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Live from Bonnaroo: Of Montreal, the Mars Volta, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog and a few celebrity encounters




(Soundcheck's Carole Giambalvo is in Manchester, Tenn., for the Bonnaroo Music Festival. She'll be sending Bonnaroo reviews from the scene all weekend.)

Yesterday was Saturday at Bonnaroo, and that meant double the tan lines, double the mud, double the fun.

So remember how I told you this place was self-sufficient?. More evidence: there’s a full hair salon and a DJ academy. (The two go hand-in-hand, don’t they?) Tons of tasty meats on sticks too. And the stores in the center of the farm easily comprise the world’s largest head shop. Now for the music …

Up first, colossal-voiced Erika Wennerstrom and the Heartless Bastards, above. Wennerstrom gets compared to Janis Joplin thanks to her pack-a-day rasp. The Ohio natives sang about getting older and dehydration, to name a couple of topics, and pounded out full-bodied, blues-infused rock.

We later learned, after meeting drummer Dave Colvin, that the group even has ties to Tampa Bay; Colvin said he attended third and fourth grade in Tampa and that his grandparents still live there. Of course they do, Dave. Overall, this is an act to watch: but don’t take my word for it, check out their track Out at Sea.

Off to Bon Iver. Tbt* editor Jay Cridlin gave you the skinny (love) on their concert at the State Theatre last week, so I’ll keep it brief. This was the biggest crowd I had seen at “This Tent” thus far. It was cool to here fans try to imitate singer Justin Vernon’s incredible falsetto along the way. He encouraged it, in fact. The wispy Beach Baby was particularly compelling. Vernon introduced the song by saying, “This song’s about someone I used to be with – we were making out on the beach." A little out-of-character for the folk-pop poet.

Around that time, I spotted Sarasota-based rock act Sons of Hippies, who I’d also recommend checking out; they said they’ve got a CD release party slated for July 11 at New World Brewery. And they told me they were especially amped about watching Mars Volta and MGMT later.

Now for a little comedy: Why are Phish songs like Taco Bell food? Because they never come out the same way twice. Hiyo!

That line came courtesy of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, who was holding a “press conference” nearby. He told the press how he understood how fans could be so excited about Phish. “They haven’t played together in five years,” he said. “Think of what they could have done in that time … like 3 songs.” And Triumph on Jimmy Buffet: “cool if you like recycled music. ... Wait, let’s rewrite that joke for Oasis.”

Girl Talk and Alejandro Escovedo were out and about taking questions nearby. I took some photos so you could peek at their wildly different looks. Here's Girl Talk:

And here's Alejandro Escovedo:


A hop, skip and a jump away, Kevin Barnes and Of Montreal were taking the stage. The group, backed by an eccentric cast of costumed dancers and arm-wavers, jammed out psychedelic, dance-ready tunes that screamed Jesus Christ Superstar with a disco twist. Captain America and lucky kitty graphics flurried across the projectors.

I didn’t know many of the song names, so I asked a girl who was belting out every line.

“You know, I don’t know half the names either,” she said. “They almost never have anything to do with the lyrics.” They might not have anything to with anything, in fact. And that’s just fine.

R&B artist Raphael Saadiq, leader of new jack swing hitmakers Toni, Tone, Tony, and now of, um, Raphael Saadiq, was signing autographs across the farm. In fact, autograph signings were being held throughout the day; signers included Chairlift, Katzenjammer and Grace Potter. A great perk for fans.

When we approached the shy Saadiq, we asked if he’d sign our T-shirt "It feels good.” He one-upped it and signed, “It feels great (LOL).” A friend for life!


Across the farm, we ooohed and ahhed at the beast that is Mars Volta.

“It’s a good to be at Burning Man,” joked singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala.

Their first song came to a screeching halt after three or four measures. When Cedric made a snide remark about guitarists not knowing hot to tune, the crowd wasn’t down with it. Cedric explained it was totally a joke, and that his he and his bandmates share everything with each other. They’ve seen him stark naked and drunk too many times, he said.

Octopus-armed Thomas Pridgen powered the band with otherworldly fills. (He’s just too good to be human.) Most songs were extended with swirling guitars and strange time signatures. And Cedric had no trouble hitting his signature guy-hit-in-the-groin highs. He added push-ups and handstands in for good measure.

As I am filing this post, my chair is bumping Brett Dennen. Neato.

More soon.

-- Carole Giambalvo

[Last modified: Sunday, June 14, 2009 11:30am]


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