Bonnaroo 2011: Saturday's best, from the Black Keys to Mumford and Sons to Eminem
A jam-packed Saturday lineup leaves little time to recoup from Friday's events. But, as former Bonnaroo artists have sung, there's no sleep till Brooklyn, or no rest for the wicked, or something to that effect. So here goes Saturday's recap...
12:30 p.m.: The spirit of James Brown is alive and kickin', and it's inside the body of a skinny Texan! Austin's Black Joe Lewis, a former pawn shop employee, blasts primal funk-soul with outstanding, necktie-wearing players the Honeybears. But there isn't anything sweet about tracks like Booty City and Humpin. This is freaky, sweaty fun. After a rousing, horn-fueled Sugarfoot, Joe and the 'Bears are joined by a gang of sliding, shimmying gospel players. Is it too early to call this the set of the day? If you like Sly Stone, Howlin' Wolf or James B., you've got to give Lewis a spin.
12:50 p.m.: The Lewis set is so rockin' that the group next to me has decided that there's a need for a "festival catheter." You know, so you don't lose your spot near the stage when you've got to go the bathroom. Totally gross, or an outstanding Bonnaroo business venture? I'll let you decide.
1:35 p.m.: I just waved to Zach Braff in passing. Eeeek! The Scrubs star, screenwriter and soundtrack man extraordinaire is here doing a "Garden State question and answer session". Not sure how timely that is, but exciting nonetheless. (In other celeb news, Tom Colicchio, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Ron Jeremy are also said to be on the premises.)
2:45 p.m.: Multi-instrumentalist Bill Bailey and Community star Donald Glover are killing in the comedy tent with their Bonnaroo observations. "Hippies will walk through fire to get to a face-painting booth. I want to be a panda!" So true.
4 p.m.: Alison Krauss, where art thou? We're in left field for her jam-packed show, but Krauss' loveliness carries well. On Baby, Now That I've Found You, she brings grace to a pungent place. The most-awarded female Grammy artist says its she and Union Station's 21st anniversary as a band. The man who played the singing voice of George Clooney in O Brother Where Art Thou leads on a fine I am a Man of Constant Sorrow.
4:40 p.m.: Jovanotti, rapper and friend to Bono, is somewhat of a god in his native Italy. And we can see why. He's humble, charming and overjoyed to share his robust, border-crossing tunes. When Ukrainian singer Eugene Hutz of Gogol Bordello joins him on stage, it's like the coolest U.N. party you'd ever go to.
4:55 p.m.: Bruce Hornsby plays a quiet, strummy set on a small stage. The man who inspired Tupac's Changes has a wistful tune about imaginary friends. Hopefully another rapper will sample this one.
5:05 p.m.: Energy strips called "sheets" are being distributed. They dissolve on your tongue and are Bonnaroo's no-can, no-calorie answer to Red Bull. They're also non-delicious.
6:15 p.m.: Folk-rock revivalists Mumford and Sons have outgrown Bonnaroo's small stages after a breakout year. In fact, they may have the most well-attended show thus far. After opener Sigh No More, the band of Brits announces, "it's very dusty, so let's kick up a storm and have a dance." A hoedown in Hanes undershirts ensues. New tune Below My Feet gets the addition of horns. Huge stuff from Mumford and Sons.
7 p.m.: Caught country music leading lady Loretta Lynn in passing. At 79, the coal miner's daughter is really holding her own. But would you expect anything less from the Kentucky gal who repeatedly tested country music's conservative boundaries?
7:20 p.m.: After hearing soaring, U2-like Teardrop from Civil Twilight, I've determined there's no chance I will ever be this close in square footage to this band again. In other words, this South African trio is too good to play small stages for long.
8 p.m.: The very funny Aziz Ansari of Parks and Recreation introduces "The Black Eyed Peas." Hiyo! Thankfully, The Black Keys show up. If there was ever any doubt about whether two guys from Akron, Ohio could fill the main stage's huge space, those doubts are quickly put to rest. Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney play as a true duo for a solid 30 minutes before a full band tackles blues-rock bust-ups Tighten Up, I'll Be Your Man and I Got Mine.
9:20 p.m.: A petite brunette simply known as Tristen plays a country-rock tune called Baby Drugs. It's as intriguing as it sounds.
9:35 p.m.: There's something happening here, and it's a rare appearance by '60s flower power purveyors Buffalo Springfield. A dancing Neil Young has a great introductory line. "Hi, we're Buffalo Springfield, and we're from the past." Few bands had such an impact in such a short span of time, and the crowd knows this. Unfortunately, the band isn't quite loud enough for the folks watching from afar. They voice their opinions with the chant, "turn it up." For those closer to the stage, I am a Child, For What It's Worth and Young's Rockin' in the Free World are all they could hope for.
10:50 p.m.: "Joy is not in things. It is in us." - Robert Wagner. The quote flashes on the jumbo screens before angry rapper Eminem takes the stage. How fitting.
11 p.m.: Bonnaroo's pacifist vibe has officially ended! In 8 Mile-style hoodie, an enraged Eminem unleashes Won't Back Down for his opener with a stacked band. Over the course of two, gun-shot-filled hours (seriously), Marshall Mathers, aka the real Slim Shady, destroys the main stage with a set that includes Cleaning out My Closet, The Way I am, Stan, Love the Way You Lie, Lose Yourself and a fireworks finale.
12:30 p.m.: "Tonight, we came fully loaded," announce Nawlins' funkmeisters The Meters. After a handful of original tunes, including hot and swampy Fire on the Bayou, Dr. John and Allen Toussaint join in to perform Destively Bonnaroo, the album from which Bonnaroo takes its name. It's the superjam old-school Bonnaroo enthusiasts have been waiting for, and it doesn't dissapoint.
-- Carole Liparoto, tbt*