BONNAROO 2013: A PLANETARY DEPARTURE

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BONNAROO 2013

It seemed as if it took about a century to get to Bonnaroo, I’d been waiting since February. It came and went leaving me in a daze, almost like it didn’t happen at all. Bonnaroo 2013 was another fantastic event, after a three-year absence I felt the time was right to go back. The lineup when I first laid eyes on it sounded too good to be true. With headliners like Mumford & Sons, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, and Sir Paul McCartney, plus an astonishingly strong under-card, I couldn’t possibly pass this up. Besides being a massive fan of Tom Petty and being on the Mumford & Sons bandwagon from the very beginning, Paul McCartney was one of the last legendary icons I wanted to check off my list of seeing live. There are less than a handful of artists that are on this list that McCartney was on, with the two most prominent being The Rolling Stones and U2. Their ticket prices are far too exorbitant though to see just one artist. I still love both of those bands but paying several hundred dollars just for one act? No way guys (The most I’ve paid for one act is around $125 for Bruce Springsteen and he’s better live than The Stones or U2 could ever be). Sorry for that tangent there, anyway, I thought this was the best opportunity to see Macca, so the trigger I pulled way back in February ended up being a big dividend.

We arrived around 5am Thursday morning. I was in good company again, the same as the 2010 Bonnaroo trip. I have to commend Eric for driving all the way down there. Eastern Iowa to Manchester, TN is quite the haul. We still had to wait in line about three hours I think (I was dozing in and out of consciousness), way better than the 12 hours we waited in line last time. Once we got our campsite set up the imbibing commenced. Maybe we got out of the gates a little too fast, but I will say that Eric is one of the funniest people in that circumstance, first class entertainment on two legs, I had forgotten that. We wondered into the heart of Centeroo (The festival grounds) later on and first caught The Futurebirds. A really good country-rock act that kicked off their set with the sublime “Serial Bowls” which radiated with a southern-fried R.E.M. jangle. Next was the femme fatale duo known as Deap Vally. These ladies really impressed me and they busted through the boys club of rifftastic rock with unbridled ferocity. All hell broke loose when Japandroids came on though. I had been wanting to see them since their breakthrough record Celebration Rock came out last year. I caught them at Bonnaroo 2010 when I didn’t know much about them. If you’ve been around me the past year you know how much I’ve raved about Celebration Rock, one of my favorite records in the past few years, maybe ever. One more time, if you don’t have it… GET IT! Eric and I were thrown into the maelstrom and the savagery of the crowd. I knew they had mosh pits at their shows, but I thought we were far back enough to avoid that. I was wrong. We were thrashed about like a beat up boat on unforgiving waters. Japandroids tore through Celebration Rock scorchers like “Adrenaline Nightshift,” “Fire’s Highway,” “Evil’s Sway,” “The Nights of Wine and Roses,” and of course “The House That Heaven Built”. They also threw in a few older cuts such as “Young Hearts Spark Fire” before closing it out with the blistering Gun Club cover “For The Love Of Ivy.” After that show my body was exhausted due to minimal sleep from the previous 36 hours and I more or less crashed.

Day two I took it a little easier. The line to get into the festival was ridiculous, not a fan of them adopting the wristband scanning policy of Lollapalooza, too much of a hassle and bottleneck creator. We got in to see the last part of the Local Natives set before heading over to Of Monsters Of Men. Here’s a band that has really taken off in the past year, backed by Arcade Fire-esque anthems from their dynamite debut record My Head is an Animal such as “Dirty Paws,” “King and Lionheart,” “Mountain Sound,” “Six Weeks,” and their hit single “Little Talks.” They played to a massive swell of an audience at such a small stage. A bright future is in store for this Icelandic group for sure.

After that I settled in for the sure-fire excellency of Wilco. I believe this was the seventh time I’ve seen Wilco and they delivered again with a 19-song set that included “Art of Almost,” “Kamera,” “California Stars,” “Handshake Drugs,” “Impossible Germany,” “Jesus Etc.,” “Via Chicago,” “Heavy Metal Drummer,” “I’m The Man Who Love You,” and “A Shot in the Arm.”

