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Road to Bonaroo: The Elvis Costello Interview

ThePhoenix.com's ROB TURBOVSKY filed these dispatches as he sped towards Bonaroo, from whence he'll be filing updates and Twitters and such all weekend. Stay here for more. 

You’ve probably heard of Elvis Costello. He’s a punk/New Wave/singer-songwriter deity. He puts out albums frequently enough to make Neil Young look lazy. He was on 30 Rock. Costello’s new record is Secret, Profane & Sugarcane, produced by T-Bone Burnett. He’s also recorded albums with Allen Toussaint, Burt Bacharach, Bill Frisell, and his post/quasi-Attractions band The Imposters. And that just covers half the albums he’s put out in the last ten years. The guy is goddamn prolific, is what I’m trying to say. But, as his recent Bonnaroo conference call revealed, there’s one thing he hasn’t done: use Twitter. #Scandal!

I saw you at the last Bonnaroo with Allen Toussaint. What sticks out in your mind from that festival and what you are looking forward to? 

ELVIS COSTELLO: Well, playing with Allen is always just great, and taking that music to a festival crowd is always great, because a lot of people who come to see you, they haven't necessarily come with the intention of seeing you. They've got somebody else in mind, and they happen to see you on the way there. So that's always a good thing if you can hold their attention. It seemed to go very well at that show. I remember the backstage was filled with other faces from New Orleans. I mean, I found myself with all of the Nevilles, Emma Thomas, and Allen -- I don't know how the hell I got there. There is photographic evidence. That was really great. 

Does a large festival like Bonnaroo have any kind of different meaning or experience in an economy like today's? Do you think about, you know, Bonnaroo's not a cheap ticket -- about the import of a live music experience in times like this? 

Do you think it's not a cheap ticket?  When you think about everything you can see?

Well, maybe per band, it is.

Yes. But if you think about how much it is to go to some shows, then by the time you've gone there, and you've parked your car and you’ve paid for a baby-sitter, or you went on the subway and you had a hot dog or whatever it is they sell at the shows, and you know you see maybe two bands. I would have said the festival is a pretty good deal if there's enough music that you like. And maybe there's one or two big, big headline acts. I mean – if the weather is against you then, of course, the outdoor experience is not so pleasurable. 

Now my experience of Bonnaroo is it's been very warm, which is a different kind of problem, people kind of have to make sure they drink water and not get heat exhaustion, because it gets very humid. But in terms of the experience, I mean, my show anyway was in the tent, I believe. So it's not actually strictly speaking in the outdoors. 

But most of all, you're going out into the country. So long as you don't get bitten by a snake or a skunk or something you know you’re probably going to be all right. Do skunks bite? I don't know. I just said that. 

Bear repellent, that's what I'm bringing.

When we played the Whistler Festival last year in the mountains up behind Vancouver, the music attracted the bears out to the run when we were playing. Just the really angry songs, you know, when the bears emerged. So I am looking for that. I'm always looking for the wildlife to attend the show.  

This year you've been booked to play at the same time as Wilco. You’re both enormous fan favorites and this is something that has caused a lot of discussion, for example, on Twitter. What are some of the challenges --

What's Twitter?

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