Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bonnaroo 2009: Part 4 (Saturday Daytime)

This segment will be divided into two parts, for length purposes.

By Saturday, the last trace of cool air from the rainstorm had dissipated, leaving our tent baking under the glaring sun. The heat had us out and sweating in the open air by 9 o’clock, forcing a frustratingly early start to what would be a very, very long day. The fact that the first act we wanted to see didn’t start until 5pm didn’t help, either. We ended up walking around Centeroo, taking whatever shade we could find, until we found something worthwhile to do.

As it turned out, this occurred sooner rather than later, as we were pleasantly surprised by an act playing around noon. Reports earlier in the festival had indicated that Ilo and the Coral Reefer Allstars would be joined by Jimmy Buffett, whose music I’ve always enjoyed, despite my almost all-encompassing dislike for country music. It always seemed like he took himself much less seriously than many other artists of the genre, while still managing to tell interesting stories colored with a wide palate of emotion, ranging from tales of drunken loneliness to choruses of cheeseburgers. The set with the Coral Reefer Allstars was good afternoon entertainment, especially since we were able to enjoy most of it from a shady vantage.

Five o’clock found us waiting by Which Stage for Gov’t Mule, who I’ve seen once before at Red Rocks in Colorado. I’ve always felt like I didn’t get a great taste of the band from that show, despite the excellent venue. They played that gig with moe., who I find to be overzealous imitators of everything that is wrong with Phish. Musical dynamics escape those fellows, and I had trouble focusing for more than, say, three minutes. This could be excused with any other band, but moe.’s songs tend more on the half-hour side of things, so you’ll excuse me for tuning out. Regardless, Mule didn’t impress me much then, and I wanted to give them another chance. The daytime venue didn’t help, but the show felt better, for some reason. The memorable moment came when Mule broke out Radiohead’s “Creep.” Unsurprisingly, this roused the crowd out of a midday stupor, lending some much needed energy to the afternoon. Unfortunately, this only went to support my theory that for all their musical talent (which is substantial), Gov’t Mule is only excellent when they are covering other great songs. To be sure, they’ve proven themselves adept at making good songs great, especially when they go outside the confines of southern rock. It’s just a shame that their original songwriting leaves so much to be desired.

Anyways, after the Mule set, we wandered over to What Stage for some much needed relaxation time, stopping to grab some barbeque fare along the way. We camped out by the main venue while Wilco set the stage for the evening with their brand of alt-country rock, which proved to be even better then when we caught them at Bonnaroo 2007. The music brought excellent closure to the daylight hours, and as the sun disappeared, I felt like a kind of peace had descended over the festival. I applaud Wilco for truly recharging the day as we waited for the great Bruce Springsteen to take the stage.

Nighttime review coming soon.

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