Posted by: hankwillenbrink | June 22, 2009



We started out the day with Zach‘s suggestion to hit up Portugal. The Man at the Sonic Stage for one of the 30 min acoustic sets.   I have a feeling that sentiment will come across many audience members from Bonnaroo’s lips.  Here’s the deal with Portugal.  The Man if more people who grew up listening to Rusted Root can make music like this, we’re in for a couple good music years.


Definately the “find” of the festival.  Nick and I were scrambling so much that we didn’t get much of a chance to just sit at a venue and happen-upon bands that we had never heard before.  Luckily, showing up early for the Dirty Projectors show totally paid off as we were introduced to Norway’s own Katzenjammer — an all female quartet of tin pan jazz, gypsy folk, and country.  Yeah.  Imagine Beirut meeting Dinah Washington carrying the gin-soaked corpse of Hank Williams in a Viking Ship.  Extraordinaryily musical, passing instruments back and forth, Katzenjammer was an early highlight and a fitting beginning to David Byrne’s curating of That Tent.


If Dave Longstreth isn’t the hugest dick on the planet, then I’m going to be very very very surprised. Dirty Projectors are too good live.  They record things that surprise at every turn.  And then have the audacity to reproduce it practically note for note in concert.  Longstreth must be a task master in rehearsal, but boy does it pay off.  There are certain bands you see where you had no idea there was that much stuff going on in the record.  This is one of those bands, and the amazing part is how much they do without the luxury of additional studio musicans.  Personal highlight:  Amber Coffman’s Mariah Carey-esque stylings on riotious R&B tune “Stillness is the Move.”  I gotta add another adjective to my thesaurus-burdened description of Dirty Projectors — Your younger hippie jamband brother who grew up listening to Frank Sinatra is marooned on a desert island with nothing but Black Flag and music theory gets in involved with a Whitney Houston coverband before going to Yale and dropping out.  Another Byrne curration, Dirty Projectors live show was a festival maker.  Also, shoutout to John Del Signore who we chatted with prior to the show and, small world, was heavily quoted in my dissertation.


In all candor, Animal Collective didn’t do it for me.  It could have been the heat, the lack of shade, the 2:45 time slot, or the live show which consisted of knob twirling and drony electronics.  Whatever it was, I was just burning up and not dancing.  You had no idea what was going on, just the continual meditation-inducing dissonance with little beat behind it.  Call me crazy, but c’mon, couldn’t you guys have played something from Feels or has Animal Collective disappeared into their boards too far?


We caught Nick’s fav. song off It’s Blitz before heading over to Grizzly Bear.  Karen O wins the get-up award.  But, I was more interested in Grizzly Bear.  These are the difficult decisions that you have to make at Bonnaroo – YYYs or Grizzly Bear.  There was a great piece of port-o-let graffiti I saw:  The Yawn Yawn Yawns.  I can neither confirm nor deny such graffiti.


Who knew that Daniel Rossen sang as much as he did?  Who knew he looked so much like Paul Simon?  Who knew that Veckamist fucking rocks live?  The last time I saw an album that played so well live despite the arduous rigor and production (before the aforementioned Dirty Projectors Bitte Orca) was Wilco’s seminal Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.  You may think that Veckamist belongs in your earbuds, but you’re wrong.  Get that bad boy out and give it some air and prepare to be impressed.  Standout track “Two Weeks” was a shot to the arm, a full blown psychedlic-folky-jazz standard experience with Ed’s voice conjuring a packed tent to its feet.  Despite the heat, despite the grueling nature of being on your dogs for 6 hours already, Grizzly Bear brought us into their world and were kind enough to help us enjoy our stay.


