We are barely halfway into this thing and Bonnaroo's memorable performances and highlights already seem too good to be true. In addition to 12 stages featuring live music for 18 hours a day for four days straight, the assembled press are privy to gut busting scenes of spontaneous hilarity in Bonnaroo press conferences twice daily.
Without fail, these press conferences will feature provocative observations from the panelists about their respective Bonnaroo experiences. But more often than not they will degrade into an impromptu exchange of silly quips, wacky tales from the road, and dirty jokes. Friday was no exception.
After setting the bar obscenely low for the 1pm press conference with multiple references to sex acts taking place on and off stage, it was the affable Matt + Kim who stuck around for nearly 45 minutes afterwards, smiling broadly, Happily answering more questions and posing for photographs.
The press conference itself was a chaotic and ramshackle riot that teetered on the brink of peep-show perversion for the duration. Perhaps this was no surprise as its schizophrenic panel included TV star Ed Helms and classic rocker John Oates alongside the eager upstarts Matt + Kim, Nicki Bluhm and Michael Angelakos from Passion Pit. Aside from a brief description of Oates' charity work, the discussion was a lighthearted group improvisation on the pros and cons of playing big festivals.
Helms is doing double duty at this year's Bonnaroo, presenting a comedy revue in the festival's comedy tent and hosting a Bluegrass jam on one of its main stages. Asked why he loves the banjo, Helms sighed, "I believe that banjos are very irritating and that's why banjos and comedians get along."
"Hey Ed," a smirking Oates chimed in, "Do you know why there's no banjos on Star Trek?"
"No John. Why is that?"
"Because it's the future."
Later in the day there was a 4 p.m. press conference that featured some very insightful exchanges between country rocker Jason Isbell and Jazz Fusion guitar legend John McLaughlin (pictured). The Bonnaroo crowd warmly embraced McLaughlin's evening performance in That Tent, causing the master musician to grin from ear to ear from the first notes of his set to the very last.
Though they started 30 minutes late, Rock icons ZZ Top performed a smoking midnight set in This Tent to a capacity crowd who sang along to nearly every song in the bands hit-laden set.
Friday's Bonnaroo festivities started with great promise, as we were treated to a surprise performance by Jack Johnson in the press tent. Johnson is a last-minute fill-in for headliners Mumford and Sons, who had to cancel because their bass player had a medical procedure to fix a blood clot in his brain earlier this week. Warmth and humility emanated from Johnson as he debuted two brand new songs accompanied by ALO's Zach Gill on accordion.
An hour later Trixie Whitley slithered on to the Which Stage in a long black gown and proceeded to mesmerize the mid-day crowd with her hypnotic and soulful swamp Rock. There were moments during her set when she sang with such power and pathos it literally knocked the wind out of me. The crowd was so awed by Whitley's performance they stood in a stunned silence so quiet that at times you could hear shutters clicking in the photo pit.
I don't think Chuck and I stopped laughing once during a spontaneous and hilarious 15 minutes we spent chatting with Daniel, Thomas and new drummer Johnny Colorado of the Futurebirds. We barely had time to catch our breath and regain our composure before a 4 p.m. press conference that featured comedians Michael Che and Mike Birbiglia, as well as Jason Isbell and Jazz Fusion guitar legend John McLaughlin.
Around the festival grounds today we've heard remarkable performances by Jason Isbell and 400 Unit, Nashville's Alanna Royale and Trombone Shorty.
Coming up later tonight: Wilco, Paul McCartney, ZZ Top and many more.
As Thursday began, we heard the tragic news of two people from the Tristate who were killed in an automobile accident on their way to the festival. (Five others were injured in the same crash.)
All told, Bonnaroo attendees and staff number close to 90,000 souls during peak hours. For this long weekend in June Manchester becomes the seventh largest city in Tennessee, with births and deaths on-site like one would expect in a small city over the course of any 96-hour span.
On a brighter note, this year's festival kicked off with a young couple tying the knot under the multi colored arch at Bonnaroo entrance.