Then came time for the main event… Macca, Sir Paul McCartney. I don’t know if you could say he stole the show because he was a Beatle but McCartney blew everyone else out of the water up until that point. There were conflicting reports on how long he played but he went on shortly after 9pm and played till about 11:50pm. Nearly three hours at 70-years-old (He turned 71 four days after this). This man’s songbook, the sheer depth of classics he has at his disposal is near unfathomable for one artist. It’s a set list that’s been reported to be 36 songs long (Unless you count the medley at the end as multiple songs, then it’s 38). He played Wings and solo hits like “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “Junior’s Farm,” “Let Me Roll It,” and “Listen to What the Man Said.” The bulk of the show however was his timeless Beatles catalog. And rightfully so, they were delivered dynamically and impeccably, near-perfection. Paul and his backing band sounded phenomenal. Just when you thought he might be losing some steam he kicked the show into a stratospheric gear beginning with an 80,000-strong sing-a-long of “Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da.” It was an onslaught, a murderers’ row of diamonds from then on. There was the epic “Band on the Run,” the jet-setting “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” soaring versions of “Let it Be” and “Hey Jude” and a pyrotechnics display not of this world for “Live and Let Die.” I thought the show might’ve ended there but he came back out for three encores. The first included Rubber Soul-era smash “Day Tripper,” the rollicking “Hi Hi Hi,” and a personal favorite of mine the propulsive Let It Be stomper “Get Back.” He came back on again armed with just an acoustic guitar for a stop-the-clocks rendition of “Yesterday” before the rest of the band rejoined him for the caustic pile-driver “Helter Skelter.” Again, I thought this had to be it. He returned yet again closing out the brilliant set with the Abbey Road medley of “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End”. McCartney was in a dapper mood and didn’t even appear to break a sweat. There was a large sign that in the crowd that said “Maccaroo” and I couldn’t have put it any better than that. He owned the festival that night, reigning supreme. I can now check McCartney off my concert bucket list, one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying something.

I still had two days of music after that show, I couldn’t believe it. Saturday started with the shimmering beauty of Lord Huron’s set. Then I had to fuel up for the white-knuckle ride of Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls. Turner is a fantastic live act and proved to be that again. A blue-collared poet of the people Turner had us in the palm of his hand, a roller coaster on edge as he tore the pages out of his punk playbook with rallying cries like “Four Simple Words”, “Reasons Not To Be An Idiot,” “Glory Hallelujah,” “I Am Disappeared,” “Plain Sailing Weather,” “The Road,” “Recovery,” “Photosynthesis,” and “I Still Believe.” I caught the end of Portugal. The Man’s set after that. They’re a band I definitely want to see an entire live show of at some point, they sounded great and they always put out good records, but Frank Turner took precedence. There was another large swath of people to see The Lumineers. Similar to Of Monsters and Men, they saw a meteoric rise to fame off the strength of a mega hit, in this case, “Ho Hey.” The band was very cordial and appreciative of the large fan base they had accrued in such a short time frame.

Sunday was a much needed recovery day. Out in the Tennessee heat for four days without the usual amenities you take for granted (in-door plumbing, air conditioning, a comfortable bed) really takes its toll. After getting rested up at the campgrounds, it was time to head in for The National. The National are an interesting dichotomy of technical proficiency and high-stakes theater. The latter of course, comes solely from front man Matt Berninger.  Berninger guzzled glasses of wine (Or some concoction) with impunity as he howled through National cuts with booze-fueled tenacity. Once again Berninger wondered through the crowd singing and causing total chaos during their defiant cut “Mr. November.” The National seem like sad sacks on record and maybe at first glance too, but they’re so much more than that. I’ve seen them throw more passion and dangerous sonics into their sets than a lot of punk and metal bands.

