After surviving a near-blown out tire, finding that your cars speed is indeed not "checked by aircraft", and discovering that the difficulty of purchasing beverages at Wal Mart decreases in proportion with the growing size of the white crosses dotting the sides of the Southern highways, we finally reached Manchester, Tennessee just as the gates opened for Bonnaroo 2009.
Thursday's lineup was relatively weak, which turned out to be a blessing as the day was primarily used for setting up camp and discovering the most successful way to waterproof your campsite, as the weather shifted from torrential downpours to uncomfortable humidity nearly every hour. Nevertheless we made our first muddy trek to Centaroo to catch White Rabbits, Portugal. The Man. and Passion Pit that evening.
Portugal. The Man. was our first great discovery of the trip. As they were one of the first acts to go on, their audience was characterized by worn-out travelers, unfamiliar with the band, itching to see a concert. As the show went on, there was a clear sentiment in the crowd that they were well worth the trek.
The night wrapped up with electo-indie Passion Pit, which was easily the best show of the evening. The Tennessee heat was finally subsiding, and the scenester crowd had found a place to congregate in what felt like a sea of hippies. Fresh off their new CD, Manners, they put on a crazy show.
Friday afternoon, I eventually garnered up enough energy to make it back to Centaroo in time to see Gomez finish up their set. Then came who I was most excited to see, Animal Collective. I don't want to say the show was a let down- it was anything but- although something about the sound system at the Which stage was way off. The bass was so heavy I could hardly hear Avey Tare or Panda Bear's crooning in My Girls. However, as the set continued either they began to sound better or I adjusted, as Fireworks, their version of Panda Bear's Comfy in Nautica, and Brothersport were all amazing.
Then virtually the same crowd headed over to This Tent for Grizzly Bear (although some remained behind for the Yeah Yeah Yeah's, which I couldn't catch.) After spending a while adjusting the sound system, they began to play. It soon became clear that the seemingly endless sound checks were well worth it. They couldn't havesounded better, considering they were playing an outdoor venue and their sound is extremely dependent on careful execution. The tracks off their newest album Veckatimest were the highlights of the show, especially Cheerleader and While You Wait For The Others.
From there I returned to the Which Stage for TV on the Radio, whose show sounded infinitely better than Animal Collective's, likely due to the more conventional instruments in use. While their set list was flawless, the atmosphere for the show was slightly disappointing. It felt like the songs couldn't peak in the dead heat of the afternoon, especially with songs like Dancing Choose.
Next up on the Which Stage was David Byrne, lead singer of the Talking Heads. As entertaining as it was to see the aging alt-rock god sing classics like "Once in a Lifetime", the dancing troupe backing the band made theshow much more enjoyable. Chances are, seeing David Byrne truly was a once in a lifetime type deal, so I'm glad to be able to say that I was there.
After passing out for a bit in the Cinema tent, I made my way over to That Tent for the stacked lineup for the evening. First up was the French band Phoenix, who I was mostly unfamiliar with. However, they blew me away and made the second great discovery of the trip. If you get the chance to see them live, don't pass it up.
Then came probably the most indescribable show of the week, Crystal Castles. Fog machines filled up the tent to the point where only the strobe lights and flying glow sticks could be seen, and soon the incomprehensible screaming of lead singer Alice Glass' began. And so the show went. Nevertheless, it was the closest I've ever come to "raving."
Finally, at 2:15, Gregg Gillis aka Girl Talk arrived onstage. As soon as the mashups began, the stage was flooded with an already hyped-up crowd. The show was flawless, save a few wires unplugged by the moshing crowd (of which Gillis was a part). There were some "tracks" which resembled ones off of Feed The Animals, but the majority of the show was simply Girl Talk looping songs in and out. However, he followed suit with the CD insofar as the show began with Play Your Part part 1, and ended with part 2. And so the day ended.
How does one begin to write about this show? I could mention the genuine perfection of lead singer Justin Vernon's falsetto,
or the amazing backing of his bandmates. For Emma, Forever Ago sounded better live than I eve
r expected it to, considering how much of a solitary listen the album is. The show peaked at the very end, as the massive crowd sang "what might have been lost" during Wolves, in what was hands down the most moving moment of Bonnaroo. Other highlights included a great cover of Yo La Tengo's "I Feel Like Going Home".