In the late afternoon I wandered through Centeroo, perusing the various vendors' booths. Corporate sponsors abound, but non-profits and independent artisans dominate the Bonnaroo bazaar.
In the shadow of a Ferris wheel and psychedelic light tower a giant throng gathered in and around the area surrounding the Other Tent to greet Cincinnati's pure Pop pride and joy Walk The Moon.
Technical glitches delayed the start of their set but they had the crowd bouncing, clapping, singing along and eating out of their hands from the minute they took the stage.
WTM singer Nicholas Petricca shouted, "We're called Walk The Moon! We're from Ohio!" and the crowd roared as the band launched into their single "Tightrope." This writer has never seen a larger crowd assembled for a performance in the Other Tent and Petricca's buoyant charm and boundless energy kept the crowd pumped and jumping throughout the bands' entire performance.
Later in That Tent, Father John Misty brought the weird and the beard via his sardonic Folk Rock parables. I half-expected the depth and humor of FJM's material to sail over the heads of most Bonnaroovians but I was pleasantly surprised to hear many people singing along. A huge fan of his new Fear Fun album, I think I would have driven all the way to Tennessee just to hear Misty sing "Only Son Of The Ladiesman". He didn't make me wait long, playing it in the No. 2 slot.
(Walk the Moon hotos by Chuck Madden)
EDITOR'S NOTE: For this year's installment of the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., CityBeat sent the veteran ’Roo team of writer (and musician) Ric Hickey and photographer Chuck Madden down south again to report on the festivities. Keep an eye on this here music blog for updates, pics and more from Tennessee all ’Roo weekend. (If you can't make it to the fest, Cork n' Bottle in Covington is having a "Road to Roo" party that runs through tomorrow's festivities, with a live stream from the fest, drink specials and a rotating collection of visiting food trucks.)
Turkey vultures circled overhead as Chuck and I drove through the rolling green hills of central Tennessee between Murfreesboro and McMinnville, on our way to Manchester for the annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. Our circuitous route through small towns and backwoods was briefly complicated by pounding rain. But soon the skies cleared and we found our way to the media campground located behind Bonnaroo's Which Stage, happily settling into an area that's just a few minutes walk from the festival grounds.
The friendly spirit of the festival was upon us immediately as we were greeted by new friends, fellow travelers in the campground and other members of the assembled press in the backstage Media compound.
Highlights of our Thursday perambulations included Futurebirds in This Tent, a glimpse of slam-bang Country rockers Houndmouth in the On Tap Lounge and a display of first class Honky Tonk by J.D. McPherson in That Tent that stopped Chuck and me in our tracks.
McPherson had the crowd smiling and dancing to a Rockabilly hybrid that swung like a wrecking ball. Western Swing met Chicago Blues as McPherson and crew featured upright bass, B-3 organ and saxophone for a syrupy saunter through Bo Diddley's "I Wanna Try For You." McPherson himself added some tasteful Telecaster licks, bringing a warbling echo of Surf music to the mix.
Fan-shot video of McPherson swingin' through "Your Love."
Incredibly impressive young AltRock trio PUBLIC is celebrating the one-year anniversary of its first release, the four-track EP Red, today. In honor of the occasion, the band — one of the “Best New Artist” nominees at the most recent Cincinnati Entertainment Awards — is offering Red as a free download.
Those interested in grabbing all four tracks without paying the usual $5 will have today only to nab it at publictheband.com.
PUBLIC is currently readying a new single, “Honeybee,” which will drop in conjunction with the group’s appearance at the Bunbury Music Festival on the fest’s opening night, July 12.
Give the EP a listen below then go grab your very own copy.
Tomorrow (Saturday) is the seventh annual OTR (that's "Over-the-Rhine," if you don't get the hip lingo) 5K Run and Summer Celebration, featuring a fine art show, food, drink and other vendors, the 5K Run and a strong lineup of local, original music in OTR's Washington Park.
The festivities kick off with the 10 a.m. OTR 5K, which begins and ends at Washington Park this year. Here are the artists — including several Cincinnati Entertainment Awards nominees and winners — you can check out (on the park's Bandstand and Main Event Lawn Stage) this year. (Click each name for more info on the performer.)