The time then came for Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (Cue “When The Time Comes”) to close out the festival. If you know me at all you know of my great affinity for Tom Petty. He’s on my Mt. Rushmore of Rock & Roll singer/songwriters along with Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and Neil Young. Petty & The Heartbreakers delivered a powerhouse set that mixed in massive hits, deep cuts, and covers kicking off with a thunderous rendition of The Byrds’ classic “So You Want To Be a Rock ‘N’ Roll Star.” Petty then delivered a couple cuts from Full Moon Fever “Love is a Long Road” and “I Won’t Back Down” which Petty introduced saying, “Let’s do one everyone can sing-a-long with.” Petty was in great spirits stating, “I don’t have to be anywhere for hours!” and “I predict we’re going to have an incredible time tonight.” He was right. Petty sounded marvelous with his vintage nasally croon and the band was all aces playing tight and also loose whenever the situation warranted it. They followed Petty wherever he needed them to go flawlessly. Lead guitarist Mike Campbell’s virtuosic chops in particular were on display (Whom Petty has anointed as his Co-Captain over the years) on stellar moments during the blues standard “Baby Please Don’t Go” (Which included a great rambling narrative by Petty saying goodbye to his “Bipolar” woman), the absolutely incendiary, blistering “Good Enough” and the roasting outro of the colossal “I Should Have Known It” where you swore Campbell’s guitar was going to leave a smoldering pile of rubble where the stage once was. His interplay with Petty also seemed effortless on lengthier jams like the Grateful Dead cover “Friend of the Devil” and “It’s Good To Be King.” Tom dusted off a gem from the Traveling Wilburys first record “Tweeter And The Monkey Man” that he co-wrote with Dylan. Petty mentioned his roots beginning in the South and then played a stripped-down version of “Rebels” from Southern Accents. As if that wasn’t enough the treasures seemed endless with staples like “Here Comes My Girl,” “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” “Free Fallin’,” “A Woman In Love (It’s Not Me),” “Listen To Her Heart,” “Learning to Fly,” and “Yer So Bad.” Petty closed out the initial set with the one-two punch of clarion-call march “Refugee” and the open-road endearment of “Runnin’ Down A Dream.” With the crowd still completely enamored, Petty and the boys returned to the stage for “Don’t Come Around Here No More” and the hard-charging “You Wreck Me” before ending with the song that put them on the map, “American Girl.” An excellent way to send the crowd home with one of the greatest songwriters ever and one of the greatest bands ever.

Of course with four days of music you’ll inevitably have some regrets. So many great acts and you go in with such big ambitions but it’s tough to get to everyone and for everything to go perfectly. I guess the biggest disappointment would be Mumford & Sons being forced to cancel their set. This was something that was completely out of their control though. Bassist Ted Dwane was recovering from brain surgery after a blood clot was found there. Luckily he’s already on the mend and is doing fine. I’d be more upset if I weren’t seeing them in less than two months at Lollapalooza. It should be a hell of a show. The next was missing out on the “Superjam” with Jim James and special guests. I wish I had a better excuse than being completely tired, but that’s basically the reason. James has been known to steal the show at Bonnaroo. He did so at the festival in 2008 with My Morning Jacket when they played a monumental four hour set into the wee hours of the night. I heard nothing but positive reviews from the Superjam show. Again there is a bit of consolation for me in the fact that I will be seeing James perform with My Morning Jacket at the AmericanaramA festival next month along with Wilco and Bob Dylan.

In the grand scheme of things those setbacks seemed minor mainly because of such unbelievable headlining sets by McCartney and Petty and a strong supporting cast. Bonnaroo was once again an unbelievable experience. So many elements combine for such a surreal and unforgettable time. It’s time I cherished greatly because it was four days but it was gone seemingly in the blink of an eye. If you ever get the chance to get down south to Bonnaroo I strongly recommend it. There’s no other place like it… on this planet anyway.

(Changes)

Still waiting for my diploma in the mail. Apparently they’re supposed to be mailed this week. Alright University of Iowa and USPS, don’t blow this!

On a different note. I may have stepped foot in 5420 Gordon Ave. for the last time today. After 27 years, my parents are moving out and into a smaller apartment/condo.  Makes sense, no more kids in the nest. Plus it was so rundown, I think this will be good for them. I lived there for 20 years of my life. A lot of memories to say the least. Helping them move this weekend was daunting, but I’m glad I helped. One final send off for 5420…

 

 

 

