June 10, 2012:
If you’ve made it this far then you might as well go the whole way. That’s the mentality you take into Sunday at Bonnaroo. No matter how comfortable you are by Bonnaroo standards, you’re not waking up somewhere comfortable. Usually I wake up many dudes deep in a rented RV that isn’t meant to sleep many dudes, or as many…
This year I woke up in a tent, with wet walls, a puddle on the right, a puddle in the middle, and a Geologist on the left. It was the most uncomfortable I’d been at Bonnaroo since ’08, when I shared a tent with three other guys, inside of which the Goose Man kept slapping me in the face in the middle of sleep and Chach woke up to find a rubber just shy of his eyeball. In terms of non-Roo experiences, this year’s Saturday night sleep was the least comfortable I’d suffered since having my appendix out.
It was really sucky, and when you get out of the sucky tent, and find that the campsite has been decimated and rendered just as sucky, well, it sucks. Yet then inevitably the day begins, you realize the water dries, and you realize you’ve only got one day of this magic left, and so no sense squandering it because of a bit of rain. Then inevitably good things start to happen. Like you see Brandon “Supergood” Dorsky making sausages and bacon on a filthy and soaked table, and you see that the glow sand survived the downpour and will make it to the Phish show. Good things like that.
Our first van set of the day was a band out of Nashville that goes by the name of Moon Taxi. They stuck a sticker on our van that says “My Other Ride is a Moon Taxi.” It’s a pretty cool sticker, they were a pretty cool band. Their crew dug the beanbag situation we had going on. I dug it as well. If you have spare beanbags you should take them to a festival, or camping, or sit in them. I popped off the bags to check out Gary Clark Jr. on the What stage. It was a mid-day show, a decent sized crowd. Pretty crazy that he was playing the sonic stage the year before. That’s how it works though. One day it’s just you and you’re guitar and in your head you’re picturing the big field of people. Then the next day there’s the big field of people, and they ain’t in your head. Must be trippy.
Upon returning to the Jam Van I found the dudes of Cherub getting Cruster Cody the PA to drive their equipment over for them. He was all jazzed up because the Black Lips were close-by and asking around for Adderal. They must have had a mid-term, but I’m pretty sure they let Cody take a pic with them, which was sweet. Then he drove Cherubs legit set-up over. It included a voice-box (I think it’s called, I’d have to ask Beez). Anyways, you blow into it and do stuff with your fingers and it makes twerky guitar-sorta-sounds. Cherub was in a word, neofunkadelicinstrumentallyclevertypeish.
Then like that, once all the amps and musical gadgets were unplugged, Jam in the Van’s Bonnaroo sessions were a wrap. We had roughly twelve hours of Bonnaroo left. This gave us no time to sit and reflect. Just time to do. Time to see the Beach Boys take us down memory lane. Not our memories per se, but Their memories. A lot of people came out for that one. It was on the What Stage, and I myself was standing on the scaffolding behind the stage.
At one point a Bonnaroo staff member brought a group of college aged kids up to the viewing level that I was standing on. It was immediately clear that they had been selected as some sort of contest winner where they were picked to get special back-stage access for the final day. Man the looks on these kids’ faces… they were huggin, jumpin’ up and down, making those overly long I-phone videos that you’ll never really re-watch fully but that you just have to capture because it’s happening and you want to remember it. Even if you wont. That’s why Bonnaroo is so great. That un-filtered happiness that disconnects you from anything that you left behind when you stepped onto the farm and connects you to the right then and there where you are. It was nice to see that, and to have a classic soundtrack for the scene.
When the Beach Boys cleared out I skipped back to the tent, re-grouped, then ducked back to the what stage for Bon-Iver’s performance. For this one I stood in the pit mud and I enjoyed every minute of it. Justn Vernon really impressed. I know my entire group was surprised, I heard a lot of others saying the same, and when the show was ending and he said “let’s try to open up the sky,” and it started raining, c’mon. It was a special set, it was a great warm-up for the main event.
To that, a Phish show is a special event in itself. Put it at the tail end of Bonnaroo, cram all that energy up into one field and let the glow sticks fly. Oh and how they do. If you haven’t seen it, then you haven’t seen it, but it’s literally thousands of glow sticks taking to flight all synchronized to one amazing rhythm of music and bodies, and it’s a spectacle.
I’ll sum up the Phish experience with what I think is an anology to the overarching experience of any Phish show, but this occasion happened to be at this Phish show, so it works perfect. So we get there, and we’re playing with glow sand and these new big foam glow sticks that are all the rage (JB Smoove gave me one during the day), and we’re throwing glow sticks and everyone’s vision is blurred from a combination of things like smiling and drinking beers and spinning, and I look over at Dove Yeaman, a dude who hasn’t been to anything close to this before. A musician himself, Mr. Yeaman prefers the soft soothing sounds of metal to quench his musical thirst. Yet I look over at him about thirty minutes into Phish, he’s grinning ear to ear, his headband rapped and stuffed with all matters of glow stick, dancing, and looking in awe at the production and at the crowds reaction to it. “I had a blast,” is what he said, and that’s all you need to know about a Phish show, and this particular Phish show. We had a blast. Always do.
The rain came towards the end. The type of rain that you don’t mind fallin’ down on you in the summer. I don’t remember what they closed out on. I remember Harry Hood was great, I remember Kenny Rodgers came out at one point and sang the gambler, I remember Dove Yeaman dancing around with his glowing headdress like a dose-head indian brave, I remember Brandon “Supergood” Dorsky in a one-z suit shaking his ass off, I remember lighting fireworks in the back of the field and scattering hippies when Gorilla lit the half broken Roman candle and it sprayed it’s sparks sideways across the night sky.
Then it was over. The band left the stage and I could see their tour bus pulling out shortly afterwards towards its next destination to make that next set of people spin. The field cleared, all that remained were the fallen glow-sticks, the more-than over-it venders, and the trail of heads moving back towards their camps to pack up.
We returned to the artist area where the party actually continued. Maybe that was a bad thing. Note to self, a crawfish boil may not be the best late night snack unless you want to see all those little crawfish tails again in the morning. Which I did, but hey, I had a blast en-route to that puke, and that’s how I want to always go out. Smiling and thinking about the consequences later. That’s Bonnaroo. An assault on the mind and body, an experience that’s not for everyone, but that nobody regrets having. We love it. Hope to be back next year. Thanks to Bonnaroo365 for helping make it possible this year. We’ll keep the Roo-vibes coming all year round. Best believe videos are coming soon.