"What have we done???" was the rallying cry from the very beginning. Why on earth someone would want to drive to bumblefuck, TN so see some music and camp with an unreasonable amount of people in the humid Tennessee sun and Tornados & Hurricanes of June is beyond me. So why the fuck did I allow myself to get talked into going? Probably because the lineup was looking pretty stellar. Phish, moe., Beasties, Elvis Costello, Lucinda Williams, Allen Toussaint, NIN, Wilco, David Byrne, Snoop, Bela, Merle Haggard. That was only the beginning. Fuck, what better excuse to finally hit Bonnaroo? But WHAT HAVE WE DONE??? We had no choice but to start a death pool. My money was on Hern's Rob.
The timing couldn't have worked out more perfectly, I finished my gig on 6/3, saw Phish: at Jones Beach 6/4 & 6/5, and went up for Great Woods on 6/6. It left me approx. 2.5 days to prep for the haul to Bonnaroo. Obligatory Campmor trip to buy the super-poncho and simultaneously flirted with cute salesboy who detailed his own Bonnaroo experience, "bring a pair of shoes you expect to leave in the trash at the end of the weekend." (I'm a multi-tasker.). Oh, and avoided all weather forecasts and assumed the worst/best (in that order).
And at 4pm-ish on 6/10, Marty and I borrowed my mom's SUV (because he bought a cooler large enough to smuggle Dominican little leaguers in and we'd barely fit in my Impreza) and took off for the marathon haul to Tennessee.
I attempted to listen to the Yanks game on the radio and while the affiliate stations weren't working along the route- we picked up the wcbs 880 signal for the whole game (dodgy at times, but worked for my needs). Oh, and it rained. A lot.
Like, outside Harrisburg, PA:
It's important to pause here and explain that prior to this trip, I'd never been south of the DC/VA area. Also, I had never been to a Waffle House or Cracker Barrel. And I'd never murdered a prostitute in the back row of a Travel Center of America. Ooh, it would be a journey of firsts! I had heard stories, followed politics, and knew what was lurking down there for a heathen- but it surpassed my expectations thirty times, thirty thousand times. The Yankees game ended (they lost) and next thing I knew, there was a giant, glowing, purple cross on the side of Interstate 81 in Clear Brook, VA.
We caught a couple hours of spine-twisting sleep at a Pilot center outside Roanoke and hit up a Cracker Barrel (the non-smoking section) somewhere near the TN border for breakfast. I was tempted to get grits w/ my eggs, but opted instead for a biscuit. Totes yum!
Also, more rain. Weeee!
The drive through VA and TN was a multitude of signage- mostly for fireworks and Jesus (shocker). However TN did have some lovely hedgerows blocking the local scenery you'd occasionally get a peak at- very pretty stretch of highway-- and of course it's very own giant cross.
The rain didn't let up as we got closer to Manchester, TN- in fact, the skies grew increasingly threatening and then we drove through what could have been a micro-burst. That's about when I decided the most appropriate soundtrack for the moment was Ha Ha the Moose's, "Redneck Trilogy". Marty disagreed.
Here's the deal, Marty and I were under the impression we had "guest" camping backstage, which is much much closer to Centeroo, all facilities at hand, etc. Except that when we checked in at the hotel they only thing they gave us were our wristbands. Apparently the guest camping was so hard to come by this year that only very few bands were given access to it, let alone their guests. Totes lame.
Fortunately-- very fortunately for us, we were able to find Hern, Lisa, Rob, and JLo (our buddy Melissa had to bail at the last minute due to a respiratory infection- boo!) in the millions of miles long line of traffic waiting to get into the flooded entrance (I briefly considered driving to Memphis to see Graceland instead of dealing with Bonnaroo any more). We did manage to pass a few more churches, confederate flags, and even a fabulous lawn jockey while sloooowly moving towards the festival sight.
A few more hours of waiting in line and we all got to camp together which was awesome. What did suck was that we were literally at the furthest part of the campgrounds from Centeroo as we could possibly be*. Our area had no porta-potties, water, or shower facilities. In the ghettooo... It took them a day or so to eventually set up the porta-potties (on a super-cleaning schedule), but we didn't get showers or water--- however, our neighbors right down the street- actual Manchester residents had set up $2 showers in their carport. So amongst the tarps, pipes, and gravel, we were able to shower and refill our solar containers. We were even able to buy ice from locals out of a truck- now that's service!
