Live Review: Bonnaroo 2007

We took a 16 car envoy from Atlanta to the event. We had some issues keeping everyone together, but at the end of about a 4 hour wait to get in early Thursday afternoon, we somehow managed to get everyone at the same camp. After setting up in Camp Han Solo, we got to drinking pretty hard and exploring the campgrounds before heading to see the music of the night. Upon entering Centeroo, we were held up in an extremely slow moving line to get in through security. The security didn’t really seem to be checking people particularly hard, but they were very slow. Complaints about security would be a theme shared by many people over the weekend, but everyone in our entourage would only be minorly inconvenienced by it. I started out the night checking out the NBA Finals in the Cinema Tent, and then going to see The National. I have to say I thought they were downright awful. We stuck around for about half of it, and it got a big thumbs down from me. Next we watched Dubconscious in the Troo Music Lounge, which was pretty good but not really my bag. The best show of the night we caught would be Rodrigo y Gabriela. Really cool acoustic guitar stuff. On my way back to my camp to do more drinking, I checked out the Yard Dogs Road Show at the Bonna Rouge tent and I thought that was really interesting.

Friday started off with me checking out Tortoise. I thought this was a really solid set from them and enjoyed it a lot, especially them doing Seneca, my favourite tune of theirs, for the encore. This is one of the few sets that have already emerged on the torrents and you can download it here:

Tortoise 2007-06-15 Bonnaroo Music Festival. This Tent. (FLAC)

I stayed at the stage and managed to get front row for Hot Chip. This was one of my favourite shows of the weekend. They did really different renditions of stuff off of The Warning. I’m a big fan of organic dance music, and these guys are on top of that game. Some phlogs:

I briefly checked out the beginning of The Roots and then went to pregame for what would be the best show of the weekend, Tool. Unfortunately for me, I ended up getting too blotto and I blacked out halfway through the already legendary set complete with crazy visuals and a guest appearance jamout with Tom Morello. Hopefully one of the other Ohmpark folks who actually saw the entire thing will do a review for it later this week as I don’t really have much to offer except it blew my mind. After regaining consciousness later on in the night, I went to see DJ Shadow. He was good but was the same exact thing I had seen recently in Atlanta and it seemed to pale in comparison to the Tool show. Plus Lateef The Truthspeaker is horrible and I had to leave when he came on. I caught the STS9 encore before heading back to the campgrounds and staying up until sunrise.

Saturday day seemed to be a ton of mediocre shows for me. I bounced around from Dr. Dog, to The Slip, to Regina Spektor, to Gogol Bordello, to Damien Rice, to Fountains Of Wayne. None of them were bad, but none of them really drew me in. The Warren Haynes interview at the Sonic Stage was pretty cool as you got to listen to him talk about the history of him and the Allman Brothers Band and Gov’t Mule. After all of that though, it was time for Ween. I’ve seen these guys many times and have never really loved them hardcore, but for this show they just brought it, and the crowd for the show was going insane. I would have never expected it at the beginning of the weekend, but I think this ended up being my favourite show of the ‘roo. Saturday night we went to see The Police, like just about every single person at the festival, and it was a bit of a let down for me. I don’t know if maybe my expectations were too high or what, but it just seemed really underwhelming. I’m glad i got to see them, but I definitely wouldn’t go see them again. Late night, I opted to check out Girl Talk over the Flaming Lips extravaganza that most everyone else caught. The Girl Talk show was a great dance party with a stage full of random folks getting down. After that I saw some of the Gov’t Mule set, but my memory is pretty hazy at this point so I don’t have a lot to say about it. Although I did not go see them, the Sasha and Digweed set would be the only late night set of the weekend that would creep into dawn.

On Sunday, we went extremely early to catch the Flight Of The Conchords. The 2 hours sitting in the hot sun were a high price to pay, but I’m glad to have seen these guys. Demetri Martin opened for them in the Comedy Tent. He was ok, but he seemed to be trying out a lot of new stuff, and not all of it was that great. The FOTC took the stage, they did a set consisting of older tunes, a couple off of the first HBO episode, and a few I didn’t recognize. They were good, but it was hard to hear what they were saying at times, and the songs i didn’t already know didn’t seem as good to me as the others. They ended with a version of Albi the Racist Dragon featuring Demetri Martin on harmonica that was pretty cool.

After that i was off to catch the extremely jazzy Ratdog set. Always good stuff. Next up was The Decemberists show. I had been wanting to catch these guys forever and they were impressive. A heavy dose of The Crane Wife plus some other great gems. After that I went to see Wilco, and they did one of the best sets I’ve ever see them do. You can tell now that the nu-Wilco line-up has finally come into their own and they were on fire. If you get a chance to check them out tonight in the ATL, I highly recommend you do so. My final show of the weekend would be the White Stripes, who were good but seemed a little stale to me. They just seem to lacking something and i’m not sure what. Maybe it had to do with the extremely packed crowd and me being so far away, but it didn’t impress me. Check it out for yourself:

The White Stripes 2007-06-17 Bonnaroo Which Stage

Overall, 2007 ranked fairly low among the other years for me personally, but that’s not to say it wasn’t unbelievably awesome, because it always is. I think I’m still coughing up dust. I feel like despite the move away from the Jamband heavy line-ups of the early days, they still don’t have the quantity of this decades best artists that Coachella, Lollapalooza, and Pitchforkfest boast. The biggest change this year would be the absolute clamp down on non-official vendors and the banning of sales of glass pieces. i have to say I do not like this development and I believe it was the final nail in the coffin of this festival being significantly married to the Jamband community. I knew from the first year on that eventually Bonnaroo would either get shut down or get more controlled, and so I do not dismay as much as the Bonnaroo haters out there on the mainstreaming of the fest, but the old days are officially gone. On the bright side, I would not expect Bonnaroo to get much worse in this way and so if this is what Bonnaroo now is, then I have no problem with it and will continue to attend as long as they keep putting together great line-ups, but I’m gonna have to go check out another hippie fest once in a while to get that part of the experience that is almost completely gone at the ‘roo. Here’s some facts and figures from the weekend:

Ornette Coleman suffered a heat stroke while on stage.

One man died this year bringing the alltime Bonnaroo death count to 6.

The Coffee County Sheriffs reported 47 arrests over the weekend.

Bonnaroo grossed an estimated $17 million, breaking it’s own record from last year as the highest grossing festival in the world.

Setlists of the weekend are being compiled here.

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