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Live from Bonnaroo 2008

Superfly/A.C. Entertainment

Originally a souvenir for those who bought tickets to last year's Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, Live from Bonnaroo 2008 now receives its general release. And while it seems truncated by clocking in at a mere 96 minutes, rather than the two-disc Bonnaroo DVDs of the past, that will always be an unintentional consequence for any Bonnaroo document since it can only represent a tiny percentage of the four-day festival. Although they’re brief, the segues between each musical performance encapsulate the atmosphere with scenes of the crowds walking among the grounds and cooling off at the Centeroo fountain, a glimpse of the food booths, a visit to the interactive art exhibits, festivalgoers putting their campsite together, etc. However, as the performance schedule and number of stages has grown, it would have been nice to have represented any of the acts who played in the lounge tents, the Somethin’ Else New Orleans club, or the intimate Sonic Stage, which featured acoustic sets. It’s also surprising that this release doesn’t include such rarities as an acoustic Phil Lesh & Friends, a triumphant return from Levon Helm, anything from Soul Stew Revival, the Super Jam or Well, when you try to document a festival this large, you’re always going to be missing something.

The lineup here leans heavily on non-jamband acts such as Metallica, Mastodon, Against Me!, Pearl Jam, the Raconteurs, Tegan and Sara, and Broken Social Scene. Take your pick; it was either a miscalculated move away from the jamband scene or simply an
expansion of it. With so many fests popping up in 2008 that were pulling so many of the same artists, you couldn't blame the promoters for experimenting with their brand. Despite the fact that many of these artists are well known, there still remains an element of surprise when some of them appear onscreen. Metallica's main stage set became the most controversial inclusion, but I'll defend their presence by pointing out that the band did more to ingratiate themselves with the event than other more popular artists, such as The Police (all but Sting are forgiven) or even Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.

If there's one thing that Bonnaroo teaches us each year, it's that you enter the grounds with an open mind and allow the moment to embrace you. I relived the joy of the Avett Brothers, the power of the Raconteurs, the energy of Gogol Bordello, and the soulful greatness of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. As important as it is for the crowd to have a positive and open attitude, it's just as important for the artists to feel that way, too. And, as represented on Live from Bonnaroo 2008, it’s apparent that the musicians "get it." Following the uniting of band and audience during "Better Man," Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder comments on how overwhelmed he is by the community feel of the festival.

With the usual frustration of making a choice between one set over another behind me, I can finally catch the Lee Boys produce the type of inspirational moments that would get my seat in a pew, and I'm now so impressed by Two Gallants that I need to find out more about the duo. Oddly enough, the tracks by Metallica and My Morning Jacket properly showcased the acts' musicality, but I must admit a bit of disappointment because the theatrical side of each band was minimized.

Even with its faults and excluded musical acts, what Live from Bonnaroo does best is give you that itch to show up at the 700 acre farm in Manchester, Tennessee. Mission accomplished.

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