Bonnaroo Day Three: Paranoid Android

Bonaroo Arts and Music Festival
Manchester, Tennesee
Day three: June 17, 2006

Thom York of Radiohead. Kent Kessinger (c) 2006

    Bonnaroo is kind of like a return to tribal existence. The heat, the migration from camp to camp, the scavenging for food, drugs and beer, and the bedraggled, mud covered masses, all hail back to hunter-gatherer times. The conditions can be downright primitive. Sure, you can buy a cup of coffee and use your cell phone, but when it comes down to it, it’s still man versus the elements. You don’t check your email, you don’t listen to your iPod, you don’t fret about the price of gas – the pressures of modernized man are suspended for one short weekend a year. Here, all that matters is music.

Buddy Guy. Jessica Coughlin (c) 2006
    Buddy Guy is one of my personal idols and I was apprehensive that his show might disillusion me as Bob Dylan or James Brown have in the past. But this was no grandpa on stage; it was a classy gentleman who rocked out hard on guitar and delivered soulful blues ballads with excruciating passion. Buddy Guy proved that he is one of the legends that has not burned out and will never fade away.

Beck. Jurawa Hallen (c) 2006
    Beck may be the most charming, unique and just plain cool performer around and he was in top form for Bonnaroo. Beck headlined the afternoon, strolling on stage like a Scandinavian schoolboy: cheeks flushed and blonde curls askew under his jaunty cowboy hat. Yesterday’s show was an apparition of adrenaline, as much a comedy troupe as a concert. The monitors shot to a puppet show at the side of the stage, each band member represented by a marionette alter ego that mimicked their actions to a tee. When Beck slowed down for a solo number, the rest of the gang retired to eat sandwiches on a table at stage left. When lunch was done, the band picked up their knives, forks, and plates for some impromptu percussion. As the puppets did the same with a doll-size set of dishes, Beck smirked wryly and deadpanned, “The cups and bowls were destroyed in your honor.” As Beck busted out a cover of Sly’s “Higher”, a dude dressed in a day-glow parking vest came on stage with faux light sabers and broke into an air-traffic controller dance. This was a particularly personal shout out, as I worked parking staff (i.e. human orange cone) last year for the free ticket.  Suddenly, the stage cleared and the puppet cam came up showing a short sketch of the marionette’s first festival. The Beck puppet complained, “I smell hippie!” sampled organic smoothies and learned to play with devil sticks. Not only was this a hilarious and high-energy concert, it was tailor-made for Bonnaroo. We all think that it is pretty ridiculous to be here, and apparently Beck and the band are in on the joke.

Mike Gordon and Trey Anastasio. Jessica Coughlin (c) 2006

  The much-anticipated Superjam show features a combination of surprise artists each year and by sundown the crowd was buzzing with rumors of a Phish reunion. The Benevento Russo Duo strolled on stage with Mike Gordon and Trey Anastasio as the crowd went wild. Phil Lesh dropped in for a couple numbers- unfortunately this included “Casey Jones”, the most irritatingly trite song in the Dead songbook. In fact, the whole concert was pretty much a total blue-ball. I was anticipating something phenomenal from three generations of jam rocking out together and what we got was mostly Trey Anastasio solo. Surprise, surprise.
    On the other side of Centeroo, Dumpstaphunk had everyone dirty dancing until dawn. Thick, dirty-ass funk pumped through the tent, headed by Ivan Neville of The Meters and Skerik of Les Claypool’s Frog Brigade on sax.
    The most hyped Bonnaroo headliner in the history of the festival took the stage last night. Bathed in magenta and turquoise light, Radiohead launched into “There There”. During the first song, one of the two large monitors appeared to blow out due to technical difficulties. Soon both screens came back with warped, pixel images of the band on what looked like a fractured mirror, reminiscent of The Who’s Tommy. Surrounded by the soaring, operatic music, it seemed that Radiohead was trying to artistically translate what their music so exactly evokes- alienation from the modern world. Like modern art, but better. This music speaks so clearly to my generation- kids that have a chip planted in their brains by Mac and Google and are so inundated with information and overwhelmed by technology that the only form of release is music. And that is why we are here, amidst the dirt and heat and hippies: to find release, revelation and catharsis by communing tribally. Radiohead is the soundtrack of the exquisite, uplifting agony that is truth in the midst of a world gone mad. The music was so flawless that I barely felt worthy to be there.


Radiohead Bonnaroo Set list:

01 There There
02 2+2=5
03 15 Step
04 Arpeggi
05 Exit Music
06 Kid A
07 Dollars And Cents
08 Videotape
09 No Surprises
10 Paranoid Android
11 The Gloaming
12 The National Anthem
13 Climbing Up The Walls
14 Nude
15 Street Spirit
16 The Bends
17 Myxomatosis
18 How To Disappear Completely

Encore 1:
19 You And Whose Army?
20 Pyramid Song
21 Like Spinning Plates
22 Fake Plastic Trees
23 Bodysnatchers
24 Lucky
25 Idioteque
26 Karma Police

Encore 2:
27 House Of Cards
28 Everything in its Right Place

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