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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My Top 10 Favorite Shows from Bonnaroo 2012

10. Trampled By Turtles/Two Door Cinema Club

At a tie for 10th, I thought Trampled By Turtles and Two Door Cinema Club were equally incredible… although very different genres.

We walked up to Trampled By Turtles a little late, but got there just in time to see the front crowd in a full on hoedown. The best way I can describe their music style is a modern day blue grass, and that fiddle and banjo combo will get your feet moving. At times the beat goes so fast, you could hardly see their hands strumming. This band is from Minnesota, but they have been traveling everywhere and will be playing at Lollapolooza in August! 

I had never heard of Two Door Cinema Club before, but decided to check them out at a friend’s suggestion. We sat pretty far back, but as soon as the band started playing their first song our eyes widened at the impact they had on the crowd. We had to move as close as we could before they ended their set. My favorite song by them had to be “Something Good Can Work”. It was incredible live and is one of those songs you could blast in your car and find yourself using your steering wheel as a drum set. 

9. The Alabama Shakes
Playing on Thursday night, this was the first band we saw… and what a way to start off the Bonnaroo experience. This band is such a unique mix of music style of rock and soul, but what really hooked me was the band’s look. From a pretty far distance back, I imagined the lead singer to be your everyday male rocker with skinny jeans and long hair. Imagine my surprise when the crowd parted and I see a younger Diana Ross look-a-like with a curly afro and glasses absolutely rocking out on her electric guitar. Wearing a flowery shirt and pink pants, she didn’t care at all to change her look to be the lead singer of a rock band. And with a voice like that, she quite simply didn’t need to.

8. Temper Trap
I knew this band from their hit “Sweet Disposition”, which I had heard on a Chrysler commercial back in the day. The electric guitarist in this band was so entertaining to watch. Wearing a beret and crazy printed shirt, he was getting so into the music he would sway back and forth whipping his long blonde hair all around.  But the real draw of this band was the lead singer’s incredible voice. He could so effortlessly hit some of the highest notes that at times I would confuse his voice for the melodic synthesizer, it was that flawless. 

7. Childish Gambino
It was a very last minute decision to see this rapper, but he made a lasting impression. He apparently is also an actor from the show “Community” and his comedy act and acting expressions gives him the edge over so many other rappers I have seen perform live. His lyrics are all written in clever wit, and his “Childish” face is so entertaining to watch as his eyes get really big and excited as the lyrics start going faster, I couldn’t help but compare him to a grown up “Lil P-Nut”.

6. The Stooges
While we were strolling through Centeroo taking a break from the concerts, we see in the distance a crowd of people coming towards us. A brass band blasted by us and a good crowd of people began following them, including us, as we all paraded through the grounds. The band finally stopped in the middle of the vendor stands and started jamming out some Jackson 5 and everyone was dancing right in the middle of it all. Little did I know this was an actual band from New Orleans called “The Stooges” that had apparently played earlier in the day. The fact that this band was so pumped to make sure as many people as possible had a good time listening to their music that they took the show outside of the stage well after their concert won me over. 

5. The Joy Formidable
Having not heard a single song of theirs before, I told myself I was going to download their whole album after this concert was over. This band is from England, and their main singer was a 5 foot girl with short blonde hair wearing a dress and a punk rock attitude. Every single one of their songs had such an intense guitar section that blasted through the speakers and pumped up the crowd.  During their last song, the guitar player started jamming out and slid down to his knees to play, then he jumped up and grabbed the drum sticks which he started chucking every which direction. To make up for the lost drum sticks, the lead singer started using her own guitar to hit the symbols on the drums. The energy in the tent was unheard of as the band finished their final note and threw their guitars to the back of the stage letting them crash on some speakers and walked off.

4. Foster The People/Silent Disco
Mark Foster is a born entertainer. With a stage set-up looking like something out of “Legends from the Hidden Temples” the lights, the music, and the energy of Mark Foster all combined made it impossible to tear your eyes away from the big screen. I came into this concert only having heard “Pumped Up Kicks” and came out of it with at least 5 new favorite songs. Every single one of their songs has such a catchy upbeat melody it is hard to not want to put them on repeat. Even though Pumped Up Kicks was an incredible song live, with Mark Foster jumping off the stage and into the crowd, the best song in my opinion was one called Houdini.

