Friday, June 22, 2007


Manchester, TN
June 14-17, 2007

Out there in the hills of south-central Tennessee, you might not expect to find much more than a handful of small, conservative towns set amidst a vast rural expanse populated with rednecks and Republicans, along with the occasional farmer...and plenty of cops. Oh, and maybe some blazing summertime heat. If this is your preconceived notion, you'd be just about right on the money...except for a couple of little things.

For one, maybe just hearing the word "Tennessee" reminds you of...

That's right, we recently drove through the tiny town of...

...Lynchburg, Tennessee, home to the famous Jack Daniels distillery. Here tourists can take a tour of the original facility, and maybe eat at the local diner or spaghetti buffet with the old-timers that live here. (No, there's no McDonalds, or any other fast food, Mexican, Asian or whatever joints in town.)

Anyways, we did not come to south-central Tennessee to visit the Jack Daniels distillery. We were just passing through, on our 4-hour drive from Tupelo, about 20 minutes before we arrived at...

...Bonnaroo! (As always on this blog, click on the photo for a MUCH better look at the details.) The 21st century version of Woodstock (but much better organized), Bonnaroo has exploded onto the music scene in the past 5 years and has become one of the premier music festivals in the world. With 7 music stages, a comedy tent, and capacity of 80,000 people, this is definitely a big production.

The view of the campground is mind-boggling in itself!

Tents as far as you can see in both directions! These photos were taken from the top of the ferris wheel. (Yes, they have a ferris wheel!)

Here among the sea of tents you can see our little campsite with our green canopy and beige Toyota Avalon. Notice how they fly balloons over various parts of the campground. These indicate where you can find showers, running water and medical staff, in addition to the various food concessions and port-a-potties scattered throughout. The balloons also light up at night, and they're numbered so you can tell them apart and more easily find your way around through the mass of humanity.

Our little camp site. Unfortunately, we could not camp near our friends since we didn't arrive at the same time they did. We didn't spend a lot of time at the campsite, other than to sleep (and we didn't really do much of that, thanks to the late-night shows and scorching morning heat), since we were set up more than half a mile from the actual festival area. It WAS nice to be able to camp next to the car, to keep valuables locked up and batteries charged. We're thinking of shelling out the extra $$ for VIP next year so we don't have to walk so far.

Along the main avenue from our campsite to the festival were all kinds of vendors selling clothes, jewelry and food. There were plenty more inside the festival as well.

Carley buys a 100% organic hemp skirt.

Some of the food options were good, and some were horrible. This was by far our favorite spot for breakfast!

Some people even brought the music out to the campground!

A couple dozen cops patrolled the campground on horseback, but they were generally pretty mellow (other than not letting us camp with our friends because we arrived separately). They mostly stayed in the high-traffic areas, and we didn't see or hear of anyone getting arrested.

The long walk...on the horizon you can see the main stage inside the festival area.

Inside the festival area, there are all kinds of "tents" (canopies, really) with everything under the sun, including a disco, a massage area, and several lounges, in addition to the live music stages. (Again, this photo was taken from the ferris wheel.)

There was even a microbrew tent where you could chill and enjoy any of a variety of tasty ales.

All kinds of eye candy.

This fountain at the middle of the festival area ("Centeroo") was a popular attraction in the blazing heat. In this photo (click on it) you can see that by the 3rd day the water was actually turning brown from all of the hippies bathing in it!

And yes, as previously mentioned, there was even a ferris wheel.

We could not pass up the opportunity to take a ride late Saturday afternoon.

The guy from St. Louis who rode the ferris wheel with us. (Sorry bro, but we can't remember your name!)

