Make us your home page

Live from Bonnaroo: Animal Collective, St. Vincent and Vieux Farka Toure




(Soundcheck's Carole Giambalvo is in Manchester, Tenn., for the Bonnaroo Music Festival. She'll be sending Bonnaroo reviews from the scene all weekend. Technical glitches delayed today's post, but here you go.)

Humble Soundcheck writer and short-term hippie Carole G. here with my BFF Falyn (her name is super cool because it’s a throwback to the soap Dynasty). After a fine flight on bargain airline Allegiant (seriously, the fare was under $100 round trip -- and the plane even had air conditioning), and a short drive from Chattanooga, we made it to Bonnaroo!

Manchester, Tenn.: Home of the Golden Bear, Jack Nicklaus (or so the sign said) ... and not all that much else. But that's kind of the point, isn’t it? Retreat from hustle and bustle of the 9-to-5 life and enter another dimension, where the yelp of Karen O., the yodel of Animal Collective (or quasi-yodel, as Sean Daly would say) and the vigor of Phish rule.


(That's Carole on the right, Falyn on the left.)

For the most part, Bonnaroo is entirely self-sufficient. Tents stretch a mile wide, and even the streets surrounding them are labeled and named. (Thank goodness for that, or a 30-minute-long search for the car could have easily turned disastrous). Mountains appear faint in the backdrop and the grounds are delightfully green, though as the day progresses, they’re becoming more slush than lush.

Aside from a great setting and a stellar musical lineup, there are some great causes here too. Lots of Green people in the house. There were some cool ways people were raising funds for breast cancer too.  ‚ÄúHelp Save Second Base‚Äù a T-shirt read.  And naturally, there are lots of ‚Äúfree hugs‚Äù kids.     

Upon entering the lustrous gates (okay, it was a chain link fence), we caught the tail end of  husky-voiced Gomez‚Äô How We Operate. When they jammed it out for an extra 5 minutes or so, it brought a big response from the crowd. It is Bonnaroo, after all.

There are 6 main stages here and a bunch of small stages, ranging from a “silent disco” (more on that later) to a breakdance area, as well as small tents where up-and-coming artists like Florida jam band the Heavy Pets perform. And bottom line, the sound is nuts. Nuts, as in, amazing! (More on that later, too).

People are friendly and polite. They say excuse me and sorry. Alcohol doesn’t flow as freely as at some fests, which has meant (at least so far) no fighting and little to no nonsense (pushing, aggression, whatevs).

Next up, we swayed to Vieux Farka Toure, son of great Malian guitarist Ali Farka Toure. There were times in the set when I felt like Vieux, outfitted in a tight black T-shirt and dark shades could have been West Africa’s version of Cream, delivering potent, but sophisticated licks that teetered on blues and rock borders. Windchimes, wood blocks and a brawny snare backed it up just right. There wasn’t much English spoken (if any at all), but the crowd chanted when Vieux gave them the invite.

A quick hustle took us to Animal Collective. I won’t talk too much about them since we covered them pretty extensively this week for their State Theatre show, but I felt they may have been better in a later time slot. Nonetheless – it was weird and reminiscent of an acid trip in the jungle. Just a guess.

The adorable Grace Potter shouted, “Are you guys as sweaty as I am?” as we approached her stage. Yeppers, Grace, we are. Potter’s music could (and has) fit just as comfortably on One Tree Hill as it could on CMT, so I guess I see a little Sheryl Crow in her. Her bluesy-pop-country jams were offset by vibrant red colors. Potter and her band were dressed in red and surrounded themselves with lots of red florals.

Brooklyn‚Äôs kooky and curly-locked St. Vincent played across the way. She‚Äôs great on dynamics, she‚Äôs got swagger like Karen O., she gushes lyrics like those of Bjork. ‚ÄúYour skin is so fair, it‚Äôs not fair,‚Äù she sang and repeated. The music was loud, with big crescendos.  And violins and a saxophone complemented the electronic elements well.  A cool concept.

Overall, how‚Äôs it smelling at this point? Not great. 

No one has told me my aura is purple just yet, but there’s still time.

Next up: the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Santigold, TV on the Radio and Beastie Boys.

[Last modified: Saturday, June 13, 2009 12:35am]


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours