RSS Feed Editorial Emissions

“The Spirit of Roo” Part 3 – Day Two

posted June 20, 2009, 10:24 pm by Brian Rutherford | Filed Under Music News | comment 4 Comments

Tags: Manchester, David Byrne, Bonnaroo '09, Gomez, Beastie Boys, TN

Apologies to the two or three of you who expected a prompt sequel to my last dispatch from Manchester, Tennessee, and the sprawling, steaming, stinking, stimulating tent city that was Bonnaroo 2009.

Our camp was a two-mile hike from Centeroo, where the venues and press compound (and Internet access) are located – a snaking path between haphazard campsites, across dirt, mud and asphalt, past food/merchandise vendors and row upon row of putrid porta-potties, through hordes of hippy zombies; in other words, too far and treacherous to be lugging a computer.

So, I took notes and let the Bonnaroo experience percolate in my brain. The following drivel is the resulting brew:

Day one’s previous drivel

Friday was the first full day of the massive music festival, which was battered (along with much of the Southeastern U.S.) by severe thunderstorms Thursday night. I slept through a tornado warning and woke Friday at dawn with a puddle tickling my feet. Nearby in his tent, my photographer comrade Ben was snoring loudly, oblivious to the birds and the racket I was making. I made for Centeroo.

At that hour of the morning, the vendors haven’t opened for business yet, and only a few early-risers and/or all-night revelers shamble through the slippy, sticky mud, their footsteps making a distinct sound (actually, it sounded to me like, schmuck, schmuck, schmuck.).

At the press cantina there is no coffee – the slackers haven’t even opened yet. Its just me, a writer I vaguely recognize passed-out on a couch, and Doris the security guard, an African-American woman from New Orleans, with pinkish-blondish hair and a pleasant disposition, who works 12-16 hours each day at Bonnaroo.

“Girl’s gotta work, and I’m taking every extra shift I can,” she says.

I passed out on the other couch, woke up a few hours later to find the tent alive with food smells and other media types. After coffee, it was time to make the first tough decision, the first sacrifice – there are so many bands playing at so many venues simultaneously, demanding some hard choices.

Katzenjammer was playing at noon in That Tent, Toubab Krewe at 12:30 in The Other Tent, Gomez at 12:30 on the Which Stage, the shorter walk, so I chose Gomez. They did not disappoint, playing an engaging set that livened the audience in what was turning out to be a very hot day.

Jerry Grillo's view at Roo '09

Next up for me: Bela Fleck & Toumani Diabate at The Other Tent. I’ve always loved Bela’s music and was really looking forward to seeing this banjo virtuoso, but several things happened to cut the experience short.

First – before striking out for Bela, I was given a piece of chocolate by a young man, who stood nearby during the Gomez set, but also happened to be camping near us. He called it homemade candy, adding, “it melts in your head, not in your hands.”

Second – it seemed that everyone else in Centeroo wanted to see Bela, and the crowd overflowed beyond The Other Tent onto the surrounding, sun-drenched lawns. Photographer Ben and I found a sliver of space beneath a shade tree that was the most crowded piece of real estate at Bonnaroo at that particular time.

The combination of heat, shoulder-to-shoulder crowd and brain-melting, anxiety-inducing chocolate was too much. Five minutes after sitting down between a couple of harrumphs, I got up and slunk away. Or hovered. Ben caught up and started telling me about the wonders of the American Spirit tent.

The cigarette company had a tent where they were giving away free packs of cigarettes, two at a time. All you had to do was wait in line, answer a few questions, and you were puffing free smokes – quite the bargain when the Bonnaroo general stores were selling them at 15 bucks a pack. I saw guys go into the tent, emerge with their two packs, disappear for a moment, then get back on line. They were selling their cigarettes for five and $10 a pack, depending on stupidity or desperation level of the sucker with the cash.

I kept mine and went back for more later that weekend. Pretty sweet deal for a guy like me, a part-time user whose favorite brand is whatever you’re smoking, but I couldn’t help imagining a dark and silly editorial cartoon in which hordes of grubbing skeletons, fully clothed, wait on line for their free smokes.

By 6 p.m. the effects of the chocolate were subsiding enough that I could comfortably bask in the glowing presence of the Reverend Al Green at the What Stage, the festival’s main venue. Wearing a dark suit in 85-degree heat, this relic, this grandfather, sang songs dripping with faith, love and sexuality. Two days later, at this same venue and time slot, Snoop Dog performed a funny, energized set that screamed sex. It occurred to me on the drive home from Bonnaroo that the difference between the two performers (among others) is that Al Green romances the audience, he puts it in the mood, he makes love to it. Snoop Dog dry humps it and winks.

Friday’s headliner, the Beastie Boys, was electric – for the few minutes I could stand it. Shit, I was about a mile away, hot and tired, in no mood to dance. I needed to be plied, maybe with chocolate. So I slunk away and missed the Boys’ special guest, hip-hip artist Nas, and the premier of a new song. Instead, I caught David Byrne’s choreographed extravaganza at the Which Stage, a tasty appetizer for the 11 p.m. Phish show.

This time, Ben offers me a piece of chocolate and I knew what I was biting into. The band played into the wee hours, calling it a night after 2 a.m. with their encore, fittingly, A Day in the Life.


4 Responses to ““The Spirit of Roo” Part 3 – Day Two”

  1. Profile photo of Taboot Taboot on June 22nd, 2009 1:19 pm

    “melts in your head …” LMAO!!!

  2. Profile photo of dscanland dscanland on June 22nd, 2009 2:17 pm

    Wonderful write-up. Bonnaroo is on my list of festivals I need to attend at least once in my lifetime. Thanks for the details.

  3. Profile photo of J_Cricket J_Cricket on June 23rd, 2009 1:05 pm

    Hey you guys, this story continues as a J_Cricket blog entry. I’ll send one more later. Hope you like it.

  4. Profile photo of J_Cricket J_Cricket on June 24th, 2009 10:47 am

    The guys at Music Emissions have been so incredibly patient and kind as i poked and prodded and banged with a hammer and finally made it aboard their ship. So please, please, please read the continuing saga of what happened at Roo on my blog. I promise to figure the ‘tell all’ shenanigans soon. But what a weird, life-changing event. I went now, and once is probably enough, but it was something to behold.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Music Emissions music community
Music Emissions
Rate, Recommend, Review

© 1999 - 2013 Music Emissions
Acceptable Use | Privacy Policy | Built by Scanland Development
Facebook | Twitter