Did I mention that they ran out of schedules and maps to give people? This was at 6pm on Thursday. Great planning, Superfly. Thumbs up. We scored 2 programs/maps so Lisa and I became the keepers.
We set up camp and had some $2 showers before the weather turned on us again. Eventually tarps were Macgyvered and while the boys passed out, Lisa and I hauled our asses into Centeroo to check some shit out. We were hoping to catch the Bonnapoo show, starring Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, and some standup from Pete Holmes and Janeane Garofalo. We wandered around and through some tents- Zac Brown Band was good when we first walked in but then turned kinda preachy and very CMT their next song. Midnite were totes lame.
We headed through Delta Spirit before hitting the comedy tent- the band was pretty kick ass, so when the MONSOON started we didn't mind being stranded there too much. We never made it to any comedy but we did manage to haul our asses all the way back to camp, where we found Rob underneath our shitstorm-destroyed canopy just chillin', still very much alive.
Phish, 6/11/2009 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, Manchester, TN
Soundcheck: Dog Log, Ginseng Sullivan, Nellie Cane?, Ocelot, Beauty of My Dreams?, Funky Bitch
Friday was a slow start, but a $2 shower would help. While some of the crew headed in to see Gomez, I decided instead to wander over to the comedy tent to try to see some standup- but the comedy tent was a clusterfuck. There was limited capacity inside, so you had to show up well in advance, get a "ticket", and return to line up at least 20 minutes before the performance for load-in. I was already sick of waiting in lines. NO MORE WAITING IN LINE!!! They handed me a 3:45 Bonnapoo ticket which would have been awesome except moe. started at 4pm. So I threw down my giant poncho and layed down in the shade next to Grace Potter & the Nocturnals- they sounded great.
Their set was cut short for me, as I had to head over to the Sonic Stage for a little (a LOT) acoustic moe. Kick Ass. The boys looked and sounded absolutely great. They played much longer than their scheduled slot, which was sweeeet! Top notch! It was a perfectly too-small stage for them. A huuuuge crowd gathered well into Centeroo to get into the moe.zone. Awesome.
moe., 6/12, Bonnaroo, Sonic Stage
Queen Of Everything
All Roads Lead To Home
New York City ->
Time Again ->
DOWNLOAD IT! http://www.archive.org/details/moe2009-06-12.tlm170.fob.flac16
Awesome set. Acoustic McBain! Tremendous HUZZZAAAAAHS!
I found the Herns and we watched Santigold for a while, went back to camp to chill for a few, and I used all my energy to commandeer a cab so I could find Marty and catch the last 20 minutes of Lucinda Williams- of course she was TOTALLY kicking ass when I got there. She was AWESOME!!! Lucinda freakin' rules. The last time I saw her at the MSG Theater, the crowd was totally beat, no one was dancing- this crowd was loud, drunk, and throwing down. Just amazing, can't wait to see her again. I encourage you all to check out her music.
During the Lucinda set there was a giant pile of sand in This tent- not doing much good at that point in time, but they came through and spread the sand out in each of the tents to quell the mud problem. It worked! Fabulous job with this, very proactive on their part. HUZZAHS for the sand!
Then we hauled over to the main stage for the Beastie Boys. The past few times I've seen them they have blown me away. I will even go so far to say that their 10/9/04 show was one of the best concerts I've ever seen. So it was to my shock and dismay that they were kinda awful. Sloppy, disjointed... Pras came on for a couple of songs, it just wasn't happening. Maybe it was our spot on the field behind the first stack of speakers? The sound was absolutely atrocious. Marty headed over to David Byrne and I soon followed.
David Byrne was fucking awesome! Dear Cheesus! My head asplode! I made my way over to the bleachers and decided to test security and get up there. No problem! After a few minutes I realized that my purple wristband actually gave me access to the bleachers... EVEN BETTER! I texted Marty and demanded he come to the bleachers. We watched the duration of the set from up there, sitting is pretty sweet sometimes.
Eventually we were herded back into the main stage area for Phish! Sweeeet! What would they pull out of their bag tonight? Here's where I think reading the Hampton setlists got my hopes up, because they managed to repeat songs that I had just heard the week before at Jones Beach and Great Woods. Where are my surprises? Again from our location (we stayed way back, so many people), the sound was kind of shitty, but we were definitely un-satisfied with the setlist. I do like the songs and all, but they were unspectacular. Poor Heart and 2001 rule, though.
