The Canadian singer-songwriter built a field-spanning three-part harmony using the crowd at Which Stage. She called the front stage right (where I was gladly standing) “the root” of the harmony pyramid, which supported the “funnel cake eaters way out there,” and “the late guys who just arrived” up front stage left. She tuned out a vocal note with each of the three groups, and even scolded a snot-nosed student: “Don’t shake your head at me, young man!?” Then she strummed the opening notes of “So Sorry,” singing “We don’t need to say goodbye” in her bird chirp-high flutter. She cracked, “Hey… if you don’t like your note, you can’t just pick another!” But as each group’s “ahhhhhhhh”s rose from the Tennessee farmland, there was a moment where Feist had her own thousands-person strong Bonnaroo choir.
Aubree Lennon for Fuse
Sharon Jones’ Money Woes
“Money!” the pint-sized firecracker of a 56-year-old singer shouted on the titular song during her main stage set in the Friday afternoon sun. “You’re like a ghost when you’re near me, you always disappear.” Jones bounced around onstage in her purple sequined dress, shaking her money maker, as her band, the infamous Dap Kings (the same guys on Amy Winehouse’s 'Back to Black'), played supercharged funk in their dapper matching suits. It’s easy to imagine much of the crowd sympathizing with her broke-as-a-joke sentiment; one guy was even holding a $20 bill up high. Next time Obama addresses the nation on the state of the economy, just like he did that very Friday morning, perhaps this should be his entry music to the White House Press Room.
Aubree Lennon for Fuse
St. Vincent Stage Dives, Punks Out
St. Vincent’s Annie Clark is tiny, fragile, a total waif. But she was a punk banshee onstage at Bonnaroo Friday night. She told a story of a friend who gave her a dish scrubber in the shape of Sid Vicious, which read, “Sid Dishes.” Ha. Then she roared, “and that’s what became of punk,” the light flashed and she slayed a clanging, menacing cover of Brit post-punk outfit Pop Group’s “She Is Beyond Good and Evil.” Girl clearly knows a lil something about punk herself. Later, during “Krokodil” she showed us again by dive-bombing onto a security guard’s back, throwing on a ballcap gifted from a fan and then crowd surfing to the middle of the pit, where she knelled on a sea of hands and just screamed. St. Vincent—message received loud and clear.
No English Required for AfroCubism
“My English… no good,” said the Spanish guitar-toting, cowboy hat-wearing member of this genre-blending multi-national group of vets. A crowd member screamed, “No problema, senor!” The guitarist-vocalist replied, “I… eh… play my guitar.” Then he did, leading the 11-member group in the Cuban samba as the crowd busted out their best salsa dancing to varying degrees of success (the hippie in the dress had an eyebrow-raising rendition). Their set was a fusion of two foreign cultures—Malian members in purple tunics, playing odd-stringed instruments (except one ripper on a Les Paul and a xylophone) and Cubans playing horns and maracas. The group might not speak fluent English, but there was nothing broken or lost in translation about their sound, which, one Malian member explained, dated back 700 years.
Black Star Get Crowd Amped With One Note
After Talib Kweli acted as de facto hypeman/set-up guy for co-conspirator Mos Def, the latter quieted the crowd with one line: "You should get them to make noise with one note." A heavily extended "Lawwwwwwwdddddddd" could be heard and "Definition," one of the most enduring hip hop songs in the past 15 years, brought everyone back to 1998.
Avett Brothers Cause Spontaneous Clapping
“My Heart Is a Kick Drum,” like most songs by this soulful country-folk outfit, are full of big, simple swells that just about everybody gets. But this tune especially. After a short set on the acoustic guitar and banjo, the group swapped instruments, with a stand-up replacing a Fender electric and a drummer stepping onstage. Immediately the crowd was shouting the clear-as-a-bell lyric, “heart like a kick drum,” which was followed by a snappy eight-beat clap. The group had EVERYONE clapping along to the extended instrumental breakdown that flexed into a ripping psych-rock jam. The rest of the set was just as involved. I saw no one walk off elsewhere. When a song’s title was announced, people swooned and emoted. It’s no surprise they sell out arenas in their native Dixieland. It won’t be long until the rest of the nation, possibly the world, catches on.
Aubree Lennon for Fuse
Fitz and the Tantrums Deliver Soulful Covers
We haven't heard many covers so far, so thanks to Fitz and the Tantrums for whipping out retro-soul versions of the Raconteurs' "Steady, as She Goes" and Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)." For the former, the L.A. sextet ratcheted up the original's groove, augmenting electric guitar with horns and synths. On the latter, the line "Some of them want to abuse you" never sounded funkier.
Two Door Cinema Club Get the "Cool Kids" to Dance
A little context: Almost every festival stage has an "Artist area," a sectioned-off spot reserved for musicians, staff, media and other various music industry folks. Nine times out of ten, it is filled with folded arms and "impress me" faces. When Irish pop band Two Door Cinema Club performed the bouncy, jangly "Costume Party," that area became one big dance circle, with the normally staid and self-conscious crowd morphing into an uninhibited mass. Unlike some other festivals, pretentiousness has no place here.
TUnE-YArDs Score Buster Keaton Shorts—Live!
At the Cinema Tent—which last night hosted a "Trapped in the Closet" sing-along because Bonnaroo is awesome—tUnE-yArDs performed the live score to a series of shorts by silent film star Buster Keaton. Blending traditional Americana with the group's warped loops and fractured, noodling free jazz, the forward-sounding indie group sounded surprisingly comfortable among 1920s short films. The traditional trappings of a silent film score were present: Drum crashes occurred when the side of a house fell to the ground; bells rang during the comedic moments. But the group's avant-garde pop sound ensured that you've never heard anything like this. This is why we love Bonnaroo.
Aubree Lennon for Fuse
Soul Rebels Will Call You Out For Not Participating
New Orleans eight-piece brass band Soul Rebels will not stand for your half-ass involvement in their show. "I don't need 99.9% participation," said one member. "I need the whole 100." Band members called out crowd members for not "getting low to the ground" like everyone else. That means you, "Guy with the water," "girl with the pink shirt" and the band's own soundman. "You finished mixing us, you can get down too," said one member. He obliged.
Best Song for the Magic Hour: Dawes
The magnificent Shira Knishkowy, the publicist for ‘70s Golden AM rockers Dawes, turned to me during the band’s set at the Other Tent and said, “Awwww, this is the perfect song for the magic hour.” She's paid to say that, but it was perhaps the ideal match for dusk time at Bonnaroo, just after sunset when people are all live-wired with relief from the sinking sun. When the tune first started I thought that it was either a Neil Young or Dylan cover, thank to its slow backbeat and twangy-glimmery guitar leads, a la tunes from both those ‘60s and ‘70s kings. Originally a track by Middle Brother, a collabo between members of Dawes, Deer Tick and Delta Spirit, the the track had fans a-swayin’ and (hardcore fans, at least) singing along. Then Dawes dropped a double dose of golden era nostalgia with Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome.” And a damn fine version at that.