Dancing in the dark with Bruce, MGMT

14 06 2009

It’s been a busy, crazy, awesome weekend here at Bonnaroo, and the severe lack of sleep is starting to set in. Once-joyous campers are now stumbling about dazed and confused, presumably wondering what they can do to kill time until Phish returns to the stage tonight. But chances are they earned that tiredness, rocking, moshing and dancing the night away to the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Nine Inch Nails and MGMT.

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Bon Iver, 3:30pm Saturday, This Tent

Earlier on Saturday saw a more folk-leaning lineup, with Bon Iver and Jenny Lewis drawing sizable crowds to the This Tent and That Tent, respectively. Singer/songwriter Justin Vernon, aka Bon Iver, fell victim to having a hottest-part-of-the-afternoon 3:30 p.m. set, so rather than sweat myself into dehydration down in the media area, I opted for a grassy knoll in the shade. Still audible were favorites from 2008’s critically acclaimed “For Emma, Forever Ago,” such as the hauntingly beautiful “Skinny Love” and “Lump Sum,” and though the band itself was far from sight, the group breathed new life into the subdued arrangements of Bon Iver’s studio work by fleshing out the sounds to atmospheric effect.

Jenny Lewis, Wilco, & The Boss after the jump…

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Jenny Lewis, 5pm Saturday, That Tent

Later in the afternoon was a question of Jenny Lewis vs. Of Montreal, both of whom I’ve seen on their current tours several times. Ultimately, the fire-haired Lewis beat out Kevin Barnes and co., partly because of the rumor circulating that Elvis Costello was making an appearance. Lewis and her touring band are consistently great live, livening up hits from her second solo effort, “Acid Tongue,” such as the rousing keyboard jaunt “Jack Killed Mom,” the funked-out duet between Lewis and boyfriend Jonathan Rice “The Next Messiah,” and and acoustic take on the title track, which saw the crowd roar out in approval at every reference to illegal substances.

A sampling from her solo debut, “Rabbit Fur Coat,” such as the slide guitar-backed “Rise Up with Fists” and the Traveling Wilburys cover “Handle Me with Care” were thrown into the mix, and Lewis also previewed a new song, “Big Way,” a spirited country tune with a bright, singalong chorus, which she described as a love song to her home state of California. And as predicted, Elvis Costello joined her onstage for “Carpetbaggers,” sending the already-hyped crowd into hysterics.

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Wilco, 6pm Saturday, What Stage

By 6 p.m., the festival grounds saw a gorgeous “sky blue sky,” if you will (heh …), just in time for Wilco to man the enormous What stage. From a seat up in the guest bleachers, it was a perfect festival moment — the mellow, peaceful vibes of songs like “California Stars,” “Jesus, Etc” and “I am Trying to Break Your Heart” had a calming effect over the crowd, reminding everyone how lucky they were to be there in that time and place. Songs from the band’s newly released “Wilco (The Album)” like “One Wing” and “Bull Black Nova” fit in nicely alongside shredders like “Handshake Drugs” (wow, was guitarist Nels Cline on fire) and “Spiders (Kidsmoke),” which saw frontman Jeff Tweedy lend his guitar pick to an onstage cameraman.

The Boss’ headlining gig that night got off to a rocky start, and the massive crowd that initially gathered broke off after the first few tunes (present company included). A return to the stage later yielded a much more positive experience, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band nailing classics like “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out,” “Glory Days” and “Dancing in the Dark,” during which he made the life of an “I ❤ New Jersey” T-shirt-wearing young girl who got to dance with the Boss onstage.

Around 2 a.m. the That Tent was overflowing with elated festivalgoers waiting to dance to Brooklyn boys MGMT. Somehow I managed to make my way through the throngs of media trying to get backstage for a spot next to the stage, which proved an ideal location up close away from the sweaty mass of fans, Teletubbies and blow-up dolls. The slinking grooves and tripped-out vibes of songs like “Electric Feel” “The Youth” had everyone in the crowd bouncing and whirling in their own little world; foot-stomper “The Handshake” transformed into a wicked rocker; and obvious dance favorites “Time to Pretend” and “Kids” had everyone within earshot waving their glowsticks in the air.

With MGMT releasing everyone out of the tent on high, it was off to the Discotheque to keep the party going. Although the DJ’s (who said is name repeatedly, and I still can’t remember it) selection of tunes was just so-so (he was no Girl Talk), it didn’t matter. Partiers danced the night away til 5 a.m., exiting the tent to a mysteriously beautiful mist and Bonnaroo sunrise.

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16 06 2009
Best o’ Bonnaroo « 2009 Festival Season

[…] I should have, and only that happened maybe twice (sorry, Animal Collective and Band of Horses). Performances by reliable favorites like Wilco, Jenny Lewis and Bruce Springsteen were solid and filled with […]

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