We could hear Public Enemy and it sounded like madness, while tempted to go catch the end of their set, we were also tempted to get off our feet, so Marty and I headed back.
Phish, 6/12/2009 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, Manchester, TN
"Late night set": Chalk Dust Torture, Stealing Time from the Faulty Plan, The Divided Sky, Possum, Down with Disease, Alaska, Stash, Golgi Apparatus, Wolfman's Brother, Poor Heart, Kill Devil Falls -> Free, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Harry Hood > Highway to Hell > 2001 > You Enjoy Myself > Wilson > You Enjoy Myself
E: A Day in the Life
DOWNLOAD IT: http://bt.etree.org/details.php?id=526143
Saturday morning Tennessee heat started early and so did we. The boys had some sort of agreement that they were going to only eat Bubba Burgers for breakfast- every morning. They were pretty true to form but did throw the occasional hot dog or grilled slim jim into the mix with a bloody mary chaser. They're professionals. I had a fucking epiphany and realized my massive headache was from caffeine withdrawal (hadn't had any since Thursday morning) and gargled with a 1/2 can of red bull (Marty brought a case). Felt better within the hour.
$2 shower -> reserving energy for the late night moe. set. I don't remember if I went in during the afternoon or not. Hm. JLO and I did venture in for food (I heart Alli Babas) and Wilco. We stayed for a little while but I wanted to see Elvis Costello most of all, so he won the battle. Wilco sounded good, we had wandered in during the mellower portion of their set, I may have to go see them in Wappingers falls cuz I split so fast.
DOWNLOAD WILCO'S SET: http://bt.etree.org/details.php?id=526139
Elvis Costello. I have waited YEARS to see Elvis Costello. The rare times he passes through NYC the ticket prices have been atrocious, so his name on the Bonnaroo ticket was a huge draw for me. Had to see him before he dies (I know he's not that old, but you know what I mean.). Got to cross a name off the list too! Sweet. He did a bunch of stuff solo, then Allan Toussaint came on and played a few off their "River in Reverse" album. Then Elvis' band came on and rocked it. His voice and guitar are so beautiful, I heart him. I enjoyed the unplugged portions of the show, but full-on electric was blaringly good. During his set the sun set on the horizon and a huge ray of light reached out across That tent and probably blinded him- but it looked really freaking cool. The MAN, the legend, Elvis fucking Costello.
We converged on camp for dinner and respite. We heard Bruce Springsteen and a few peeps went in to check it out. I chose to listen from the comfort of camp with a good amount of neighbors doing the same. I saw Bruce last year at MSG and he was great, but it was something I didn't have to watch if I could just listen. I tried to nap but couldn't and eventually the rest of us hopped in a cab and went back to Centeroo. Here was a good example of one of the shittier aspects of the weekend. Bruce Springsteen is headlining against no opposing acts, but then right afterwards moe., NIN, and the MGMT all play at the same time. How the fuck am I supposed to choose?
Well, I did, and at 1am I chose moe. which is about when they opened with Plane Crash. Fucking kill me, that could have been 5 minutes of NIN. However, it was all massively great after that. Except for the new beginning of Spine. Totes boo. I think Hern commented about moe., "look at this place, they fucking own it." Which was true. And the show was EPIC. Many evil twists and turns, SOMP, Happy Hour Hero, Rec Chem -> band switch - Grace Potter & the Nocturnals who came out swinging. They were great, but we were partially physically disabled by the end of their "set". Very happy for moe. to come back on because it meant the show would eventually end. I was totes psyched to hear Lazarus cuz I was hoping for it in the weeks leading up to the 'roo. I heart Lazarus.
