Bonnaroo Day 2- Bonnaroo Becomes Eclectic

Brevity Dave…BREVITY!

That’s my word to try and remember as I run down the 15 acts I was able to take in yesterday. It took me til 4 in the am to do it but that’s what I’m here for.

The fact that SO many different styles of music get represented here at Bonnaroo is one of the things that makes it special and yesterday was it’s day to show off.

The house painter brothers from Nashvegas that make up the Kings of Leon have embraced the stadium rock world like Obama has health care reform. They are simply a GREAT rock and roll band that wowed the crowd of about 50,000. Never too hard, never to “alty” just solid driving sounds. A great mix with a distinct and loud bass and drum sounds, a wall of crunchy and jangly guitars and an awesome vocal sound that is helped by the fact that Caleb Followill has one of the best voices in rock. They seem to just keep getting better and better and the new songs from the upcoming 4th disc tell us we are in for another rock and roll treat.

The Punch Bros. defy description. They look like a bluegrass band and SOMETIMES even sound like one but as The Newgrass Revival, Allison Krauss and Nickel Creek did before them, they are taking the genre in a whole new direction. Modern classical and jazz seem to be the predominate influences and the sheer musicality of it all is wowing. Classical Grass I’ll deem it. (Hey, you heard it coined here first). Chrils Thile continues to prove that he IS the best mandolin player in the world and the group’s banjo player shows to be “Fleckesque” with his blazing 32nd note riffs and chromatic fills. A Bill Monroe tune showed their roots but a Strokes cover shows how hip these guys are. It is powerful to see people so good at what they do. A new disc comes out this week.

I’ve seen LCD Soundsystem 3 times in 2 months and they are quickly zooming to the top of my favorite band list. The rumors of the groups demise were waylayed a bit as leader James Murphy told the crowd…”we have to go play in Europe for a while but the we will be back and back and long as you will listen to us.” Their music is totally danceable but without all that pesky “oontz, oontz, oontz” of club dance music. Relying on a real drummer, archaic analog synths and a 70s style disco beat, makes LCD retro in some ways and totally cutting edge in others. A Talking Heads vibe also slips in from time to time. Murphy is so geeky he’s cool and LCD works a crowd up like throwing a rooster in a hen house. Dig the new disc…hell dig all 3!

It was part comedy and a LOT of great Bluegrass with Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers. I remember as a kid seeing Steve Martin as a kid when he started out and him playing the banjo was always a part of his act. He was so funny that I don’t think anyone ever noticed that he was a REALLY good player. He quietly walked away with the Grammy for best Bluegrass album last year. He is about release a new disc with his touring band and ALL the material is written by Martin and it’s ALL good. Is there anything artistically the man can’t do?

The Carolina Chocolate Drops give us a history lesson on the little known traditions of African-American folk, mountain and Bluegrass. Relying largely on handed down songs, these 3 young multi-intrumentalists and singers ( 2 of which are trained classical singers and violinists) are a throw back to a different time when music was an oral tradition. They all play banjo (they all learned when they found the banjo to be an instrument of African Origin), fiddle and the 2 men handle a real jug as an instrument…who knew there was a technique to jug playing. One artist even is a master at the redneck version of castanets called bones (made from real cow bones). Rhiannon Giddens has a powerful pure voice that ranges from pure mountain sound to soulful R and B complete with human beatbox. I know it sounds strange but it works beautifully and this crowd and music fans everywhere are flocking to their music. A TOTALLY unique experience. I recommend it highly.

The National are one of the hottest acts in alternative music today. Evidenced by glowing reviews for the new disc and a large feature in The NY TImes. The first thing you notice about The National is the deep baritone of lead singer James Beringer. It is just another unique facet in a truly unique band. Even when they crank it up their music always seems to have a certain mellowness to it. Really great alt rock! One bone to pick…Beringer walks the stage sipping what appears to be a GLASS OF CHARDONNAY!!! Maybe it’s his last name but I mean, has that EVER been seen in a rock act…ok Shane McGowen maybe but he is drinkin’ it from the bottle and chasing with Guiness and Jameson’s. At least Beringer had the good rock sense to finally chug what was left and chuck the glass into the audience.


The Gaslight Anthem just rocked the second stage. Who cares if at times they sound like a Springsteen cover band…at least they are imitating the best in their own modern way. For those that love the rock. If you wanna jam, slap this bitch on your iPod!

There is nothing complicated about She and Him…catchy pop tunes sung and played well but nothing that is going to change the musical world but sometimes maybe we don’t need to try to. One wishes the beautiful voice of Zoey Daschel had some more challenging material.

NEW ARTIST TO WATCH- Check out The Gossip for a bit of 80s throwback pop/rock. Channeling Pat Benatar and Joan Jett and even Janis Joplin at times they bring a fun unique rock/pop sound all led by powerful and sometimes raw and raspy, gritty voice of Beth Ditto. They are worth checking out for her singing alone.

I won’t go on about them but I love Umphrey’s McGhee and they brought their mix of rock, funk, jazz fusion and alt to the legion of fans that feel the same way as I do. I know they are not everybody’s cup of tea but these boys from South Bend (my only issue with the band) really melt my butter.

Damien Marley and NAS sound about like what you would expect…reggae style music over Jamaican house style rap…again not changing the world but good if you like it.

Tenacious D rocked in a way that Jack Black could only make a rock and roll comedy act rock. Good and funny tunes played well.  NEWSFLASH…Jack Black can REALLY sing!

Even though The White Stripes did it first, they have no monopoly on playing with just guitar and drums and The Black Keys bang and slash their way thru a good alt rock set. Reminiscent of Jack and Meg but more hard driving if you can believe it and a much better drummer…no offense Ms. White.

In the “I’m not sure” category was 80s blue-eyed soul/pop singer Darrell Hall paired with Chromeo. I missed Chromeo along my musical path I guess as everyone seemed to know their tunes and other songs were reinventions of all the Hall and Oates hits so I’m not really sure what was the point. On the positive side, Hall’s voice was a reminder of why he was one of the better pop singers of his time (c’mon remember his part in We Are the World or his wailing on the chorus of She’s Gone…brother CAN sing)…even if you hated the songs.

FILE UNDER WHY BOTHER…The Flaming Lips performing Dark Side of the Moon with someone Stardeath and The White Dwarfs. It ends up this artist was the cousin of Lips leader. Why do I need to see the Lips as a Floyd cover band with other musicians I’ve never heard of?…PLEASE!!!…an ounce of pretencion is worth a pound of manure.

More tomorrow!  ROWYCO!


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