One of the REALLY chill spots was the "Something Else" stage, a full-on, AIR-CONDITIONED, New York City-style jazz lounge - inside a TENT. This place was downright classy, with table-and-chair seating, little fake candles on the tables (no fire hazards allowed inside a tent!), groovy red lights dangling from the ceiling, and walls lined with framed photos of famous jazz musicians. Inside here it was easy to forget that you were at a summer outdoor music festival set up on a farm! We actually started off the festival here on Thursday night with a set from jazz saxophone legend Lou Donaldson, accompanied by Hammond B3 legend Dr. Lonnie Smith. The real reason we found the tent so quickly is because we were trying to catch the Stanton Moore Trio (the drummer for Galactic with friends Robert Walter on keys and Will Bernard on guitar - 3 of Rob's favorite musicians on the planet!) but by the time we got our camp set up and got in to the festival area, the line to get in the "Something Else" tent was too long and we missed the show. This place only held 310 people, and once the chairs were all taken, they wouldn't let anyone else in. So we stuck around for the Lou Donaldson set, which was after Stanton Moore and didn't suck. We liked the venue so much that we came back for another helping of cool jazz (Jacky Terrasson Trio - excellent pianist from Paris) during the peak heat of mid-Saturday afternoon.

Most of the "tent" stages looked more like this one, with capacity for more than 3000 people (standing) under the canopy. Here, British song-writer/guitar-slinger Richard Thompson rocks the house on Friday afternoon.

We got up close for one of Carley's favorite singers, Gillian Welch, along with her musical and romantic partner, guitarist David Rawlings. Gillian has a beautiful voice and writes some great songs, but even she acknowledged that her music was probably a little TOO mellow for standing packed in the heat at a place like Bonnaroo.

A highlight of Gillian Welch's set was a guest appearance from Led Zeppelin multi-instumentalist (bass, keys, mandolin) John Paul Jones! A little-known fact is that he's a big bluegrass fan. John Paul Jones also participated in the late-night Superjam with Ben Harper, and he sat in extensively with Gov't Mule, covering many Zeppelin songs throughout both sets. However we missed all that due to there being so much other good music going on at those times.

What's more, John Paul Jones was apparently wandering the campground, playing mandolin for random fans at their campsites!

This was the main stage (capacity: 80,000 people) where all the headliners played, such as The Police, Tool, Ben Harper and Widespread Panic. Late Friday afternoon here we caught The Roots, a great hip-hop band with positive, socially conscious lyrics, that makes excellent use of live instruments. If you look closely, you can see a tuba, trumpet, trombone and sax, in addition to a guitar, drumkit and bass. This turned out to our favorite set by a band we'd never seen before. Later on Friday evening at this stage, Tool played an excellent set of their complex, devastating prog-metal that Rob would like to have seen more of.

Unfortunately we never made it over to see The Police on Saturday evening, but we could hear it almost crystal clear at our campsite half a mile away! From what we could tell, it was a good set, souped up a bit and heavy on the hits. Having never seen them live, it was hard to compare to how they used to play before they broke up for the past 20+ years. Likewise we missed Widespread Panic (not that Carley was upset about this) because they played the last night of the festival and we were already back home by then.

The "Which" stage (yes, many of the stages were named after pronouns) was the 2nd biggest stage (capacity: 50,000) and was where String Cheese Incident and White Stripes played. On Friday evening we caught some of Manu Chao's set.

Manu Chao is a French-Spanish legend, getting his start in European punk bands in the mid-80s. Since starting his solo career, he has become enormously popular throughout Europe and Latin America with his blend of reggae with Latin rhythms and folk. Most of his lyrics are in Spanish, but some are in English and some in French. We heard quite a bit of his music while traveling and living in Central America, and we definitely enjoyed what we heard of his set.

Back on the main stage, we caught some of the Wild Magnolias Mardi Gras Indians from (where else?) New Orleans. In a very old and somewhat odd tradition, "tribes" of African-Americans dress up like Native Americans at Mardi Gras and parade through the streets playing party music. Of the various tribes, Wild Magnolias are the most renowned and probably the most fun, playing a very upbeat, high-octane musical style that is almost like funk on speed. (Not that we know what being on speed is's just that the music is faster than most funk!)

