18) Black Joe Lewis and the Honey Bears: Saturday morning I was able to meet up with Vanessa. At her suggestion, we went to go see Black Joe Lewis and the Honey Bears. I had listened to a little of his stuff before the weekend and he sounded like he would put on a good show that mixed funk, jazz, blues, and rock and I was not disappointed by his performance. We weren’t there long as there was another band I wanted to check out but I’m glad we took some time to stop by this tent.
The moment I checked out this band’s stuff on Youtube I knew it was a show I wanted to catch. I almost feel like words cannot describe this band from Beijing who performs while wearing traditional and ancient Chinese garb. Their music is a combination of traditional Chinese folk music and modern types of rock. The band consists of many members who create one of the most unique sounds that you can ever find. I found myself really enjoying the show at first and was getting pretty into it, but halfway through I started realizing that some of the parts were over the top and borderline ridiculous. I also found it funny that the lead singer always spoke to the crowd in between songs and spoke only in Chinese. After each phrase the crowd would erupt in applause which made me laugh because in all honesty the dude could have been saying that we all were a bunch of assholes or something and nobody would have been the wiser. He also had the most ludicrous “shirt” on that I have ever seen. It was actually more of a cover for his shoulders and back as the entirety of his chest and stomach was exposed. At one point I turned to Vanessa and said “I don’t know whether I love this or hate this.” To which she replied that she loved it. We watched the rest of the show and I still have that feeling of confusion which would probably make this one of the most interesting shows I’ve ever seen. I still find parts of their stuff really great, but then another side of me chimes in and tells that what I saw is quite ridiculous. Either way, this was a great show to have caught, and another reason why Bonnaroo is so great.
20) Old Crow Medicine Show: I don’t like to think I have many regrets going to Bonnaroo in terms of the bands I’ve chosen to see. But that doesn’t mean that regrets aren’t bound to surface from time to time. I have seen Old Crow a few times before in the past and have always enjoyed their bluegrass/Americana sound and to this day feel that their song “Wagon Wheel” is one of the best I’ve ever heard. However, sometimes when you see a show, things just don’t work out the way you’d like them to. The sound was not very good and it simply was not as loud as it should have been. I was not even that far back but it was noticeable that the speakers just weren’t generating the power that they should have. At one point, one of the members had to take the dobro he was playing and hold it up to a microphone since the PA it was originally hooked up to was not working. And even when he did this it was not amplifying the sound nearly enough. After the show I realized that while they were good, I missed out on an opportunity to see a band I’ve never seen before but was interested in, the Low Anthem. But by the time I realized this, the Low Anthem were done and I had to focus on what to do next.
21) Deer Tick:
Sometimes you can see a band or artists and depending on the circumstances in which you find yourself, you can like a show more or less than you normally would. I was beginning to feel more tired than I normally feel at this time during the day and my energy level was low. I didn’t know much by this roots rock/Americana band but JB and many of the people I was with were very excited about this show. While they all lauded this performance later on, I was left with a feeling that they were just OK and that I just wasn’t feeling them. This was not an opinion that was popular amongst the members of my group as some said it was one of the best shows of the weekend. What can I say? I just wasn’t that into it. Maybe if I had known more of their tunes or had been in better spirits when I saw them I would have felt differently, but I cannot pretend to like what I’m just not that into.
22 +23) Allison Krauss and Union Station / Portugal. The Man:
I place these two acts together because I did not see a lot of their sets and used this time mostly to sit down and rest my legs which were killing me at the time. Krauss was pretty solid as she and her band played a very mellow set of bluegrass type music along with Jerry Douglass. Portugal. The Man was a band I had seen a few years ago at Bonnaroo and I was not all that impressed with them. I felt I liked this set a little more and found myself enjoying a lot of what they were doing. But I spent most of the time sitting down in the back trying to cool off a bit before meeting Vanessa for Amos Lee at the Sonic Stage.