• The Cincy Brass (Event Lawn Stage 10:15am-11:30am)
• Baoku & the Image Afro-Beat Band (Event Lawn Stage 12:00pm-12:45pm)
• DAAP Girls (Event Lawn Stage 1:15pm-2:00pm)
• Decker, the solo guise of Histoire singer Jane Smith. (Event Lawn Stage 2:30pm-3:15pm)
• The Tillers (Bandstand 11:30am-12:15pm)
• Mia Carruthers (Bandstand 12:45pm-1:30pm)
There will also be the following "special appearances":
Young Professionals Choral Collective (Bandstand 10:45am-11:15am)
Cincinnati Opera (Bandstand 2:00pm-2:20pm)
Queen City Brass Band (Bandstand 2:45pm-3:30pm)
Dynamic, Maryland-based Rock band Clutch has been grinding across the world for over 20 years. In that time, the band has seen great success across 10 studio albums and has had songs featured across different forms of media, from television to movies to video games.
Clutch is performing at Columbus, Ohio's Rock on the Range fest as the final act on the Jagermeister Stage this Saturday at 5:45 p.m. CityBeat was able to get some time with Dan Maines, the band’s bass player, to preview the show and talk about the longevity and progression of an independent Rock band. Click here for full info on this weekend's Rock on the Range.
CityBeat: What has been the highlight or best touring moment of the last year?
Dan Maines: Highlight? We had a really good show in London last European run. We did a good show at the Coco. London is one of those cities for us that has grown quite a bit. Just within the last year the clubs we have played have doubled in size. The last show we had there was probably around 1,500 people, but that was by far the biggest headlining London show that we have had. We are getting ready to go back there next month and we are going to be playing a different club that has a capacity of about 2,300 people and it looks like that show may sell out. We have been having some really good luck and some great shows all over the place. It has been a really, really good year for us touring.
CB: Do you feel the Rock scene is bigger in Europe than it is here in the U.S.? Do you feel like the fans are more engaged with Rock music today?
DM: I do feel like just your straight-ahead Rock & Roll band is doing better nowadays than 10 years ago. I don’t really have an explanation for it. We have been doing this for 20 years now and we really haven’t changed the formula much, but, for whatever reason, the past few years things have picked up for us and I think people are tired of going to see a band they have heard on the radio and they like a song and then they go to a show and the band never delivers. People are tired of that mentality. They want to see good music. They want to see a band that can pull off on stage what they put down on tape in a studio.
CB: It’s tough when you show up and it doesn’t sound the same. It is fantastic when bands deliver live and I think that is what really grows the audience over time.
CB: Your band has been together with same lineup for over 20 years. It is like a marriage. What is the secret to keeping the band together?
DM: I think we all have the same personalities.
There is not an ego with any band members and we all have similar goals (for) what this band is all about. We are not one of these bands that is
ever going to cater to other people’s expectations. We just do what we
want to do. We just write songs we want to write. We are a band that
really enjoys playing shows. We really enjoy going on the road and
touring. That is one thing that breaks down a lot of bands for the most
Touring is not an easy thing to do. You have to go for it. I have seen a lot of good bands who just couldn’t stick together because of the stresses of touring, which are overwhelming for one person or another. We have always been eager to play as many shows as we can. Without that mentality, we probably wouldn’t have lasted as long as we have. We aren’t the kind of band that is surviving on a particular song we wrote that gets played on the radio. We are a traveling band. I don’t really have a secret recipe for keeping the band together. We are just very fortunate to have been able to do it and we will continue to do what we do.
CB: Is it still fun for you to be on the road?
DM: It is still fun. Playing shows is easily more enjoyable to us than being in a studio. Even when we are at home and writing the material, that is always a good time, but you are eager to play the material for an audience and that is what we exist to do.
CB: What makes you laugh the hardest when you are on the road?
DM: I don’t know, maybe seeing people who might be seeing us for the first time and get caught up in the moment and try to sing along with Neil without actually knowing the words. Sometimes it can be as simple as what snacks our road manager decides to get for the dressing room.
