Good start today, PopWatchers: I got right out and headed for the farm to catch my buddies Sam Champion in the Budweiser Troo Lounge. (See what happened there, Budweiser? Your marketing strategy worked!) I know the guys from an aborted Rogue Wave story I tried to write last year when S.C. were their openers; we all spent a night wrapped in rags and freezing to death in an unheated squat on the outskirts of St. Louis (a story you’ll have to just wait for the memoir to hear). Ran into guitarist Sean Sullivan at the RodGab show last night which just reminded me to get here early, and I’m glad I did — it’s a hot day, but not too humid, and there’s music coming out of every corner of the field, including the booth where they sell the bongos. Compared to yesterday’s parking nightmare, today was a breeze, and I’m looking forward to the afternoon bill (Gillian Welch! Dierks Bentley! Uh, Tool! TOOOOOL!!).
First, though, what I did with my “morning” (1 p.m. is “morning” if you were up all night): Cold War Kids (pictured), Tortoise, and the band named after a weatherman. Join me after the jump, won’t you?
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I’m enjoying Bonnaroo so far; if it’s not too cheesy to talk about, the “vibe,” such as it is, is really nice. In between the frisbees and the body-dyeing (really, people dyeing their entire bodies blue, or orange, which I can’t imagine is pleasant in this heat), there’s good crowd flow, a decent amount of shade, and a pleasant haze of pot smoke, which could be responsible for my good mood. I do not personally imbibe, but the second-hand smoke always makes me feel very crunchy and zen and at peace with the world. And look, anyone who yelled at me for making hippie generalizations about this festival really has no business being crabby about that. I started trying to count tie-dyed t-shirts the first day and gave up when I hit 23, because who’s got that kind of time? Perhaps thanks to this healthy, in-touch-with-the-earth consciousness, the food is better here than at Coachella, as is the variety of merchandise, and the odd sculptures scattered around the grounds seem happy instead of terrifying. I just wish the press tent was within earshot of any one of the stages so I could hear music while typing (although it’s air conditioned, so again, what am I complaining about?). I wrote part of this while waiting for Tortoise to come on, sandwiched between some recycling bins and a group of people including a journalist friend of mine, who was not typing on a laptop, and therefore I declare him a slacker. I was also stepped on twice during that time. Whee.
So Sam Champion cracked it open this morning, initially being drowned out by the crashings and smashings of RX Bandits across the way (hold the phone: is that a trombone?), but soon finding their melodic rock groove and getting the Troo Lounge loungers out of their chairs. (“Oh, it’s a rock show now!” yelped bassist Jack Dolgen with quite a bit of glee.) At least three people who’d just moseyed over asked me what band they were attending to — I swear I must have an information sign on my head, only visible to the intoxicated — and one dude, who’d been using my table as a place to rest his beer, hollered “Good show!” in my ear as he walked out of the tent. It was a good show, indeed, from the title track off their new album (“Heavenly Bender,” with a little ’60s flair!) to old faves like “Company Dance.” Sean, meanwhile, climbed all over the tiny stage like it was the Bowery Ballroom and this was his hometown crowd. I like to see bands taking advantage of the moment. Yeah, so you’re in the Budweiser tent at Bonnaroo and everyone is over watching the Cold War Kids. That don’t mean you shouldn’t kick ass.
Speaking of Cold War Kids, I did eventually head over there, and it seemed they were having some sound issues: I kept hearing that szzannng! noise of cables being kicked, and they were apologizing for something when I first arrived. Later, Matt Aviero could be seen hollering offstage from his kit; not sure what was happening because the place was packed, and I watched the back of people’s heads through characteristically atonal, rhythmically-deconstructed songs like “Passing the Hat” and “St. John.” Was happy to hear if not see “Hospital Beds,” but once a giant, car-sized beach ball landed on stage and thonked into a mic stand right before “God Make Up Your Mind,” I took off for Tortoise. (For the record, frontman Nathan Willett’s suggestions for bands to see this weekend: Dr. Dog and Elvis Perkins. I can definitely endorse the latter; am curious about the doc.)
And then, there they were, Tortoise, a band I tried desperately to like at one time because I thought it would make a guy I had a huge crush on like me better. (NEVER DO THAT, LADIES.) Somehow, I developed a fondness for David Pajo independent of this — because the boy I had the crush on never named me the band members of Tortoise, and I never asked, I did not associate the two — but he’s not in the band anymore, so that tangent is useless. Now it is the two Johns beating away on drumkits that face each other, like an art rock version of the Fabulous Baker Boys, and a backline of bass, keys, and guitar. I liked what I heard today. It suited the weather. Kind of sticky. I wish I could be more specific with regard to this band, but hey, I don,t know everything, and I,m here to discover/rediscover things, just like you.
All right. I see by the clock on my laptop it is nearing 3 p.m., and I am off to track down Dierks. I could stay in here for a press conference that involves David Cross and Lily Allen, but I fear that volatile combination and would sort of rather be hearing music. Somewhere to my right, I can hear the Brazilian Girls thrumming the crowd into happy submission. It sounds like a dance party. I want to be a part of it.
Here is what you should write about in the comments: Ever pretended to like a band for the sake of another’s love? And then realized you don’t know a damn thing about that band but maybe would have liked it, or could like it later, now that you’ve come across them on your own?