24) Amos Lee:
After Hanggaii, Vanessa and I separated but agreed to meet up for this small set by singer/songwriter Amos Lee. I didn’t know much of his stuff but really enjoyed this 30 minute set that included just Lee and his acoustic guitar. And while watching the set, something happened that I had never seen before at another show, a couple in the front row got engaged. Also, Lee made the comment that because it was so hot and muggy out, he couldn’t keep his guitar in tune. While I agree that it sounded off in some spots, it wasn’t bad enough to take much away from this set. I’m also not sure why the weather conditions would make it impossible to tune his guitar even for a little bit, but hey, he’s the professional I guess. One final noteworthy occurrence was when the annoying woman who was introducing the bands at the Sonic Stage came out at the end and requested he play one more song. Lee agreed and while he started getting ready the woman requested a specific song and Lee basically said “no”. Not sure why he denied her but it was pretty funny to see him react like this.
25) Mumford and Sons:
One of the downfalls of trying to see so many artists is that you forgo the opportunity to stake out and claim a good spot for a bigger act. Sometimes it’s worth doing this if the act in question is one you really want to see or if there is nothing else going on and you can sacrifice 30-45 minutes to wait for the band you want to see. Or you could just not plan ahead enough to know that the Mumford and Sons set would be so freaking packed that finding a good spot will be futile at best. Vanessa and I met her friend Gwen and tried to make our way over to where JB and crew were but that proved too difficult. We were pretty far back and again, the sound was not that great. It’s too bad when you’re that far back because not only are you less invested in the show, but the people around you talk and move around much more so the intimacy of the show is somewhat diminished. I was psyched to see Mumford especially since I missed out on them last year as they played at the exact time as the Avett Brothers, and there was no way I was going to miss them. What I like about them too is that they do not seem to have any image problems. Most of the members were wearing wife-beaters, mostly because it was so damn hot. At one point they called out to someone backstage to come out and play the fiddle. The guy that came out looked like some overweight kid you’d find at a videogame convention or something. At any rate, they put on a very solid se that I’m almost sure I would be saying was one of the best I had seen over the weekend had I been in a better position to see it. But such is the ways of the Bonnaroo gods.
26) The Black Keys:
By this time I really need to just lie down and rejuvenate for the evening. I had separated from Vanessa and Gwen so that I could find JB and get an idea of where to meet him for Buffalo Springfield later. I then headed over to the main stage area to catch some of the Black Keys set and relax a bit. The main stage area is very large and is a nice place to find some grass to lie down in as opposed to the dry and dusty areas that are found in just about every other area of the venue. I had recently seen a great show by the Keys in Orlando back in December so seeing this show was not on the highest of priorities and I was fine with just hanging out in the back rather than trying to get up close. I will say that I do love this group and find them even more important now that the White Stripes are no more. For few bands can create such a great combination of modern blues rock as the Stripes and the Keys can. It was nice to see them introduced by comedian Aziz Ansari who must have just been hanging out as he was not on the bill for the weekend. Like their show in Orlando, they started by playing many of their older songs just the two of them and later on they brought out more musicians so that they could play their more layered songs from their most recent album, Brothers. I first heard of the Keys back in 2005 when I saw them at Lollapalooza in Chicago at the suggestion of my friends Kevin and Tina, and it has been nice to see their progression since then. I’m glad they’re doing so well because they really are a great band and they deserve every bit of the notoriety they get.
27) Buffalo Springfield:
I think there is a law out there somewhere that states that if you take any old group of aging hippies that group’s performance will automatically be made ten times greater if Neil Young is playing with him. I understand if people get sick of the aging artists of the 60’s and 70’s but seriously, if you can’t get down with Neil I almost don’t want to know you. I left the Keys set early to make sure I wouldn’t have a problem meeting up with JB, Billy and crew and as I arrived I was pleased to see that they had established a spot much closer to the stage than when I had left them earlier. As I found my spot it wasn’t long before I noticed a girl next to me who was just talking up a storm about how psyched she was to see Springfield. She kept yelling things out that if memory serves me correctly, was something to the effect of “Buffalo Fuckin’ Springfield!!! Whooooo!!!!” Not the most creative thing I’ve ever heard, but I could tell she was pretty psyched. I also noticed how the people around her were paying her more attention than she was probably used to due to the fact that she was one of those topless painted booby chicks that are no doubt found in large numbers at Bonnaroo. At one point, an older guy asked if she wouldn’t mind having a picture taken with his buddy. The young quasi-nudist happily obliged as the man told her it would totally make his buddy’s day. Shortly before the set began, she and her friends began teaching another guy near us about the effects of ecstasy, or what is more commonly referred to as “Molly” amongst the concert going masses. The guy was clearly trepidations about what he was about to embark upon but evidently, painted booby chick and her friends made convincing enough arguments for him to take the plunge and snort the powdered substance off his hand. Once that was done, the guy was instructed to “enjoy the ride”.
