Gothamist headed down to Manchester, Tennessee with over 80,000 other music fans from across genres and across the world to take in Bonnaroo 2006. Three days of some of the best bands around from Jam to Jazz to Rap to Rock. We were up bright and early Friday morning to get the weekend off to the right start.
Our first stop was to check out talented multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird at the That tent. Yes, the stages were all called the 'What', 'Which', 'This', 'That' and 'The Other'. Sometimes you got the feeling the promoters enjoyed messing with the hippies as much as they did entertaining them. Anyway, Bird was solid, but we enjoyed him far more in an intimate setting of a club rather than on a big stage like this. We headed over to catch a bit of Ben Folds after. It didn’t take long to realize how long it has been since we last really listened to Ben Folds. It all sounded pretty good and somewhat familiar, but until 'Brick', we hadn't actually recognized any of the songs.
Devendra Banhart was playing across the grounds, and we headed over to catch a good chunk of his show. He is very hit or miss these days for us, but completely nailed this one. Equal parts oddball loose cannon and bona-fide frontman, he was able to take the show all over the place and do what he wanted while keeping a tight set. Once he finished up, it was back over to the Which Stage for an excellent showing by Bright Eyes. He brought up a number of special guests, including Bluegrass duo Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, Gruff Rhys from the Super Furry Animals and Jim James from My Morning Jacket. In one of the non-band highlights of the weekend, we loved watching a giant, southern, tattooed man in front of us mouth every word to 'Train Under Water.' It was somehow comforting to see that Connor can reach fans that may have never had to actually deal with going to Brooklyn. While it cuts off the first few songs, you can download a bootleg of the set over at You Ain’t No Picasso if you so choose.
Cat Power followed for us back at the That tent. She looked and sounded great with The Memphis Rhythm Band backing her up, and kept her trademark mid-set quirks to a lovable minimum. We only wish we were more familiar with the songs she played, cause they all sounded excellent. After, we listened to Tom Petty from afar and recharged for the night ahead of us. Stevie Nicks joined him on stage we are told, which would have been nice to see, but the break was well worth it for what was to come after.
My Morning Jacket. Not only the highlight of the weekend, but perhaps of our entire concert going lives. They went on at Midnight and played nearly straight through till well after 3AM. Over 30 songs total, hitting on their entire body of work, as well as covers ranging from The Misfits to Phish (ok, The Rolling Stones, but we think of Loving Cup as a Phish song). Every song had the energy and excitement as if it was the last song they’ll ever play. Andrew Bird jumped in for a number of songs to add some violin and whistle parts, and newcomer Mike Desalvo brought the energy level over the top into the night with his spastic guitar parts and stage presence. It was honestly like nothing else we had ever seen. We were sore, tired and desperate for a break, but we could not bear to leave this show. You can download a video of the set here. We’ve already watched it twice since we’ve been back.
Okay, there’s no way we can fit this whole weekend into one post. Stay tuned for Days 2 and 3 later this week. Check out lots more pictures of the bands from Day One over at Central Village.