We spent the last week getting in touch with our inner jam in preparation for this year's Bonnaroo festival, until our boy Ye-To-Tha threw us off by rapping in our ear at the airport. People joke about Kanye being arrogant, but you can't call him pretentious. We genuinely appreciate the enthusiasm and passion - he damn near had us late register-ing a flight to Atlanta for his set at the Georgia Dome. By the time we landed in Knoxville we were back in correct mode though - prepped for the mud, and really really looking forward to the 12 AM to 4 AM Saul Williams-into-Mars Volta marathon.
The weather and the drive put us (and our ace photog) in Manchester, Tennessee too late for Drive-By Truckers, Joanna Newsom and John Prine (if you don't know nuthin bout John Prine, play catch up, people), but the three hour Dave Matthews set gave us plenty of time to run the roads of the campgrounds, dodging jakes on horseback as well as our new friends whispering, "K, rolls, headies" in our ear every ten steps. We're down for the get down and all that, but quit whispering at us! There's no cops around that aren't on horses and that whisper shit's creepy!
At the end of the DMB set (which thankfully avoided most of the new album), we were jotting down some shit about the dude receiving medical attention (armchair diagnosis: 17 too many hits of acid), when one kid asked, "Is that a set list?" Sorry bro, not a setlist, but I'm pretty sure he played "Crash" in there somewhere...
The sheer size of the ’Roo is tough to grasp - this year's head count is about 75,000, not counting all the ticketless folks who aren't bothered with the music and are content to just kick it out in the camp grounds. The rain makes the site a shitty mess, but nobody's complaining - it's all genuinely good vibes here in Manchester, so much so that it ends up being inspiring and contagious. NO WHINERS! Just plenty of veggie grillies, bubblers and Bob Marley tees for sale.
After Saul Williams's fierce, ranting set, the Mars Volta arrived late to a packed, anxious, mid-size Bonnaroo tent around 1:45 AM to chants of "VOLTA...VOLTA...".
Then Omar's guitar wouldn't work.
It was anti-climactic as shit, but they got everything worked out and took off from there. It's weird and awesome watching the Bonnaroo crowd lose its collective shit to a band that looks very, very different from them - not a lot of girls' jeans and torreador vests in the camping grounds here - and you can't really noodle to this stuff. But Cedric flexed his new "lift the mic stand off the ground with my teeth" move, and Omar danced around like he was Cedric, and the crowd moved around as best it could in the mud. Unfortunately, as we settled into our tents to pass-out, it was the last few minutes of Galactic's cover of "Whole Lotta Love" that spilled into the campgrounds, not the last few minutes of "L'Via L'Viaquez"...