Bonnaroo just celebrated its 10th anniversary and I was fortunate enough to be there. Between the delicious Spicy Pie Pizzas, Sweet Water IPAs and the unforgettable Arepas, I caught a couple shows. Here’s who left an impression.
These guys were my first show at Bonnaroo. I didn’t plan on seeing them, nor did I have any idea what they were, but when I heard the first few groovy measures of “Crosseyed and Painless” by Talking Heads I bolted through the crowd to find this 10+ member band rocking the crap out of one of David Byrne’s greatest songs. Yes, I changed my shape.
I stuck around for the rest of the show and these guys have some real talent. From their driving rhythms and liquid string section to their surprise synthesizers and frantic vocals, Uncle Skeleton never ceased to satisfy.
This California group has come up a bunch on my downtempo Pandora, so I wasn’t totally sure I’d be able to stay awake for their 2am-4am time slot. I stumbled into the tent not to a relaxed and phazed-out crowd, but to a writhing and dusty club with bass up to your neck. With dancers playing huge percussion and a live drum kit with violin (plus freaky animal masks!), Beats Antique doled out some of the most inspired hard dance tracks I’ve heard in a long time. Their sound is just a bit more organic than the ripping synth lines of Bassnectar, a bit more individual than Girl Talk’s frenetic Cliffs Notes of Pop but just hard enough to still make you feel dirty.
Sam Beam covers a wide spread of his songs with an eleven-piece fusion group. Unforgettable concert ensues. Here’s just a taste.
Jose Gonzales’ newest venture is a 5-piece ambient acoustic-electric gem. What surprised me is how closely they resemble a jam band, but I never found myself bored at the show. Their rhythms are often plodding, but their instrumentation is always expanding the sound-scape and enveloping you in a warm blanket of smooth and spacey sounds. I felt like I had stumbled into a practice room with some cool dudes and a lot of great instruments; the sound they foster together is casual but controlled, letting you into a groove but then exploring a 10-minute drone solo on Mr. Gonzales’ KAOSSILATOR. I dug it. A lot.
If you’re looking for honest stage presence, look no further than these vintage vest-wearers from the North West. Colin Maloy was full of pomp and vocabulary, and I couldn’t help but laugh at his banter. Plus, he openly challenged Bela Fleck to a pick-off and they delivered a 5-minute solo of random notes, most of which he missed. It’s all in good fun, understand, because of course The Decemberists can’t shred. To drag it out in front of 30,000 people, however, takes balls the size of Saturn, and I respect that.
Holy extraordinary energy, Batman! This was an excellent live show. Each member on stage exuded as much passion and electricity as the leading man, Win Butler – who is sporting a new haircut (think sexy-Hitler). With so many people thrashing about on stage generating the pop-wash of sound that is Arcade Fire, its impossible not to connect. Hell yes it overwhelmed me. Hell yes I’ll see them again.
I love these guys for about 2 minutes per song, but their live show was truly the low point of the festival. Ratatat is very careful to preform each sprawling section of each song, some of which even last upwards of 6 minutes. As groovy as their music is, you’re lying if you say you don’t skip to the next track after 2 minutes. Well you just can’t do that at a live show. Snore.