Always one of Rob's favorites (somewhat to the bewilderment of Carley), from New Hope, Pennsylvania, Ween put on an absolutely blistering set of their twisted, tongue-in-cheek, often cartoonish hard rock. Deaner was definitely feeling it from the get-go, and his solos were positively gnarly. (BROWN!) Here's what they played:

Exactly Where Im At
Golden Eel
Baby Bitch
Spinal Meningitis
Bananas & Blow
Take Me Away
Transdermal Celebration
Even If You Dont
Voodoo Lady
The Party
Buckingham Green
Happy Colored Marbles
Pork Roll Egg & Cheese
Waving My Dick In The Wind
Touch My Tooter
Ocean Man
Johnny On The Spot

Mr Richard Smoker
Booze Me Up & Get Me High
Fat Lenny

This little girl couldn't have been more than 6, but she seemed to be really enjoying the Ween show!

Despite all the great afternoon and evening shows (many of which we missed because there are so many stages!), the real reason we went to Bonnaroo was for the LATE-NIGHT (midnight to 3:30am) when our 2 favorite bands were playing on Friday (Sound Tribe Sector 9) and Saturday (Galactic). The STS9 show was excellent, but we don't have any photos of that one, so we'll move right along to...GALACTIC!! From New Orleans, this band has been at the top of the list for both of us for more than 7 years...and we didn't even meet until 4 years ago.

This particular show was actually a big departure for them, as they were collaborating for much of the show with over half a dozen MCs on hip-hop songs (usually they play instrumental funk-rock) promoting their upcoming new album which features all of these vocalists. In the photo above, Gift of Gab from hip-hop duo Blackalicious joins Galactic for a few songs.

Chali 2na (left) from Jurrasic 5 gets his turn at the mic. We're not sure who the guy on the right was.

At one point, everyone left the stage except saxophonist Ben Ellman and drummer Stanton Moore, and the duo played some experimental "electronica" with Ben on a sample/loop gadget. (Sorry, we're sure there is better terminology we could be using here, but we're a little out of our league.)

Half-Japanese and half-Italian, MC Lyrics Born had plenty to say.

Lyrics Born and his partner in crime Lateef The Truthspeaker lay it down for us.

Both of us agreed that our favorite MC was Boots Riley from The Coup, an excellent hip-hop band based in Oakland, California. Boots just has such a clever turn of phrase and delivery.

For the final encore (after 3am), they brought out all of the MCs to freestyle while the band vamped on Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir", funk-style. The dance party was going strong!!

And they bade us goodnight.

The crowd went wild!

Here's about how the show went down:

***MCs Lateef the Truth Speaker and Gift of Gab - 4 or 5 songs***
(12:00 - 12:20) (without Galactic)
***MC Gift of Gab with Galactic - 3 or 4 songs)***
Doublewide ->
***MC Chali 2na with Galactic - 3 or 4 songs*** (12:40 - 1:00)
Sunday Araq
Crazyhorse Mongoose
***MC Mr. Lif - 3 or 4 songs*** (1:12 - 1:30)
Garbage Truck
(Stanton & Ben electronica tune)
***MC Lyrics Born + Lateef with Galactic - 3 or 4 songs*** (1:40 - 2:00)
The Moil
Dump Truck
***MC Lateef with Galactic - 2 songs***
Little Miss Lover
***MC Lateef with Galactic - 2 songs***
Metermaid ->
Two Dots
Two Clowns ->
***MC Boots Riley with Galactic - 3 or 4 songs*** (2:45-3:00)

ENCORE: (3:05 - 3:20)
Bongo Joe ->
Kashmir (With all MCs)

All in all, Bonnaroo was the experience of a lifetime, and we are already making plans to go again next year!

PS According to Wikipedia, the term Bonnaroo comes from a Cajun slang expression that means "a really good time" (in French, "bon" is good and "rue" is street)

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