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From the Bonnaroo Beacon: Freelance Whales, Ween, Futurebirds Look Back

Each day we’ve asked a few Bonnaroo artists to look back on their first Bonnaroo experiences. Here’s some reflections from a sampling of Thursday performers.

Freelance Whales’ Jacob Hyman
Bonnaroo Class: ’07

Freelance Whales drummer Jacob Hyman hadn’t met his future bandmates when he took a road trip to Bonnaroo three weeks after graduating from college in 2007. At the time, his primary project was the jam-funk group The East Harlem Shakedown, but Hyman attended the festival merely as a spectator. The baroque indie pop group Freelance Whales formed in 2008 and quickly emerged as one of the indie blog world’s most buzzed about bands. Though Freelance Whales are not strangers to the festival scene, Hyman will make his Bonnaroo debut as a performer today when Freelance Whales perform in That Tent at 5:30 p.m. today.

What bands drew you to the festival?

At the time, I was really into Tribe (STS9), and we were really excited for Tool and Wilco. Wilco wasn’t as big as they are now and A Ghost Is Born was the album of choice. We were also really excited for The Police and Kings of Leon but we were kind of disappointed.

Describe your craziest Bonnaroo experience as a fan.

It was Sunday—the last day of the festival—and [Widespread] Panic was on. We were having a lay in the grass on the lawn—everyone was really burnt out at that point. I got a call from my sister that her partner was in labor so we hauled ass out of there and to drive back to New York after being at Bonnaroo for 60 years or something. Two days later, she finally had the baby!

How does Bonnaroo compare to other festivals that Freelance Whales have played?

It still has the hippie spirit that the festival scene was founded in back in the day but Bonnaroo has been really crafty about balancing jambands with indie rock and all these other styles. I’d say it is the perfect balance of outdoor dirtiness and musical sophistication that is rarely achieved.

What was your quintessential Bonnaroo moment from years past?

Rodrigo Y Gabriela. I was blown away—I saw half of their set. They crushed.

What band would you most like to collaborate with at Bonnaroo this year?

Black Keys and Freelance Whales would be really cool.

Futurebirds’ Brannen Miles
Bonnaroo Classes: ‘03-‘05, ‘07

Futurebirds represent a new generation of Bonnaroo artists who grew up attending Bonnaroo as fans. Like many of his bandmates, Futurebirds bassist Brannen Miles traveled to Bonnaroo as a fan in high school and college—and those formative experiences seeing artists like Neil Young, Mike Gordon and Dr. John, no doubt shaped Futurebirds’ loose, modern form of Americana rock. After a few weeks on the road with Grace Potter & the Nocturnals as part of the Bonnaroo Buzz Tour, Miles and Futurebirds will make their Bonnaroo debut at 4:15 PM today in That Tent. The group will also make an encore appearance at 9:15 PM Friday on the Solar Stage.

What acts in particular drew you to the festival?

The whole idea of so many bands I love all in one weekend is what drew me in—especially Neil Young. Also Mike Gordon and Leo Kottke.

Describe your craziest Bonnaroo experience as a fan.

My craziest Bonnaroo moment would have to be when I was sleeping in my tent and a drunk guy stumbled and fell on top. I had to get out of the tent and help him get up and on his way.

How does Bonnaroo compare to other festivals that Futurebirds have played?

I’ve been to numerous festivals, but none as large as Bonnaroo. 10,000 Lakes Festival was the biggest—great headliners but overall no more than a handful of people I came to see. We’ve played a few smaller festivals like Harvest for Hope in St. Augustine, Fla.—great grounds and fun time, just not as well organized as the larger ones.

What was your quintessential Bonnaroo moment from years past?

SuperJam with Dr. John, Mike Gordon, Luther Dickinson and Stanton Moore was a major highlight one year [in 2003]. Also, Neil Young and Crazy Horse. I saw Alison Krauss there for the first time and fell in love…even deeper than before.

What band would you most like to collaborate with at Bonnaroo this year?

There are too many bands to list that I would like to collaborate with: Neil Young if you couldn’t guess by now, Grace Potter and the Noc’s, and Alison Krauss fo’ sho’.
Futurebirds were interviewed by Amy Jacques

Band of Changes/Ween’s Dave Dreiwitz
Bonnaroo Classes: ‘02, ‘04, ‘07, ‘10

Ween bassist Dave Dreiwitz is one of a handful of performers who played the inaugural Bonnaroo in 2002 to return for the festival’s 10th offering this year. In 2002, when jambands and roots-oriented acts topped Bonnaroo’s lineup, Ween was one of a few alternative acts to perform on the festival’s massive main stage. Dreiwitz and the rest of Ween have returned a few times over the years and even scored some of the festival’s coveted late night spots. This year Dreiwitz will perform at Bonnaroo as a member of Chris Harford and the Band of Changes. In addition to the bassist, the Band of Changes features another Bonnaroo regular, current Furthur drummer Joe Russo. Chris Harford and the Band of Changes will take the stage at 2:30 PM today in The On Tap Lounge and also make an appearance at 6:15 PM Saturday on the Sonic Stage.

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

This is gonna be a big mess… whose crazy idea was this? Why do they want Ween at this thing?

What were your initial impressions of Bonnaroo?

What a mess. But the food is pretty good. Who are all these people and how did they find out about this?

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

It was incredible to see Phil Lesh and Bob Weir play together for the first time in a while. Ween played right before them and we all watched from the side of the stage. That was heavy…

What do you remember most about your own performance?
Ween has the potential to really suck at big festivals …that day I thought we played really well. I remember thinking,

“There’s a lot of people here… where did they come from!!”

How does Bonnaroo compare with other festivals you’ve played?

To me Bonnaroo is so massive and really diverse…Ween doesn’t get to play festivals with Stevie Wonder and Kris Kristofferson often enough.

If you could collaborate with one Bonnaroo artist this year, who would it be?
Boosty Collins and DJ Logic.

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

Walking offstage and noticing the sky had turned black as it began to pour… I was thinking, “this only happens when you’re in the band Ween.” The second one was riding in a van with Ravi Coltrane and William Hung.

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