Bonnaroo 2013: The Perlmutter Top 5 Performances
Bonna-freaking-roo... Where to even start? If I can somehow articulate the extent to which it was an adult playpen for 100,000 people on a 400-acre plot in Manchester, TN, then I've done my job. It's amazing how music can unify all different types of people; R Kelly put it perfectly: "We are all here because we love music."
The culture that was Bonnaroo was unparalleled to anything I've ever experienced before.
You could have eaten any kind of food from all over the world, explored awesome art and tapestries (which I bought, ha), and rambled down some infamous Shakedown Streets. Everyone I met was happy to talk about how mind-blown they were after an amazing performance, where they were from, and what story they had to tell. I became boys with my Canadian neighbors, and it turns out the guy with a guitar near my campsite (which I had to find because I was an idiot and didn't bring mine) was from Aurora, Illinois. Excellent?! (That's where Wayne's World was filmed- if you missed the net, shame on you). You spent time with your neighbors not only because you wanted to, but you had plenty of time to because you woke up sweating and stuck to your tent when the sun came up in the morning. It may sound like it sucked, but I couldn’t have cared less and loved it. Literally, you were free to do whatever you wanted to do at Roo. Walking to and from centeroo (the stage area) you'd find people looking for acid, shrooms, weed, and drugs of which I've never even heard. The lawless atmosphere intrigued me, of course, but let's not get carried away here: let's discuss why we were all there.
It's going to be hard to give my "Perlmutter Top 5 performances", if you will, so I'll just pontificate on why you NEED to listen to certain artists. The following are some artists who are blowing the fuck up, who have maintained their talent levels for decades, and who I hadn't heard of or known too well prior to going.
1: Allen Stone. I'd previously heard of Allen Stone for two reasons: I knew they were also touring with Dispatch this summer, so if Brad, Chad, and Pete love them, I knew I definitely would; also, I'd heard from a homie that he killed it at Coachella. I will not say this lightly- CV readers who read my album review this year on Justin Timberlake know that I love him, and it's scary how much Allen Stone reminded me of JT. He grew up singing to soul greats like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, and you can hear their influences in his voice. He describes his music as “soul-R&B-hippie”, which is pretty accurate. It’s hard not to fall into his charm and dig his tunes. From a performance perspective, he was successfully able to make everyone want to dance on their own, while singing along to his catchy call-and-response songs, such as “Say So” and “Unaware.” I love it when artists have a certain way with the crowd; he was hilarious. He organized a dance-off where he asked the audience to split into two lines, and square off. That was bomb. His voice is unbelievable: full of soul, rhythm and blues. His backing band consisted of a phenomenal jazzy drummer, a smooth-and-silky-playing guitarist, and a great keys/organ player. Download his album right now; usually I need to know songs to enjoy a show at the next level. Without knowing one of his songs, I fell in love with the band. And the coolest thing he did that absolutely blew my mind was that he brought out the Nashville Gospel Choir to cover "Is This Love", by the legend, Bob Marley. I'm such a sucker for gospel choirs. They absolutely destroyed the 5 part harmonies on the chorus leaving everyone's jaw hanging. And over that little piece from heaven, Allen Stone is riffing like you would not believe. His voice seriously reached the upper register and transitioned into falsetto beautifully when he had to. Have I said enough? Go check him out. A+.
^ this doesn’t do “Is This Love” justice from the YouTube clip, but just to get an idea of how awesome it was.
2. Paul McCartney. You know, when you see the footage in the 60's of millions of screaming girls running after the Beatles, you say to yourself, "Wow. People are obsessed with these guys." And never did I think I'd have screaming girl syndrome at a show before. But I don't have to lecture CV on why Paul McCartney is one of the best performers of all time, why he's so amazing with the crowd, why the stories he tells on stage are amazing, etc. Here's one he told. He demonstrated how guitars go out of tune when Hendrix used to mess around with the whammy bar and neck. Paul was at a Jimi show, and because his guitar was always getting out of tune from bending, Jimi called out Eric Clapton in the audience. Then, vicariously through Paul's goofy accent, he allegedly said "Hey Eric, can you come tune this for me?" That was one of many anecdotes McCartney went on in between Beatles' classics such as "Eight Days a Week," "Day Tripper," "Get Back," and many more. He also played Wings material as well as some songs from his solo career. "Live and Let Die," was met with fireworks over the stage, which was awesome and got the Roo crew riled up. After close to three hours of melting my face off with three encores, he ended with the infamous Abbey Road medley, which was too perfect to end a show. He will always be my favorite Beatle and it truly was an honor to finally see him kick ass- he's been doing it for 50+ years!
3: R Kelly: I wasn't reluctant to go to this show, but I literally had no expectations. All I wanted from him going into the show was to hear the drunken girl favorite "Ignition Remix," which he opened with and was awesome. But I was completely oblivious to how talented he really is. Every song he started singing completely engaged me. As absurd as his legal history is, his songs are as well. But it almost becomes irrelevant because in between all the singing of sluts, sex, grinding, drinking, etc., you're so blown away by him completely killing it and riffing like you wouldn't believe. Don't get me wrong, I was still shouting, "Pee on me!" from the crowd, but this guy has been around for a while and deserves respect. I had the pleasure of watching the Nashville Gospel Choir once again, as he brought them out for the fan-favorite "I Believe I Can Fly," which was unreal. He's still on the map CV; see him live if you get a chance and you'll better appreciate what R&B truly is.