And then, during Jazz Wank (?)... Lisa and I thought we were the last ones standing from our camp, we were stumbling around in pain and no longer had it in us to dance (hindsight being 20/20, maybe we could have passed out right next to the tent)... Instead we made the professional decision to miss Rebubula (duh) and start hiking the 1+ mile walk back to camp- but only-- ONLY since we could hear EVERYTHING, crystal clear on the roads (except for within 50 feet of that fucking bastard rasta vendor douchebag with the giant speakers / rv generator corridor). Within feet of the gate, Hern calls to say he's still inside. I seriously considered going back in, but I also thought about taking my hiking boots off and falling asleep to a moe. lullaby. And I got to brush my teeth to the end of Rebubula! Appropriately, they encored with the Pit, which was fucking sweet to tuck in with. Yes, I regret leaving a little bit. My heart was breaking, but so was my body. It was 6am. I'm rationalizing post-haste. In that spirit, I scripted the executive rule (retroactively) that anyone who stayed at Wetlands for the entire 1995 Bagels & moe. wetlands show gets a free pass to leave a moe. set of their choice at least once due to: bodily injury due to rocking out TOO hard, childbirth, or someone else's puke on their butt**. I still tried to make Lisa feel bad, but it was only for your entertainment.
moe., 6/13/09, This Tent, Bonnaroo, Manchester, TN
Plane Crash ->
Spine Of A Dog ->
Not Coming Down
Deep This Time
Wind It Up ->
Seat Of My Pants ->
Happy Hour Hero ->
Recreational Chemistry -> +
Ramblin' Man -> +
Recreational Chemistry -> +
band swap jam -> ^
Some Kind Of Ride ^
She's Got The Medicine -> ^
If I was From Paris ^
Watching You ^
Sweet Hands ^
band swap jam -> ^
Jazz Wank ->
+ = w/ Brock Butler from Perpetual Groove
^ = w/ Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
LISTEN/DOWNLOAD IT!: http://www.archive.org/details/moe2009-06-13.tlm170.fob.flac16
Since I had only fallen asleep at 6am I managed to sleep most of the hot morning away while the others went inside. Marty saw Triumph filming a bit for Conan. It was only after a refreshing $2 shower that I headed into Centeroo to wander with Marty. We found one of the 'cuse crew and hung for a whiles, got some grub, and generally enjoyed ourselves. Oh, and I bought a straw hat. WHAT OF IT?
Merle Haggard looked genuinely shocked and pleased to be playing in front of a large, shitfaced crowd. Don't think it's the first time for him. Merle was what you'd expect for an 72ish year old country music legend. The whole crowd was singing along, it was endearing. He was fun. I dug it.
It was time to head over to the main stage bleachers (HUZZAH) for Snoop Dogg, another artist on the lineup I was psyched about. Snoop was awesome, he had 80k white kids wrapped around his little finger. This was a supercool set for the late afternoon. Erykah Badu came on and did a couple of songs with him, very cool.
Eventually we wandered backstage and tested the limits of our purple wristbands, but we ended up right back on the bleachers for Phish. We were surrounded by chill folks and we all had a good time and rocked it out y'all. I enjoyed the 1st set- AC/DC, NICU, PYITE was loud and beautiful with pretty glowstick war that left me very happy to be out of the way. Tweezer, Silent, Antelope- rockin'. Then Trey announces that a very special guest who he idolized while growing up was coming onstage- I thought maaaybe Merle Haggard would come out for some standard- but it was Bruce Springsteen. I mean, it was Bruce Springsteen! Wee. You know what though? I hate that I didn't appreciate it more- I did want to, really. But he was on for a long time and it wasn't really anything horribly special for me. Instead of 3 Bruce sit-ins, I might rather have seen 1 Bruce, 1 Snoop, and 1 Elvis Costello and/or Beasties.
The 2nd set was kinda just okay. Rock & Roll is meh- Seapods version is funner. I like 46 Days, Limb by Limb, Farmhouse, but it seemed to lose ALL of the momentum of the 1st set (pre-boss appearance). I had heard practically every one of those songs the previous week. Yah, listen to me bitch about seeing all that Phish- but honestly- those Hampton shows had me thinking they'd be pulling out all the stops for the full tour. Why are they only recycling a handful of songs? Where's my Frankenstein? Haley's Comet? Sloth?
During Prince Caspian we decided to grab some food (those samosas were KICK ASS!!! WOW!!!) and wander while listening. The other stages were already being broken down. First Tube sounded great, nice job. I definitely could have rocked the full encore from the bleachers- Suzy and Tweezer Reprise, but there's also something very cool about getting back to your tent and hearing the music blaring from the comfort of your own canvas chair, knowing you won't have to shuffle back in a crowd of 80k for more than a mile after a weekend of partying.