Then I caught a bit of of Montreal, but they unfortunately came on late and I was not about to miss Wilco. From what I did see, the show was trippy as hell- including pig masks, gas masks, and Mike Myers masks. All to be expected from Kevin Barnes & co, I suppose. I can only imagine what happened after I left..
After endless tent hopping, I finally got the chance to see a show at Bonnaroo's main venue, the What Stage. Probably my personal favorite band in attendance, Wilco, had the stage from 6-8 as the sun set above the 100,000 'roo attendees. There is no better band for this transitional time, as their setlist included an assortment of heartbreakers and pick me ups. Jeff Tweedy calmly controlled the stage, hardly needing to boast showmanship to keep the crowds attention (or, perhaps he knew that no matter how hard he tried, Bruce was certainly going to trump his efforts in a few short hours.) He also explained that was unafraid of being boo'ed, as he and the band mates "would simply pretend the crowd was chanting 'Bruce'".
And so they did. The Boss took the stage around 9 and went straight until 1230. As I had heard from practically everyone I know, he was an absolute powerhouse on stag
e- so much so that I actually had to sit to catch my breath multiple times during the show. In what was far and away the most absurd portion of the evening, he began to play "Santa Clause Is Coming To Town" after an audience member requested the song, throwing a cutout of Santa on stage. His later rant concerning our need for "sexual healing" and how we should "construct houses of love" provided serious comic relief to the evening, although I'm not sure he meant for it to. The E Street Band backed him even through his strange ranting, including Springsteen's son Evan (whom I will be attending school with next year..) in the latter portion of the show. The night ended with Born in the USA, Glory Days, and Dancing In the Dark. Cue cheesy segway concerning our night time dancing only just beginning...
Next up was Yeasayer and the much anticipated MGMT. Yeasayer put on a good show, drawing a relatively large crowd for such a late show which showed that they are truly a band on the rise. Finally at 2:15 MGMT took the stage, and while many people thought the show was a letdown, I can't say I agreed. Their setlist included their hits (Electric Feel, Kids) as well as a number of songs from their upcoming CD, entitled Congratulation, due out sometime next fall. They played a handful of tentative songs from the new CD, the best being the title track which ended the show.
On our way out, we stopped in and watched Grace Potter & the Nocturnals play in between moe.'s sets. This made Grace Potters third or so appearance on stage at Bonnaroo, as well as an entire page about her in the Bonnaroo newspaper. Looks like she's doing pretty well, as far as publicity goes. Moe. came on as the sun was rising, and my friends and I decided to stay until they stopped jamming and started singing. We gave up after 20 minuites or so.
Thus, my concert viewing came to an end, as we had to take off before any of the Sunday shows. From what I'm hearing, the highlight of the day wasPhish's jam session with Bruce, as well as their extended version of The Velvet Undergrounds "Rock and Roll."We hit the road around noon, and soon enough Wal-Mart's security was back up and running, and the crosses slowly shrank from towering monstrosities to church decorum. I guess its worth mentioning that en route home, there was still no sign of speed checking aircraft.
This is a documentation of a journey to see one of my favorite bands, Dispatch.
It all started with an email from Dispatch....
AN ACOUSTIC EVENING WITH DISPATCH
DISPATCH plans to reunite for a special acoustic evening at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC next Friday, June 12th. They will be joined by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of Zimbabwe in celebration of the transformative power of Citizen Service around the Globe. Frequent Dispatchmusic.com over the next 24 hours for the Official Announcement and ticket details.
I knew right then and there that there is no way that I was going to miss Bonnaroo AND Dispatch, especially when Dispatch was playing a mere four and a half hours away. I was already extremely excited about the prospect of going to the concert that I had began to lose sleep. I woke up bright and early and logged on to my computer on the day when tickets were going to be sold. I had learned from Dispatch's Madison Square Garden concert that these tickets were going to be sold pretty fast, especially because the Kennedy Center's seating capacity is only 1,200 seats.
