gorilla sleeps on mums back

In the words of Bob Marley, one good thing about music is when it hits you, you feel no pain. Bonnaroo, one of the largest eastern festivals in North America hosted more than 70 000+ people this year with headliners such as Bruce Springsteen, Beastie Boys and Phish. But really, these were just headliners and in my opinion, not the real headliners of the festival. With performers ranging from Of Montreal, the Decemberists, Animal Collective, and Grizzly Bear to Femi Kuti, PUBLIC ENEMY, Erykah Badu,and Murs, you could easily be a neutral fan of the Boss and Phish–or in my case, not a fan at all–and still have a fuckin’ awesome time. It was overwhelming as to how many people there were in comparison to festival sizes I’m used to like Coachella or Bumbershoot. The tent grounds were absolutely ridiculous, with over 10 massive camping sites–mine took over 20 minutes to walk to Centeroo.

Throughout the four days, I kept making comparisons with Coachella, I couldn’t help it. Coachella is a big festival with a small festival feel. The campgrounds are tinier, less people and less crowded. Free showers (Bonnaroo showers cost $7) and sinks and sanitizer outside of porta-potties. But Coachella is anal as hell. At Bonnaroo, you can bring in anything you want, as long as it’s not glass. And that includes drinks! Food! You could bring a skillet or a BBQ and cook your breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and late-night snacks if you wish. In terms of music, I still think that all other North American festivals just simply cannot beat Coachella’s great headliners and great diversity. Best of all, Coachella has an amazing electronic representation with the Sahara tent and I think now, the other festivals are starting to catch on and are beginning to add their versions of the Sahara tent. Bonnaroo mainly has bluegrassy, rock, folk, indie, and some hip hop but barely any reputable electronic or experimental acts. The same goes for Lolla and ACL as well.

But you know what? It’s not ALL about the music. It’s about the experience. And I think I know that’s where Bonnaroo beats all the other festivals and why 70 000 people come back every year. The people at Bonnaroo from the staff to the fans are so effin’ nice. Everywhere I went people were starting conversations with me not out of some unforseen or awkward obligation but out of genuine graciousness and curiosity. Random strangers offered me a drag and everyone had an awesome time together. Sure, lots of people go to festivals alone and festival connoisseurs push these people to go reasoning that they’d be with XX, 999 other friends. It’s generally not true with most fests but with Bonnaroo it really is. I met so many people that totally made my festival weekend, shout outs to Nathan, Nick, and Sean from Texas for good laughs about taking prunes, shits in the BBQ, fweee fweee fweee beeep booop and of course, sharing the weed. It was sweet. It’s the people at Bonnaroo that make the experience and the music comes somewhere along the way. That’s why I’ll come back. That’s why I’ll drive another 20 hours down from Montréal to Manchester—in one shot—for four days of mayhem, memories, and of course, music.

I recap my four days along with pics, MP3s, live footage, and awards for Bests after the jump!

Day One (Thursday): So Black and Blue.

atm-broo bonnaroo stage

Alright so 20 hours later, no hassle at the border, at the tolls (why doesn’t Canada have tolls?!?! Our roads are shiiiiiit), or in the lineup. We waited only ONE HOUR to get into the grounds and got a decent enough camp site called Skywalker. I met these parents from Chicago saying that they waited 10 hours from the highway to get into the grounds. So yeah, we were pretty lucky indeed. I wish the Bonnaroo stages had creative names like their campsites instead of This, That, Which, Other, and What tents. Death Star Stage would be pretty rad…no?

So we got there in time on Thursday night to catch a few acts. Thursday really really sucked. I have no idea why Thursday was so ridiculously sparse in terms of bands. I wanted to catch Passion Pit but the act before that was this Brooklyn based electronic pop group called Chairlift.

atm-broo chairlift, right before passion pit

Chairlift consists of Aaron Pfenning, Patrick Wimberly, and the main vocalist Caroline Polachek. I had no idea who they were but the tent was totally jamming to them and from what it seemed, had a very large fan base. They are fantastic live and Polachek’s voice is unbelievable. The band has really good symmetry and that got the crowd dancing up a storm. The song that struck me most was “Bruises” which is apparently a song that appeared in an ipod commercial. Another song of theirs, “Evident Utensil” was pretty popular as well, and also got remixed by the Juan Maclean, whom I adore. The remix isn’t bad. Check it out here and buy Chairlift’s work here!

MP3: Chairlift – Bruises

atm-broo passion pit; closed the night on thursday!

SLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEPY HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAADDDDDDDDDDDDDD!!!

Passion Pit Passion Pit Passion Pit. No need to introduce these guys. They are the Vampire Weekend of last year, bonafied, and blogafied. Live, Angelakos’ voice translates perfectly. You know when you listen to a Tegan and Sara and you just wouldn’t think their voices kept like that live? But they totally do? It’s the same deal with Angelakos. They closed out the night at midnight and played pretty much every song off of Manners except for my personal favorite, “Swimming in the Flood”. I was looking forward to hearing it. But it makes sense since Passion Pit didn’t drop the energy once. All their songs were upbeat, danceable, and outrageously fun. This band effin’ rocks and deserves the hype. DO BELIEVE THE HYPE.

Another thing that went really well this weekend was the weather. SO LUCKY. It was rainy and partly cloudly and not drastically sunny for most of the time. This night, it was practically a monsoon. After Passion Pit the crowds dispersed to their respective camps but it was raining so hard that every one got lost. Including myself. I was waiting, along with 5 other awesome dudes that were fucked out of their minds, under this tent for at least 20-30 minutes. Good times and good laughs. I finally found my way back feeling and looking as if I had just swam in the ocean with my clothes on. Lame beans.

Day Two (Friday): It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.

atm-broo devouts

I walked past these guys every single day. They were really persistent. I mean, they have every right to be there and to say what they’re saying. Bonnaroo is filled with hippies, junkies, music aficiandos, and everybody else…oh, and we’re always high. C’mon!

I started off with Gomez at the Which stage. Never heard of them before but they sounded pretty good in the shade under the bleachers, chillin’ chillin’. They’re an English rock band that got the Mercury Music Prize for their first album back in 1998. The only song that really caught my eyyyy—ear was a song from In Our Gun back from 2002. It sounds a lot better live than it does in this song, but it is still pretty cool so check it out!

MP3: Gomez – Ruff Stuff

atm-broo animal collective; on the Which stage, before YYY's

KEEP IT REAL KEEP IT REAL SHOUT OUUUUUUT! Animal Collective was definitely one of my highlights of this day. Of course they did “My Girls” and “Brothersport” from the acclaimed Merriweather Post Pavilion, which made fans extremely happy. But a lot of the time they stayed true to their roots, playing within the 45 minute set mostly long experimental droning lullabies. Within the entire set, I would say their fifteen minute plus rendition of “Fireworks” which is my all time favorite AC song, blew our minds and I’m sure, a few faces melted. There’s nothing like singing your heart out to this song:

And I can’t lift you up cause my mind is tired
It’s family beaches that I desire
A sacred night, where we’ll watch the fireworks
They frightened the babies and you know
they’ve got two
flashing eyes and they’re colored blind and they make me
feel
that I’m only all I see sometiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiimes.
Such heartfelt lyrics and the build up to this live is incredible. I wish I had recorded it or someone else had, but I think we were too immersed to grab our cams. This band really is everything that people are saying they are. I could list a list of adjectives and their synonyms but just grab their albums instead. Straight up.

atm-broo yyys 1; karen o comes out like a geisha!

I got an amazing spot for the YYY’s which followed Animal Collective. It was a no brainer to go see this band even though it conflicted with Santigold (who I saw in Montréal specifically because of this conflict) and Grizzly Bear. This band’s reputation live is no short of a lie and the star of the show is none other than Karen O. Adorning a geisha like top with yellow tiger patterned tights with two mismatched bedazzled gloves, Karen was constantly smiling and have fountains of fun. Sometimes so much that I think she was trying to hold back her smile so she didn’t break form.

atm-broo yyys 2

Throughout the show, she treated the mic with absolute reverence. Holding it like a golden chalice she’d raise it high in the air like in the photo and balancing herself and the mic from one stage to the other. A lot of the times she’d hold it in her mouth, no hands! I don’t know what she means by this but I think it doesn’t mean anything except for the fact that Karen tends to be outrageous on stage.

atm-broo yyys 3; notice how much fun karen o has...as well as the rest of the band?! such great live artists.

Brian was smiling the entire time of the set, sometimes looking like a total goof ball with his head drumming back and forth with a quirky smile on his face. And Nick, well he’s just super cool. And I think, because there were some sound issues, he was a bit angry about the imperfection on stage but Karen O told us to tell him that we loved him, and we did. So we carried on amidst the sound problems and did an acoustic version of “Maps” instead, which was simply amazing ’cause the entire crowd sang along and

lay off
don’t stray
well, my kind’s your kind
I’ll stay the same!
Pack up
Don’t stray
Oh say, say, say
Oh say, say, say!

wait, they don’t love you like I love you
wait, they don’t love you like I love you
maaaAAAAaaaAAAaaaAAAaaAAps
wait! They don’t love you like I love you…..

could be heard all across the grounds and was truly one of the best songs of the day.

atm-broo yyys 4; put your leather on!

