"To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield"
- Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1833

"live deep and suck out all the marrow of life"
- Henry David Thoreau, 1845

"Some guys, they just give up living
And start dying little by little, piece by piece
Some guys come home from work and wash up,
And go racin' in the streets."
- Bruce Springsteen, 1977

"...to the heart, there's no time for you to waste.
You won't find your precious answers now
by staying in one place."
- Frank Turner, 2009

"The best things in life aren't things.
They're living and breathing."
- Michael Franti , 2011

"I owned every second that this world could give,
I saw so many places, the things that I did"
- Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, 2014

All written content and photos by Rob Fulfer unless otherwise indicated.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Lisa Laugh-A-Lotti

Despite the fact that the Ryman Auditorium was built originially as a church and the foul-mouthed "Queen of Mean" (Lisa Lampanelli) took the stage last night, the roof did not fall in nor did the ground open up and swallow us whole. Yes, Lisa's jokes are mostly dirty, controversial at times and mostly based on stereotypes - but it's all in good fun - no one is left out of her insult barrage (including her boyfriend, big stars she has hobnobbed with and herself). She's a rare breed these days in the world of comedy, and perhaps the purveyor of a dying art. She's a pure insult comic , and if you don't get it, then you won't like her. But that's OK, because it leaves better tickets for us! We had tremendous seats just three rows off the stage (note to selves: Row D - Seats 1 and 2 are the bomb!! Too bad they weren't selling PSLs to the Ryman last night because we would have snatched these seats up!) While it wasn't a sell-out, the crowd there was boisterous, appreciative and interestly weird (ask us about the 6'-tall transvestite on the front row named "Daisy" sometime). We met our friend, Nate, at the 12 South Tap Room for some great beer and a delicious dinner beforehand (see Rob's beer blog for more details). We had planned to hit The Big Bang Dueling Piano Bar afterwards, but Ashlee's nursing a "Bonnaroo injury" that's slowing us down a bit, so we headed home a little early instead. Thanks, Lisa, for a great evening of laughs. You are one funny big-ass wop broad! Oh, sorry, "wop" is probably offensive to a guinea like you's.

Monday, June 15, 2009

"The road goes on forever, and the party never ends!" - Robert Earl Keen - Bonnaroo '09 - DAY FOUR

Sunday, June 14, 2009
The road does go on forever and the party might never end (except for this young gentleman pictured below who passed out for about an hour during a concert), but Bonnaroo '09 had to eventually end, and today was the day, but not before three and a half more good shows were notched in our belts.
After packing up our stuff, policing our camp site and closing up the pop-up camper for an easy get-away later in the day, we headed back into Centeroo to catch the last few songs of a noon set by Sons of Bill. These alt/country-Americana young 'uns from Virginia tore up the little Troo Music Stage (we still hate the set-up of this stage). As the band name might indicate, three of the quintet are brothers (whose dad is named Bill obviously). The lead singer is middle brother, James, who we got a chance to meet after the show and let us purchase their not-available-in-stores-yet sophomore CD, One Town Away. (We listened to it twice on the way home that evening and it is excellent.)
Next up was another short 30-minute set at The Sonic Stage by Erin McCarley, our lovely young songbird from Thursday night. She wowed us again as we sipped some great microbrews from The Brooer's Tent (see Rob's beer blog for more info on this). A quick walk back across Centeroo got us to This Tent in time to catch the start of Todd Snider's show (photo below) which was packed with great humor as well as his tremendous acoustic
balladeering. Rob was a bit disappointed that his favorite TS song, "Beer Run" was not included in the hour-long set, but the hilarious story of how Todd quit high school football to become one of the "burn-outs in the smoke pit" more than made up for it. We were able to move up closer to the same stage after Todd's set was over and wait about a half-hour to see the legendary Robert Earl Keen (photo below). Seeing this Texas troubador live was a rare treat because he hardly ever leaves The Lone Star State and basically has an open animosity for nearby Nashville (long story). REK was tremendous and the crowd loved him. He, of course, included his epic signature song that is celebrating it's 20th anniversary this year, "The Road Goes on Forever."
On our way out of Centeroo and back to the campground to head home we caught a few minutes of Band of Horses on the huge Which Stage. These guys are an interesting rock band from Seattle that seem to have a great popularity among the young folks especially festival-goers without actually getting a lot of airplay or media attention...i.e. Phish (who was closing Bonnaroo '09 later tonight), Widespread Panic and The Grateful Dead. Their songs have simple lyrics and seem to focus more on melody. They sounded good, but we would have preferred a smaller venue. Just for a laugh and to say "we've seen him live" we stopped by the gigantic What Stage to see Snoop Dogg do whatever it is that he does. We really wouldn't call it music. All we can say is...at least he showed up when he was supposed to...unlike Kanye West last year...what a chump. We eased on back to the campground and then eased on home and were in the house before 10 PM - tired, but happy to say this year's Bonnaroo topped 2008 and we can't wait to see what they are gonna do to try and outdo it in 2010!