CB: Where do you think you will be in 15 more years?
DM: Hopefully doing the same thing and not really paying attention to how many years have passed. Doing what we are doing but on a larger scale and going to places we haven’t gone yet.
CB: Who knows where you will be going by then, maybe outer space.
DM: Hopefully it will be something more local, like South America.
CB: What is the name of the first band you were in?
DM: Oh, that’s embarrassing.
CB: Oh, I want to hear.
DM: I guess the first band was called Moral Minority and that was myself with a couple other members of what became Clutch, but that was the high school incarnation of my first band and it was probably six or eight months later when Clutch was formed.
CB: Were your parents supportive?
DM: Always. They never really gave me a hard time about it. They never really laid down a lot of expectations to whether they wanted me to go in one direction or another, and they have always been very supportive of the band. Obviously now, but even way back in the beginning when we were traveling in a van getting stranded in cities on the other side of the country and figuring out ways to get back home. They never once said, “Maybe you should consider doing something else,” and I really appreciated that.
CB: What bands are currently influencing you?
DM: I have been listening to a lot of Galactic lately. You know what I have been listening to, I don’t know how recent it is, but Public Enemy still makes records and it came as a surprise to me that they are still doing it. What is more surprising is they are still making great records.
CB: I photographed Public Enemy last Sunday. Flavor Flav still jumped six feet in the air across the stage. It was unbelievable. Not only are they making records, they are touring and killing it. It was crazy. That is what everybody should aspire to do. You guys have your own record label. What are the challenges of releasing your own music?
DM: We have tried to keep the challenges down to a
minimum from the very beginning and just try to make it strictly an
outlet for Clutch music. Nowadays, it is not that difficult to take this
DIY approach to putting out music. Recording costs have come down a lot
and the overall costs of promoting and marketing a record have gone down
a lot because you have tools like the internet, where you can do so many
things for such a low amount of money that the actual costs of
producing a record, manufacturing and distributing it is not that high.
It is just being in a position that we are luckily in where we have relationships with people who kind of help fill in the blanks in areas where we are not experts. It has worked out well for us over the last five years, putting out a couple live CDs and two studio CDs. Who knows what could happen in the future? It could come to a point where it goes beyond the scope of Clutch. Right now it is just putting out Clutch related material. We have also put out side projects for various members of the band. We have John-Paul, who has been working with a band from Sweden called King Hobo, and hopefully those guys will have something that we can put out on the label. We have tried not to get overambitious with the releases and taking it very slowly.
CB: What can the fans expect at Rock on the Range next weekend?
DM: Four bearded men playing Rock music. We will be playing a lot of material off The Earth Rocker. I think on this tour we have been playing, on average, six songs out of 16 off the new record. We probably won’t be playing 16 songs at Rock on the Range. We will probably have a shorter set, so it is harder to predict what we will be playing. We are definitely going to be playing. It will be a heavily Earth Rocker loaded set for sure, and some of the classics thrown in as well.
CB: You guys change your set list every show, right?
DM: We try to. We have this system. We actually take turns writing the set list. Last night was Neil’s night, so tonight would be Tim’s night. It is something we can do that keeps things less monotonous and kind of keeps us on our toes and makes the sets more enjoyable for us, which is going to be more enjoyable for everybody else watching.
CB: If you could trade places with anybody for a month who would it be and why?
DM: That’s a tough one. Maybe George Porter Jr., the bass player (from New Orleans Funk legends, The Meters). He is a huge influence on me and just definitely a hero. It would be nice to spend some time in his brain and steal something.
CB: Do you play any other instruments?
DM: No, I barely play bass.
Halestorm shows everybody out there that a female can rock with the guys. Lzzy Hale, Revolver Magazine’s reining “Hottest Chick in Hard Rock,” along with her brother Arejay, started the band back in 1999 and they have been on an upward trajectory ever since. This past February, the band received its first Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance for the song “Love Bites… (And So Do I),” which made history as the first song by a female-fronted group to top the Active Rock radio airplay chart.
