Bonnaroo 2011: Sunday's best, from Robert Plant to Robyn to the Strokes
Here's the thing about Sunday at Bonnaroo. Lots of the harder partiers have burnt themselves out and gone home, leaving those remaining more room to roam. Here's a rundown of a more cool, casual day, and a fine finale, down on the farm.
1:45 p.m.: Throaty country singer-songwriter Ryan Bingham clearly has a ton of Marlboro Miles. Or maybe it's a lack of lozenges. Either way, it works just fine. Joined by his band The Dead Horses, the Crazy Heart artist weaves tales of whiskey mistakes and general hard livin' during this top-notch Sunday set.
2:20 p.m.: Did we call Ryan Bingham throaty? We just hadn't seen Mavis Staples yet. Before launching into Stax-era hit I'll Take You There, the soul-gospel diva with the crackling wail demands more participation from the crowd. In one of the funniest moments of the day, she scolds someone in the audience. "No, no, you didn't even open your mouth. When I take you there, I take everybody." And in a made-for-Bonnaroo encore, she and band cover Buffalo Springfield's For What It's Worth. "I will sleep with a grin on my face tonight," she says as she departs.
2:50 p.m.: Another run to the Taco Bus? Don't mind if I do. This time, I chat with owner Rene Valenzuela, who drove 14 hours with 11 staff members to serve the hungry patrons of Bonnaroo. There's a pretty cool reason they made the trek and it's got a St. Pete tie-in. More details to come in a separate post. Also, their pineapple water is delectable.
3:30 p.m.: Daniel Lanois is responsible for the tight production on some of the biggest albums of all time -- think U2's The Joshua Tree. Today, however, he's on the other side of things, letting loose with deceptively-named blues act Black Dub. We'd probably gush about his guitar playing if it weren't for the dazzling abilities of drummer Brian Blade and triple threat Trixie Whitley. Whitley's got Joss Stone-like pipes, is cute as a button and sometimes drums along with Blade while belting beautifully. Now she's just showing off. This act is one to watch.
4:10 p.m.: You know when a band hits that point of total groove synchronization and they give each other "the nod." That totally just happened. Cajun funk band Galactic is in the house for their ninth (out of 10) Bonnaroo festivals, they say. Is that the record?
4:45 p.m.: It looks as if Swedish pop princess Robyn has just come off a thrift store-shopping bender. She's got a pair of black spandex shorts, a West Point practice football jersey and some serious boots. It's her birthday, and she parties like it on revved-up, gyration-filled renditions of Fembot and Cobrastyle. And on Dancing On My Own, she deserves the award for best actress in a lead role for reasons (R-rate ones) that we can't reveal here.
5:10 p.m.: Cold War Kids' stage is slammed. Hang Me Up to Dry, Royal Blue and Louder than Ever sound great. If only we were closer.
5:40 p.m.: When you think Iron and Wine, you might think spare acoustic tunes like Such Great Heights and Boy with Coin. Today at Bonnaroo is another story. Singer-songwriter and former college professor Sam Beam has a flautist, horn players and a mean rhythm section who bring tracks off latest Kiss Each Other Clean to life.
6:15 p.m.: Robert Plant and Band of Joy kick off with a folksy cover of Led Zeppelin's Black Dog. Plant and Patty Griffin provide the familiar wah-wah-wah-wah's in perfect harmony. But before we get too comfy with this sort of set, Plant declares, "you know, it's not all like that." Americana is in full force on Little Angel Dance before Plant makes a surprising statement. "Aside from two of us, we're all from 40 miles of here, so it's an easy gig really." Then it's a cover of What is and What Should Never Be to really psych us out.
6:45 p.m.: Beirut's accordion-and-horn-powered tunes, which include Scenic World and Santa Fe in today's set, conjure up polka for the indie rock set. Lots of great players with great character here. Like band geeks who became the cool kids in college.
7:15 p.m.: Here's a great example of Bonnaroo's 10th year evolution. Explosions in the Sky is an instrumental act very different from the many jam-leaning instrumental acts who have come before. The group's members aren't ones for any sort of chitchat. But they're kings of crescendo in this uplifting, atmospheric rock set.
7:30 p.m.: The Strokes' always fashionable frontman Julian Casablancas taunts Bonnaroo's many adoring ladies with the line, "you're never gonna get my love" on Gratisfaction. He's rockin' a leather jacket and somehow managing to stay cool. Toilet paper flies, beach balls bounce as the Strokes lay down stripped-back, stylish rock.
8 p.m. p.m.: A quick browse through Centeroo reveals a stand giving away nicely-packaged Bonnaroo compost as a parting gift. The lost and found stand is also bustling. They must have more than 100 lost keys on display.
-- Carole Liparoto, tbt*