"if The Boss had been a preacher, he would've led us to The Lord" - Scott Miller - DAY THREE - Bonnaroo '09

Saturday, June 13, 2009
Epic day...epic, epic day...how else can you describe a day of music that starts with Jimmy Buffett and ends with Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band?
We got up "early" (by Bonnaroo standards) and made our way over to the second largest stage in Centeroo called the Which Stage an hour before Jimmy Buffet was scheduled to appear at noon. We got within about 20 yards of the center of the stage and started our wait in the hot sun. Cold beer really helped along with an early appearance by Jimmy himself during sound check to confirm that our wait would be worth it. He was in great spirits and seemed genuinely happy to see fans already gathering for his Johnny-come-lately-announced show...it was not "officially" announced until the day before Bonnaroo was to begin that Jimmy would actually join his all-star Coral Reefer Band who were slated to play along with young African crooner and Buffett discovery, Ilo Ferreira. Jimmy's slated "appearance" turned into about a dozen songs in the hour-long set that included all his classics along with Van Morrison's "Brown-Eyed Girl." Ilo (as is his stage name) was actually the one who made the "appearance" sharing the stage with Jimmy on two songs and leading one other. His smooth voice and laid-back attitude certainly did emulate a Jimmy Buffett persona.
Sandwiched between Jimmy Buffett starting the day in fine style and the rising excitement of seeing Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band headline on the humongous What Stage that night at 9 PM, were some more lesser-known acts that we were excited to see up close and personal on some of the smaller stages as well as another music legend himself, Elvis Costello, performing a solo early-evening set at That Tent. After singing along to "Margaritaville" we took a short walk and arrived at our favorite small stage from last year, the Sonic Stage, in time to catch the last couple of songs from Katzenjammer - four wild ladies from Norway whose style of music can best be described as a combination of circus anthems and sheer madness, but they sure seemed to be having a good time performing. We settled in close to the stage afterwards and awaited a much closer look at Grace Potter (photo below) and the Nocturnals once again. The band was scaled down a bit from their set yesterday at the bigger This Tent stage including no piano which meant no chance of our favorite GT&TN song, "Apologies" being played. So be it, but it was still a great quick half-hour of pure original soulful rock. We were able to move up even a bit closer to the stage afterwards for the next 30-minute set by Nashville resident, Brett Dennen (photo below). Brett is....well...a little different than your typical rock-n-roller. A big mop of bright red hair, pearly white skin and a squeaky little talking voice. But when the amps come on and the melody begins, out of this little guy comes one of the coolest most unique voices in the industry today. With uplifting thoughtful lyrics and mesmerizing melodic harmony, he protrays a very old soul on the brink of what could be genius. To say we loved this guy is an understatement, and to say that he made such a memorable impression on us with just a half-hour set that again was sunk in between a day of shows by icons like Buffet, Costello and Springsteen is really saying something. This guy is special. There is no doubt about it, and we absolutely cannot wait to see him again in a longer performance. Thank you, Bonnaroo, for inviting this incredible young man to perform. Please bring him back next year and give him a longer set!!
After Brett Dennen's amazing performance, we went over to the film tent (this actually is a tent - a huge circus tent) to try and get to see what Lebowskifest was all about. Apparently, there are celebrations each year all over the country honoring the modern cult classic movie, The Big Lebowski, with people dressed as characters from the film, free bowling (a major theme in the movie) and other weird and wonderful goings-on. However, like the Comedy Tent nearby, you have to wait in line in the sweltering heat to get in this "barely" air-conditioned venue and they are extremely popular. Since they are enclosed, it is also somewhat finite in available space and there always seems to be a line to get it. After 15 minutes of standing in a line that was not moving, we decided to skip it and head back to the trailer for some real air-conditioning and a little rest to gear up for what we knew would be a long night with The Boss.
Our friends, Brandon and Katherine, had scored some free passes (lucky dogs) that day and were wanting to meet us for the Elvis Costello show as well as to see Bruce and the E Streeters afterwards. We met up with them outside That Tent in time to hear the crowd erupt as Elvis Costello took the stage for an acoustic set. OK, we admit it, we thought he was a little boring. Tons of people love the guy and he had a huge crowd, but we just don't see the appeal. Sorry, Elvis. Before the Springsteen show we stopped by the small Solar Stage to check out a few songs by an alt-bluegrass band from Knoxville known as The Black Lillies. They were pretty darn good and can now always say they "technically" opened for Springsteen one time!
Springsteen live. Wow! You hear people talk about it, you see it on TV and think, "yeah, OK, I am sure he and the band are good, but is it really that big a deal." Oh, yeah, it is that big a deal. The man is simply amazing. He will be 60 this year and he came on a litte after 9 PM and did not slow down for three and half hours ---not a lot of long drawn-out yapping between songs, zero interludes or long solos - just Bruce and the band banging out song after song. New stuff, old stuff, stuff we had never heard before and even "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" - hey, he was taking requests and someone wanted to hear it...and it was awesome! They are simply some of the greatest entertainers we have ever seen and we have seen some good ones including The Rolling Stones, Robin Williams, Garth Brooks, Billy Joel & Elton John, Cher, etc. Our hats are off once again to the sound folks at Bonnaroo as well. They provide world-class sound for all these performers that is just amazing for an outdoor venue. What a day, what a festival! Thank youuuuuuuu, Bonnarooooooo!!!
We tried our best to sit in for a few minutes of Ben Harper and the Relentless 7 playing at This Tent after the Springsteen show, but we were just too spent (yeah, we're old). We will catch you sometime later, Ben. Keep on rockin'.

