"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.

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.

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