"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.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sunday, Bloody Hot, Sunday -- Bonnaroo 2010 -- Day 4

Sunday, June 13, 2010
It's was hot, just damn hot, and that's all you can say about it this year at Bonnaroo. The heat was relentless and people were finding any way they could to cool off (photo below was taken at the Bonnaroo "Beach"). We were certainly ready to finish up our last day at Bonnaroo 2010 and get back home to some air-conditioning. We got to the Sonic Stage very early so we could grab some of the few shady spots available and awaited a set by Truth & Salvage Company. While it's a newly formed group, the members are all veteran musicians who have come together to create some great laid-back California rock with some great four-part harmonies similar to The Eagles. Afterwards we trudged over to The Other Tent to catch Ingrid Michaelson. A huge crowd had already gathered by the time she took the stage (photo above) and we had to endure the sun since all the shade was taken. She surprised us with her energy, witty banter and great vocals which helped get your mind off the searing heat. We are definitely adding her to the "We Would Pay Money to See You Again" List. The crowd dissipated after her set and we were able to slip under a nearby tree with a slight view of the stage and await balladeer, Martin Sexton, to play next. Martin is a long-time veteran of the folk rock genre with a style similar to Van Morrison. His signature song "Black Sheep" is an amazing piece of music. We moved inside The Other Tent next for Blues Traveler and got fairly close to the stage, but the rather irritating facts that it was stifling hot under the structure with no air moving, and that lead singer/harmonica legend, John Popper, didn't seem really into the show with his long pauses to take a drink and smoke a cigarette during songs made us quickly decide to seek entertainment elsewhere. Our only real musical disappointment of the festival so far. What a shame because we were looking forward to seeing them and have been fans for a long time. We ambled over to the nearby This Tent and found some much-needed shade under a tree near the front of the structure and listened to a little of Against Me!. These guys are a little raucous for our taste and they weren't on our "must-see/listen" list, but at least they were showing more enthusiasm and energy than "Snooze Traveler." Now we probably know why those guys have fallen off the face of the map in the last ten years or so. For the first time that we can recall at Bonnaroo there was chanting by fans a half-hour before the next band even took to the stage. They were awaiting the Dropkick Murphys, a legendary band from Boston who take their Irish heritage very seriously and incorporate traditional music from the homeland in their songs with the amps turned up to about 11 (see the photo below of the strange combination of bagpipes and big-ass Marshall amps). They started gaining national notoriety a few years back when Martin Scorsese used their signature song, "Shipping Up to Boston" in his Academy-Award-winning best picture, "The Departed." Now while their musicianship and vocals aren't superlative, they make up for it in energy and bravado. This was a wild crowd for a hot, steamy afternoon with loud sing-alongs, high bouncing up and down, and lots of crowd-surfing. People were coming out of the center of the thick crowds drenched in sweat and probably close to the point of collapse only after a couple of songs. It was an entertaining site on all accounts. We finished the festival with a half-hour set by a solid, newish band that we saw last year here that we really liked called Everest back at the small Troo Music Stage. We caught a song or two by Phoenix on the Which Stage as we made our way over to the main What Stage to catch about 45 minutes or so of the Dave Matthews Band as they closed Bonnaroo 2010. Unlike our troubles getting into the festival, it was a breeze getting out and we were home by midnight. It was a really bittersweet festival this year for us with some definite highs (no pot-head pun intended here, sorry) and lows, but in the end well worth all the effort and struggle. Next year is the festival's 10th anniversary and we are hoping for some big things for it, so we can hopefully do it all over again next summer.

Saturday...in "The Park"...it felt like the 4th of July -- Bonnaroo 2010 - Day 3

Saturday June 12, 2010
It not only takes a lot of dedication and long hours to attend Bonnaroo, but it can also be the same for those playing at what is now known as "Great Stage Park." That was the case for Jonathon Tyler & the Northern Lights, a stripped-down Texas rock-n-roll and blues band who had performed the night before on the west coast at the famous Fillmore Theatre in San Francisco and then made it in for a high noon 30-minute set across the country in Manchester, Tennessee. Now that's dedication to music, friends! The quartet made the most of their short stint at the festival with a fiery rockin' handful of original songs in the Troo Music Lounge. It was a great way to kick off another busy and hot day at Bonnaroo 2010.
