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Back to Bonnaroo: My First Roo (Dave Schools, Joel Cummins, Joe Russo)

Each year our Bonnaroo Beacon newspaper runs a feature that shares some performers’ initial memories of past Bonnaroos. Here’s a look back at a few of those “My First Roos”...

Dave Schools at his first Bonnaroo, the first Bonnaroo

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DAVE SCHOOLS (2007)

What were your expectations prior to your first Bonnaroo trip?

I really didn’t know what to expect from such a daring experiment…I only hoped that it went off without a hitch and that everyone had a great time. I was really nervous about headlining two nights. I also knew it would be hot and humid.

What were your initial impressions when you arrived that first year?

One of the first things I heard upon arrival was Les Claypool invoking the word "BONNAROO" at the top of his lungs from the Main Stage. It kind of set a mood that lingered as long as I was there.

Describe the music that you found most moving or enjoyable at your first Bonnaroo?

Since I was playing with Gov’t Mule and rehearsing so much with the special guests (Dottie Peoples and Steve Winwood) for Panic, I didn’t really get to hear all that much. But I can tell you some great stuff went down in our rehearsal trailer that never made it to the stage that year.

What do you remember most about your own performance?

There was nothing more amazing than when we segued from "Tallboy" into the gospel tune "Testify" with Dottie Peoples and her People’s Choice Choir. I watched 80,000 music lovers literally levitate as Dottie channeled the spirit. "Summon the holy ghost," indeed! This moment was made all the more bittersweet watching Mikey [Houser] smiling the biggest smile I had ever seen while he played along. Of course having Steve Winwood sitting in on "Glad" and "Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" was another highlight that I will remember forever.

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JOEL CUMMINS (2006)

What were your expectations prior to your first trip to Bonnaroo?

We knew we were going to be in this huge festival and it was going to be bigger than anything we’d ever been a part of. I remember we really bugged our manager and booking agent every day: “Did you call them today to see if we can play?” When we finally got the invite, we were absolutely thrilled and we knew it would be a huge opportunity for us to play in front of a lot of new people.

What were your initial impressions when you arrived that first year?

The fact that we were able to play on the first dayat first we were nervous that people wouldn’t be there, yet. Everybody was so excited about being there. WOWI really hope I don’t lose the draw on where I sleep in the tent; I didn’t want the spot in the sun because it’s going to be really hot at 7AM. I lost. I found the Arcade Tent and got some refuge from the sun and got some Golden Tee in.

Describe the music that you found most moving or enjoyable at your first Bonnaroo?

It was great to see Ani DiFranco in a different environment. I’ve had some absolutely amazing Bonnaroo experiences. Also, Damien Rice and his cello player were absolutely unbelievable. There’s some music that when you hear it for the first time, you don’t need to know it. That was just a phenomenal stand out for me. Getting to see Taj Mahal was awesomethe joyful blues.

What do you remember most about your own performance?

Right in the middle of a crucial point, the power got knocked out. Somebody walking across the back of the stage knocked out a chord and didn’t realize that was the power. I remember trying to get anybody’s attention: “Come onget the power!” And I looked back at Mike [Mirro, former UM drummer] and Andy [Farag, UM percussionist] and said, “DRUMS! DRUMS! Keep that energy going!”

Looking back at your initial experience at the festival, what was your quintessential Bonnaroo moment?

Being able to walk around and take it all in. This was one of the early moments in our career when I felt really proud of us being a part of something. We might actually leave from this monumental event and people might know Umphrey’s McGee.

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JOE RUSSO (2007)

What were your expectations prior to your first Bonnaroo trip?

I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Marco and I [The Duo] had been touring like crazy that whole year. We played tons of festivals that summer, but I was really excited to be in a festival situation where it wasn’t just the same bands playing for the same people. I really couldn’t even have imagined the crowd we played for that first year with Mike [Gordon] and of course that was even blown away by our attendance last year playing with Mike and Trey.

What were your initial impressions when you arrived that first year?

Well, we were running late getting down there for our first set on Thursday at the VIP area so it was a bit hectic at first. As soon as we started playing, the energy was amazing and continued to be that way for the rest of my time there. It was great to see so many different people so excited for the weekend.

Describe the music that you found most moving or enjoyable at your first Bonnaroo?

Hmm, I gotta say I saw and enjoyed way more music last year at our second appearance, but I remember being blown away by the Mars Volta and Brazilian Girls as always that first year.

What do you remember most about your own performance?

It was loud!!!! I had never heard a crowd that loud before when we walked on stage. I also I had never sweat so much on stage in my life. I had to leave one of my favorite shirts backstage after the show because it was so soaked in sweat! Every one of my experiences at Bonnaroo have been absolutely amazing and I’m looking forward to
feeling that again this year.

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