Only by the grace of Dave did Bonnaroo finally wrap before midnight on its fourth and final day. Prone to play more than two or even three hours at a time, Dave Matthews Band capped the night off in an hour-fifty, shining the fest in Manchester, Tenn., off with his version of “Watchtower,” including the “Stairway to Heaven” solo.
Kris Kristofferson and Jamey Johnson: An onstage collaboration, at last
Thoughts on Weezer, Avett Brothers, Jack White and Dead Weather and more
For those that couldn’t make Bonnaroo and, in particular, headliner Jay-Z’s set, there was a YouTube stream of the main stage. But for those who made it, there must’ve been some electricity left in the air from the brief storm earlier, or Hov was really just that good.
Like Stevie Wonder, who went on a couple hours before him, Jay-Z marched out an inevitable hit parade, taking something like 70,000 attendees through his newer hits like “On to the Next One,” “Run This Town” and “D.O.A.”; to the club with “Big Pimpin’” and “Money in the Bank”; reminded them who they’re dealing with on “Interlude (My Name is Hov),” “Jigga What, Jigga Who”; took them to New York in “Empire State of Mind” featuring Roc Nation signee Bridget Kelly; the list goes on.
This festival isn’t exactly known for hip-hop, which left some Jay-Z lovers on YouTube and Twitter grumbling about white hippie kids and quipping, “What’s a Bonnaroo?” But regardless of the racial makeup of the crowd, it was in Full Active mode, throwing “diamonds” in the air, lighting up phones and glow sticks (glow sticks!) during “Young Forever,” and even helping Mr. All Black Everything sing to one special fan who, on the fly, was invited up on stage for her birthday.
[More thoughts after the jump...]
Rock-filled thoughts on The National, Tenacious D, LCD Soundsystem
A brief overview of Manchester, Tenn. in the second week of June
Mayer Hawthorne, NeedtoBreathe, Local Natives kick off sluggish Thursday
Bonnaroo is technically a four-day event, though the Thursday lineup differs from the proceeding dates on slate: Music really only gets started around 3 p.m. as opposed to noon, and goes until only about 1:30, whereas Friday/Saturday has a schedule through 4 a.m.
[Much more after the jump...]
'So Sleepy': so cute, featuring The Punch Brothers
As we previously reported, Fiona Apple has finally written some new music this year, and though it's the 826 LA non-profit that benefits from its sale, it is all of us who benefit from its dissemination.
"So Sleepy" is a co-write with frequent collaborator Jon Brion (and lyrics by kids from the program), but The Punch Brothers (bluegrass/string band project of former Nickel Creek-er Chris Thile) also make a prominent showing, with delicate orchestral and roots-tinged arrangements, deftly sweeping Apple's throaty alto up for the chorus.
She & Him, Edward Sharpe, comedy team Tim & Eric, Cold War Kids and others also recrafted the writing works of 826 LA's creative kids into honest-to-God songs for compilation "Chickens in Love," all streaming on the org's Facebook page.
Apple and Nickel Creek toured together in 2007 for the latter's farewell tour, and there's a mean rendition of her singing Ella classic "When I Get Low, I Get High" floating around out there.
Meanwhile, comedienne Margaret Cho invited Apple on to her forthcoming songs disc "Cho Dependent," out Aug. 24. Tegan and Sara, Andrew Bird, Brendan Benson, Rachael Yamagata, Grant Lee Phillips, Brion, Fiona Apple, Ben Lee and Ani DiFranco are apparently also included as guest contributors. Track "Hey Big Dog," written by Patty Griffin (!) and Cho, is performed with help from Lee and Apple.
For real. You can hear Cho get pretty with Grant Lee Phillips on "Eat Sh*t and Die," streaming on her website.
Kings of Leon, Dave Matthews Band, Conan O'Brien and more heading to Manchester, Tenn.: Hit or skip?
What Stage, Which Stage, This Tent, That Tent, The Other Tent and... Sonic Stage? Even if the organizers at Bonnaroo make their stages sound interchangeable, it's easy to know that that not all shows are created equal.
For the most part, fest-goers turned off by one headliner or another will have their choice to abstain and head somewhere/what/which else. Below is my take on the headliners, and reasons to skip or keep your feet planted where they are (with the prospect of mud helping you out).