"...hot funk, cool punk, even if it's old junk, it's still rock and roll to me..." - Billy Joel - DAY TOO: Bonnaroo '09

Friday, June 12, 2009 We woke up to quiet weather this morning and looked forward to a full day of music. Our focus today was on smaller up-and-coming acts on smaller stages that we had done some research on prior to Bonnaroo and liked their sound. The day started at noon with an hour set in a much less-crowded than the previous night This Tent by alt-country veteran, Tift Merritt. The humidity was back however and the swelter showed its affects on the band (especially her lead guitarist whose shirt was soaked in sweat by the end of the first song) in every way but performance. The lady's got pipes in voice and harmonica and a killer accompanying band (did we mention the sweaty lead guitarist). We really enjoyed her and her band's performance and it made for a great start to a day whose weather was improving by the hour. We headed back to the tiny Troo Music Lounge next for two back-to-back shows making sure we got as close as we could to the low stage for good views of Everest and Evan Watson. The former is a band from LA that was very polished and looks to have been playing a long time together. According to the band, this was their first visit to Tennessee, and it was there only appearance at the Bonnaroo Festival. They made the most of it by churning out solid original rock and roll from start to finish. Ashlee was so impressed that she even bought one of their cool T-shirts. Taking the stage next was Evan Watson (photo above), a tall, fair-haired young man who said he was from Indiana. Well, don't judge a book by it's cover because what flowed from Evan over the next hour was some of the most amazing soulful bluesy original rock and roll rivaling anything coming out of the Louisiana swamps or off the muddy waters of the Mississippi River. Accompanied by an excellent band of great musicians, this set was a real surprise and a real treat. We retraced our steps again back to This Tent to catch a few tunes from Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. ]The crowd was back and packed again under This Tent, but not because of rain this time. Grace is a tall sexy drink of water with a great voice as well. The Nocturnals are adept and you can tell these guys have played together for a long time. They are hugely popular in the Northeast and are infiltrating the airwaves throughout the rest of the country through TV shows and independent radio airplay. Since we couldn't get too close, we only stayed for a few songs because we knew they would be at the smaller Sonic Stage tomorrow as well, so we could get a better view. It was deja' vu again as we walked back to the Troo Music Lounge yet one more time to see Dirty Sweet from San Diego. It was almost as if we had traveled back in time to the late 60's or 70's when rock band members all had long hair, beards and a lot of attitude. The few clues that gave it away as to what year you where in was lead singer, Ryan Koontz's (photo right) nice clean long hair, gym-toned and tanned body, and perfect white teeth. However, he and the rest of the band were all business when it comes to the music and great stage presence. Like Grace Potter these guys are hugely popular from a regional standpoint on the West Coast. All their songs are original and beautifully-crafted pure rock and roll. We didn't have anyone we just had to see that evening and headed back to the trailer for a little rest as the sun was going down. We planned on taking a quick nap to refresh and be back around 10 PM to see Steve Earle's son, Justin Townes Earle, but just never made it. We woke up from our "nap" 4 hours later at around 10:30. The rain was coming down again and some lightning was visible in the distance, so we just called it an early night (yeah, we're old) and anticipated the biggest day tomorrow when the legends would start rolling in to Bonnaroo 2009.

