Aug 01 2008

Bonnaroo Goes Supernova!

Published by at 1:18 am under MP3's

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Sorry I’m late with the post, but there are a few good reasons why I wasn’t so prompt in writing my review.

  • I’m busy, but in reality I’m quite lazy
  • This years Bonnaroo made an impact on me that wasn’t as simple and easy to understand as previous years.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I think that Bonnaroo is still the same fun-loving tent city I know and love, but something was different this time around. Let me explain it this way: Two years ago, when I went to my first Bonnaroo, I also attended Lollapalooza a few months later. There was absolutely no comparison between the two. While Lollapalooza (although still very successful, I’m sure) stumbled with predetermined set durations and security guards, Bonnaroo was a truly awe-inspring experience. Freedom and the emotions associated with it were strong and most importantly, they were pure. Lollapalooza felt more like concerts in the park, Bonnaroo felt like a true festival.

I don’t think we can overemphasize the importance of “the festival” in the world of music. It is crucially important that people have a place they can go to enter the group mind. A festival with extremely limited security presence, in the middle of nowhere and far from any truly crazy points-of-interest, makes for the best foundation on which to build a shared common experience–what a festival was truly meant to be. Lollapalooza, Vegoose, Langerado, Coachella, etc. all fall victim to the same issue. It’s not like these are bad festivals, they kick a lot of ass, but due to the demands of consumerism they are falling short of what a truly glorious thing it could be. Bonnaroo, in past years, was a festival I would describe as maintaining the mission statement of the honest, good-vibe festival except on a ridiculously large scale–now, im afraid to say it, but Bonnaroo may be going the way of the supernova as well.

Before I get into why this may be my last trip to Manchester, TN, let me reiterate that I saw some amazing shows at Bonnaroo 2008. My Morning Jacket’s balls-to-the-wall midnight set may have been one of defining moments of my musical life, Yonder Mountain String Band’s incredible fusion of bluegrass and other genres never ceases to amaze me. Jack Johnson and Eddie Vedder (what a surprise) may be one the most consistent musicians I’ve ever seen.

Basically, there is still something for everyone there. Unfortunately, when something gets as big as Bonnaroo does there will be those out there who go to Bonnaroo to prove they are bigger than music itself. In this case, of course, I’m talking about the biggest ego/biggest letdown in music–Kanye West.

Now, I wasn’t even at this show, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t feel the repercussions. Bonnaroo is just as important for artists as it is for fans. It’s one of the few truly solid chances an artist has to get on the level of his or her fans. Metallica did it, and they very well may be the biggest, hardest band Bonnaroo has ever had. Kanye West on the other hand, was a prime example of how an artist can be so delusional that they choose to create a rift with their audience based on the assumption that they think they shit gold. It may work in L.A. or New York, where the artist represents the market, but when you’re on stage and you and your fans are supposed to be sharing equal respect for the greater power: music,  you can’t act that way. Kanye’s “Glow In The Dark” show, described to me by a friend as “even cooler than Daft Punk Alive [sic]” turned out to be the equivalent of being struck impotent on your honeymoon. That could have been the best moment of his career. Shame on him for not apologizing to his fans right then and there.

But it wasn’t a simple event that injected the festival with anxiety, it is the unavoidable notion that we, as fans, are going to lose yet another fantastic outlet for loving people to commercial interests.

The Kanye example is only pertinent to the greater problem with choosing artists that truly reflect the values of the festival. One thing about Bonnaroo that I really enjoy is its transcendence in terms of variety. It is not just a crunchy-granola-jam-band festival, it is an agreement of music. Like a world conference bringing opposites together–legends and indie fledglings share the stage in a truly beautiful display. There is nothing wrong with having commercial stars at your festival. Before we went I was worried about the crowd Metallica, Jack Johnson and Pearl Jam were going to bring. I didn’t really see Kanye as much of a threat to the vibe. It was the exact opposite. Kirk Hammett’s modesty made my respect for him raise exponentially. Kanye’s ego put a horrible taste in my mouth.

SO what are we supposed to conclude on? Who is to blame here? The answer is this: no one is to blame, but the torch will soon enough be passed.

A festival is very much like a star.  It is the coalescence of elements into a fiery storm of pure energy. It is the gathering of like minds and like values. It is a celebration of the cosmic power of art. The unfortunate part is that sometimes stars become to massive for their own good. These congregations begin to manipulate the space around and inside until the artists believe they are bigger than the festival and in turn, the festival believes it is bigger than art.

Next year, think about giving your usual festival an honorable discharge.

10k Lakes Festival

Rothbury Festival

Up North Festival

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Bonnaroo Goes Supernova!”

  1. Nataliaon 02 Aug 2008 at 8:25 am

    Just wanted to say this was beautifully written and makes me want to put my opinion out there just as effectively. Very accurate, and thank you for the festival recommendations.

  2. […] it’s true that I had my doubts after last year’s ‘Roo, but that won’t stop me from proverbially “blowing my load” over the announced […]

  3. Danielon 08 Apr 2009 at 7:44 pm

    I have a few sites I go to, but the quality is always the best here!

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