June 15th, 2009
02:09 AM ET

Phish recaptures 'Glory Days' at Bonnaroo

Bonnaroo 2009 came to a fitting close Sunday night, with epic jam-band Phish enthralling fans well into the crisp Manchester, Tennessee, night – its second headlining performance of the four-day music and arts festival attended by an estimated 75 thousand people.

The band played two electric sets - highlights of the first included “Punch You In The Eye,” “Tweezer” and “Character Zero.” Saturday’s headliner, Bruce Springsteen, joined the band for a three-song jam to close out the first set. Guitarist Trey Anastasio introduced Bruce as his “boyhood hero” and the two traded licks throughout rousing performances of “Mustang Sally,” “Bobbie Jean,” and “Glory Days.”

After a break, the band returned to play a looser set – including a face-melting “46 Days,” and a spacey, psychedelic cover of The Velvet Underground’s “Rock N Roll,” and closed the set with “Suzy Greenburg” and “Tweezer Reprise.”

Phish’s show capped of another day of diverse performances.

Hip-Hop artist Snoop Dogg, backed by a full band, delighted the massive crowd, drawing the biggest applause during classic-Snoop tracks “Gin and Juice” and “What’s My Name.” Other set highlights included a House of Pain cover of “Jump Around,” and “Lodi Dodi,” with earlier What Stage artist Erykah Badu.

Badu, sporting a hooded Public Enemy sweatshirt and shades that covered most of her face, played a low-key set, after taking the stage 37 minutes late, but still managed to soothed the crowd with her infectious blend of chilled-out grooves, hip-hop and soul.

Other notable performances included Band of Horses, Merle Haggard, Ted Leo and The Pharmacists, Andrew Bird, and Citizen Cope.

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June 14th, 2009
01:04 PM ET

Springsteen takes Bonnaroo to 'promised land'

Bruce Springsteen at Bonnaroo 2009
Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band thrilled the crowd Saturday night during a headlining set of heartland-inspired anthems at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee.

The big question going into Saturday night – at least in my mind - was why would The Boss want to play Bonnaroo?

He has a legion of fans who’ll fill any arena in the country, so why play a festival crowd instead of one that knows all the words to "Rosalita?" After seeing the band play a 28-song set just shy of three hours - I think it has to do with passion.

Bruce in particular seemed to relish the challenge of playing a different kind of venue – just the band’s second-ever festival performance.

Here’s a man, nearing age 60, who believes so deeply in the power of rock and roll to inspire, and seemed determined to will that belief on Bonnaroo, telling the audience “we need to build a house together.”

Drenched in sweat, Bruce wowed the audience with a relentless enthusiasm and showmanship - throwing his guitar to his roadie, climbing onto the piano, and taking requests from hand-written signs from the crowd – including “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Bruce told the crowd “It’s too f-ing hot for Santa!” before launching into the roaring sing-a-long.

The rest of the E Street Band was equal to the task. Max Weinberg’s 18-year-old son, Jay, took over on drums during “Radio Nowhere” and finished the stellar second half of the show. Springsteen’s son, Evan, would later join the band on guitar.

The struggling economy was not far from Bruce’s mind. He spoke to the crowd about seeing “hard times” across the country – and played up that motif during blue-collar songs “Working on A Dream,” “The River,” and “Youngstown” – and played a 155-year-old Stephen Foster song “Hard Times Come Again No More” during the first encore.

The band closed with back-to-back tracks off "Born in the USA" - “Glory Days” and “Dancing in the Dark” - the later of which Bruce invited a woman wearing a green “I Love New Jersey” T-Shirt on to stage to dance.

Overall, a stunning, emotional performance, and the best I’ve seen at Bonnaroo thus far.

Coming in a close second was Wilco, who like Bruce, drew from their rich catalog of material to mesmerize the crowd - including four songs of their upcoming seventh studio album, "Wilco (The Album)."

Frontman Jeff Tweedy played coy with the audience – telling them “it doesn’t matter if you boo tonight. It will sound like you are yelling Bruuuuce!” And guitarist Nels Cline channeled "Marquee Moon"-era Television to power the band through soaring performances of “Impossible Germany,” “California Stars” and “Spiders (Kidsmoke).”