Of course they did other hits like “Zero”, “Y Control”, and closed the night with “Date With the Night”! At the very end Karen decides to have some more fun and tells us that they’ve never broke anything on stage before, and so she swings the microphone round and round like a windmill and hits the floor as Brian makes the drumbeats. Such a great show and the set list couldn’t have been any better. Put your leather on!

So I ran over to the main stage to watch the one and only, Al Green. What a man, what a man. Handing out roses throughout the show, dressed in a black dress shirt and red vest, Mr. Reverend Al Green was a total ladies man. The man, along with Prince, whose music made a lot of babies. A lot of babies. His voice is unfaltering live, flawlessly hitting those high notes one after the other. Of course, I was particularly looking forward to his performance of my all time favorite Al Green song, “Let’s Stay Together” as well as “Tired of Being Alone”. I was in a ridiculously slow moving lineup to refill my water at this time and when the former song came on, I started dancing and singing as loud as I could and suddenly stopped, noticing that everyone around me wasn’t doing the same. The peeps surrounding me were roughly my age I would say, and yes, Al Green is old school, but c’mon! How can the  youth of today not know of the classics that were starting roots for what rhythm and blues and soul are today? So, I said fuck it to the long water line and lost my spot to run as fast as I could deep into the crowd where I was surrounded by the masses singing on the top of their lungs. As I was singing along I couldn’t help but feel so inspired and filled with emotion to see a legend on stage performing as wonderfully as he did twenty and even thirty years ago, still smiling and so full of love? It was a  magical set.

Shortly after Al Green were the Beastie Boys who played for about 2+ hours. Most people I spoke to thought their set was alright. I thought they did an OK job too. For dudes that have been around for more than twenty years, they’ve still got it. Always riling up the crowd, WHAT THE FUCK IS UP BONNAROO?!?! They catered to the newer fans with their hits from the past decade like “Sabotage”, “Intergalactic” and old school Paul’s Boutique hit, “Shake Your Rump”. But most of the time, they stayed true to their punk jamming roots. Playing some songs from metal, to rock, to just straight up jamming. They played a really well rounded set and for most people at the What stage, I think this is why some were disappointed because they didn’t “cater” to the hip hop crowd per se. What errrbody liked though, was the fact that mothereffin’ NAS cam on stage! YEEAAA BOI! And they did a new song that Beasties will have featured on their upcoming album Hot Sauce Committee. You can watch an OK quality video of it below. All in all, a pretty decent show but defs not even close to the top 10 of the festival.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Right after Beastie Boys I had about an hour and half to chill out. FINALLY. I grabbed some Polish Sausage (that’s what she said) for about six bucks, which is IMO the best Centeroo deal. Yes pizza was $5 but it just isn’t filling. I parked myself next to David Byrne’s set and from what I heard from others, it was one of the best shows of the festival. I was fortunate enough to catch him to see his encore where he played my favorite Talking Heads song, “Burning Down the House”.

atm-broo phoenix

Anyways, Phoenix was playing next and TBH, the crowd when I got there compared to when I left was quadrupled! I’ve been such a massive fan of Phoenix for so long. I’ve been waiting to see them come to North America for a long time and actually do a pretty extensive tour and they finally have with their latest album Wolfgang getting a lot more mainstream play. They started off the set with “Lisztomania” and got the crowd really pumped up. Phoenix are so incredible live and Thomas Mars’ vocals do not let off as he screams his way into “Long Distance Call”, “Consolation Prizes”, and “Napolean Says”. It was apparent, though, that most of the crowd weren’t old school Phoenix fans at all, when oldies like “Too Young” and “Run, Run, Run” played and I and a few others around me applaused to no end. A lot of them were new school fans, when songs like “Girlfriend” and “Lasso” off of WAP the crowd went nuts. WHERE WOULD YOU GO WHERE WOULD YOU GO!!!! I’ve never heard a tent so freakin’ loud in all of festivaldom. Next to Of Montreal, the Phoenix tent  burn my ears and any moment longer I’m sure blood would have started to dribble out. They closed the tent with “1901” and in the middle of it, they made a transition into “Love Like A Sunset” and a bit more electronic drabble. The song became more and more intense as the synths grew louder in strength and before we knew it Thomas Mars’ made a circle back to the end of “1901”: FALLING FALLING FALLING FALLING!!! So epic. So, fucking, epic. The guy beside me was like, “these guys are AMAZING live”. And I think that’s an understatement. I don’t have an adjective for how incredible those 45 minutes felt. Funny thing, I went to see Phoenix again two days later when I got back to Montréal at La Tulipe. A concert review to follow.

atm-broo public enemy 03; fight the power!

YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA BOI!
GO CHUCK D GO CHUCK D GO!
GO PUBLIC ENEMY GO PUBLIC ENEMY GO!
GO FLAVA FLAV GO FLAVA FLAV GO!

atm-broo public enemy 01

After Phoenix, I bolted over to the other stage where Public Enemy were gonna perform the most legendary set ever. As I’m sure y’all all know, this is THE reason why I came to Bonnaroo. Chuck D and Flava performed for the second last time in history (the last will be at the Roots Picnic in Philly), one of the most influential albums of all time, It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back from FRONT TO BACK.

SHE WATCHES CHANNEL ZERO.

atm-broo public enemy 02

After the last song off of it Takes A Nation they had more for us, playing nearly all of their PE hits. Chuck D teases Flava a little about his whole MTV thing, but said that Flava’s still got it, and he assured us of his respect for Flava despite all the lame stuff he’s done in the past. And I think after that, we set aside all the House of Love MTV shit too, ’cause Flava went into “911 Is A Joke” and the crowd went into yet another frenzy. They played “Terrordome” and closed the night with “Fight the Power”. It was the last song of the night and never, never never never, have I felt such electricity in a tent. People were drenched in sweat and wide eyed from rapping all the lyrics and jumping to the hard ass beats delivered by DJ Lord.

Throughout the show, Chuck D would be giving speeches about politics, the government, and how fucked up our world is. His words reflect why Public Enemy are such an influential group in the first place, politicized rap gave people guidance and something to believe in when the people who are supposed to look after you, the gov’t, don’t give a shit about you. Not to mention, the people around you, react negatively, causing adversity rather than humanity. Minority groups, especially blacks (and I’m not going to say African American because I think this is a more repressive form of labelling), really related to this. Public Enemy provided people with a community, where we, like the first photo, can raise our fists together in rebellion together, for peace and togetherness, to fight the powers that be, to fight for our right to fight! Chuck D references other greats during his speeches, saying how Bob Dylan taught us this, Beastie Boys, and Grandmaster Flash. Chuck D said that Public Enemy taught us this, and will continue teaching us.

atm-public enemy 04 peace and togetherness

But the night wasn’t over, at least not for Flava. He comes out and says to us, y’all know I can rap, I can play the drums (and begins playing a sick beat on the drums), but I bet y’all didn’t know I could sing! He says he has a new single out that you can get on itunes. So go check that out. Shortly after that shameless plug, he gets us to chant for the 50th time, FUCK RACISM. He tells us to make a peace sign and then tells us to put our hands in a fist, for togetherness. Peace and togetherness is power, is what he says. And that’s when the show ended. If I never see a show again in my life, I think I’d be happy having memories from this one. It was absolutely epic in every way, from the delivery of the songs, the participation in the crowd, the rowdy dancing and the YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE BOIs! There’s just something about Public Enemy that leaves you feeling empowered and everyone that left the tent that night, I’m sure, won’t forget that feeling or PE’s astounding performance. So worth the 20 hour drive.

atm-broo paul oakenfold crowd

My favorite time of festivals are at night. That’s when all the glow sticks and ravers and sub culture comes out. It’s awesome. Right after Public Enemy, I had a choice of either Girl Talk or Paul Oakenfold. Having seen Girl Talk twice, I was curious about Paul Oakenfold. I used to be big into trance but now I think it’s descending a bit in rankings with French electro, nu disco, and techno making it’s way back up in the electronic market. I used to be a fan of Oakenfold, having followed his stuff when he was popular on the BBC and headlined all the big shows at Pacha, Space, Amnesia in Ibiza. Now longer after his musical peak, he’s a well known guy in the industry but in terms of musical output, it’s just not that great anymore. I was proven right as he closed out the night on Friday.

atm-broo paul oakenfold crowd 02

MP3: Red Hot Chili Peppers – Otherside (Benny Benassi Remix)

He opened with a killer song, RHCP’s “Otherside” remixed by Benny Benassi, a song released a few years ago. After that I started dancing less and less, the glowsticks weren’t as active and I was starting to get cold, tired, and bored. I stayed for at least an hour of his show to give him a chance to redeem himself but he kept playing super old old shit that we’re all sick and tired of by now. He played a horrible remix of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and before I left he played a remix of the theme song from Blade. Funnily enough, before B’roo, my flatmates and I were dancing hardcore to the Blade and Mortal Kombat theme, techno at it’s best, I’d say jaja. And that’s why I staggered before leaving, should I stay, should I go? Then I realised it was a remix and you just can’t DO remixes of songs that are so good as they are. So I left and my dream of dancing to the Blade and Mortal Kombat theme for a whole set (or at least part of a set) during a live show was thwarted. OOOHHH well.

STAY TUNED FOR PART II!

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