While few people probably had a better time than those taking Molly all around me, it was still great to see Young, Stephen Stills, and the other remaining living member of Springfield, Richie Furay play together once again. While I only knew four songs (one of which was the Young solo classic “Rockin’ in the Free World”) I still thought these aging hippies brought all the energy and rocked out enthusiasm we’ve come to expect from such classic artists. I’m glad I had such a good spot for this show and there was not one moment I was disappointed. Towards the end of the set Young stated that they were about to play their one hit, which of course is “For What it’s Worth”. He kept referring to it as their “45”, a tongue-in-cheek reference to what was once the norm in the music industry and now means absolutely nothing to anyone born after 1990.
After Springfield I headed out to catch this headlining set for the evening by Eminem and I was surprised that Billy wanted to join me. As we walked towards the main stage I heard the speakers pumping out the classic lines of Slim Shady’s track “Kill You”. I don’t think Billy was all that familiar with the song and when the line “You don’t, want to fuck with Shady/ ‘Cause Shady, will fuckin’ kill you!” came out, Billy could do nothing more than laugh, and I had to join in too. Quite a jump from “Stop children/what’s that sound?/everyone look what’s going down”, huh? Billy and I grabbed a slice of pizza and stood watching the show from the back and apparently that’s all he needed to see, and I soon found myself alone to watch the rest of the show. I gotta say, Eminem has amazing flow as a rapper and his show was very entertaining. Granted it was over the top when he and his buddy MC took turns instructing both sexes to make rude gestures to the opposite sex and say “fuck you!!!” in some strange and childish competition, but the songs were spot on. And it’s worth pointing out that he took the same approach Big Boi did and played many of his hit songs in a medley type style while saving the full song treatment for his more recent tracks. I’m still not sure how normal that is, but my guess is that is the way the majority of rappers do it since every act I’ve ever seen follows that same protocol. And I’m sorry, but his theme song from “Eight Mile” is one of my favorite rap tracks of all time. I would probably never see an Eminem show on my own which is why I’m so glad he played Bonnaroo. It’s yet one more example of a great show I would never see otherwise.
29) Dr. John with Original Meters and Allen Toussaint:
I only caught a little of this set because it started right after Eminem finished and after that show I sat down to wait for the crowd to dissipate and as I did I was pleasantly surprised to be treated to a fireworks display off to the left beyond the VIP area. I don’t recall this happening before at Bonnaroo, so it was pretty cool to see, but it also took time away from this set by a classic funk/jazz/rock pianist, best known for his song “Right Place, Wrong Time”. Not only was I late in arriving, but apparently John found it necessary to take a set break about 45 minutes into his show. I guess the guy is pretty old and breaks are pretty important for him, and he even needed someone to help him stand up from the piano and walk off stage. I decided I didn’t want to wait around this late at night unless I was watching some band play so I decided to head out and catch one more show.
30) Scissor Sisters:
I was surprised to see this group get one of the late night billings but it wasn’t long after I arrived that I realized the billing made a ton of sense. I’m not much of a fan of this flamboyant/glam/electro/dance/disco group but did find their set fairly entertaining. And their song “I Don’t Feel Like Dancing” is just about as catchy as you can get for a dance song. But as is the case with most late nights at Bonnaroo, my energy level was near zero and I didn’t feel like I needed to stay out much longer so I headed back. Though I was surprised to find everyone in my group sound asleep when I arrived back around 1:30. I guess my younger cousins staying out until 7 am the night before did them in a bit. Seriously, they shattered the old record for late nights by about three hours. Oh, and this video isn’t the performance from Bonnaroo, but I since I couldn’t find a link for their performance of this song, I picked another one.