"...and the rain came down..." - Steve Earle -- DAY POINT-FIVE: Bonnaroo '09

Thursday, June 11, 2009 We set out after lunch today for the hour drive to Manchester for Bonnaroo 2009. Last year was an experiment that went better than expected. This year was a mission to go back to Bonnaroo and get even more out of it than we did in 2008. Mission: Accomplished. Following is a day by day recount of our overall wonderful experience. Accomplishment # 1: we decreased our wait to get in to the festival site off I-24 in Manchester by more than an hour from last year (under 3 hours). Accomplishment # 2: we sat up our pop-up camper by ourselves with no help from a young, strong, albeit surly, nephew (he went again this year but as an 18-year-old "adult" with a friend to tent camp on their own...gross. Good luck with that, fellas!). Accomplishment # 3: we got our research done early this year and knew exactly the bands we wanted to check out every day, and created an itinerary that would best get that accomplished. We ran into a little rain going in but it cleared nicely in the late afternoon allowing us good weather to set up our campsite and head over into "Centeroo" to catch an early evening show by Nashville resident, Erin McCarley, (photo below) whose current hit "Love, Save the Empty" is being played all over in TV shows, movie soundtracks and local independent radio. Erin's as cute as she is talented and performed a wonderful hour set at the new Budweiser Troo Music Lounge. This stage is a new addition this year and while the concept is great: small stage for rising artists with a lounge/nightclub feel to it - the set-up was pretty crappy. The stage itself was not elevated like the other two small stages of Bonnaroo (the Solar and the Sonic), so it's hard to see the artists if you are more than a few rows back over the heads of other onlookers. A second complaint is that it's a little too close to the gigantic Which Stage that can be quite a distraction between numbers or if the artist is talking. We are sure the Bonnaruvians will get this corrected next year, and we do welcome another small stage to the 'Roo. The heat and humidity that built up all afternoon started to pay sloppy dividends in the form of thunder rumbling and heavy downpours early into the set of the next band we chose to see called Chairlift. We knew very little about this band but were curious thanks to their catchy little tune used as a jingle for I-Tunes commercials called "Bruises." Unfortunately, as the rain poured down the shelter underneath This Tent where Chairlift was playing became very popular whether you liked the band or not. We were close to the front of the stage and crush of humanity (photo above) made it just not worth it in terms of comfort. We squeezed our way out and into the drizzle that turned into another downpour making us scramble for another small tent set up for some reason other than having people huddle underneath from the rain. It let up again and we decided to make a run for the camper because we were seeing some nasty weather lurking about on the radar brought up on Ashlee's Blackberry. We got about half-way in our ten-minute walk to the camper when it opened up again. Another private tent and the kindness of strangers (from Michigan - thanks, fellas!) helped somewhat. One more slight let-up and we were off again. We were soaked when we got to the trailer, but we were home at least. Day .5 was over and Bonnaroo '09 was off too a bit of a wet, muddy start, but there's always tomorrow.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Chattanooga choo-choo TRAIN!!