This year was definitely the hottest temps we have encountered at the festival so far. We've had a little bit of everything in the past with storms, heavy rain and some searing sun at times, but this year the sunlight was fairly relentless with only a few scattered clouds. This fact sent the tens of thousands in attendance seeking any manner of shade possible. The line-up today that perked our interest the most during the hottest afternoon hours were all on the Which Stage which has very little cover if you want a vantage point of any worth. Fortunately, the sound engineering is world-class at Bonnaroo and if you could find a little shade like we did then you didn't necessarily need to see the stage for an artist like Norah Jones who's all about smooth vocals.
We lost our shade with the path of the sun during the day and it made a tough decision a little easier. We wanted to see The Avett Brothers - a folk-rock band from North Carolina who are rising fast in popularity - following Norah Jones, but we also had heard great things about Mumford & Sons - another energetic rock folk band from south London playing at the same time. The Brits won out thanks to the fact they were playing in one of the covered tents. Similarly to The Gossip the day before - what started out as a decision to watch a band for a somewhat selfish reason turned into a discovery of a great experience. These guys are stunning live and "the kids" as we call them (anyone under 25) and there are lots of them at Bonnaroo, but not usually at the same shows we are at, really loved these guys and knew every word of their catchy songs. We can't wait to see these guys again. We did slip out toward the end and catch a few songs of The Avett Brothers who were also good but the huge crowd watching them blocked us from really getting a feel for them. We are fortunately going to get a chance to see them again soon as we just learned they are coming to The Ryman in October.
After the Avetts came Weezer to the Which Stage. They are an entertaining, somewhat silly, and now obviously aging, "pot-head" band who have had a few radio hits through the years. We watched them for a while, again from a great distance, before heading over to settle in for the night's headliner, the legendary Stevie Wonder.
We found a good spot fairly close to the giant What Stage and waited while the sun set and the temperature and humidity dropped pleasantly. Conan O'Brien took a break from his stints in the Bonnaroo Comedy Tent (not worth standing in line for - trust us) to come on the big stage and introduce Stevie to the huge crowd. Stevie and his excellent band sounded great and he is looking great for his age and you never really realize how many great songs he has until you hear him deliver them one after another. Well done, sir!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Casualest Friday - Bonnaroo 2010 - Day 2

Friday, June 11, 2010
Don't go hunting for a Day 1 recount of Bonnaroo 2010 because frankly it was a day to forget. Everything started out fine until we arrived in Manchester around 2:30 PM and then proceeded not to get our pop-up camper set up onsite until around 10:30 PM! Traffic going into the Bonnaroo site was horrible and what took us about three hours last year took seven this year. We were told once on site that there was new management for Bonnaroo this year and we believed it because it was basically a mess. We were very disappointed to have missed any chance of seeing the artists we planned on checking out that evening (Diane Birch, NeedtoBreathe and The Temper Trap). Setting up the camper in the dark was a first for us and a bit of struggle as well. And then to top things off, our generators were malfunctioning and not allowing us to run our air-conditioning. Need we say more? Moving on to Day 2... We got up early because once the sun hits the pop-up camper without any A/C then it's time to vacate it immediately. We lounged around the campsite in the shade with our new friend, Bridgette, until the music started around noon. Ashlee met Bridgette online in a discussion group of folks talking about going to Bonnaroo this year, and she had never been before and was happy to find someone to share a camping space with folks who had been before and could show her the ropes. It was a big leap of faith on all our parts to get together with complete strangers, but it worked out great as we all found ourselves to be pretty much normal while we were surrounded by thousands of weirdos. But, hey, that's all part of Bonnaroo. Our first stop was at the Budweiser Troo Music Stage, one of the smallest venues at Bonnaroo that features up-and-coming artists in a close, intimate setting. Taking the stage for a quick half-hour set was the lovely and talented Nashville resident, Jessie Baylin (photo above), who just happens to be the wife of the drummer (Nathan Followill) of tonight's headlining act, Kings of Leon. Jessie's soulful voice brought out her original songs in perfect pitch along with the accompaniment of a good backing band. An excellent start to the day. The lovely-lady/lovely-voice parade continued as we walked over to the Sonic Stage, which is a bit larger but still fairly intimate, to catch a solo set by Diane Birch who we had missed the night before with her full band on a bigger stage. She's a skinny little thing but her angelic voice is as big as they come. She's gaining notoriety fast these days and it will continue as she will be opening for tomorrow's