_daily newsletter:
BONNAROOOOOOOOO!
They fall over. And someone takes a picture. And posts it at…... PASSED OUT WOOKIES.COM
Commemorating all those times you don’t remember having.

12:30 AM
The Brazilian Girls Didi Gutman, a cross between Grace Slick and a man eating disco diva , sways seductively on the stage of The Other Tent while delivering the catchy chorus "Pussy Pussy Pussy Marijuana" knowingly enough to work my associate into a quaking frenzy of lustful despair. Veiled in a near translucent white dress, which, infiltrated by the glare of the stage's spotlight frames the sultry silhouette of her figure within it, her long brown bangs fall haphazardly over her eyes, obscuring them into one erotic mystery. Thus, the singer strikes a neat centerpiece for the bands trancey dancehall electronica; exotic, transcultural soundcapes woven with a noir sensibility and ecstasy-binge sexuality. Twenty yards in front of her, a gargantuan seven foot Jesus puppet bobs pleasantly, warming up his legs for a promised onstage romp with My Morning Jacket. Singing the first half of the request in a machine gun burst and the second in a slow rising homage, Gutman throws her head back and spreads her arms, ebulliently accepting crowd's echoed response as well as the imperfections of the male gender, while a beer toting throng of fellow musicians gazes at her amorously.

1:00AM
Jim James, along with a familiar team of miscreants and a hundred or so miscellaneous hipsters that don't seem to be aware of his presence, dances spasmodically in a small tent near Centeroo. The small throng dips and rises, spins, clap appreciatively in rhythm as several test their best moves in the center of the bopping circle before bustling back into the fray. My associate and I provide both the dependable lawnmower and a well-received variation of the horse that has the added tweak of a dismount and bowlegged stroll. What we dancers hear, through the wireless headphones provided by the festival, is James Brown's "Make it Funky". What double-taking passers by witness is a crowd of ecstatic lunatics dancing synchronously to the sound of silence. Of course it's nothing the jam community hasn't seen before.

1:15AM
"Did Bo Bice just roll by on a Mardi Gras float singing Whole Lotta Love?", my associate asks. You bet your Carrie Underwood.

1:30 AM
Sidestage in That Tent, Robert Randolph sits patiently on an empty equipment case, the center of an impressive throng of artists, production members, media, and fans who have gathered for a buzzed set by prog-rockers The Mars Volta. Arriving fashionably and irritatingly late, the band sketches a series of multi-movement surrealist nightmares; abstract explosions of distortion, haunting falsetto vocal lines, and electronic noise barely held together at the seams by their impressive chops and cohesion. They don't, however, do enough to hold Randolph's attention, who disappears silently midway through the first epic number.

SATURDAY : The South Rises Again, Largely to Play Classic Rock Covers.

2:00PM
"God damn, God damn!" a massively overweight black man is shouting in the first row in front of "Which Stage", not about the rain, but about the Kings of Leon, ripping through clipped vignettes of their utterly visceral straight-ahead rock, hardened by a tattered garage authenticity and searing punk aggression . Providing one of the festival's most confident, committed sets, the three brothers and first cousin offer particularly vicious takes on "Spiral Staircase" and "Wasted Time", with the sneering haphazard drawl of Caleb Followill's vocal freakouts bustling over smoking locomotive stomps. Despite the band's obvious enjoyment of their new-found status as buzzed it-listers , their sound and rabid performances remain both primal and genuine.

3:20PM
"Soulshine" is indeed better than rain. Where many Christians clamor for the return of a Messiah- one that doesn't boogie down at late-night Brazilian Girls sets- most hippies would opt for Jerry Garcia. If the jam icon is in fact out there, the smart money says he's probably jam patriarch Warren Haynes, who, equally generous of his musical talents, also shares his malleability, virtuosity, stunningly encyclopedic command of the American songbook, and, most importantly, preternatural feel for a substantial tune, all re-directed away from Garcia's bluegrass obsession into the realm of guttural hard-boiled rock. It makes sense then that Gov't Mule, brought to life by Danny Louis's soulful keys, Matt Abts drums and the dropped anchor of Andy Hess's creeping basslines, should maintain such a perfect balance between their own sensibility and the classic rock tradition in which they unabashedly immerse themselves.. The Mule original "Lola Leave Your Light On", built on the hook of a raw Pagey riff, conjures early Zep, while brooding bruisers like "Slackjaw Jezebel" are juxtaposed against the weary empathy of Haynes ballads. Yet the unmistakable highlight of the set comes when the band works an instrumental nod to the absent Dead's "Terrapin Station" into a medley which sandwiches "Dear. Mr. Fantasy: within the Pearl Jam/Soundgarden collaboration "Hunger Strike", focused by the booming Southern command of a voice which seems to shore off all the posturing parts of whatever musical context it enters.