Halestorm has been headlining shows across the country in support of The Strange Case Of…, the band's second studio album. The group will be performing at this weekend’s Rock on the Range in Columbus on Saturday, playing the Main Stage alongside Papa Roach, Bullet For My Valentine, Three Days Grace, Stone Sour and The Smashing Pumpkins. Click here for full Rock on the Range info.
CityBeat: A lot has happened since I saw you guys in the fall. My first question is … where are you keeping your Grammy?
Lzzy Hale: You know what is funny — we actually don’t have them yet. It’s not quite real. We have been on the road so they have not been delivered yet. We have to sign a contract to make sure we aren’t going to do anything stupid with it. I have no idea where I am going to put it. My mom thinks it should be at her house. I’m like, “No, Mom, it comes with me.”
CB: You could put in your bunk (on the bus). That’s where you live anyway.
LH: Yeah. Very true.
CB: I know you just collaborated with David Draiman (of Disturbed) on the classic Ozzy and Lita song “Close Your Eyes.” What was the best part of doing that for you?
LH: It is such a cool thing. David Draiman has been such a champion of our band for the last couple years. He has been holding the Halestorm flag high. What a nice dude and always there for advice. He has sort of become this pseudo-big brother of mine the last couple years.
It is kind of surreal, a little bit, because I know this guy, but after singing with him and doing this duet, I find myself talking to my little brother and saying, “Remember when The Sickness came out and we went out and got that record, and we knew every word on that record.” We were huge Disturbed fans when we were kids. We still are, I should say. It is such an amazing honor to be asked to do that and what an incredible lineup on the entire record. Being the new kid on the block as far as the guest vocals are concerned is quite humbling, honestly.
CB: Were you nervous about re-recording that song?
LH: A little bit. There is always something in the back of your mind when you are recording a classic like that. You don’t want to ruin it. I am such fan for Lita Ford and Ozzy Osbourne and that whole era of music is really close to my heart. I was only hoping that we could do it justice. It was really David who put my mind at ease with that because as soon as I heard what he was doing with (it), I realized it was special, really special.
It is so weird, but when we were listening to the final mix of it, both David and I got goosebumps in the exact same spot of the song. We were like “Whoa! There is something about this song. We did something right.” I am happy we did it. I just sang it live with him for the first time at Carolina Rebellion. We are going to be doing it together again live. It’s truly magical. Not to sound cheesy, but it does hold a special place in my heart.
CB: Can we look forward to that at Rock on the Range?
LH: Oh, yes. Hell yes.
CB: I have seen you guys many times at ROTR over the years. What is your favorite Rock on the Range moment?
LH: Oh my God. The people that put that on are such nice people. We have been asked back for many years. The first time we were ever playing at Rock on the Range we were at the Jager Stage, then we were on the second stage, then last year we were first or second on the main stage.
I am telling you this, to be a part of this event, I am speaking for myself and all of my peers, we look forward to this festival. Not only is it a hell of a lot fun to play, but we get to see each other. I get to see all of my friends perform that I never get to see because we are all out on the road. It is this huge family reunion and this party from like 9 a.m. to whenever people decide to go home. It’s so wonderful and it keeps getting better every year, like last year was the best ever for me, but then the year before that was the best. I look forward to this time because maybe it will top last year. It is such a well-run event and the highlight of festival season.
CB: Are you going to be able to keep track of Arejay during the event?
LH: Nobody can ever keep track of Arejay. Are you kidding me? The phrase “Where’s Arejay?” is the phrase of the millennium. It’s awesome. He is the most incredible human being because he will be standing next you and you will be talking to him, you (turn) around and you’re talking to somebody else and you turn back to where Arejay was once standing and, poof, he is gone. He is a little Houdini. I love him. He is legendary. I am sure there will be many stories about Arejay at Rock on the Range.
CB: I saw recently you did an interview for a Playboy series online. Would you ever consider posing for the magazine if they asked you?
LH: I haven’t really been asked that a lot. I was thinking about it the other day. I guess I would have to cross that bridge when I come to it. It depends what it is and what it is for and how tasteful it would be. I am not going to say no, but I would have to cross that bridge when I came to it.