Being both excited and worried I logged in to State Radio's (Chad's band) Red Letter Tribe to see if there were updates on the forum. Some of the comments reassured my fears about not getting a ticket to the show. One RLT user stated that :"The 1st MSG show, which holds 20,000, sold out in like 20 minutes so a 1,100 seat venue will be gone within minutes." Things were not starting to look good.
I was all ready on the day that tickets were going to be sold, I had already logged in to the Kennedy Center's website and I had their phone number on speed dial. Then the unthinkable happened. I watched my spot in line jump from a relatively low number to over 2000.... and to top it all off the site was slow. It looked like my online ticket purchases were not going to happen so I tried calling only to find that I could not get through.
After a ton of frustration it was made aware to me that the concert was sold out. I sat in disbelief and I decided that I was going to try to go to this concert no matter what. This had already happened to me with Bonnaroo and I am definitely not going to miss this concert.
The next few days were filled with searches on Google, craigslist, ebay, and RLT only to find that my fears had been actualized. A ton of scalpers had gotten a hold of a bunch of tickets and they were selling them for insane prices. One scalper was calling it Dispatch Zimbabwe (which was the Madison Square concerts) and selling 4 tickets up front for 4000 dollars on ebay. Seeing that the tickets were 20 dollars each this guy was attempting to make a 3920 dollar profit to a band that was invited by the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, Morgan Tsvangirai, to play a special show.
It was June 10th and I still didn't have a ticket. I was growing more and more upset and I was conjuring up ways to come up with the ridiculous amounts of money to pay for the scalpers tickets. It looked like I had been beat.
But that night I had received a response to one of my craigslist posts and agreed to buy 4 tickets at 150 dollars each! A ton of money...but worth it.
After I had gotten the tickets, I still had to find a place to stay and a way to get up to DC. After the original group of people bailed on me...A plan came together at the last minute to drive up at 6 in the morning up to DC with my friend Ryan to experience something that so few could get the chance to experience: Dispatch live in a fairly small venue playing acoustic... It brought me back to remember when I had first heard Brad's Senior Project recording at Middlebury College in 1996. If this show would be ANYTHING like that it would blow my mind.
The day had come. I could hardly sleep, I woke up at 5 and proceeded to get everything ready for the adventure before us. We packed ourselves into my 1996 Saab and drove up to DC, stopping only once for gas and food. We decided to park at the Kennedy Center and dish up another 17 dollars while we used an iphone to try and sell our extra tickets. While we were waiting, we decided to hit up the Natural History Museum and the Air and Space Museum. We made sure that we would be present for a jam session with other Dispatch fans!
We arrived at 5 to find NO ONE there. We were so confused, this is Dispatch where is everyone? After searching around the Kennedy Center we found some other members searching for a jam session. We posted some more information on both RLT and facebook and proceeded to wait until more people came.
At around 6, people started to show up with instruments and jamming commenced, along with hula hooping. I joined in and we were all singing / playing very rough versions of Dispatch songs. Then...Dispatch came out.
I had heard rumors that the band may make an appearance so I had brought along my old school Under the Radar poster and proceeded to have all of the band members sign it. We all talked to Pete, Chad, and Brad and soaked in how wonderfully awesome each band member was. We continued jamming and Brad joined in singing right next to me. And like a flash, it was all over.
It was time for the concert and the scalpers were lining up and down the stairs / walkways to the Kennedy Center. There was no way that my balcony seats would even compare to the scalpers orchestra seats at prices like 25 dollars a seat. But, the scalpers had realized that they were not going to sell all of their tickets so they gave them all to us. We had about 14 Dispatch tickets!...Let me say that again... We had 14 Dispatch Tickets to a SOLD OUT CONCERT!!
Me and Ryan traded our crummy balcony seats for two Orchestra seats and decided that we were going to give them away to people. We gave away almost all the tickets, some to people who had never even heard of Dispatch or about the trials and tribulations of the Zimbabwean people. After brief talks of praise and information we proceeded to give away Orchestra seats and Balcony seats to people. They had no idea how lucky they were.