Other performances Saturday night included Ben Harper, moe, MGMT and Nine Inch Nails – during which Trent Reznor told the audience this would be the group’s final U.S. performance.

Sunday promises another diverse and lineup - including Okkervil River, Merle Haggard, Erykah Badu, Andrew Bird, Snoop Dogg, Neko Case and the second headlining set from Phish to close out the festival.

Check out these great aerial photos over Bonnaroo on iReport.com. And follow my adventures at Bonnaroo on Twitter.

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June 13th, 2009
06:14 PM ET

Bon Iver rocks Bonnaroo

Here’s a quick update from the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tennessee.

So far Saturday belongs to Bon Iver, the project of indie folk singer Justin Vernon, who just wrapped a rousing set of beautiful, soulful melodies mostly off the band’s standout debut album For Emma, Forever Ago, much of which was recorded in a remote cabin in Wisconsin.

I would haven’t necessarily used the term “rock” to describe the tortured singer/songwriter I if hadn’t just seen it with my own eyes. The 4-piece band took the stage with 2 drum kits and a standing snare drum.

Jamaican reggae pioneers Wailing Souls were the first to grace the main stage today, playing a mix of roots and dancehall-style tracks from throughout their considerable career – more than 20 albums released since the 70s – but the highlight was a funky cover of The Doors’ “Love Her Madly.”

And late-Bonnaroo addition - singer, author, and restaurant-chain mogul Jimmy Buffett - played a set of fan favorites with Ilo and the Coral Reefer Allstars. In case you’re wondering, Bonnaroo has plenty of “parrotheads,” and “landsharks” too. Buffett fans came out in force early Saturday afternoon, spilling well beyond the Which Stage field.

A great start for sure, but the night is just getting underway. Still to come – Of Montreal, Decemberists, Wilco, and headliner Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band before giving way to a late-night lineup including Nine Inch Nails, Ben Harper, and MGMT.

Stay tuned to the Marquee Blog for more updates, and you can also follow my exploits on Twitter.

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June 13th, 2009
03:48 AM ET

Phish comes 'home' to Bonnaroo


Bonnaroo, a massive four-day music and arts festival held every June in Manchester, Tennessee, was practically built for Phish, so it felt a bit like a homecoming when the Vermont-based jam band took center stage Friday night, taking its first of two headlining sets (the band plays Sunday as well) well into the early morning hours to a standing-room only crowd.

Seemingly rejuvenated from its five-year hiatus, Phish pulled out all the stops in its first ‘Roo performance, playing classics like show-opener “Chalkdust Torture,” “Harry Hood,” and an epic 25-minute “You Enjoy Myself” (complete with synchronized trampoline jumping). The four-man group also worked in stellar covers of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” and show-finale “A Day in The Life” by the Beatles.

Another standout performance Friday night came from the Beastie Boys, who took the stage by storm by playing punk metal before dropping rap classics “Pass The Mic,” “No Sleep Til Brooklyn” and “Root Down.” Their set included perhaps the highlight of the night as hip-hop icon Nas joined the Beasties on stage for a new track – which included a reference to “The Situation Room” news anchor Wolf Blitzer and CNN’s hologram technology.

French outfit Phoenix delighted the hipster crowd who passed on Phish with their irresistible indie-pop – particularly when lead singer Thomas Mars climbed into the crowd during show-closer “1901” off their stellar new album, "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix."

Over at the This Tent, Flavor Flav and Chuck D brought the noise as hip-hop pioneers Public Enemy delighted an eager crowd with favorites such as “Don’t Believe The Hype” and “Rebel Without a Pause.”

Al Green – backed by a dozen musicians, singers and dancers, schmoozed the audience, throwing stemmed roses to female concert-goers, and coaxing mass sing-a-longs to some of his best-known tunes, like “Let’s Stay Together” and “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart.”

TV on the Radio and David Byrne rounded off a series of fantastic performances on the Which Stage Friday evening.

I knew there would be some artists I would not be able to see, but still I'm kicking myself for not catching these acts:


*Toubab Krewe

*Grizzly Bear

Here’s hoping I have the energy for Girl Talk.

