From The Friday Bonnaroo Beacon: Thursday Night Lights
To jam or not to jam, is that really the question anymore? Judging by Thursdays lineup of vetted indie rockers, heavy metal, Latin funk rock, ragged Americana, singer/songwriters and homebrewed New Orleans music, its a moot point. They all jammed, man.
I just want to do my part to desegregate the jamband community from the rest of everyone else, said MGMT guitarist James Richardson, sporting a ragged Grateful Dead t-shirt, Steal Your Face sweatband and quipping that the band had thought about doing an extended take of the Deads China Cat Sunflower. I feel like people should jam more. Big words coming from a band riding atop the indie rock wave but sure enough the band did just that, coupling extended atmospheric rock excursions with precise synth dance numbers like Electric Feel and Kids. Were a jambandwe just play really short songs, said lead singer and guitarist Ezra Hoenig of the evenings other marquee indie rock act, Vampire Weekend who lightly transposed African rhythms and pithy melodies over whimsical lyrics about Cape Cod.
David Jack, drummer for the trio The Big Sleep who buzzed alive the Troo Music Lounge with fuzzy, largely instrumental rock early in the day, concurs in a similar vein: I think over the last couple of years its gotten to a point where its taken more seriously as a summertime festival rather than just a hippie fest. You can say that again.
Fans got their first taste of heavy metal for the weekend thanks to a visceral, driving set by the Austin-based quartet, The Sword. A twin-guitar attack with bass and drums, the set was cathartic in its heaving energy, fists pumping, bodies floating aloft the crowd and heads banging in unison (drummer Trivett Wingos visions of hippies walking around with trash bags full of mushrooms quickly dispelled). It was a nice warm up for tonights set from Metallica.
UK singer/songwriter Newton Faulkner opened up That Tent, tapping, strumming and beating his way through the solo acoustic set which included a rollicking cover of Bohemian Rhapsody. Said Faulkner earlier of the festival dynamics like Bonnaroo, You either have to be really dedicated to the people you want to see and make sure nothing stops you from getting there or you just give up completely and go with the flow and see where you end up.
Perhaps you ended up seeing early 90s grunge veterans and Tennessee-natives Superdrag who offered a set of punchy numbers that saw lead singer and guitarist John Davs howling lyrics into the mic like his life depended on it. Looking out over This Tents crowd, he smiling remarked, I really think this is a Kodak moment before snapping a photo.
Or perhaps, after surrendering to the flow, you caught Grupo Fantasma, the 11-piece hyper-rhythmic Latin funk rock outfit thats been personally tapped by Prince for ongoing collaborations.
Or maybe you stumbled into Battles, an experimental quartet that delivered kinetic and assaulting music that proved hard-edged and angular, often crackling at the pace of a neon light on its way out. It was undoubtedly the most challenging music of the evening- and yes, it jammed- but that thousands hung in for deep exposure to such a sonic assault provided an unexpected sense of camaraderie.
And while you may have bounced between two cover bands whose music often transcends the label to deliver something more- Lez Zeppelin and Dark Star Orchestra- you might have paid the five dollars-for-charity to see the trio of Geroge Porter Jr., Brian Stoltz and Russell Batiste in the Somethin Else venue as they worked their way through covers and originals late into the night.
Meanwhile a number of artists like the Disco Biscuits and Umphreys McGee were seen onsite well before their sets, walking around the grounds and discussing what music they hoped to catch. Even Stoltz, who likely didnt get to bed till the wee hours of this morning, was as excited as any fan we met: I changed my flight so I could see The Raconteurs tomorrow. I wont miss that for nothing. Report by Josh Baron