So after four days, six dozen bottles of water, nine applications of sunscreen, two major foot injuries, four excellent hot dogs, several lost hours pursuing wireless in a field, one wrecked Saturn Ion, and probably one free VIP beer too many, my 2007 Bonnaroo Music Festival has finally come to an end. And though it’s been a full day and a half since my flip-flops last touched Tennessee dirt, I can still hear the echoes of the best music this planet has to offer, ringing in my head. (Yes, Mom, I will buy those earplugs someday.)
It was my first trip to what I’d been calling “east-coast Coachella,” but I had such a good time, I’m inclined to flip that around. Coachella should be this pleasant an experience, a magical wonderland where the kids are sweet, the food terrific, and my press pass gets me out the back gate and to my hotel in a little under half an hour– the length of time it generally takes to move 100 yards in the gen-pop crush of the Indio desert. I tip my hat to the organizers at AC Entertainment and Superfly, as well as the frighteningly cheerful Ken Weinstein and his crackerjack staff at Big Hassle, especially Kate and Chris. I wish my job was always this easy, and this fun.
During my layover in Chicago last night, I was sitting behind a kid in a ‘Roo t-shirt that listed this year’s lineup on the back. According to my calcutions, I saw 43 of the close to 150 acts on the schedule, which is not bad, considering. After the jump, I winnow that down into my top 10 whatevers. [I tried to put pictures directly into this post, but a text-wrapping nightmare occurred, and after spending an hour trying to fix it, I’ve given up. Click the links. I’m sorry.]
And hey, PopWatchers: Were you in Manchester? How about posting your own favorites (or links to pics/vid) in the comments?
10. Bonnaroo’s policy of not really allowing people to come for just one day of the fest, resulting in 80,000 true music fans in attendance to see whatever bands the day brings instead of just cherry-picking their favorites and ruining perfectly good afternoon sets by hollering out requests for Chili Peppers songs. Thus did great, personable, up-and-coming bands like Sam Champion find an appreciative audience, and not once did I curse under my breath at a pack of teenage girls more interested in giggling and blowing bubbles than listening to the quiet ballad being performed 40 feet away from their turned backs. Also the fact that the crowd ranged from newborn babies (at Tool!) to older couples, from Woodstock refugees to shiny sophisticates. For diversity and purity of focus, Bonnaroo is simply unbeatable.
8. The majesty of glowsticks being thrown through the night sky above the heads of thousands of concertgoers like fake plastic fireworks, a concept taken to the ultimate extreme by Wayne Coyne and the Flaming Lips.
7. While we’re on the subject of Coyne & Co., for all the mocking I may do of his tendency to ramble between songs– “songs” being relative in this band’s live context as well, with many of them tapering off into random spurts of noise before disappearing altogether– when he pulled out his bugle and played “Taps” in honor of the men and women of our armed forces, it felt like all 80,000 of us were holding our breath, afraid to break the spell of that single trumpet’s mournful tribute. I’d kill for video of that. I’m looking at you, AT&T Blue Room. Don’t let me down.
6. The Superjam: Ben Harper, John Paul Jones, and ?uestlove. I like imagining they’re all friends in real life. Like maybe they have a summer share someplace in the Hamptons. Now there’s a reality show I’d watch.
5. That moment when the sun finally hits the trees, the breeze kicks up, and the sky starts to turn violet.
3. The following songs, in chronological order: Ryan Shaw, “Change Is Gonna Come”; Mute Math, “Typical”; The National, “Baby, We’ll Be Fine”; Rodrigo y Gabriela, “Stairway to Heaven”; Cold War Kids, “Hospital Beds”; Gillian Welch, “Revelator”; Dierks Bentley with Buddy Miller and Sam Bush, “Hole in My Head”; Tool, “Aenima”; Old Crow Medicine Show, “Wagon Wheel”; Regina Spektor, “Summer in the City”; Hold Steady, “First Night”; Spoon, “My Mathematical Mind”; Police, “Synchronicity II”; Mavis Staples, “For What It’s Worth”; Wilco, “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart”; Feist, every single damn minute of her set. To quote Demetri Martin, “I like the way she works with the crowd. That stuff about the harmony, and the birds? That was freakin’ awesome.”
2. Nearly being crushed to death in the White Stripes photo pit.
1. This, and all its friends.