We sat in our seats and waited for the show to start. Morgan Tsvangirai was introduced and we sat and watched a short video about Zimbabwe that I had watched multiple times since it was put up on the internet. (posted below)
The crowd could hardly contain itself through his speech and his dance moves. They were all excited for Dispatch. Well, not everyone. The guys behind me decided to talk about "the market" and business through out the entire concert... they were really annoying and obviously did not appreciate what they were seeing.
The show began with one of my favorite songs, Questioned Apocalypse!!! Passerby had a few mess ups in it that were corrected happily by the crowd's loud singing. And It only got better from there... The band played all of the crowd favorites like Two Coins, Bang Bang, Flying Horses, Elias, and the General. We even screamed out one request for Remake Me! The band decided to give us a little tease of the song and we all cheered very loudly. Steeples started with a progression of strumming that each band member would play right after each other. For those that were not there and can not tell what I am talking about, I found a video of Steeples on youtube that shows the very end part of goofy intro.
The band proceeded to amaze us with a cover of "War", followed by an awesome version of "Elias", followed by a Zimbabwean Sing-a-long. I can not even begin to describe how awesome and catchy this sing-a-long was. I just hope that this concert will end up on either a disc or DVD so everyone can experience what I was able to!
The show went as followed: 1) Questioned Apocalypse 2) Two Coins 3) Passerby 4) Outloud 5) Bulletholes 6) Bang Bang 7) Spades 8) Flying Horses 9) Bridges 10) Past The Falls 11) Carry You 12) The General 13) Steeples --- 14) Remake Me (tease) 15) War 16) Elias 17) Zimbabwean Song-a-long
It being my first time at the new House of Blues in Boston (formerly both the Avalon and Axis clubs), I spent a while before the show roaming about the venue. The layout of the place included an open-air first floor, with the crowd standing an arms length away from the stage. The upper two floors wrapped around the atrium, housing seats and the VIP lounges, etc. Colorful artwork hung on nearly every open spot on the walls, my favorite of which was a canvas of Springsteen hanging outside the mens room. However, the most striking aspect of the venue was its stage. Silver strands provided the backdrop, which gave the place an almost Hawaiian-feel. Above the stage was a gigantic hand with an eye in the middle, surrounded by symbols of all the major world religions. Oh, and its located on Lansdowne Street, across from Fenway Park. I <3>
Eventually Colin Stetson, a saxophonist whom I had never heard of, walked on stage in front of a crowd whose patience was worn thin after a near half hour delay. However, he overcame our impatience within a few seconds of playing. It was not the saxophone we had expected; he was doing something different, alternating melodies and tempo rapidly. His control over his own breath was astounding, displaying his mastery over the instrument down to the last detail. The music he created was genuinely unique and therefore indescribable. So, I suggest checking him out here.
The National eventually joined him on stage to a roaring crowd. Here's their setlist, with their unreleased songs starred.
Start a war
Mistaken for strangers
Baby we'll be fine
Blood Buzz Ohio*
Daughters of the Soho Riots
An arms length away from the stage and stereo, I was swept away by the crooning of lead singer Matt Berninger backed by bandmates Aaron and Bryce Dessner, and Scott and Bryan Devendorf (the latter being the drummer.) Admittedly, I was a bit worried about how they would sound live. I had seen them briefly when they opened for R.E.M. last summer, and though they sounded decent at that time, they didn't blow me away (granted, they were opening for R.E.M....)
However, this show was precisely the opposite. In fact, after they finished up fan favorite Abel, Berninger (at left) said that he thought that performance was much better than the one off of Alligator- this listener agrees. He also gave the audience a preview of some newer tracks, the best of which being Bloodbuzz, Ohio. The upcoming CD, according to Berninger, is not going to be called "Shine" as other blogs have reported, but rather "How the Leprechauns Died". With a potential name like that, I'm crossing my fingers that his laughing after the statement was just because he was having a good time. But I doubt it.
I've always been partial to the percussion in The National's music, usually most striking in the opening twenty or so seconds of their songs. It's no wonder that tracks like Squalor Victoria, Apartment Story, Mr. November, and Abel are a few of my favorites off of their two latest CD's, Boxer and Alligator. They proved to be my favorite in concert, as well.