Looking for some upbeat Christmas music to help get you through these hectic holidays? Check out Rosie Thomas’s happy shiny Christmas pop gem “Why Can’t It Be Christmastime All Year” from her 2008 Christmas album A Very Rosie Christmas. Rosie Thomas has released several solo albums and has also worked with Sufjan Stevens and toured as a member of Iron & Wine.
Check out her website for a new Christmas song from her as well, “Remember When It Snowed.” Her new album “With Love” is due out February 14, 2012.
Merry Christmas to all the Musichord fans out there and thanks for visiting our site! Be safe, have fun, and enjoy this holiday season!
This year was the tenth anniversary of Bonnaroo and I emailed Gordon before I took off to get his take on any of the side stage bands that he really liked, so I could make sure to see any good bands that I might have otherwise missed. His reply was along the lines of, “That’s insane, too many good bands – but an awesome overload!” It is too many bands, and for every awesome band you see, you’re missing at least two other great bands. To really enjoy Bonnaroo, you have to come to peace with that. That’s not easy for a music-obsessed type of person like me or most people who attend these kinds of festivals.
Bonnaroo is an amazing event with a really eclectic lineup. While Bonnaroo started off ten years ago mainly focused on jam bands, the selection of bands now brings in acts as diverse as Gogol Bordello (gypsy punk), Arcade Fire (alternative rock), Eminem and Lil Wayne, (rap/hip-hop), The Decemberists, Alison Krauss and Union Station, and Iron and Wine, (bluegrass/folk Americana), String Cheese Incident and Widespread Panic, (jam bands), and Galactic with Corey Glover from Living Colour and Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears (soul/funk/jams). With almost 175 bands performing over four days, that list could go on for a while.
Getting to Bonnaroo
Before I talk about the bands though, let’s talk about the experience, especially for anyone who has never been before. Over 85,000 people descended on Manchester, Tennessee this year, and between 75,000 and 85,000 have come to Bonnaroo most every year since it started in 2002. Arriving outside the gates at 2:30 in the morning, we then sat in traffic for three hours to get inside. That’s not as bad as some, as there were stories of five or six hours or more, though some who came later got in within an hour. Bonnaroo opened up earlier this year to hopefully spread out the arrivals. But, every car is “searched” on the way in by Bonnaroo staff, who are mainly looking for weapons of any sort, drugs, and glass bottles, which are not allowed, and this slows down the entry process. If you look like you don’t have anything you shouldn’t have, they probably will not even mess with you. If you roll up with beer bottles laying around in your car or RV and smoke rolling out, they may decide to search you a little diligently. Also, the police will be out looking for speeders on the way in. It’s good sport, some of the country roads have pretty low speed limits, and they know they may get lucky if they get a chance to search you, so watch out for that. One other way the police look to pull you over is if you violate the “move over law” which says you must move one lane over if you’re in a lane and there is a law enforcement or emergency vehicle on the shoulder. They sit there; you drive right by without changing lanes, and they pull you over.
The event is held on 700 acres, and much of that land is dirt and rocks. While a good bit is also grass (some of it is spiky grass that slices right through flip flops, watch out!), the roads are dirt roads that have golf carts and water trucks rumbling down them pretty constantly, raising huge dust clouds that roll into people’s tents – and lungs and eyes. Everywhere I went there were masked bandits protecting themselves from the elements. And be prepared to walk, it can be miles from your site to the Centeroo area (the fenced-in area of the campground where the bands play and most of the vendors are), and you may walk more miles going between stages. There are those golf-cart taxis though, in case you can’t make it. There are multiple options for where you stay at Bonnaroo, most people either camp or bring an RV/camper of some sort. There are also some hotels in Manchester, with the Holiday Inn recommended by Rolling Stone (better quality, after parties and, oh, available groupies).
I recommend the RV, as it gives you a bathroom (porta-potties in 95 degree heat and with almost 90,000 people?), a shower, shelter from the elements, and probably most importantly, air conditioning. There are no RV hookups for power or water, so you have to come prepared for that. This year, the heat and humidity was really bad in the afternoon, most likely leading to two deaths (possibly with a combination of alcohol/drugs) and I was told that the heat was even worse last year. However, this year, according to the Tennessean newspaper, “air-conditioned medical tents were taking in about 25 percent more people than in past years,” estimated Carl Monzo, director for Bonnaroo’s Emergency Medical Services. Bonnaroo offers a number of on-site structures that have air conditioning, a cinema building, a sports bar, etc., but they can only hold a small fraction of the crowds, and during the hottest parts of the day there were long lines, and you’re missing good bands then anyway. However, the ability to take that 20-minute walk back to your campground, or shorter, if you paid for a VIP ticket, and cool down your body temperature for a half hour or hour makes a huge difference. You can also have a much cheaper beer. And a much cheaper bottle of water, though free sulphur-tasting wellwater is available at fountains throughout Centeroo.