5:45PM
It could just be me, but despite the Black Crowe's recent reunion, Chris and Rich Robinson don't seem to enjoy each other's company much. Despite their somewhat awkward stage chemistry, as well as the juxtaposition of the younger brother's everyman vibe and the eldest's bottomless wardrobe of vintage clothing (Today's gem is his white alligator shoes) and even more expansive collection of vintage frontman rock maneuvers, (mostly veering between Jagger and Plant), the band offers a compelling enough run through the gospel fervor of their Stonesy, cavalier approach to Southern Rock. Highlighting the undeniable appeal of Robinson's pipes and Marc Ford's crackling leads, the temporarily reborn group follows Mule's lead with a touching treatment of Brokedown Palace".

12:00AM
The Panic encore "Come Together" unofficially sets a record for most classic rock covers within a two mile radius in a single day by bands not playing in close-proximity fraternity houses, and Trey Anastasio hasn't even staged yet. Ye Gads.

12:30AM
Trey Anastasio, grinning jam-rock guru, and Matisyahu, stone faced Hasidic reggae superstar, leap into the air in synchronous cadences, facing each other down as the Orthodox-garbed oxymoron spits the hot fire over a riff driven rocker. Whatever this is, Anastasio has clearly made his young collaborator's year, and with that outfit and this heat, he's certainly earned it.

"People don't come to see us get through all the sections perfectly", I remember a younger, seemingly more-inspired Anastasio telling Todd Phillips after a show in the Phish documentary "Bittersweet Motel." " I thought that was a pumping show. People were rocking. That's all I care about." The year was 2000, when things were simpler and Matthew Miller was just another Hasidic hippie following Phish around the country. Five years later, the same hyper-analysis that he placidly brushed off consumed the group and Anastasio, now as much a rock star icon as the scene has to offer, has been unwillingly stripped of the role that he always played the best, creative visionary and fearlessly brilliant guitarist of an underdog left-field band not receiving much attention and not necessarily looking for it either. Adored for his bottomless talent and resented for his central role in the dissolution of a great band eaten at the seams by road weariness and wounded by the double-edged sword of his self-brutalizing perfectionism, the guitarist always manages to satiate his much needed buzz fix one way or another. Even if tonight he needs squeeze it out of a "Panama" cover with Bo Bice or a much more beautiful take on the majestic closing suite of Abbey Road. I hear Foreigner's "Double Vision" has been begging for a re-interpretation. Still, there's something in his eyes that projects the same longing, frustration, and loneliness that pervaded the last days of Phish, seated uneasily on a jam throne he never wanted.

As a result, his band's shows- which, for many rabid Phish fans, veer agonizingly within the same instrumental ethos and at times, it seems, morph into recycled jams which seem a bit too familiar- has leaned heavily on the crutch of classic rock covers and guest appearances. Both those gimmicks reveal an uninspired void at the center of its sound, even if they are good covers and even better surprises.

Given that Anastasio's relentless desire to stretch and expand musical limitations is what made Phish the band it became, it's difficult to find fault with his mutability. After all, one must wonder how Zappa, his hero and creative corollary, would have handled things if the Mothers of Invention had suddenly become the biggest thing since sliced bread. Would he have stuck? I think not.

SUNDAY : "And We Heard the Word, and The Word Was Good"

2:30PM
If Phish, as Anastasio once commented, was a musical bastard child of the seventies, then it follows that Umphrey's McGee, dubbed heir to the throne, spin their jams out of an undeniably 80's subconscious, seeming to owe as much to the Vermonters as it does to Motley Crue. Pervaded by a whispering pop mentality betrayed by their sprightly frat-like vocals, the band navigates easily through twisting, circuitous compositions in which shimmering, finely timed dual-guitar attacks collapse into sly hair-metal explosions, highlighting a polished, buoyant quality in their tightrope jamming that ultimately makes them more akin to contemporaries like moe. Despite the band's impressive tautness of the band's more complex numbers, the most compelling moment comes in the form of "Making Flippy Floppy", which channels the busy funk groove of the Talking Heads staple as easily as guitarist Jake Cinninger eerily captures Byrne's shouting, psych-ward cadences.