Jay-Z (Saturday 11:30pm-1:30am): Hov's been hitting the road hard in the last few months, still promoting his "Blueprint 3" from last year. At this point, it's doubtful new material will crop up in his pretty set setlist, though the name of the game at Bonnaroo is on-stage collaborations: no telling who shows up. Wife Beyonce sang a little at Coachella earlier this year, though neither were on the scheduled slate of appearances. As far as hip-hop goes at 'Roo, B.o.B., Kid Cudi and Nas and Damian Marley are the only big names on hand, so it goes that Jay-Z may tackle a 30-ish-song set by his lonesome or with some very special imports. Heck, Stevie Wonder's playing only an hour before him...
Not your thing? Head to Dan Deacon 12:30-1:45. He proved to me last year he and his ensemble know what to do with a festival crowd.
Stevie Wonder (Saturday 8:30-10:30): Little Stevie's only 60, and it doesn't look like he's
disappearing from the road any time soon. That being said, this Manchester stop is his only U.S. date on slate, as he's heading overseas for a number of other festival appearances, but not here so much. There's rumblings he'll be collaborating with new friend Usher over in Glastonbury, and he's never been the against the idea of just anybody jumping on to "Superstition." As for premonition, I'm gonna say that he'll stick to the hits for his two hour set, and lay off the latter-day material he's leaned on for the more city performance arts festivals, the ilk, that I've seen him in.
And I hate to think that it's been about a year, but: Wonder's friend Michael Jackson passed last June. This might be a good time for him to be (tastefully) visiting the King of Pop's material.
Not your thing? Take your time walking back from Weezer or sitting tight on the same grounds to wait for Jay-Z, or head to the Budweiser "lounge" for Harper Simon, son of Paul, and have a beer.
Kings of Leon (Friday 9:30-11:30): These guys play the record, but I wouldn't put it past them to bust out some enjoyable covers or some Nashville-centered favorites, considering this is their homestate and all. Don't expect jumping around or calls and responses, but if you like "Sex on Fire" that much, you should stay put of those body-aching "ooohs." Plus, there's an almost-guarantee they'll be previewing "dark" new material.
Not your thing? Check out Michael Franti at 8pm, then stay put for prime real estate for the transcendent performance of "Dark Side of the Moon" by Flaming Lips featuring Star Death and White Dwarfs. Otherwise, you may want to watch Conan MC the in-betweens on the main stage then... "Robot Chicken?"
Tenacious D (Friday, 6:30-8): Seriously. Ronnie James Dio died. Aside from the gift of juvenile hilarity, the starpower of Jack Black and theatricality of a full band, Tenacious D owe, like, their lives to Dio. It will be the best memorial service you never went to.
Not your thing? Go see The National again for the 10th time. They just can't stop getting better and better, swear.
Dave Matthews Band (Sunday 9-11:30): Dave just started his 2010 tour after having made the announcement that, for the first time in 20 years, he's going to take a year off from the road (in 2011). That may put the band in an extra celebratory, fan-favoring mood, but more important for non-DMB fans, that means fanatic fans will be out in fine fan form. And Dave fans don't have the best reputation, at least among non-DMB fans. So if you don't like fire, stay out of the kitchen. Otherwise, consider "Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King" from 2009 is one of Dave Matthews Band's best in years, and as far as jams go, the group is very giving.
Not your thing? If you stuck it out 'til the end of this four-day fest, but don't like Dave Matthews Band... just go home. You look like crap.
A title I abhor, from a name I trust
Tortoise have been hard at work on the road in support of last years bright, challenging "Beacons of Ancestorship," out on Thrill Jockey.
But just to get you excited (or maybe turn you off), the Chicago-founded experimental post-rockers have offered up the 13-minute "Ice Ice Gravy," which was previously only available on the Japan release of "Ancestorship," as a bonus track.
It gets sludgy, goes ramblingly minimalist, breathes in and breathes out in 10 different movements.
Stream the whole thing here, by clicking on the link to the right.
It only costs $1 on FINA, which is Thrill Jockey's own download store, a feature I hadn't previously noticed from the indie label. For the "record," Broken Social Scene's "Forgiveness Rock Record" is up there too, a cent more than the regular online retail price of $9.99, though the moneys all going directly to the label instead.
Plus: J-Lo upstaged by Tom Cruise and... are we still really making 'Trapped in the Closet' jokes?