Handling the Bonaroo Schedule
For any music fan, at any given moment there are likely to be multiple incredible, must-see bands playing at the same time. Take a look at the 2011 schedule here. And, while I looked for the spot in Centeroo where I could just hear all the bands playing at the same time bleed into each other, that’s not very satisfying. This is a constant dilemma, and when you are with other people, it can be even tougher.
There are really two basic ways to see bands at Bonnaroo, or at any festival of this size. The size of the crowds is huge at every venue; with 80-90,000 people, there can be 20,000-plus people at even the smaller stages. Mumford and Sons had 50,000 people in their crowd, as reported by the Bonnarro daily newspaper and Loretta Lynn, !!!, Bootsy Collins and Wiz Khalifa were all playing and overlapping that same time frame. (Yes, that’s right, there is a daily newspaper provided by Relix Magazine and Jambands.com.)
Only a few bands played sets longer than an hour and a half. So, you can try and give all of the bands a half hour to an hour of your time, and work your way from the back up closer, (go up front on the sides, wait to see people walking out and walk in right where they came out) or you can just sit or stand further to the back, and then head to the next show. I did that on Saturday. But you can’t do that all the time; at some points, there are going to be some bands that you want to get up close to the stage to see better, or find a good place in the field and just stay there and enjoy the show. In that case, it is good to get to your stage at least 20 minutes early, if not half an hour or more, in order to get a good spot staked out. Pretty soon, another show is going to end and the hordes will appear at your show. Getting up close is a little easier at night, as being jammed armpit-to-armpit in a tight crowd of drunk, shirtless and profusely sweating teenagers in the blazing sunlight can even wear on the drunk teenagers themselves. But, if you want to sit, you will have to sit back a good ways.
The Stage Set Up
Bonnaroo has five actual stages, with two that are large outdoor stages, the “What Stage,” and the “Which Stage,” and three “Tents” that are large covered areas with stages on one end, a “This Tent,” a “That Tent,” and “The Other Tent.” Not the most imaginative names ever. Depending on the size of the crowd, the tents were mostly awful during the daytime, with poor lighting and huge dust storms if the crowd got going. The Tents are just large coverings to provide shade for the stages, but they have the stages set too low, and not nearly enough lighting to compete with the blazing sunlight seeping in. Combine that with the constant dust storms, and I literally could barely see the stages sometimes unless I was within a hundred feet or less. I saw two different bands at the That Stage in one day, the first during the day, the other at night, and the experience was completely different. The What Stage, the largest, was far and away the best stage, with a huge grassy field and two video screens, and that is where the biggest bands played – Eminem, Arcade Fire, My Morning Jacket, Robert Plant, etc. The Which Stage is the second biggest, but it’s on dirt and rocks, and only offers one screen. The Tents have no video screens, unfortunately. They need them.
What else is going on?
Bonaroo has so much going on, it could be spread out over months instead of days. They also had an air-conditioned Cinema Tent where classic movies were shown (like the cult classic Harold and Maude, 8 Mile, Saturday Night Fever, Ghostbusters and a lot more), Q&As with famous film personalities. Zach Braff took questions on Garden State, and John Waters discussed his many brilliant movies. There is a comedy stage with Cheech Marin hosting such comics as Kathleen Madigan and Lewis Black. There is also a silent disco which one does have to see, if not go groove within. It’s a covered, outdoor dance floor, with a couple hundred or so people dancing with headphones on. Anyone watching will hear no music, but the dancing crowd certainly can. It’s pretty cool to watch the people dance and sing along to the songs that only they could hear. There was a “Food Truck Oasis,” following the current trend of popular food trucks, great food everywhere (surprisingly) and pretty much at ballpark type prices. There was a “Broo’ers Tent” with numerous local and national breweries offering their beers for between $6 and $8. There were yoga classes every morning, art installations ongoing that you could participate in, and impromptu corner shows by fans who brought their musical instruments randomly just happening in the campgrounds. People like to wear crazy outfits as well; there was a man in a tutu, The Burger King man (how much did that guy pay for that outfit?!), Sylvester the Cat and a lot more. Though usually only at night time, it was WAY too hot during the day for costumes.