I read an interview with TV on the Radio once where the conductor said that the band was “too romantic to be political or too political to be romantic”  and the band replied:  “can’t we be both.”  Yes they can.  One of the things that distances TV on the Radio from just about any other band of Day Two is the amazing amount of heart that the collective has.  It’s kind of a cheesy and cliched thing to use that word “heart” but it’s totally true.  Seeing them on stage is a completely soul-changing experience.  If Jesus hadn’t done it first, I’m convinced that TV on the Radio could bring someone back to life.  But, let’s face it, these guys are more interested in doing shit that no one ain’t done before.  A phenomenal, flawless performance that had even the VIP gallery on its feet for the whole show, TVotR slayed.  I wasn’t a huge fan of Dear Science, but put me in the water, TVotR, I’m converted.  Highlights:  the entire audience handclap on “Dancing Choose” and the sublime torment and racial angst of “Family Tree.”  If I had money, I would fly anywhere, anytime, anyday to see this band again.



Shortly before 8pm, Nick looked at me and said “This is one of the best days of my life.  We’ve seen 5 of my favorite bands in a row.”  “Nick,” I said, “we haven’t even seen the Beastie Boys yet.”  I’ve been waiting to see the B-boys for over 20 yrs.  I know I’m dating myself, but it’s an important fact.  Because when you have a career as varied, as eclectic as Adrock, MCA, and Mike D, you’ve got to play to all your fans.  And the Beastie Boys know just how to do that.  It wasn’t the perfect set.  Parts were clunky.  There were stops and starts.  “Sabotage” was halted at the breakdown after MCA missed a bass lick, prompting the evil eye on the big screen from a fro’d out Mike D.  Still, it was worth the wait.  Playing the old hits as well as an astonishing number of the old punk tunes that gave the Beasties their start, it was totally worth the wait.  Not only that, the Boys threw in new samples, played their own instruments and totally reinvigorated who they were while paying homage to those who have listened all along.  Here’s the setlist:

  1. Time for Livin’
  2. Super Disco Breakin
  3. Sure Shot
  4. No Sleep till Brooklyn
  5. Shake your Rump
  6. Gratitude
  7. Santa Rosa
  8. Egg Raid on Mojo
  9. Body Movin
  10. Pass the Mic
  11. Root Down
  12. New Track (with Nas)
  13. Paul Revere
  14. Something’s Gotta Give
  15. Tough Guy
  16. Remote Control
  17. What cha Want?
  18. Intergalactic
  19. 3 MCs & 1 DJ
  20. Heartattack Man
  21. Sabotage


Another tough choice:  Beastie Boys or Byrne?  We went with Beasties and hung out in the Press Area where we could catch the end of Byrne’s show.  Charging through his own tunes as well as the classics by the Talking Heads (see:  “Take Me to the River,” “Slippery People,” “Once in a Lifetime”) and modern dance, David Byrne’s got it all.  Seriously.  He does.  Remember Katzenjammer and Dirty Projectors?  Byrne got ’em there.  Props David, seriously.  You’re the best taste-maker of the past 20+ years.  And a damn fine songwriter to boot.


I didn’t see Phoenix on SNL, but was expecting to be less than blown away at midnight after being up since 7am.  Boy was I wrong.  Phoenix’s popularity may have spurned such a riotous audience, but it sure helped the music.  Frontman Thomas Mars seemed genuinely impressed and blown away by the crowd.  And, well, we were returning the favor by getting down to not only the stellar tracks off Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix but deeper cuts into their catalog as well like “Run Run Run” and Nick’s new favorite track “Napoleon Says.”  More than anything with this concert, the rhythm section stuck out for me by bringing a raucous beat to the jangling pop and keyboard-laden songwriting of Phoenix.  It’s good when melody moves your ass.  Phoenix knows that.


Son of former Nigerian political and musical revolutionary, Fela Kuti, Femi (one of his sons by his many many many wives) has been making some damn fine albums which tread in his father’s footsteps but not all the way.  Femi takes afrobeat and condenses it to a jazz form that is more reliant on songwriting than improvisation.  And to see that live is like drinking nectar from the gods, b/c let’s face it…the son of a god is a god himself.


H: I’m going to be honest.  I don’t get 8-bit.  I don’t like it.  I don’t like Alice’s screaming.  I pretty much hated everything about this concert.  “Crime Waves” is fine.  We should have stayed at Femi Kuti.

N: I drug Hank to this show.  Sorry Hank, but you have to appreciate CC’s sound for what it is…wild party music that you can go nuts to.  At 3:00am, what else could you ask for?


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