4: The Futurebirds: I'd never heard of this southern-rock 6-piece band from Athens, GA. They were having as much fun on stage as the crowd was- it's easier for a viewer to get into a show when the band is awesome to watch as they go nuts on stage. My image of a southern rocker is now these guys: long hair topped with trucker hats. Swag? Jokes, they kick ass. Check'em out.
5: Alt-J: You know, I really try to be open to all different kinds of music. But for whatever reason, I am so adamant and against House/EDM/Electronic now-a-days due to the evident lack of physical live musicianship. I know there is more to it than just sitting behind a computer and pressing play as the software is hard to master, but I like to watch what I’m hearing. Alt-J is the perfect medium between a DJ and a live band, as they are literally English indie-rockers whose live sets sound like a “band on a beat.” Their beats are abstract, funky, and definitely untraditional, but they found a way to connect with the crowds at both Governor’s Ball and Roo, as both went nuts over them. I’ll admit, I enjoyed both performances: they are kind of like the new indie-electronic-rockers, and they are opening my eyes to how this genre can be cool. These guys will be around this decade, and are definitely on the rise. Their main songs are “Breezeblocks” “Tesselate” and “Fitzpleasure.” I didn’t like them when I first listened to it and found it hard to get into, but the live show definitely did it for me; check these guys out.
6: Rock n’Soul Dance Party Superjam featuring Brittany Howard (Alabama Shakes), R. Kelly, Billy Idol, Larry Graham (Sly and the Family Stone), Jim James (My Morning Jacket), John Oates, Zigaboo Modeliste (of the Meters), Preservation Hall Jazz Band of New Orleans, Carl Broemel, Bilal, Cyro Baptista
That may have been a lot to handle, but give me the time of day to somehow regurgitate how incredibly awesome Superjam was. I was told that Superjam was a Roo treat where an awesome jazz/rock’n roll band would come together for the late-night set to play classics. I mentioned who the special guests were in the above description, but at the time, the audience had no idea who was coming out. First, Larry Graham (Sly and The Family Stone) came out in an all-white swagged-out suit, topping it off with a white cowboy hat, leading the crowd in “Dance to the Music,” and many others. Brittany Howard, of current rock/soul/blues band, Alabama Shakes, joined the show for a very soulful “(I Can’t Get No) Satifcation”, and R.Kelly led the super-group in a beautiful ballad of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home,” which is one of my favorite songs ever. Just when I thought the stage couldn’t be packed enough, there was plenty of room for the fist-pumping Billy Idol. He’s such a baller; he had this great stone face on and you could just tell he was ready to absolutely rock. It was a more exaggerated version of the face Jack Black tried to teach the girl bassist in School of Rock, if you catch my drift. I kept pushing to get further and further into the crowd, but I knew something had to be done. I turned around to the big guy behind me and asked, “Will you lift me up to crowd surf?” Aside from some random Roo stranger grabbing my balls accidentally trying to hold me up, it was the freaking shit. I got so close to the stage, and fell on some really nice people who were only interested in asking how crowd surfing was (which was unreal), rather than getting mad at me because I had fallen on them. That’s the type of people that go to Roo – they are always down for incredible late night jams, and are just great, free-spirited human beings. Superjam was an amazing performance; the band got the crowd to repeat and sing the same line over and over again until they finally came out for multiple encores. It had to eventually come to an end, but it was such a great way to close my first Roo.
I could go on and on about the other phenomenal performances I saw – I’ll name a few that I loved and were notable (so you’re hopefully still reading…). ALO was great; Jack Johnson was their special guest (which I saw coming), and their song, “Girl I Want To Lay You Down,” was awesome as they shifted into Johnson’s “Better Together” while staying in key. It was bomb. This was a minor foreshadow, as Johnson took over for Mumford & Sons' canceled set (the bassist in the band had emergency surgery). The Roo crowd was a little bummed, but everybody emotionally connected to Jack Johnson as they realized they knew every word to every song; he’s an awesome middle-school throwback. Wilco was nice to see again, and the Lumineers were very charming (they brought out 3 huge chandeliers for their set).
So yeah, Roo was the best thing ever, and you need to go. I will make a conscious effort to try and go every year for the rest of my life, and to tell all my future employers that I can’t work the 2nd week of June! Unfortunately I had to come home for my brother’s graduation on Sunday, so I missed Tame Impala (the main reason I had gone to Roo in the first place). Check out my artist review on the emerging pyscho-indie-pop Australian group if you haven’t heard. I also missed Petty and Mackelmore, but I didn’t let it get to me because I honestly had a "Governor’s Ball" times a thousand. I hope that I’ll be able to grab the bull by the horns at next years massive adult playpen in the middle of farmville, Tennessee; it really was a true experience.