Bonnaroo . . . We’re Alive and Very Much Kicking

WE’RE BACK!  We were never really gone, but communications were regained and all is well.  Here’s the INLE Friday from Bonnaroo.  Fuck.  Yes.

Our contributor has won awards.  Seriously.  That’s how we get down.  Here we go:

The true co-headliners of the day were the old Tennessee favorites, heat and humidity. Weed smoke made a constant appearance to a very warm reception, as did hippie dancing and general mayhem. Some bands also showed up to rock the crowds, and a good time was had by all in attendance.

Jay Electronica had the potential to be great, but his tendency to stop the music, shush the crowd, and a capella rap got pretty old. It was cool the first couple of times, in a “Wow, this guy uses lots of creative metaphors and big words kind of way,” but pretty quickly it turned his set into a poetry reading.

There were some highlights, number 1 being The Ghost of Christopher Wallace and his musical tribute to J-Dilla. His crowd interaction was interesting, especially when he invited the entire crowd up onstage, and gave detailed directions.  “If you don’t want to climb the barricade, there are stairs here and ramps over there.”

After Jay Electronica we had a few hours to kill wandering around Centerroo people watching and taking in the sights. It was then that I started to realize that Bonnaroo is a well oiled, well planned, piece of marketing genius. Show times are staggered so that there is a huge mass exodus of thousands of people at once. Vacant fields fill up in minutes, so quickly that if you have a good spot, it’s almost claustrophobic.

Nas and Jr. Gong played a set at the What Stage that was split into thirds, one third Jr. Gong, one third Nas, and one third of their new joint effort from their album, Distant Relatives. The music was energetic, and the duo got a warm and surprise introduction from Conan O’Brien. Highlights from this set were Strong Will Continue, and watching hippies with peace signs drawn all over their bodies dancing their hippie asses off to those anthems of peace and love, Got Urself a Gun and Hate Me Now. Hippies are all for peace and love, but not if it gets in the way of a stone groove.

Tenacious D caused one of the largest crowd migrations I saw yesterday, as people rushed in to claim their territory from somewhere, sets by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and OK Go are my guesses. The crowd was really enjoying their set, and were more energetic than during the Nas/Damien Marley set earlier. Could have just been the angle of the sun and the volume of alcohol consumed, and not a true comment on the performance. Jack Black was having a good time, and the band tore through Wonderboy and Rise of the Phoenix. The music was more straightforward with less irony than I would have expected, and I was surprised at the huge crowd that Tenacious D drew.

As the sun started to dip, we took up our spot on what was at the time the edge of the crowd. As it got fully dark, we were completely surrounded, with no way out. The vibe was friendly, and the temperature reached almost bearable, down from the high of completely ridiculous earlier in the day. As the Kings of Leon launched into Crawl, the crowd erupted with a welcome home roar. I don’t know if the main stage at Bonnaroo was designed for The Kings music, or if the Kings music was built for Bonnaroo, but they are definitely perfectly matched. The rhythm section set up a booming foundation for Caleb Followill’s twangy-screech vocals and Matthew Followill’s soaring guitar.

The Kings are from right up the road in Wilson County, Tennessee, and 2010 marked their fourth Bonnaroo performance. The set was a greatest hits array, with some new music sprinkled in. Hippies love hits, just like everybody else, and old favorites Be Somebody and Sex on Fire got huge receptions, as did older songs My Party, Taper Jean Girl and On Call. Caleb Followill summed it up by saying “Today is the hottest day I’ve ever been a part of, but I still haven’t seen any nudity. I respect y’all for that.”

Everything was rocking right along as the hits kept on rolling out, with the dreadlocked hippie in front of us dancing/playing elaborate moves with his rain stick, when things went south. The guy rocking to the side of the hippie abruptly lost all control of his faculties, wobbled and dropped like a stone in front of us. His buddy forced water into him from a Cambelback, all the while puffing on a huge blunt. He looked back at us and apologized, and I told him that we would do our best not to stomp on the guy’s head. He wasn’t down for the count, and was soon sitting up under his own power and reaching for the next blunt.

The set wrapped up with a sing along rendition of Knocked Up that rang out through the Middle Tennessee hills. We staggered out through the mass of humanity with big plans to attend the Black Keys’ set at 1:30, but couldn’t quite make it. Today is a big day, we are well rested and ready to rock. Or groove. Or hippie dance.

We weren’t lying.  We’re so there.  VISUAL AIDS!

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