Laura Duncan was in Manchester, Tennessee for the 2014 edition of Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. Follow Laura’s journey, including her experiences and insights, right here on the WTTS Blogaroo! And for more exclusive content, “Like” WTTS on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and follow Laura’s Twitter.
We arrived on the farm Thursday at about 5pm and were immediately ushered to the radio compound for a great BBQ dinner. The special thing about THIS BBQ was the fact that The Wild Feathers were dining with us and joining in on the hang. Great bunch of guys who will be playing at Sun King‘s downtown brewery on June 28.
After getting settled, it was off to see the music. We ventured out to see an artist perform (who I had selected before arriving) and were excited about the possibilities of the pending show. On our journey, we heard the rumblings of an electric guitar screaming just barely above the screams of the audience. I was pulled, completely drawn, to the sounds coming from the distance. When we finally arrived at the modest performance space, we witnessed a throw down of massive proportions taking place on stage. The band was Monster Truck, who came from Canada to Tennessee locked and loaded with the energy of 5 bands, giving the best performance of their lives.
At 11:30 Thursday night, I was about to make my way to a tent far, far away on the muddy grounds to see J. Roddy Walston & The Business. I was approached by someone from the J. Roddy camp and asked if I would like a golf cart ride to the show (a wonderful perk for radio broadcasting campers). In addition to the mad front-man skills presented by JRW, his band was as tights as I’ve seen. The pure and authentic personality of the music was only matched by the joy delivered by it’s makers. When J. Roddy determined the evening of music was a wrap he defined it perfectly as described by this note I took while watching: Throws chair, flips hair, goodnight.
Friday at Bonnaroo is always an exploratory day for me. I like to walk around the farm, take in the sights, meet music lovers and follow the music. Friday the 13th at Bonnaroo includes a sea of fun costumes and attitudes which we have captured with photos. I’ll let the pictures do the talking. WTTS photographer, Amy Castillo with RIF (Rhythm In Focus) has access to capture some wonderful images. Visit the RIF site next week to dig in further. Internet is down on this 700 acre farm, but we will pass along what the machine powering these flying particles allow later today. Please follow our updates on Facebook and Twitter.
Saturday in Manchester, TN and the heat decided to stay away. It’s always a great thing to have temperatures in the 80s with beautiful sunshine. That was the state of the state today at Bonnaroo.
We started our day with a performance right outside our bus in the radio compound. UK singer/songwriter James Bay talked to all of us as he prepared to play in a casual tent/couch setting. He was grateful to be attending this monstrous festival of music and community. We all enjoyed his set as we dined on wraps and sipped our bloody marys. Directly after James Bay played, The Wild Feathers stepped up and played a few songs for us. The band is from Nashville and loves the drive down to Bonnaroo to hang/perform. The band can throw down a performance like you’ve never witnessed. Remember, all of this is happening right outside the door of my bus. I just walk out and start listening to music. As I was walking from the Wild Feathers’ performance, I noticed the guys from Cage The Elephant standing next to the Hay Bale Studios. Quickly, I approached one of their management team and worked my way into the intimate show that was about to take place. Inside a small but equipped room, the band took their places behind their instruments as I sat on a chair next to a friend of mine and placed the headphones on my ears. It was just me, Mike (a friend of mine), the crew and the band. It was SUCH an incredible performance and a look into the softer presentation of the band.
Hours later, it was off to see the plugged in version of Cage the Elephant. The Wild Feathers joined a few of us as we watched Cage The Elephant from the side of the “Which” stage. They were ready to impress and did just that. I was mesmerized by the rhythm the guys exampled as they synced up and exploded in front of the charged audience. We stood on stage and watched the family of the band members sing every word and talk of personal experiences shared with their favorite musicians. For the last song, the tour manager opened the gate of the barricade which held us all, properly, on the side of the stage. All of the 20 somethings that were standing next to me rushed on stage and began to dance. I was 2 seconds from joining them when the stage manager sent all rogue stage participants back to the pen. Whew, he saved me from sharing embarrassing dance moves.
I watched a bit of Cake and Blackberry Smoke and a number of smaller bands perform as I walked around Centeroo to explore the goods that will eventually call my name. After heading another RV camp to hang with friends, I was alerted to the meeting time and place for those of us wanting to see Lionel Richie perform (The Saturday night headliner). I had never seen Lionel perform and was interested in his presentation, so I decided to make the play for a pit stance in front of the stage. I was very optimistic and feeling nostalgic. I am not one to spread negativity through the minds of enthusiasts, but I was so disappointed I left early. His set list was filled with a bouncing ball of emotionally rhetoric. We were dancing one minute and then thrown to the ground as the breaks were put on by Lionel without warning. The band was not synced at times and I endured a harmonica solo that was sharp and uninspired. I appreciate all kinds of music and embrace diversity, but a live performance on the main stage at Bonnaroo demands all the best. Attention all future Bonnaroo performers, please bring your A+ game.
Enjoy some photos of our Saturday experience. More to come when I get back to a place with wonderful wifi.
In years past, we would wake up on Sunday and leave the farm for civilization. This year, Elton John was the headliner on Sunday which made the decision easy to stay for that last day of festival fare.
There is a fine art to working one’s way to the side of the stage for a headliner’s performance, especially rock royalty like Elton John. The request began a month back on the phone in my office. By the time we departed Indiana, I received an email saying it had been worked out. The fact that I attend Bonnaroo every year, sleep on an air-conditioned tour bus, attend private studio sessions with the most talented musicians and hangout with the world’s best broadcast professionals, is not lost on me. I am grateful for every single moment, including being chosen as one of 50 people to watch Elton John’s performance from the stage while 80,000 watch from the field.
Sir Elton John is one artist whose performance I have never witnessed. All of the opportunities have passed without even a glimpse of Elton in person. I have been a fan my entire life and have celebrated his musical evolution since I was smart enough to appreciate fine music. The anticipation of the night’s performance began to swell as soon as my eyes opened on Sunday. Thoughts of singing along and feeling the memories associated with each song were forefront as the day progressed. A couple of hours before the show, I gathered with dear friends for a last night cocktail or 4 and pre-show discussion. The lanyards were placed around our necks and we were off to the What Stage. It is a freeing experience to walk up to a guarded gate (where many have gathered to try and work their way backstage), flash a badge and be waved right through. No hassles, only smiles. We worked our way up to the third level of the stage and bellied up to the gated barrier where we enjoyed a perfect, unobstructed view facing Elton John’s piano. When I heard the beginning keyboard contribution to “Funeral For A Friend”, I knew it was going to be a magical night. Sir Elton walked on stage as the song continued, sat at the piano and became the snapshot of a musical memory that will never be forgotten. The night was cool, a breeze wafted from the field and the crowd was a gracious and unfiltered. One by one my heart was lifted as the master of the keys and his talented cast of contributors filled the farm with musical notes that seemingly floated through the air. There were no mistakes, no arrogant “off topic” conversations, no appearances of festival adjustment to the playlist. It was an A+ performance on a beautiful night filled with a community of passionate consumers of musical expression.
Here are some photos taken on the last day of Bonnaroo. These were taken with my phone camera. WTTS photographer, Amy Castillo of RIF, will have some wonderful (professional) photos this week on the RIF website, so be sure to visit. Thanks so much for following along. I hope you felt like you were a part of every moment.