Lisa and the boys had a full container of chicken legs left to be grilled, so they imbibed in a late night meat snack and we all turned in. Oh, and Rob was totally still alive, though very much asleep. I think the door of his tent had been ripped off by the 2nd night. It was probably a Tennessee Jaguar. UPDATE: Apparently Rob was bitten by a tick at Bonnaroo, after getting back to NY he got the bullseye rash & felt like shit- and has since been diagnosed with Lyme's Disease. He is currently on 3 weeks of antibiotics. So, technically, he did come the closest to dying and I have won the death pool. Rob, hope you start feeling better soon!
06/14/2009 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, Manchester, TN
1: AC/DC Bag > NICU, Gotta Jiboo, Punch You in the Eye > Sparkle > Bathtub Gin, Character Zero > Tweezer> The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Run Like an Antelope, Mustang Sally^, Bobby Jean^ > Glory Days^
2: Rock & Roll > Light > 46 Days, Limb by Limb, Farmhouse, Backwards Down the Number Line > Prince Caspain, First Tube
E: Suzy Greenberg > Tweezer Reprise
notes: ^ with Bruce Springsteen
DOWNLOAD IT: http://bt.etree.org/details.php?id=526317
Motivated by an 18 hour drive and the promise of hot coffee within a climate controlled facility, we did our breakdown deeds, said our goodbyes, pissed in buckets of our neighbor's piss***, and vacated Manchester, TN, especially careful to obey all local traffic laws (while simultaneously taking pictures for my brand new collection of southern churches album).
I had just snapped a photo of a church in a Staples parking lot when THERE IT WAS--- on the horizon-- A Cracker Barrel, but closer than that even was a Waffle House- so we went in there and I popped my Waffle House cherry. From the shady tales of Waffle House past, I fully expected to walk into a petri dish of filth that reeked like a bowling alley and have a waitress named Arlene ash her cigarette in my coffee. But that did not happen! No, not at all. She was very cool actually and told us that "the 3rd shift gets a little rough, that's when you get the rednecks in here." How can you tell, I wondered?
I got myself a full spread of Waffley House goodness: coffee, waffle, bacon, egg, hash puck. Marty had a egg/cheese/pickle/mayo sandwich on Texas Toast... and a waffle. With extra pickles on the side. I enjoyed mine thoroughly- the waffle was slightly sweet from too much vanilla in my opinion. Marty insisted I try his combo and while it was interesting in flavor and texture, I am going to say no to pickles and mayo on my breakfast sandwiches, thank you very much. The waitress had given us a few quarters for us to play songs on the jukebox, so we hit that up. One of my choices was Dolly Parton's, "Rocky Top Tennessee" and I am not even fucking shitting you about this, every time the chorus played the ENTIRE joint sang along. That was kinda fucked up.
Back on the road we drove in and out of more storms (including a total shitfest in Jersey at like 1am Tuesday) and hauled some serious ass to get home. I was in my own bed by 5am, it was a good feeling.
All in all, Bonnaroo, 2009: For a weekend that started off as such a completely disorganized clusterfuck, they adapted, accommodated, and it turned out to be a totally awesome time. Those $2 driveway showers were the definite difference in the equation. We also had a great group in our camp and that was key. It was a total haul, a big hassle, but a lot of fun. The musical conflicts sucked, they really should do a better job scheduling. The comedy tent was a total bust, we never made it in once. While Phish kind of disappointed me in their setlists, they still sounded awesome. Total highlights: Lucinda Williams, Elvis Costello, Delta Spirit, acoustic moe., regular moe., the golf cart taxis. Disappointing lowlights: the Comedy Tent, the Beasties, my sleeping through most of the Bluegrass sets, the 1+ mile walk from our camp to Centeroo, the no potable water in our grid (come on, how many years have they been doing this and all of a sudden they drop the fucking ball?).
Bonnaroo 2009: 8 HUZZAHS! Could have been awesomer, but it was a fun fun time. Not sure if I'll go back, it'd be easier to convince me going the RV or hotel route. Would still like to check out Summer Camp some year. For now it's moe.down all the way.
Thanks to Scott Bernstein, taper extraordinaire- most of the DL links are his recordings.
* apparently if we had gone in the other entrance, the line was not nearly as long, and the campsite was not nearly as populated. File it under: things we wish we knew.
** option 2 is sit on the ground and "scoot" it off so you can stay til the end- but ONLY if it's someone else's puke.
*** for the record, I was not one of the bucket of piss pissers