Elsewhere, I’m getting very excited for the albums coming out this Summer/Fall. Yes, I’m obsessed with music. But you know what? Music is so great. At least the kind I listen to anyway. There’s no shortage of juggernauts coming out, but I’m always on the look out for new artists on the rise too. Just a few notables include new records by The Gaslight Anthem, Band of Horses, The Avett Brothers, Green Day, The Killers, Muse, Mumford & Sons, Soundgarden and The Flaming Lips. There’s also numerous other rumored records to be released, most notably Bob Dylan. This is sounding like a lock, but not 100% guaranteed. There hasn’t been a lot of information released regarding the record, but the stuff that has been, has got me salivating. Dylan is a master when it comes crafting lengthy songs and there’s a rumored 9-minute song as well as a staggering 14-minute song, supposedly about the Titanic. That would be his second longest song ever recorded on an album behind “Highlands” which runs longer than 16-minutes. The record is also said to be around 68 minutes. I’m a sucker for long albums too, the more Dylan the better.

In 2008 and 2009 I wrote about the top 10 albums of the year. Stepped up my game a bit in 2010 and wrote about the Top 25 albums of that year. Then I went a little further in 2011 and did a top 30 albums. This year, for 2012? I’m aiming for 50. 50 records to write about! I just may be able to pull this one off. Most people probably don’t even buy 50 records in 2-3 years, let alone 50+ in one year that they have to narrow it down to. I’ve already started to keep track of records and have a rough sketch of the top 20 so far. So far Bruce Springsteen is still #1 with Wrecking Ball, a spot he’s held onto since early March. The only record to come close to challenging it is the surprising surge of the all thrills no frills, all killer no filler of Japandroids’ Celebration Rock. Man they really knocked my wind out with this record, it’s phenomenal, not a bad second on it. I’ve raved about it over the past month. Can’t say enough good things about it. I’d say they’re the Cinderella story of the year, knocking it out of the park ahead of some of the established giants in rock & roll. Anyway, you know the top two, here’s the complete top 20:

1. Bruce Springsteen- Wrecking Ball

2. Japandroids- Celebration Rock

3. The Tallest Man on Earth- There’s No Leaving Now

4. Ben Kweller- Go Fly A Kite

5. Jack White- Blunderbuss

6. The Lumineers- The Lumineers

7. Of Monsters And Men- My Head Is An Animal

8. The Hives- Lex Hives

9. The Shins- Port Of Morrow

10. The Walkmen- Heaven

11. The Smashing Pumpkins- Oceania

12. Delta Spirit- Delta Spirit

13. Fun.- Some Nights

14. Heartless Bastards- Arrow

15. Silversun Pickups- Neck Of The Woods

16. The Beach Boys- That’s Why God Made The Radio

17. Andrew Bird- Break It Yourself

18. Alabama Shakes- Boys & Girls

19. Trampled By Turtles- Stars And Satellites

20. Vintage Trouble- The Bomb Shelter Sessions

There’s a lot of other records I’ve purchased too, but I whittled it down to 20 for now. It’ll be tough to knock The Boss out of that #1 spot, but with these rumors swirling of Dylan’s album being a monster, he could definitely do it. And not because of a Dylan bias since he is my favorite artist, because I try to be as objective as possible. In 2009 Dylan’s Together Through Life, although a very good record, did not even crack my top five that year. The reason is because, well, Bob Dylan has been on a roll for 15 years now including three masterpieces in a row with Time Out Of Mind, “Love & Theft”, and Modern Times. That and his brilliant collection of outtakes and alternate takes of latter day recordings with the bootleg series Tell Tale Signs. On those records and bootlegs are some of the finest moments in Dylan’s career, and that’s saying a lot. If Dylan’s feeling up to it, he can topple anyone, including Springsteen with another marvelous record. Not a knock on Bruce, but there’s only one Bob Dylan. Anyway I’m rambling, just really excited about the prospects of this Dylan album.

Continuing on the music circuit, sort of, can August get here yet? I am taking 10 days off in August, it’s going to be great. What do I have on my plate? A gauntlet of greatness. August 1st: The Black Keys in Council Bluffs, August 3rd-5th: Lollapalooza in Chicago, August 19th: Dawes at The Englert, Bob Dylan in Rochester on August 21st, and then Apple River to close it all out from August 23rd-26th. Yeah, August is going to be great.

Let’s not forget, shortly after that… Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band in Chicago, Wrigley Field on September 7th. Nuff said. Can’t get anymore epic than that.

Well, that’s all for now on the ramblin’ trail…

wait!