From The Bonnaroo Beacon: Lose Yourself
Eminem – photo by Dean Budnick
There’s a particular spirit that surrounds the grounds of Bonnaroo. It’s what makes a community out of this temporary city in Tennessee. And it’s what causes artists to understand that performing in front of these crowds is a much different experience than just any other scheduled date on a tour itinerary.
Some artists don’t get it—Sting during the Police’s headlining set in 2007 comes to mind. And then there are many, many more who do. This edition of Bonnaroo has found everyone balancing appreciation, fascination and determination to leave lasting memories. There were plenty of those throughout Saturday.
Altogether, the mixing and matching of styles came to represent the attitude of Bonnaroo in the best way possible. A
walk around Centeroo in the late afternoon brought about sonic pleasures in the reggae from Black Uhuru to the finely-crafted
bluegrass of Alison Krauss & Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas, a rare performance by Bruce Hornsby on dulcimer and on to rapper Chiddy Bang, the hard electric blues rock of Gary Cole Jr., the raw art rock of Deer Tick, the pop, rap and DJ work of Jovanotti.
The start of the day even represented the diverse and universal nature of Bonnaroo as Alberta Cross played its mix of roots and electric blues, Hanggai introduced listeners to Mongolian tradition crossed with rock, pop and bluegrass, Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens eased everyone into the day
while Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears’s funk and soul gave others a needed jolt.
Besides playing a late night set, Gogol Bordello treated fans to a threesong opening spot before Devotchka took the stage.
Band members also joined Devotchka onstage.
Funk sounds were heard in the shamefully underattended set by Motown master guitarist Dennis Coffey as well as from !!!’s
high energy set and the legendary Bootsy Collins taking the crowd to school with his brand.
It could even be heard in the hard hip-hop style of Eminem who prowled the What Stage as if he owned it. A year after Jay-Z
headlined in the same spot, the Detroit rapper acted as if he had something to prove, like a prizefighter whose knockout punch has been questioned. From the moment he entered the
stage Eminem was in attack mode. He immediately pinned the audience against the ropes and wouldn’t cut them any slack. It was a powerful performance and in the end he showed his appreciation for the crowd’s response.
That same feeling was expressed repeatedly by Neil Young during Buffalo Springfield’s set on the Which Stage. Apparently in love with the sound of the word ‘Bonnaroo’ he led the audience into a chant using it as well as breaking out the arm wave.
“This is the biggest stage this has ever done. Ten times bigger,” Young said near the end of the reunited band’s 90-minute set. Along with original members Stephen Stills and Richie Furay they performed material from the group’s three studio releases including “On the Way Home,” “Rock and Roll Woman,” “Mr. Soul” and “Broken Arrow” with an encore of Young’s “Keep On Rockin’ in the Free World.”
Young was having such a good time that postperformance
he hung out in the backstage area of Which Stage checking out a 1978 Cadillac Eldorado. Just like Eminem, the Black Keys not only have the musical power to fully fill up the What Stage but employed a gracious give-and-take with a Bonnaroo audience that has grown with the duo’s success. Members
Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney ascended from a
tent performance to the Which and then What
stages with the duo’s gutbusting blues power tunes such as “Howlin’ For You,” “Strange Times,” “Next Girl” and “Tighten Up.”
Zach Braff held a question and answer session following a screening of his film Garden State and he sounded as nice and sincere as one would wish him to be. In a response to when
his next directorial effort will surface, he explained about the difficulty of attracting interest in the Hollywood system and
how it led to him writing a play, “All New People,” which will be produced off- Broadway this summer.
As for who he was looking forward to seeing at Bonnaroo, he replied Mumford & Sons. More than 50,000 people agreed
with him as the Celtic rockers played to the largest daytime crowd at the Which Stage. Besides playing the quartet’s breakout tune “Little Lion Man” they also debuted new material
such as “Beneath My Feet” and were joined by Old Crow Medicine Show and Jerry Douglas for a rousing encore of “Amazing Grace.”
Also taking the Mumford performance were Bruce Hornsby, Ron Jeremy, David Archuleta and Neil Young’s son, Ben.
Another father/son combo came about when Bruce Hornsby introduced his twin sons to the Sonic Stage audience prior to
performing “Shadow Hand,” a song based on the boys having imaginary friends. Earlier he played a cover of “The Weight” on
The manic wonders of Man Man pulled some festivalgoers away from the Mumford performance with war-pained quintet knocking versions of “Piranas Club” and “Dark Arts” among others.
String Cheese Incident created a special midnight incident with an eyepopping light show, a human moth held aloft by massive helium-filled balloons, and a 30-foot inflatable dinosaur. And, of
course, there was the music, which linked to the festival
roots, as the group opened with a cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Tennesse Jed.”
Meanwhile the original Meters reunited over at That Tent, backing Dr. John on a performance of the Desitively Bonnaroo album that helped give the festival its name, even as Scissor
Sisters appeared at This Tent and Omar Souleyman performed at The Other Tent.
Indeed with so much going on and the rapid pace from stage to stage, it was quite easy for each festivalgoer, in the words of Eminem’s encore, to “Lose Yourself.” More such opportunities
loom on Sunday.