June 6, 2009
After many years of eye-rolling and "uhh, no thanks" the somewhat lame Riverbend Festival, a downtown summer staple in Chattanooga finally brought in an act that we just couldn't turn down seeing. It was only one of our favorite bands of all time (we've seen them live seven times), the fabulous San Francisco-based quartet, Train.
Thanks to Ashlee's mom, Evelyn, for letting us borrow her Riverbend pins for entry into the festival for the night. Since these general admission pins get you access to the festival area, but still leave you a long distance from the stage and no guarantee of what type of loud, strange and/or drunk people you will be sitting next to you, we decided to upgrade to "star seating" for an extra $20 per person and it was worth every penny. The seats were directly in front of the giant stage erected atop a river barge designed specifically for the festival and floating on the Tennessee River in downtown Chattanooga. We had folding chairs with backs and plenty of leg room on a sloping set of steps for theatre-style seating with unobstructed views.
The band took the stage by storm and dazzled the crowd with searing lead vocals by the phenomonal Pat Monohan. They cranked all their favorite hits from the past plus three great new songs from their upcoming album coming out this fall called Save Me San Francisco. Pat also showed his dynamic range with amazing covers of Led Zepplin's Ramble On and Aerosmith's Dream On. The weather could not have been more perfect with mild temps and a beautiful new full moon hanging low in the sky near the Tennesee Aquarium's lighted roofline. A perfect night. A perfect band. A pefect....uhh... well, tomorrow night it's Three Dog Night headlining...so still not a perfect festival, but there's always hope.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A Weekend of Firsts

Just a quick blurb about a couple of fun "first-time" activities we had this past weekend. Saturday, May 30 - We joined the Nashville Wine Enthusiasts Meet-Up Group for a first-time visit to Sumner Crest Winery in nearby Portland, TN. We took a chartered bus there with our same driver, Alfred, as we had last year to Beechhaven Winery's Jazz on the Lawn in Clarksville. A merry time was had by all and the folks at Sumner Crest could not have been nicer (excellent blackberry and blueberry wines made from all berries and no extracts). The theme was a beach luau and the band cranked out great tunes all night from Jimmy Buffett to Bob Marley. The evening concluded with some of the die-hards (us included, of course) stopping by the Waffle House for a late-night snack after we returned to Nashville. Sunday, May 31 - We FINALLY got our new kayaks that we bought each other for Christmas out on the water for the first time. We were both tired from our recent travels and late night wine excursion the night before, but the weather was just too beautiful not to enjoy a paddle. We were joined by our friends, Nate and Suzanne, who were also on the previous day's wine trip. We put in at Long Hunter State Park and spent several hours paddling around one of the larger islands in Percy Priest Lake. We had to dodge a few of the many, many motorboats on the water, but overall everything went smoothly and our new (rather cheap) Potomac kayaks actually seem to be pretty good little watercrafts. We are looking forward to taking them out again as soon as possible.