It was Movie Awards night on MTV, but the network still likes to front that it's Music Television Network and opted for some pretty tame choices for its traditional performers.
But Christina Aguilera is trying very, very hard to be anything but safe. The "Beautiful" singer was the marquee musical act at the 2010 popcorny honors, and played the field (as it were) as far as her choices of songs: she farmed out some minutes to the title track to her new "Bionic," then floundering "Not Myself Tonight" and "WooHoo," which should simply be rebranded as the Oral Sex Song.
She began her quick set sitting on a throne of red patent leather, she played up the android angle of her new album, quickly revealing that its her sexuality that keeps her human. With a stunning bejeweled bodice, body suit and hair tips from La Roux, Aguilera seared her way down some stairs and growled into "Bionic," a song that's just got too much going on, sonically. Still she started slow and got big with her dancers, who bent and humped and arched their way through "Not Myself."
Simulated sex, black lights, clothes that light up and the ambiance of a bass-heavy lane of the local Rock 'n' Bowl couldn't dampen the fact that, while she's changed her look and sound over the years, Aguilera is still a premiere vocalist. Even with some artificially gruff notes and the expected sex kittenry of holding a phallus-like mic to her mouth, she nailed her notes, made it a believable performance and not just a spectacle.
Still, the janky camera shots to the little heart that literally glowed from her crotch, the hokey adolescence of "WooHoo's" lyrics, the tired leather-themed styling, the ooo-la-la insinuation of girl on girl action (which officially jumped the lipstick lesbian shark when Madge smooched Britney all those years ago on the same network)... it was these series of missteps that derailed this naughty romp into bad camp territory.
A theme that J-Lo knows well. It's quite telling that the former Fly Girl and Billboard chart champ was upstaged by the elevated ridiculousness that is Tom Cruise's Grossman character. The fact that Ludacris was branded into that silly eyesore, too, indicates there's nothing Luda won't say no too if it earns him a buck. And it was entertaining. I'll admit it. I'm just glad Lopez didn't sing; my fragile, bitter heart can't take another "Louboutins."
Katy Perry's "California Gurls" roller-skated and beach balled all over this awkward-humor field day, a refreshingly pure sunny pop moment in between the shuffling feet of the Michael Cera and "Twilight" love-in. The blue-haired singer descended to the stage on a surf board as her backing, bikinis-on-top gurls swirled all over the happy ooncha-ooncha of the Hot 100-topping track, with Snoop the stage show's only source of testosterone. Since thrones seemed to be a running theme of this show, his Dogginess arrived on his, wearing an oversized tee and tube socks -- the latter trend one that my father can get behind.
It was sweet as it was impassably entertaining, although the teaser to her Candyland-themed music video for the song (posted below) makes me think all this cute winking is about to turn into a wet t-shirt contest with a lot of lollipops.
As for the other weird interstitial musical moments, I'm disappointed to learn we're still making R. Kelly "Trapped in the Closet" jokes (c'mon, Aziz) though heartened that in a board room somewhere, someone decided to dress Ed Helms up as a cloud and Ken Jeong in a tiger costume with the butt cut out. Recreating the weird improvised magic of the tiger song from "Hangover" seemed impossible on its face, but this was a kind remake.
Plus: New Shins music on the way, even if it is someone else's song
The co-option of cool! The Swell Season sellout! She & Him & the nerve! Oh, Nas is still doing what Nas does!
Once you're done with the usual grumblings of "branded" entertainment, do yourself a favor and download Dirty Projectors' cover of Bob Dylan's 1968 track "I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine," recorded as part of Levi's Pioneer Sessions. This series is where cool people cover classic songs, because Levi's are classic (and Coke is fun, cigarettes are cool, must eat brains, etc.).
The Dirty Projectors --who made No. 4 on my favorite albums last year with "Bitte Orca" -- have had a long history of covering Mr. Zimmerman; in fact, they broke my heart with their take on "Dark Eyes" early last year as part of an Aussie radio session [via Stereogum].
David Longstreth maintains many of Dylan's typical "uuughhhhn" sustained notes, while the ladies -- who normally steal the show -- hold down the fort with some soothing backups.
Sign your soul away on the Levi's website for a download, though try streaming this sucker first below.
In other Levi's Pioneer News: new music from The Shins coming soon. Color me interested.