There’s no such thing as “just another day at Bonnaroo." This morning I was in attendance for a mesmerizing performance by Nashville AltCountry siren Tristen in the press tent that barely ended in time for me to race over to This Tent for a performance by Black Joe Lewis & The Honey Bears that shook me to my very soul. Their raging Funk and Soul revue literally had the crowd jumping and screaming for the duration of their 60-minute set.
Back at the campsite I polished off the whiskey in preparation for a mid-afternoon menu that included Old Crow Medicine Show on the Which Stage and Mongolian Folk group Hanggai in the Other Tent. Hanggai’s blend of western roots music influences with the centuries-old folk traditions of their homeland has to be experienced to be believed. Throat singing and traditional instruments of the Orient intermingling with American Rock and Bluegrass influences create an ear-tingling musical combination the likes of which I had never heard.
Befriending a young couple throwing Frisbee, I found it was also a good soundtrack for frivolous romping in the sun. In a rare moment of journalistic foresight, I took my seat for the 4 p.m. press conference a good 45 minutes before it began.
With my bourbon-drenched day looking like it’s gonna be bookended with shows by Black Joe Lewis and Bootsy Collins, that ice cream flavor kinda describes my whole frame of mind right now.
Well before the appointed hour, the press tent fills with people. Sitting in the front row seat I’d reserved for myself, I made the acquaintance of several other journalists, including a local NPR correspondent named Troy and a lovely female photographer who asked if she could photograph my tattoos. Just past 4 p.m., the stars came out, as the stage before me filled with the likes of Daniel Lanois, Nicole Atkins, both Stephen Stills and Richie Furay, and the legendary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. When the hell have you ever even HEARD of a press conference panel that includes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Stephen Stills?
To be in attendance for such a thing was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it makes me think that this is a good time to say once again just how grateful I am to CityBeat for sending me down here to cover this! The baby sister on this afternoon’s press conference panel, Nicole Atkins, performs three sets tomorrow afternoon at Bonnaroo, in addition to her newly-assigned role as festival correspondent for Paste magazine. As the press conference ended and the assembled masses swarmed to speak with Kareem and Lanois, Stills and Furay disappeared thru a flap in the tent and I took a moment to chat with Nicole Atkins. Barely a few days into this leg of their current tour, she said opening night in Cleveland was rough. Almost ready to shrug it off to her experiences with unresponsive Ohio crowds, Atkins was quick to correct herself and say, “Actually? Toledo rocked!”
Next up for me is the frenzied Art Punk of Man Man, the queen of Country music Loretta Lynn, and a 7 p.m. performance by Bootsy Collins & the Funk University that features a virtual constellation of bass guitar superstars. Later on tonight will be performances by another flurry of Bonnaroo’s big dogs including performances by The Black Keys, Buffalo Springfield and Eminem.
Bootsy at Bonnaroo photo by Chuck Madden.