The Bonnaroo App
Bonnaroo has a smartphone app, which I downloaded a few days before the festival start. There were a lot of negative reviews, mainly around the fact there was no map yet, and in past years, the map was up earlier. So, the day before the start, while I was en route, an update was released with the map. Unfortunately, my phone told me the app was over 20MB, so I needed to connect to wifi or a computer to download. I was able to connect to the wireless provided at Bonnaroo, but it was either a poor connection, or there were just too many people on it, so I could never access the Internet at all to download the update – and because it was in the middle of trying to update, I could never even open the app the whole time I was there! I deleted it when I got home without ever even opening it.
The First Day
The first day had a shorter schedule than the other days, and no one appeared on the two main stages. Wanting to see some California surf pop, I made my way over in time to just see the last two songs from Wavves, and then went straight to the That Stage to see Best Coast. As Best Coast frontwoman Bethany Cosentino and Wavves frontman Nathan Williams are supposedly dating, it made sense to have them play on the same day, and one right after each other. Best Coast put on a great show that got the crowd going, but the sound quality at The Other Tent was not up to the quality of the main stage soundsystems, or even That Tent, the largest of the tents. Next up was Band of Skulls and the Walkmen. Band of Skulls blew the crowd away, as night had fallen, and the light show on stage helped give a spooky backdrop to the dark garage rock offered by the British trio of Russell Marsden (guitar, vocals), Emma Richardson (bass, vocals), and Matt Hayward (drums). Unfortunately, after Band of Skulls was done, so was I. I watched two songs from the Walkmen, and had to go pass out for the night. We drove (and waited in line) all night, set up our camping site, and then hit Centeroo, and I had hit a wall. You have to stay hydrated and you have to get your rest at Bonnaroo. The next day (and the day after), the shows started at 12:30pm and went till daybreak. The heat index got close to or over 100 every day, and the humidity hit you like a wet noodle. Alcohol (and other drugs) were everywhere, and that combination with the heat was obviously kicking people’s butts. I watched a pale redhead girl with no top stagger around one evening, and pass out drunk on the side of the road. Bonaroo security had already been called and they carried her away on their golf cart. I imagine she was pretty embarrassed when she woke up in a strange room with strange people around her…and with only one article of clothing on.
Next up, Days 2 – 4 in review. What do you think? Did you go? Have any Bonnaroo stories or pictures to share? Let us know!
[Warner Bros] 2011
I’m not sure how you see it, but when people use the term “folk” to describe music, it conjours up to me visions of down-home troubadours with guitars and plaintive lyrical storytelling. (There may or may not be a lute involved.) Think Nick Drake, Woody Guthrie or Pre-electric Dylan. Kiss Each Other Clean is not that kind of muisc. And yet, as I was casting around for some kind of pigeonhole to put this into, I felt that I kept coming back to “folk”.
Iron & Wine is the nom de plume of Sam Beam, a South Carolinian singer and songwriter,now based in Austin. Kiss Each Other Clean is his fourth studio album, and it’s a richly detailed tapestry of carefully crafted songs with considerable lyrical depth.
It’s not always easy to explain – it’s probably better if you experience it for yourself.
Here’s a link to listen to the first song on the record, Walking Far From Home:
Click play, close your eyes for a moment, and as you listen, let your mind conjour up each of the things Sam saw on his travels, and share the fast-edited strangeness and curiousness that the musical landscape has to offer.
Did you do that? No, you didn’t. Go on, I’ll wait right here. Don’t worry about looking silly. Close your eyes, it’s important.
This review will be much better once we’ve both been through the experience…
Now, wasn’t that a weird adventure? (My favourite bit was the strippers and the little white dog.)
And that is just the vestibule of what turns out to be a thoroughly intriguing record. Sam Beam’s dense lyrics, lilting voice and the whole production of the record serve as pallete, paint and easel to some unique and engaging artwork. Kiss Each Other Clean always has something tasty to offer your ears – be it jazz flute, marimba, Hammond organ, ska-like horns and dense pulsing electro basslines.
The entire collection of songs sports a musical diversity that transcends genres and influences in a way that seems effortless. If you are a fan of Sufjan Stevens’ Illinois, I think you will also like this record – both artists have a delicate, intelligent and almost fragile view of the world, and a deep, swooping melodic skill when it comes to songcraft.
And like Illinois, this record seems to be about individuals, about society, about faith and behaviour and love and time. And so, we’re back to that notion of “folk” music. At it’s roots, the word folk means “the people”. All of these elements are things that define people, and so for me, this is a folk record – an electric, clever, delicately crafted and well produced piece of art for people who love music, and love people.
Musichord Rating: 7.5/10