Deja Roo (Bonnaroo Beacon, Day 2)
By Benjy Eisen
Electric Eel Shock- photo by Jon Bahr
Ah, yes, I remember now. The hours of traffic, the hot Tennessee sun, the Southern hospitality at five years old, Bonnaroo has become more than just an annual summer festival; its now a tradition, an institution, and for tens of thousands of returning fans, a sort of homecoming.
Its hard not to think of this temporary (and transitory) oasis without an air of familiarity. The Centeroo fountain, the bobble heads, Planet Roo, This Tent, That Tent, This Patchwork Queen, That Lost Hippie. Out in the real world, these things dont always make sense, but here at Bonnaroo, they are part of the constant landscape. Unlike Phish festivals, which frequently moved location and always changed faces, Bonnaroo continues to build upon a solid foundation, which is good, because for those of us that return year after year, we already have our bearings straight and we can get knocked off course in other ways like musically, of course.
On Thursday, as people shook off hours in traffic, set up camp, reunited with old friends, and poked around the grounds, there was a feeling of intense anticipation. Not since the first Bonnaroo has the festival been so thrill-packed with talent people speculated as to whether or not there will be an American Idol cameo for the third year straight, if Travis Tritt will sit in with the Disco Biscuits, who will be Phils Friends, and who will be the masked musicians at the masquerade but if there was one word spoken more than any other on Thursday, it was Radiohead. Sure, people are psyched for Beck, people are thrilled for Oysterhead, people are flipping out over their favorite little indie or jamband being added to one of the second stages. But no single act has every festival attendee as singularly excited as Radiohead. News of the bands recent US theater run rippled throughout the campgrounds, from Camp Marty McFly to Camp Zoolander (show me Blue Steel!), as fans compared set lists and debated favorite albums (at press time, The Bends was heads-up with OK Computer).
But as the Tennessee sun set over Manchester in the evening, talk turned from future to present tense. Your MySpace Top 8 will now be your Bonnaroo Ten. The first time I was at Bonnaroo, says Gabby La La, there were elves, mice, and muskrats. This time, I see cats, tigers, and oh so many balloons.
Greetings From The Cat Empire- photo by John Patrick Gatta
So, for night one, Cat Empire brought their Aussie ska funk to That Tent while Dios (Malos) filled This Tent with druggie songs of summer. Late night, Disco Biscuits drummer Allen Aucoin sat in with old-school jam buddies Moonshine Still on four songs including Riddle is the Rhyme and Voices.
Disco Biscuits bassist, Marc Brownstein, watched from the wings. The first time we were at Bonnaroo was the first Bonnaroo and we havent been here since, he said. Something thats very different is that Bonnaroo has established itself historically as one of the great American pop festivals, and so its a little bit different coming here the first time having no idea what to expect, and then watch it play itself out and to be back here all these later watching this thing having grown into what it is, and being a part of itits just pure excitement.