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Bonnaroo 2008: Day 3

June 15, 2008  |  4:10pm
Apologies: I was unable to blog about Saturday at Bonnaroo because of Saturday at Bonnaroo. It's Sunday afternoon now, and with the festival still buzzing and thumping all around us (am currently at our tent in the Sonic Village, with a band called Harrybu McCage doing their thing on the stage next door) I'm just now getting around to processing everything from the past thirty-something hours.

Bonnaroo had My Morning Jacket's 1 AM set listed as Friday, but it happened well after midnight so I'm counting it as the first show I saw Saturday. In the pitch-black night, with two huge floating orb-balloons suspended in air on either side of the Which Stage, the band came on in between rain showers, which picked up right along with the set. We're all convinced Jim James has personal control of the weather, which was a more moving effect than the flowy red scarf he kept swinging around when not tied to his guitar. The rain, at least, kept their cover of Sly & the Family Stone's "Hot Fun in the Summertime" from being a too-obvious celebration of the upcoming steamy festival season.

A few songs in, I followed Multimedia Intern Ashley-- who's been doing all our camerawork this weekend, and is so patient with us even though sometimes we forget to point our mics at the people we're interviewing-- over to This Tent to see the guy someone had told us was the greatest DJ in the world, DJ Tiesto. Whether or not that's an accurate superlative, I don't know-- the whole time I kinda felt like I was at Ru San's, a local sushi place in Atlanta where pulsing dance tracks are a permanent accompaniment to the lunch buffet. The highlights were Cary Brothers, Jose Gonzalez and Tegan & Sara each taking the stage at different points to perform live the DJ Tiesto remixes of their songs, which is a completely baffling idea to me that I imagine must involve the artists practicing singing remixed versions of themselves which was probably weird to do, but if the maybe-possibly-greatest DJ in the world beckons, I guess you oblige.

By the time we got back to My Morning Jacket, Jim James had turned into Jim James Brown. He was writhing around on the stage, lurching and howling, with a cape on and everything. Then there was a cape and a straw hat. Then just a straw hat. Then more rain. Then we played the Lame Card and high-tailed it through the mud to the hotel.

A few hours later, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings were the first act I saw on Saturday proper. The Kings must have been sweltering in their dapper wool suits, but they put on a great show with Sharon Jones as the sassy, soul-shuffling anchor. "I wore this dress so I could shake it!" she proclaimed after the first song, and shake she did. I grabbed a kebab and returned to the Which Stage for Gogol Bordello, the band of gypsy punks led by Eugene Hutz, whose wild flowing hair and handlebar mustache gave the look of a deranged Yanni, stripped down to cut-off marching band pants by the third song.

Later caught the Avett Brothers at the Other Tent. Didn't see them actually, thanks to awkward scaffolding-and-green-velvet-drape configuration, but they sounded great and I'm really liking the addition of yet another maniacal string-instrument player, Joe Kwon on cello. Skipped Ben Folds-- I'll love him forever but his live show hasn't changed in years-- but sang along to the bleed-over of his set as I booked it over to the Solar Stage for the Everybodyfields.

I feel like I've mentioned so many times in Paste blogs that it's becoming awkwardly conspicuous, but honestly, this is one of my favorite bands right now, maybe ever, so I get to talk about their first-ever Bonnaroo set. And also their second-ever, a few hours later. The first was besot from the left by Zappa Plays Zappa, the right by Mr. Folds, and above by a randomly circling helicopter, the sound on the stage wasn't great but the band sallied forth to a growing crowd, closing with Neil Young's "Helpless" which almost made me cry because I am a big baby. The second one was tucked into the quiet-by-comparison Troo Music Lounge, which was comparatively packed, seemingly with a lot of fans given the yelled-out song requests and hometown shouts of "Johnson City!" A few new songs were sprinkled in among others from the nearly year-old Nothing Is Okay and their earlier albums, and though they skipped "T.V.A.,"  my favorite, Jill and Sam made up for it by joining Ashley and myself on a strange little romp through the Bonnaroo grounds that will be available for your multimedia consuming selves sometime soon.

Beginning with Sigur Ros at That Tent, the rest of the evening is a hazy blur-- not due to any chemical alteration on my part, just sheer fatigue. After listening to Pearl Jam's set on the other side of the boneyard, we battled the mud for a few songs with Iceland's finest, then headed over to the What Stage for Kanye West as Ghostland Observatory rocked away at This Tent. And kept rocking. And kept rocking. As we staked out a spot on the lawn, waited, waited, and kept waiting. The original start time of 2:45 AM passed, then the new start time of 3 AM, then 3:15, then 3:30. When he was fifteen minutes late, folks started leaving in droves, and by the time we gave up nearly an hour after he was scheduled to go on, the crowd was livid-- a chorus of "Fuck you..!" "Kanye!" "Fuck you..!" "Kanye!" was rolling up from the back. Pretty much the only folks who were okay with the delay was the crowd in front of us with the balloons and the tank of nitrous oxide. No telling if the tank lasted them til 4:30 AM, when we hear Mr. West finally took the stage. We hear, too, that it wasn't a bad set-- just that, as the set edged towards 6 AM, the light show was a little hard to see thanks to, uh, you know, the sunrise. Can't confirm that, though, as we passed out at the hotel a mile away as the first basslines thumped across the interstate.

Today's the first bakingly hot day of the festival so I've just sought out one band: Tennessee Schmaltz. Billed as a bluegrass klezmer band, I ducked into the Troo Music Lounge to check them out but was a little disappointed. Guess it had to happen sometime.

PS, Happy Father's Day to my dad, who may or may not be reading this, but who should be fully ashamed of me for missing Levon Helm's set yesterday because, according to everyone who was there, it was absolutely phenomenal.

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