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Published: 2011/03/17

Back To Bonnaroo: Hey Hey, My My / Oh, The People You’ll See (2003)

Our Bonnaroo countdown series continues. Last week we presented an interview with Head of Visual Design Russ Bennett from 2002, this week we’re offering two feature stories from the 2003 edition of the Bonnaroo Beacon, the daily newspaper we create for the event.

“Hey Hey, My My” from the Saturday 2003 Bonnaroo Beacon
by Josh Baron

What stage? No That tent. This tent? No the Other tent

It didn’t matter what tent or stage you were at, the first official day of Bonnaroo 2003 was spectacular. It was quite Shakespearean actually as the weather seemed to be a reflection and indicator of the state of the human behavior, mood and spirit. With bright blue skies and temperatures in the 70s, the music began in earnest and didn’t stop till after 4am.

Kentucky natives My Morning Jacket were an early highlight, thrashing their long hair to meaty, guitar-driven jams. As people began to shuffle out, one attendee described their sound as, “a cross between Luna and KISS.” Yonder Mountain String Band packed Which Stage- its largest crowd all day- and ran through their various forms of grass with the help of Noam Pikelny on banjo who sat in for an absent Dave Johnston. At around 4pm, choices started getting tough: do you go with the gritty alt-country of Lucinda Williams or the minimalist futurism of Tortoise (not to mention Joshua Redman, Kid Koala and DJ Spooky)? Depending on whom you chose, you either saw band members constantly switching instruments or Emmylou Harris sit in for two songs. “Keller Williams, Bela Fleck and Ben Harper. Why do they put them all at the same time? Very upsetting,” said Kristin Marala from Florence, South Carolina. It was a common complaint- but one that would only be found at Bonnaroo. While the above three, all quite familiar to this crowd, pleased fans, it was veteran indie rockers Sonic Youth who really turned heads, many for the first time. “A bit more noisy than people wanted, but it makes sense
[for us to be here] because there’s a certain ensemble improvisation that gets to go on,” mused the band’s multi-instrumentalist Jim O’Rourke. Playing nearly two hours, the band ripped through an aggressive, distortion-heavy set that jammed as hard as any band billed.

Probably the most anticipated act of the weekend- particularly by fellow artists- Friday’s headliner Neil Young and Crazy Horse took the stage and proceeded over the next several hours to deliver on what they inherently promised. Only four songs in on “Hey Hey, My My,” Young’s signature lyric “rock and roll will never die” was met with an enormous wave of cheers as the statement resonated deeply at the sold-out festival and set the tone for the rest of an outstanding set. After running through several hours of material, including classics like “Down By The River,” “Cinnamon Girl” and “Like a Hurricane” and new material from his forthcoming album, Young bellowed a few “Bonaroos” and was quickly whisked away by a waiting motorcade of tour buses and state troopers.

With a brief respite, fans milled over to Centeroo to wait for late performances by The Funky Meters and Sound Tribe Sector 9 to begin as well as Stones’ and Doors’ cover bands. Soon enough, throngs were gyrating, dancing and slipping along to the various beats though unbeknownst to most, another beat was being made out in the campgrounds. Galactic, along with pal Charlie Hunter, helped propel a Mardi Gras-styled parade through the campgrounds and into Centeroo. As they rolled into Centeroo playing atop a native New Orleans float, they brought a large party with them, capitalizing on the energy that The Funky Meters had just relinquished after their encore. As the band quickly reconfigured for their “second set” atop the float, Charlie Hunter laughed, and with a smile said, “It’s late, I’m tired and I’m playing with my friends.” And that folks, is what Bonnaroo is all about.

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