My live review of Eminem at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival this past weekend, there was a question of if the veteran Detroit rapper could be the villain he aspires to be anymore, if his mainstream mega-hits of “Recovery” and the “ehhh” of “Relapse” made a dent in that perception.
Nashville, Tenn. – Neil Young stood talking about friends and pictures to a handful of reporters in the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Ford Theater yesterday. The oversized, black and white photographs were group portraits and individual shots of the International Harvesters, the country group with which he toured over 85 stops during 1984 and 1985. Some from that ensemble – like fiddler Rufus Thibodeaux and steel and slide guitarist Ben Keith, whom Young refered to multiple times as “my brother” – have passed. Others were actually in the room.
I am but one woman, so understand that there are time and space restrictions that kept me from attendance at every single one of Bonnaroo's hundreds of shows. But below are some quick hits on superlatives from the Manchester, Tenn., festival, celebrating its 10th anniversary.
Most popular: Ben Sollee. Dude played with My Morning Jacket, Justin Townes Earle, the Low Anthem, Nicole Atkins and even his own solo show.
Biggest pothead: Wavves. Sorry Wiz.
Most likely to succeed: The Head and the Heart. Why don't you have this self-titled debut yet? Everyone at the early tent set was singing along. Sub Pop scored big time with this folk-rock-popper-people. Check back soon for my interview with them.
Best early show you slept through: Alberta Cross. They did, however, have a short set later on Saturday, jerk.
Best late show you should've stayed up for: Ratatat.
Best collaboration: Superjam with Dan Auerbach and Dr. John.
[More after the jump...]
At Bonnaroo this year, at the last day of the fest, one of the hottest collaborations was public knowledge. The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach joined NOLA legend Dr. John in a slot on the schedule appropriately called Superjam. And it was better than super. It's what every festival should aspire to organize.
My Morning Jacket drummer Patrick Hallahan helped back the big band, which was aided by a pair of serious songbirds, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, a seasoned rock ensemble and an enormous back catalog of Dr. John tracks, blues and jazz standards and classic New Orleans sass.
It was a jam in the true sense that there was a general setlist and plenty of time for adjustment between songs, where Auerbach's high guitar volume level and John's sunglasses-cool presence were the only common denominators track-to-track. Smiles abounded, there was no required banter. The two stunned with a dual-take on "St. James Infirmary" and the good doctor took us back to the '60s with "I Walk on Guilded Splinters." A thousand hearts broke to the bluesy umph of "There's a Break In the Road" and the rompy scoundrel “Black John the Conqueror.”
There’s been a triad of music First Ladies, a series of trailblazers that have shaped the goosebumps on the skin of everyone’s sunburned arms at Bonnaroo. Friday brought the Queen of of Rockailly, Wanda Jackson, among one of my favorite Immaculate Noise interviewees. Last night brought my first full set sit-in, from country great Loretta Lynn. She wore a combination of Flashy Loretta and Down-Home Loretta, with a simple pant-suit with a bibbed, rhinestone shirt. Her petite frame was fragile against her male-dominated, inveterate band and she rarely strayed from her place on stage.
MANCHESTER, TENN. - Loud, banging explosives went off a couple of times during Eminem’s Saturday night set at Bonnaroo, the end-cap to particularly violent songs in his set list like “Kill You.” Red, flashy scenes of blazing matter and bombs glowed behind the rapper and his full band on screens, like early visions of doomsday. He defiantly claimed he “Won’t Back Down” to his rivals, and performed darkly in front of the burning house from “Love the Way You Lie.”
MANCHESTER, TENN. - -- Arcade Fire made its Bonnaroo debut last night (June 10), and frontman Win Butler seemed somewhat at home.
MANCHESTER, TENN -- Florence Welch smiled many, many times during her highly anticipated set at Bonnaroo. It often indicated thanks, and obviously she had a good time at that. But she also had a secret she was eager to reveal.
The Florence + The Machine singer alluded to her new album mid-set, and then launched into her new song. The refrain sounds like it may be called "feeling on the earth." It starts out with her outer-space, new age coo, then bumps into a minor-keyed rock swing beat, the synths humming into a chant-sing. The chorus then goes into "feeling..." and "singing on the Earth" repeated several times each, and banging into a full-soul verse and a breakdown and a dreamy, Christine McVie-like backing vocals and a third part that devolves into "ahs" and "dum-dums." A harpsicord synth pokes out until a crash finish.
[Edit: A Florence spokesperson has confirmed that the track was "Strangeness and Charm" and that it will be on the new album.]
A girl wearing an “Indian headdress” likely purchased at a costume shop lay dormant on the ground starting mid-Wavves, through the Knux and halfway through J. Cole. I happened to see her as I traveled from photo pit to photo pit at the big tents at Bonnaroo. Without lifting her sunglasses or moving, really, the girl’s limp fist raised from the ground into the air. “Fun!” she exclaimed, as her crew laughed around her.
Even on the half-day day one of the Manchester, Tenn., fest, there’s kids already whupped. It’s estimated to hover around 95 degrees every day for the four day fest, and a 30% chance for each. Even a sprinkle of showers could settle some dust that rises from the ground, creating what looks like fog but is really an unavoidable pitfall of events on a 80,000-person scale. You can taste the dirt, and revelers are without a puddle in sight in which to wallow, as per custom. There’s fountains and water slides opening up, and a considerable number of gentlemen in skimpy Speedos are starting to weigh out the amount of flesh that college girls permit themselves to bare.
Sleigh Bells may only have one full-length album and a half an EP to work from, but that doesn't bar them from providing main-stage, headliner-caliber performances time after time.
That's what they achieved last night at the opening of Bonnaroo, as vocalist Alexis Krauss and guitarist Derek E. Miller whirligigged around the stage like janky Chinatown wind-up toys. The duo took the stage only after a full blaring of Queen's "We Will Rock You," the opening strains of Fleetwood Mac's "Everywhere," segueing into a death metal track and into that wall of sound that's put the band on the map.