But the show was far from over, later that night we got word that the silent disco was being DJ’d by Mark Foster himself. After waiting in line for a stunning 2 ½ hours, we got an up close and personal experience with only 300 people on the dance floor dancing like crazy to music that could only be heard by them.  After his time at the disco ended, Mark Foster ran over to another small stage by the fountain to play along with a band I had never heard of. He went from one thing to a next energized by the music and the crowds. 

3. Skrillex
If you had told me a few weeks ago that I would be in the pit, front and center of a Dub Step concert I probably would have laughed. I had always thought of Dub Step as more of a headache than music, but that just goes to show you can’t write anything off until you experience it for yourself. The Skrillex show was one of the most incredible performances; every single person in the crowd was dancing. Before Skrillex even came on stage, the energy was sky high. As we walked into the pit area, we found ourselves being pushed by a crowd trying to squeeze into the tiny passage way that led to the front rows. The security guards were screaming at everyone to put their hands up so they could check our wristbands. We struggled through and found ourselves maybe 3 rows back from the empty stage with a giant space ship. Then a countdown began, and out from behind the space ship comes out Skrillex. The crowd was screaming as he climbed into his ship, the lights all on him, and then he played his first beat. With that one beat my breath was literally taken away. The hairs on my arms and top of my head were vibrating, my teeth were chattering with the vibration, and the impact of the bass knocked my breath away. My friend Linda and I just looked at each other with wide eyes wondering what was about to come next, and were answered with a show that was so high energy and intense, we never knew where Skrillex would take it next. As he would build up the momentum, the crowd calmer at first, but as the beat grew gradually faster and faster, until finally Skrillex turned it up to maximum volume. At that moment the crowd would throw thousands of glow sticks into the air which would fall back down and look like little fireworks exploded right over the crowds heads. After the concert was over Linda and I walked back to the campsite so energized, and so very deaf. We had to scream to one another even though we were standing right next to each other, but no worries after a couple hours – the ringing stopped and our hearing came back.

Even though hadn’t played live or come out with a new album for years, but their songs had withstood the test of time because everyone in the crowd was singing at the top of their lungs. And even if you had never heard a single Dispatch song before, it was so easy to learn as you go and sing right along. During the song “Elias” I was even surprised to hear how many people in the crowd knew the words to the introduction, which is in a different language. Then as the song hit the chorus everyone held up their hand and reached out to the stage. But my favorite song they performed live had to be Flying Horses, which got everyone dancing.

1. Fun.
In my opinion, there was absolutely no question that Fun. was the best concert of Bonnaroo. For a band that is fairly new, with only one hit on the radio, the fact that most of the audience was singing along to every single song says a lot. I just heard of Fun. a couple months ago, and after curiously youtubing a couple of their songs, I couldn’t find one that I wasn’t absolutely obsessed with.  The lead singer’s voice has such a unique sound, and even his normal talking voice was unique. I have a feeling this was his first concert in front of that many people, because you could tell he was so humbled by the crowd’s enthusiasm. At one point in a song he stopped the music for dramatic effect, and the crowd started cheering so loud he had a hard time starting the song again because he just could not stop smiling. Of course a huge crowd favorite was when he started singing “We Are Young”, and at least 15 people started crowd surfing at various parts of that song. It was so hysterically ironic that as the crowd was singing the lyrics “I’ll carry you home tonight” they security guards were literally carrying crowd surfers out of the stage area. I honestly cannot pick a favorite song that they performed because every single one of them was incredible, but if I had to pick one that made the biggest impression… it had to be the band’s encore. Yes, Fun. was the only band I had seen during the entire festival that received a chanting encore which brought them back out for one more song.  They performed a cover of the Rolling Stones “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and the audience went crazy. It would not surprise me in the least bit if by next Bonnaroo, Fun. will be a headliner.