headliner, Stevie Wonder, on an upcoming tour. It was time now to give the boys a chance and we ambled over to the second largest venue on-site, The Which Stage, to catch an hour-long set by The Gaslight Anthem. These fellas from New Jersey have been rising stars in their home state for a while now and are just starting to gain national notoriety. Their music is usually labelled as "punk" but that seems out of place with their thought-provoking lyrics and the smooth vocals of lead singer, Brian Fallon. So smooth in fact they seemed a bit out of place on the huge stage in a Tennessee farm pasture as the sun blazed down on us, and probably would have fit in more in a crowded, dimly-lit bar on the Jersey Shore. As the sun continued to blaze down, we next sought the shelter of one of the Bonnaroo "tents" which are actually large, steel-roofed open-air structures with a medium-sized stage in the back of them. These structures of which there are three on site, are not only great for some relief from the sun but also work quite well acoustically. We were there to see "She & Him" - a pop/folk duo of whom the "she' is singer/actress, Zooey Deschanel (remember her singing "Baby, It's Cold Outside" in "Elf"?). More on them later because before they took the stage it was time for The Gossip - an indie rock band that we checked first as just a curiosity (the lead singer, Beth Ditto, is...well...as she said herself on stage...240 pounds) and turned into one of the great surprises of the festival. They were excellent. Despite her size, Ditto never stopped moving on stage and worked the crowd into a bit of a frenzy with her energy, her witty banter and her soaring vocals. The rest of the band was top-notch as well. She & Him took the stage next and while their music is catchy and melodic, it came off as a bit hollow after the energy of The Gossip. We had a few hours before our next band of real interest, so we trudged back to the camper ( a good 15-minute walk) and unloaded our folding chairs and cooled off a bit with the car's air conditioner. The walk was worth it not only for the lovely cold air but because we wanted to be as unencumbered as possible for the first show of the somewhat cooler evening and one of our most anticipated, Michael Franti & Spearhead. We wanted to get as close as we could to the big Which Stage they were playing on so as to gather in as much of Franti's energy and good vibes as possible. We saw him last year as part of a three-band show and we knew nothing about him, but he really blew us away with his stage presence and feel-good music, and that was in the confined space of The Ryman Auditorium. We had high hopes when he was let loose in a festival setting that it would be even greater. In fact in all honesty, there was a lot riding on this show for us. On the long way walk back and as we sat in the car letting the a/c blow us back to something resembling comfort, we had a real discussion as to whether or not we were maybe "Bonnaroo-ed out?" Was is still special to us or not worth all the bother and set-backs? Had the newness worn off since this was our third year going in a row? Hell, were we just getting too old for this crap? These questions lay heavy on our minds as we trudged back to Centeroo and nestled in about ten rows from the Which Stage with our tired bodies leaning against a center walkway that splits the audience in two and awaited the man and band that held our future unknowingly in their hands....and then something magical happened!!! Michael Franti & Spearhead saved our Bonnaroo Souls by putting on THE BEST show we have seen there in the two-working-on-three years we have been going to this festival. He went light years beyond our expectations with explosive energy and stage presence, constant calls for audience participation and interaction, and the most obvious outpouring of music and song that showed these guys loved what they were doing and loved having us there to experience it. Oh yeah, and he came out into the audience within inches of us not once, not twice, not thrice, not whatever four would be in Old English but FIVE separate times including a performance right next to us in the walkway we were leaning against (Ashlee and Michael - photo above).
Thank you Michael Franti & Spearhead
for restoring our faith in that which is Bonnaroo!!
We were soaked in sweat and exhausted after the MF&S show and slowly walked over to the main What Stage area where we could already hear the day's headliners, Kings of Leon, playing. We settled in far back from the massive stage and enjoyed the music and watched the high-def TV screens on each side of the stage for up-close shots of what was happening on stage. The band that consists of three brothers and a cousin who hail from just down the road were spot on with their music and while they let the songs do the talking most of the time, it was a bit stirring to hear lead singer, Caleb Followill, tell the story of how the Bonnaroo festival basically turned them from a local garage band playing one of the small stages here in 2004, then as a rising blip on the music radar screen in 2007 when they played one of the bigger tent stages, and into the superstar group they are today kicking off the 2010 festival's opening night on the main stage. Welcome home, boys. A real, full (and historic for us) day at Bonnaroo 2010 was now in the books and we fell asleep quickly inside our (almost) cool camper when we got back knowing another full day was ahead of us tomorrow.