CB: I know you guys are recording a second Covers EP. Why did you guys decide to record a second covers record?
LH: We just recorded a few months ago and are starting to get mixes back now. We love doing that stuff, just being able to re-create your favorite songs, break them down and build them up as your own. Regardless of how fun it is, you learn a lot as a musician, about how you work and you’re learning your favorite songs and how to rebuild them from the ground up in your own way and try to find a new way to approach the songs which is kind of a challenge. We had a lot of fun doing it.
I don’t know when it is going to be released yet. It is probably going to be a couple months. When you see the final list of what we chose for this one, there will be probably some that you could predict and there are a few tracks you are going to look at the title of the song and the artist it’s by and you are going to go, “What? Why did they choose that song?” Then you can judge for yourself whether you like what we did. Either way it is going to be fun to see what everybody thinks about it.
CB: Are there any habits you would like to break?
LH: Yes, daily. My procrastination; I should practice more; I shouldn’t have had that cake at Josh’s birthday. I’m one of those people that does not care what everybody else thinks, but I do care a lot about how I feel about myself. I go through phases where I will have tunnel-vision and be determined and then I will be in the middle of tour and be like, “Screw it, I am going to finish this bottle of wine.” I think this time in my life I am starting to get my shit together and have more control over my vices. I am starting to exercise more and starting to be a little more responsible in my life, which is a battle, because I think I am perpetually 14 years old inside. I’m trying to be a grown up but still hold onto that fire.
CB: I love the story you have behind the “Rock Show” song and how you got inspired by it. Could you talk about that a little bit?
LH: Of course. To start that off, we got a lot of physical letters from fans, not the tweets and Facebook posts but a lot of handwritten letters — who does that anymore? — with a pencil. We get a lot of letters every day and it has increased in the past couple years. They are so incredibly inspiring. You get to see how you affect these people. You get to see and hear their stories. It is really, really humbling and really exciting for me because those stories start seeping their way into my subconscious.
A lot of the new songs I have written have been for a specific fan or another because it is interesting to see what these people go through in daily life and relate it to your own. It makes me feel less alone to be a part of their lives and they have welcomed us with open arms into their private life. I respect the hell out of that because it takes a lot of guts to do that.
Specifically for “Rock Show,” we received this letter. I don’t know how this little girl got the address to our studio, but she did. She wrote me this beautiful letter about her first Rock show, which happened to be Halestorm, and it was because of that show she picked up guitar and, long story short, she really shreds. She can play Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption.” It is really cool to see. She was like 13 years old at the time. It is beautiful, almost like that show was a religious experience. It changed the course of her life and she finally knows what she wants to do and is starting a band.
I remember taking this letter into the studio and telling the guys we have to write a song for her. The title was called “Rock Show,” and we literally built this song around this letter we received and then we ended up thanking her in the notes as the next surprise so she will forever be in the artwork of our record because of that. It is wonderful to do that for those people, to give back, because it is a give and take. We wouldn’t be able to do what we love without these little girls and little boys and everybody that comes to our show. It is wonderful to be able to do small things like write a song for them or thank them.
CB: What are the characteristics that make a great Halestorm song?
LH: Lately, it has been more about honesty. What I never thought I would accomplish in this band, we kind of have in the last couple years. Halestorm is becoming the identity for some of these kids. It is something to stand for. It is something to look up to. I’ve been much more free to let more people into my life and trying to be a good example and be that shining beacon of empowerment for some of these people. I needed that when I was a kid. I looked up to a lot of my parent’s music because it was tough not to find anybody that wasn’t singing about death or “I hate my parents” when I was a kid. I remember needing that. I needed somebody that I could say, “I am going to be like that. If they can do it, so can I.”
I think there definitely always has to be an element of empowerment in what we do, in the music we write, but then you have to pair that with the honesty that you are human and that we are all the same. You are encouraging people to take the risk and to carve out their own path and be themselves. It is all we have learned about diving right into this business. We have learned so much about ourselves and how to be comfortable in our own skin. If we can pass that along, that’s something we strive for.