The Bonnaroo Experience

We pulled the car into our camp spot and I peered out the window through the hundreds of tents, trees, and cars lining my view - trying to get a grasp on what Bonnaroo was about to be like. As I hopped out of the car I had to jump aside quickly as I realized I had walked right in front of a moving golf cart. There was no angry honking, however. Instead as the cart cruised by, the man sitting in the back with long black hair and aviator sunglasses smiled and gave me the peace sign. At that moment I knew I was going to like it here just fine. 

Our campsite

How did I get to go to Bonnaroo? Well my friend Linda works for a news station in Knoxville that was covering the event, and I got to be her plus one! 

Sam shooting some interviews for News Channel 6
This was incredible for so many reasons. The first reason was of course the free ticket, the second reason was the amazing company of my friend and her reporter Sam, and the third reason was the fact that our press pass tickets allowed us so many amazing benefits. Not only was our camp site right next to the main Bonnaroo grounds and stages, but the press pass also allowed us into the press tent area. In this area they had free water, plugs for your phones, and a tent where band members would come to be interviewed.  The press interviews were open to all who had a pass, so it was during one of these interviews that I got to meet the actress Kristin Bell!
Kristin Bell at Press Tent
Kristin was there to promote her new movie, which was being shown in the cinema tent of Bonnaroo. I had never actually met a famous person before, so right before I tapped her on the shoulder to ask for a picture, I realized how badly my hands were shaking! After we took the picture she asked me what my name was. I nervously said “Annie” and then told her that I loved her sloth video. As soon as the words left my lips I instantly felt regret. I had seen a video of her on the Ellen show where she cries after her husband gives her a pet sloth. But why I thought she would know what I was talking about when all I said was “your sloth video” was beyond me. After a brief look of confusion, she thankfully started laughing. Either she realized what I was referring to, or she was just that nice to pretend like she did!      

                But besides all the incredible bands at Bonnaroo, one of the coolest things about the whole festival was the community they built right there in the Manchester farms. One morning while Linda and Sam got up early to do some interviews, I decided to explore the area of “Centeroo” as they call it. The first thing I stumbled upon was a morning yoga session. Hundreds of people were laying in the grass following the yoga instructions of the person on the stage. It was very relaxing just to be able to stretch out on the soft grass.
                Then I walked over to the rows of food stands by the ferris wheel. There was not a Subway or McDonald’s in sight. All of the food stands there were owned by private businesses or families, and there were so many healthy choices to choose from.
                Just a little further down from the food stands was this tent with 5 or 6 gongs forming a circle. People would sit inside the circle and the owners of the tent would start lightly banding on the gongs. Apparently this was a form of meditation and relaxation.
                Since Linda and Sam had a hotel in Murfreesboro, we ended up spending our nights there. We always meant to camp, but by 2 or 3 in the morning a shower and a bed sounded too good to pass up. It ended up being a good thing because the showers in Bonnaroo cost $7 per shower, and the lines are always ridiculously long. By the end of Bonnaroo people even resort to washing off in the fountain in Centeroo.
Washing off the Bonnaroo dirt!

The “people-watching” had to be the most entertaining thing about Bonnaroo. Most were dressed according to the weather… bathing suits, shorts, and tank tops. But every now and then you would catch someone dressed in a crazy get-up. We saw everything from Gumby costumes, to Where’s Waldos, to fairies and dragons. The most entertaining costume we saw was a guy who had falling asleep by a tree wearing a unicorn mask. So many people would stop to pose with him in a picture. I wonder if he even noticed.
The people at Bonnaroo were some of the most interesting and friendly people I have ever met. It was so easy to walk around and make 10 new friends from all over the country, and even some from abroad. One morning I decided to go around and ask random people where they were from and who they were most excited to see play. With the level of friendliness at Bonnaroo, most of the people actually came up to me! I talked to quite a few people who had driven 19 hours or more from Boston, New York, and Philadelphia just to see this music festival. With some of these people suggestions, I discovered some amazing bands I had never heard of before.

Rochester, NY

Rochester, NY

Brooklyn, NY


Bowling Green, KY

Boston, MA

Boston, MA

New Jersey

New York

New York

North Carolina

North Carolina