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Live from Bonnaroo – various artists

Sanctuary Records 06076-84574-2

So, you don't have approximately 100 CDs to trade in order to pick up all
the music from all the artists who participated in the three-day (June
21-23)
jamband event known as the Bonnaroo Festival. Or maybe you were there and
wished that you weren't forced to make that the decision between spending
money for food versus some sort of souvenir of the event. Or, finally, you
just want to find out what all the fuss was about.

Then, "Live from Bonnaroo Music Festival" is for you.

From its CD insert to its sampling of the 50 artists that performed on
four different stages for 70,000 concertgoers last summer, Live from
Bonnaroo acts like a multimedia tour program. (A special edition not
only
features the music but includes a preview of the Bonnaroo DVD.)

As constructed, it succeeds. Going back to the insert, it relates, to a
small degree, the Bonnaroo experience, while the backstage band photos
contain a mix of mellow camaraderie and frivolity. Of course, the main
concern is the music. And while I do find it a little
surprising and odd that with more than 60 hours to choose from that the two
CDS are not stuffed to the digital maximum – the first disc clocks in at
58:53,
the second at 64:47.

But, what does work for the producers of this live set is the smooth
sense of flow from one act to the next, as well as the shifting moods
created
by the material. With the aid of
Dottie Peoples on vocals, Widespread Panic brings a religious fervor to the
opening number, "Tallboy". That feeling
can't help but be reinforced by Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Blind
Boys of Alabama and even Ben Harper.

Between those moments is a wealth of genre mixing, open defiance to the
mainstream and pure enjoyment that someone's out there taking it all in.
It's
also significant to point out the number of songs represented. Unlike the
stigmatized improvisation that often accompanies the jamband scene, lengthy
instrumental excursions
are kept to a minimum. Surely, the desire to feature a number of artists
caused this factor (ie. the fade out during moe.'s "Captain America") but
it, nonetheless, represents the fact that the wide spectrum of jamband
artists are able to write and perform fairly concise songs as well.

Just like Lollapalooza exposed the mainstream to the growth of
alternative music, Bonnaroo exhibited the sound of
bands jamming for a large audience. Hopefully, Bonnaroo 2003 will feature
another slate of giving
artists spurred on by enabling crowds. Otherwise, this set will end up as a
chronicle to a more innocent time before the scene was infiltrated by those
who didn't care about creative integrity and the unstated pact between
artist
and audience and, like alt-rock, the jamband movement will crumble upon
itself until it rises from the ashes years later as an underground movement
once again…

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