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Artists Look Back at Bonnaroos Past (Gogol Bordello, Pretty Lights, Bela Fleck and Many More)

MY FIRST ROO

Musicians share their initial Bonnaroo experiences

These originally appeared in the Bonnaroo Beacon…

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Eugene Hutz, Gogol Bordello

Bonnaroo Classes: ’07, ’08

Few artists have made Bonnaroo their own like Gogol Bordello’s Eugene Hutz. After making his Bonnaroo debut in 2007, Hutz returned in 2008 to both play with Gogol Bordello and participate in the festival’s annual Superjam. The surprise late night jam session is one of Bonnaroo’s most memorable moments, bringing together the members of Gogol Bordello, Les Claypool and Metallica’s Kirk Hammett. Hutz has returned to Bonnaroo as a spectator in recent years, and this year he will not only perform at Bonnaroo with Gogol Bordello, but curate The Other Tent all Saturday. He also plans to DJ between sets on the stage, and will likely make a few surprise appearances throughout the day. Gogol Bordello will close The Other Tent with a set scheduled to begin at 2 AM.

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

Freak out!

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

Cops were un-visible, everybody got laid, we represented and partied, and we’re very excited to come back!

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

Manu Chao, including the backstage paella barbecue prepared by Manu afterwards.

What do you remember most about your own performance?

As soon as I saw the hottest girl in the audience, I proceeded to meet her during the first song…I went into the crowd. Naturally she also enjoyed paella…

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

It is really astonishingly rootsy feeling. It’s fuckin’ priceless, ‘cause the little bit of insight into organization that I have shows how hard it is to keep it that way. I think good peeps work super hard on this to keep it this way. Very big respect.

If you could collaborate with one Bonnaroo artist this year, who would it be?

Pedro Erazo! And Bassnectar is also bringing it these days—there is a lot of energy there.

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

Jamming with Les Claypool and Kirk Hammet at the super jam. That’s something to do on a Saturday afternoon, no?

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Pretty Lights

Bonnaroo Class: ’09

Pretty Lights was still playing post-show parties and modest festival slots when he made his Bonnaroo debut in The Other Tent in 2009. A few years later, Pretty Lights—the moniker of DJ/producer Derek Vincent Smith—has emerged as one of the electronic worlds biggest crossover stars. In some markets, Pretty Lights is even a festival headliner himself. Given his roots in four very different Bonnaroo styles—rock, electronica, jam, and hip hop—it is no surprise Pretty Lights is using his late night spot this year to debut both some new material and a new stage production. He hits the stage at 2:15 AM in That Tent.

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

I expected it to be the hot shit…and it was. That’s why I chose Bonnaroo 2011 to unveil/debut the new PL show. We’re going fucking big and it’s gonna be super duper next level fresh.

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

Holy crap it’s hot. I’m glad I’m not camping.

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

That was the first time I saw Phoenix. They’re dope.

What do you remember most about your own performance?

That there was 8000 people at it…

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

It’s massive and somehow awesomely organized. There’s nothing worse than a disorganized festival.

If you could collaborate with one Bonnaroo artist this year, who would it be?

How about 3: Atmosphere, Wiz, and Eminem.

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

When I was like “Oh shit, Bonnaroo has an air conditioned artist tent with wi-fi, an open bar, and an ice cream truck…”. That’s the moment I realized Bonnaroo was on another level than most American festivals.

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Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor:
Bonnaroo Classes: ‘02, ’05, ’07, ’10

Old Crow Medicine Show appeared at the very first Bonnaroo in 2002, and the band has steadily grown with the festival over the years. In addition to three previous Bonnaroo shows of their own, the members of OCMS backed Bonnaroo favorites David Rawlings and Gillian Welch as part of their David Rawlings Machine Project last year. While on site, the members of the group also took the opportunity to sit in with legendary songwriter John Prince and rising roots rockers Mumford & Sons. The latter collaboration undoubtedly helped to inspire this spring’s “Railroad Revival Tour” with Mumford & Sons and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros. Old Crow Medicine Show will return to Bonnaroo today for a 2 PM performance on the grand Which Stage.

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

Our expectations? That there must’ve been something pretty sweet waiting at the end of that ever-loving line of cars. The festival has always been something of a homecoming for us ever since we kicked off the first set of the festival back in ‘02. This will be OCMS’s fifth appearance in Manchester, TN, having performed at Bonnaroo in ‘05 & ‘07, and again in 2010 as the Dave Rawlings Machine in addition to making guest appearances with John Prine and Mumford & Sons.

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

Initial impressions? Driving past a hillbilly family eating a picnic inside one of those mosquito-netted gazebos out in front of their trailer—little kids eating watermelon, wide-eyed and staring at us rollin’ by at 9 AM. Welcome to Bonnaroo. I’d say we were very impressed.

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

Some of the best music at Bonnaroo is in the campground. Guitars twangin’. Djembes. Dudes with Oregon plates singing “Wagon Wheel.”

What do you remember most about your own performance?

I remember Willie singing the hell out of “Minglewood Blues.” “Don’t you never let no woman rule your mind.”

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

Bonnaroo rolls up all the other festivals across the land and lights ‘em up.

If you could collaborate with one Bonnaroo artist this year, who would it be?

Buffalo Springfield.

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

I don’t know, but you can bet we’ll be making a helluva wish when we blow out the candles on Bonnaroo ten. Welcome to Tennessee ya’ll!—have a rockin’ time. Be good to each other. Drink plenty of water. Don’t wear nothing complicated. Show some love out there in the dust. Steer clear of the horses. And watch out for the man, ‘cause he’s watching out after you.

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