3:15PM
Satiating the temporary community's desperate Dead jones, Bob Weir cleverly avoids the cover-craze by being Bob Weir. Sneaky. Bespectacled, as if in concession to his weathered veteran status, though perpetually spry, the guitarist leads his longtime band RatDog through series of Dead staples into swinging jams, including particularly deft renditions of "Bird Song", "Cassidy", and "Jack Straw".

5:30PM
It's Sunday Afternoon, and after a weekend of musical hedonism, both literal and figurative, the festival could desperately use some religion. What we get instead is the weekend's best performance from super-group "The Word", consisting of Randolph, keyboard master John Medeski and the North Mississippi Allstars. The genuinely joyous two hour sermon on the gospel-oriented Sacred Steel tradition coincides masterfully with the emergence of a descending sun out of its overcast haze, tingeing the clouds with an orange hue and dramatic Raphaelite charm. Randolph's wailing testaments soar over Medeski's loose-fingered gospel atmospheres and nimble, mercurial interludes, while the Allstars boil the spiritual fervor of the sound with a secular bluesy aggression.

In one moment the hyper-talented ensemble dances a guitar driven Amazing Grace melody over the sweat-filled juke joint soul of a rolling "Night Time is the Right Time" atmosphere, welding its evangelical ethos to a slow-dance sexuality. In the next, they channel the All Stars riff-driven hill country blues, pushing Dickinson's Snake Drive hook into another pedal steel sprint which gives way to Cody Dickinson's patented electric-washboard solo. Closing the set with a stomping instrumental on the bluegrass revival "I'll Fly Away," Randolph and Luther Dickinson trade licks as bassist Chris Chew, playfully fans the two down with a towel, showing what it really means to catch the Holy Ghost.

8:30PM
Widespread Panic has taken the stage in the second of their two headlining slots as the panoramic quilt of Bonnaroo's population, bobbing and swaying in multicolored seismic waves, spreads out in front of the mainstage under flying beach balls and the neon arcs of glowsticks slicing through a rain-purified blanket of nighttime sky. Transitioning easily between languidly drifting lulls and their patented breakneck tension and release jams, the critically under-appreciated band offers a guest-laden showcase their freewheeling brand of rock and roll, earthy in its Southern spine, fleshed out by it's dense dual percussion, darkened by a latent violence, and brought to life by their jam sensibility and democratic ethos. A gritty "Life Before Wartime" pervaded by Hermann and guest Herbie Hancock's clav-heavy sparring, is pushed into a chaos of syncopated rhythms, flaming guitar leads and anvil-heavy bass, woven with Parliament interludes. Bob Weir sits in for what he calls a "Howling Wolf Hat Trick", while the Dickinsons and Randolph join the frenzied party for the New Orleans ragers "Fishwater" and "Red Hot Mama", as an eight member, four guitar-virtuoso crew goes to town over the band's hurricane of bayou funk. In Bonnaroo's culminating moment, the easygoing Athens juggernaut show the Woodstock vets what it really means to burn a festival down.

4:55 AM, Monday
A small shaft of light, borne of a nearby Shell service station, peers inquisitively through the partially unshaded window of room 210 at Manchester's Ramada Inn. Slicing through the room, dark save for the artificial glare of a silver laptop computer, the beam illuminates a pair of shaking hands as demented as a Claypool bass episode, as well as seven empty cylindrical cans of Red Bull. The man to whom these hands are connected darts to the window and stares suspiciously out into the courtyard, searching for the source of the early morning chirping that has infiltrated a work of immense importance. Who, the man thinks, can work under these conditions and what would the World Wildlife Foundation have to say about such atrocities? What will the hotel have to say about the very true fact that just a few minutes prior to his first recognition of these genetically engineered pigeons, the air conditioner shorted out and caught fire, melting the plug into a black mass of unidentifiable rubber and steel, and nearly setting the entire goddamn establishment ablaze? Beneath him, a pathetic minefield of correspondents lie strewn across the hotel floor in various positions of contorted slumber, the nearest snoring ferociously through lungs tattered with second-hand smoke and a rapidly deteriorating nasal cavity, misfortunes which aren't helped by the horrific night terrors he's had since childhood. All the casualties of a wonderful kind of madness refracted through the lens of a grassroots music festival, perhaps one soon to be appropriated by MTV, and as the winding snake of wookies creeps slowly down Interstate 24 in an ill-fated attempt to beat traffic, one can't help but feel the twisted dementia of the country, with all of its republicans and gangsters, drug-toting Messiahs and lap pedal steel virtuosos, morph into a kind of absurd grace, one that infiltrates the quickened pace of the man's caffeine plagued heart. Damn all else, he thinks, because we may be the lumbering idiot of the world, but we can be. We invented rock and roll.

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