Stay tuned to the Marquee Blog for more updates, and you can also follow my exploits on Twitter.

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Filed under: Bonnaroo • Music • Uncategorized
June 12th, 2009
05:39 PM ET

Animal Collective mesmerizes at Bonnaroo

A quick update from sunny Bonnaroo.

I just witnessed a mesmerizing digital freak-out by Animal Collective, whose self-described blend of “electronic horror gospel hip-hop, soul pop madness” was evident on standout tracks from their brilliant 6th studio album, Merriweather Post Pavilion, including “Summertime Clothes”, and a Bonnaroo-worthy extended jam on “Fireworks” from the album Strawberry Jam.

The most-pleasant surprise so far was a lively set of beautiful harmonies and African & reggae inspired beats by The Dirty Projectors (pictured above), as the band enthralled the audience with tracks from their most recent album, Bitte Orca.

British rock band Gomez kicked off a rousing performance showcasing their considerable talents and wide-ranging musical styles – a blend of blues, country, and psychedelic rock – with songs of their new album, New Tide.

Spotted behind the scenes (and behind the stage):
* Triumph the Insult Comic Dog interviewing TV on the Radio
* Artist Ani DiFranco and actor Janeane Garafalo talking politics
* Serenade performances by Katzenjammer and The Low Anthem

The conditions are better than I hoped considering last-night’s downpour.
The air is steamy, the grounds muddy, but so far the rain has stayed away.

The crowds and size of this place are a little daunting. I’ve yet to see the main stage. But will soon as Al Green, The Beastie Boys and later Phish take center stage.

Stay tuned to the Marquee Blog for more updates, and you can also follow my exploits on Twitter.

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June 11th, 2009
09:15 AM ET

Bonnaroo or bust, baby!

Bonnaroo, a massive four-day music and arts festival held every June in Manchester, Tennessee, begins today, and quiet panic is setting in at the Wheatley household.


In less than 24 hours, we’ll be swimming in a sea of sweat and patchouli. But right now we still need to find someone to feed our cat, and pick up our share from the farmers market. Sarah - my lovely wife - thinks I need a bigger hat. She’s right. My sensitive skin will likely take a beating soon.

Going to ‘Roo is no small undertaking. It is a feat of endurance. Rock concerts begin around noon and push through 4 in the morning. The blistering sun heats your tent like an oven so you can’t sleep past 9. That is, if thunderstorms don’t turn the grounds into a muddy bog.

That may not sound like fun. But, for music lovers, Bonnaroo is practically paradise – sporting one of the most diverse lineups in the country.

The event, which began in 2002 as a jam-band festival geared toward the Dead-head crowd, has shed much of its hippie-fest reputation in recent years by showcasing mainstream artists like Metallica, Radiohead, and The Police. It’s now arguably the best rock festival anywhere and this year’s lineup aims to thrill.

Headliners Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and Phish (playing two nights) anchor a cast of more than 100 performers - from established acts (Beastie Boys, Nine Inch Nails, Wilco) to legendary performers (Al Green, David Byrne, King Sunny Ade) to indie darlings (Bon Iver, The Dirty Projectors, Of Montreal).

Something for everyone, but the stacked lineup also provides for some near impossible choices. Take Sunday night - as Snoop Dogg, Band of Horses and Neko Case occupy separate stages during the same hour.

My own must-see list continues to swell - in addition to the artists above, I’m psyched to see country legend Merle Haggard, the reunion of rap pioneers Public Enemy and the incomparable dance-party mash-up that is Girl Talk, the later of which begins at 2:15 a.m. Friday night!

Tens of thousands of tent-towing music fans are already making the pilgrimage to the sprawling 700-acre farm that houses the event. With any luck, I’ll be arriving tomorrow morning with ample time to set camp, cover every inch of exposed skin with SPF 75, and catch the all-female Norwegian quartet Katzenjammer. I kid you not.

If you're going, please share your stories on iReport.com.

I’ll be keeping you updated with pics and show reviews right here on the Marquee Blog, and you can also follow my exploits on Twitter.

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Filed under: Bonnaroo • Music
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