The Festival that was Bonnaroo ’09: Day One

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After four long days, which featured torrential downpours, grueling heat, lots of mud, and an over a hundred of music’s best acts, the 2009 edition of the Bonnaroo Music Festival is now and will forever will be a memory. Join us, while we remember and review the festival that was Bonnaroo ’09…

Pouring rain and ferocious lighting served as the backdrop for most of Bonnaroo day one, making for some extremely muddy situations. Yet for those willing to brave the elements on Thursday evening, there were highlights to be found.

Alberta Cross:
That Tent: 5:30-6:30

The current musical scene, and even Bonnaroo’s own lineup, seems to be dominated by polished indie rock bands using as many computers to produce their sounds as actual instruments. In a digital world, Alberta Cross is an analog band. The New York outfit’s dirty, haunting vocals and scratchy guitars are rough around the edges, refreshing and honest, garnering them comparisons to older souls like Neil Young and The Band. Their stage presence may be the only thing that didn’t seem polished about their Bonnaroo performance, and maybe the only place they showed their age. You couldn’t tell by listening, but the guys looked a little nervous, maybe a little overwhelmed by practically getting Bonnaroo started for the weekend. But their music never faltered, sounding just as haunting and passionate as their recordings. – MW

Janelle Monáe:
The Other Tent: 5:45-6:45

Things started off on an interesting note as the strange personalities of Janelle Monáe took to the Other Tent’s stage. With a full band dressed in dapper dress wear, the cummerbund toting soulful singer stared crazy eyed at the audience through her intense wails. A prince-esque guitarst, hiply dressed DJ (the only one not in uniform), and drummer accompanied Janelle’s wacky stylings. Bursting with energy and a unique electro meets R&B meets soul aesthetic, she was an excellent surprise and a great way to kick off Bonnaroo. – DL

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White Rabbits:
This Tent: 6:45-7:45

Brooklyn’s White Rabbits helped push Bonnaroo into full swing, bringing their own blend of insanely percussive, piano driven, indie rock to the Manchester farm. With up to three drummers at once, all feverishly knocking against snare rims, drum casings, and drum heads, there was a more than apt array of beats to dance to. As the guys played on, the crowd stared on intently as sweat dripped from the faces of the hardworking lads. Their power was cut briefly mid set, but they were able to utilize the crowd’s clapping abilities to smoothly circumvent an otherwise undesirable moment. A solid showing from a band on the fringe of popularity. – DL

The Other Tent: 7:15-8:15murs The Festival that was Bonnaroo 09: Day One

With Delta Spirit sidelined by air trouble, Californian hip-hopper Nick Carter, or MURS as he’s more properly known, had the fortune, or the bad luck – depending on your perspective, of being the lone performer gracing any of the festival’s five major stages for a good thirty minutes. MURS accepted this challenge with open arms and responded with 60 minutes of rhymes and beats that have allowed him to become the self-acclaimed president of hip-hop. The crowd responded with equally open arms, especially during the 30 seconds when Carter sampled Sublime’s “Santeria”. Yes, “Santeria”, because that’s the kind of stuff that happens at Bonnaroo. – AY

This Tent: 8:15-9:15

Portland, Oregon new wave rockers Hockey came to Bonnaroo having not yet released a debut full-length – that’s coming this later this summer. With a fresh sense of humor, lead singer Benjamin Grubin cracked a joke about the band’s obscurity remarking “here’s a song that nobody knows” before launching into one of its more upbeat tunes. For an 8:15 set on the first day, Hockey came out with their guns a blazin’ which translates into a lead singer doubling as a percussionist on occasion and the captivation of a nearly full tent. In the end, the performance proved impressive, and likely allowed Hockey to sleep well Thursday night knowing that it just recruited a tent full of new fans. – AK

Passion Pit:
This Tent: 11:15-12:15

As soon as the synth-pop dance beats of Passion Pit rushed over the ears Roo’ers, This Tent melted into a collective bass-heavy dance party. Yes, frontman Michael Angelakos’ falsetto was difficult to interpret at times, but there’s no misunderstanding a perfectly crafted dance beat and the crowd understood exactly what the elctro quintet was trying to say: dance. As it relates to the actual songs performed, perhaps the biggest highlight was “I’ve Got Your Number”, a track released on the band’s Chunk of Change EP in late ’08. – AK

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Delta Spirit:
This Tent: 12:30 – 1:30

Five-and-a-half hours after their original timeslot was to begin, the gentlemen of Delta Spirit finally took the stage at This Tent. Yet despite the delay, and a lack of Passion Pit-like hype, the San Diego outfit had little trouble attracting a crowd once their cigarette-driven, ravaging grunge rock resonated aloud. Intensity likely also played a factor, as it’s hard to imagine anyone could break the spell that is frontman Matthew Vasquez’s electrifying presence and equally captivating lyrics. And all that was before a cover of Tom Waits’ “San Diego Serenade” and several new songs were dished out for all to hear. It’s hard to describe a band, especially one as still unknown as Delta Spirit, as possessing a quality of magic, but when incidents such as the pouring rain ending upon the last chord struck, it’s hard to come up with any other reasonable explanation. – AY

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Troo Music Lounge: 1:00-2:00

The rain had just started to pick up again around 1 am and a sizable crowd trickled in trying to squeeze under the canopies outlining the Troo Music Stage. By this point everyone had given up on trying to stay dry, so when Tobacco came out the soaking began. The Black Moth Super Rainbow vocoder kicked things off with the ruckus “Street Trash” that led into a sticky sweet set covering much from his solo record Fucked Up Friends with a few extra surprises. His rare set had a little help onstage from a female friend as he reworked the songs for a fresh live taste. “Berries That Burn” and “Side 8” grooved harder as he incorporated new breakdowns and slight tweaks into the melody. Tobacco managed to provide one of those late night surprises that blew people away. Just one question though, who were those creepy masked characters? – EM


Additional photo support courtesy Karen Dunbar

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Alberta Cross:

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Janelle Monáe:

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Passion Pit:

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Delta Spirit:

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