Bonnaroo 2009: Wrap-Up And Final Thoughts

Now that I’ve finally gotten over my Bonna-flu, here’s one last post to talk about what I took from this year’s shenanigans. The Bonnaroo guide book talked about the weird familiarity that Bonnaroo becomes after several years of attending, and that definitely struck me this year. The place now certainly feels “like going back to the neighborhood where you grew up as a kid”. But this installment still managed to be a unique experience from every other. Outside of the hurricanes Thursday night, I think this was the best weather this festival has ever seen, and I feel the constant cloud cover really helped the energy overall stay strong through the last night. The vibe is always fun at the ‘roo, but I felt like this year there was a little extra electricity in the air with the crowd. Having Radiohead on a lineup is pretty awesome, but I think in the end this year’s event will be most remembered for having the strongest top to bottom lineup.

I think you could find a rather large collection of music journalist/blogger types that would agree that Animal Collective‘s Merriweather Post Pavilion, Grizzly Bear‘s Veckatimest, Dirty ProjectorsBitte Orca, and St. Vincent‘s Actor are all legitimate contenders for album of the year and Bonnaroo showcased all four artists within a matter of hours. This lead me to ponder some things and I came up with a few observations. First, Brooklyn, New York is the undisputed new music mecca right now. Atlanta has some cool stuff going on, but Brooklyn is the center of the universe. Also, I think harmony, particularly vocal harmonies, is a musical concept that is going to be on a hott trend for the years to come. Complexity, nuance and classical notions of musicianship are also concepts that I believe to be on the upward swing right now in the direction indie pop music is taking. There are plenty of exceptions and even healthy pushback against these trends in this “any flavour you like” internet world, but there is a renaissance going on and Bonnaroo is one of the best places to get a real glimpse at it.

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Bonnaroo 2009: The Female Festival

***Note From The Editor: Our newest guest contributor, Hannah Palmer, decided to do a little something experimental in her Bonnaroo experience this year and share it with us. If you are one our many Atlanta readers, I highly suggest checking out her blog Slumptown, Ga. Enjoy:

The Experiment:

I’m always whining about the lack of women performers included at big festivals. I attended Bonnaroo in 2007 and 2008 and I think the only chicks I saw onstage were Cat Power and Feist.

As soon as I saw the 2009 Bonnaroo lineup it occured to me: this could be an All Girl Bonnaroo. It seemed possible to curate my own personal Lilith Fair, in part thanks to David Byrne‘s practically “all estrogen” stage. As I planned a 4-day itinerary including as many girlie acts as possible, I wondered… would this be really lame? would it feel one-sided and sexist? what difference do female performers make anyways?

Field Observations:

So apparently there’s no more day parking on Thursday. I found this out the hard way and spent the first few precious hours of Bonnaroo driving around Manchester backroads and waiting in lines while Atlanta darling Janelle Monae took the stage. We got to Centeroo in time to catch Those Darlins (from Murfreesboro, TN) in the nicely upgraded Troo Music Lounge. My spirits lifted at the sight of 3 honky tonk babes taking turns doing punky covers of Wanda Jackson while spitting beer on the crowd. Then the tornado warning rain started pelting us and I missed Chairlift (with Solange Knowles??) while trying to track down one of those free XBox ponchos. So I had a sorry first night– whether that was bad planning or overplanning, I don’t know.

St. Vincent

Friday restored my faith in girls with guitars with back-to-back scary-good performances by Kaki King and St. Vincent. From there, I found myself torn between some killer women performers – sacrificing the Yeah Yeah Yeahs for Santigold, Ani DiFranco for Lucinda Williams. As my friends split to see Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear, I felt somewhat relieved to have my little assignment, otherwise the decisions would’ve been even tougher.

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Bonnaroo 2009: Saturday & Sunday (Days 3 & 4): So Much To Roo, So Little Time

Saturday began with hot and sunny conditions, and after hanging at camp and doing some blogging, I went to go see Bon Iver. I arrived late so I couldn’t get inside the packed out This Tent, but listening to them from far away didn’t work out so well for me. The distance from a stage has a large affect on how one experiences a show, especially at a festival. Bon Iver has too many quiet parts for a huge, boisterous crowd and competing stages blasting bass, but the band did do a good set from what I could hear. He even did a Yo La Tengo cover, which was my favourite part of the show.

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Bonnaroo 2009: Friday (Day 2): Oh So Harmonious

Friday morning started with some nice cloud cover that made it easy to sleep in a little while. After hanging out at camp, I headed for the press area to work and sit through an orientation, and then I went to see some tunes. I caught the last half of Katzenjammer‘s set, and it was really good. The Norwegian 4-piece was comprised completely of ladies and they put on a damn good show. They would all be switching instruments between every song and had a striking sense of showmanship to match their musical prowess. At one point they did an a cappella number with everyone singing that was impressive, and this would seem to be the theme for most of the day: Stunning vocal harmonies.

After that I managed to get one person back from the front for Dirty Projectors on That Tent, and they totally brought it as per usual. I’m still blown away by the vocal tricks they employ. They opened with a slow jam in duet form, and then brought the rest of the band in for the second tune as they would continue changing their on-stage configuration for different sections of the show. They rocked some older jams this time in addition to all the best stuff from Bitte Orca. Pretty much everyone expected a David Byrne & Dirty Projectors team up on “Knotty Pine”, and when they closed with just that, the crowd went nuts.

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Bonnaroo 2009: Thursday (Day 1): Rocking Like A Hurricane

I left for Bonnaroo Wednesday and our large ATLien crew stayed at a motel in Chattanooga for the night to pregame. We drank Fat Tires by the pool in the afternoon and I got to bed much earlier than usual to get some rest for the ‘roo. Thursday I headed to the radio station where I had to pick up my press credentials. I ended up standing outside the building for over two hours before finally getting my pass and heading to the other line to wait for another two hours before getting parked inside the gate somewhere after two o’clock. I walked around the campgrounds taking in the scene as carloads of people were setting up their camps and exploring also. The rest of my group got in about the same time as I did, so I made my way to go camp with them. We then began the annual onslaught of beers and shots upon of arrival.

After becoming sufficiently intoxicated, I made my way to That Tent to see Portugal The Man. The tent was packed out full, so I had to watch the show from afar, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it. They played all of their hits all the way back to their first record. They were good when I saw them at the Drunken Unicorn a year or so ago, but I thought they much better this time.

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