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  Offworld Music
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  BONNAROO 2004
 

Steve Winwood

 




 








Beth Orton

  


  

 

  Rachely Amagata

 

"MUD-DAROO: Third Annual Bonnaroo Music Festival is Marred by Torrential Rains, 2 Deaths"
Words and photos by Carl Noone Jr.

A crowd of over 90,000 concertgoers (estimated to be as high as 150,000 by Coffee County Sheriff's Office representatives) converged on a 700-acre cow pasture in rural Tennessee this past June 11th, 12th, and 13th for three days of camping and live performances by bands such as Bob Dylan, Dave Matthews, Trey Anastasio of Phish, The Dead, David Byrne of the Talking Heads, Gov't Mule, Steve Winwood, Mike Doughty of Soul Coughing, Ween, moe., String Cheese Incident, Burning Spear, Damien Rice, Ani Defranco, Wilco, and Taj Mahal. A monthly record four inches of rain fell on the tiny plot throughout Saturday and into Sunday, causing long delays because of dangerous lightning and forcing fans into swamp-like conditions throughout the concert area.

This year also marked the first time attendees had died. Twenty year old Brandon Taylor of Lowell, Michigan and twenty-two year old Amber Lyn Stevens (who would have celebrated her birthday the following day) both died from drug and heat-related problems authorities reported Tuesday. Both were rushed to the hospital after collapsing at the three-day outdoor music festival held midway between Nashville and Chattanooga on winemaker J.D. McAllister's ranch.

But throughout it all, the strong spirit of the music remained alive and vibrant. No reports of violence, such as the numerous stabbings reported at 2003's event, were made public as of yet. A cancellation on the final day by Funk/Rock act Maroon5 marked departure time for many, such as me and my cohorts, who could not stand in the rain for the final performance of the evening on Sunday by Trey Anastasio of Phish who was joined by the 21-piece Nashville Chamber Orchestra.

After a long, single-file line of traffic that was reportedly 25 miles in length weaved its way into the ranch, (a wait in line for over 12 hours for me and my friends!!) over 28,000 concertgoers had already made camp by 9 a.m. Thursday morning, a full 24 hours plus before the music was set to begin.

Things kicked off Friday at noon with a raucous performance by the Los Lonely Boys. Punk goddess Patti Smith delivered a powerful performance later that day in a side tent, making way for a stellar performance on the main stage by Dave Matthews, who was joined by Anastasio and long-time guitarist Tim Reynolds. The three launched into a set of "crowd favorites" that included Peter Gabriel's "Solis bury Hill" and "Up On Crickel Creek" by The Band.

Saturday was highlighted by an absolutely amazing side stage performance by newcomer Rachel Yamagata, who wowed the crowd with her beautiful voice, incredible piano playing, and strong acoustic guitar skills. Indie-rockers Kings of Leon, U.K. folk singer Beth Orton, and danceable Dido-ish female chanteuse Jem also performed during a pre-rain afternoon of inspired, female-dominated songwriting.

After a long delay because of dangerous lightning and a brief tornado watch, Steve Winwood stirred the crowd on the Main stage with the opener "Can't Find My Way Home" from the classic Blind Faith album and continued into the night with Traffic and solo classic before The Dead (now featuring Warren Haynes of Gov't Mule on guitar and vocals) performed two hour-and-a-half sets in the rain.

A late-night Saturday set by the reunited Primus was delayed by ominous weather and conflicting set times with The Dead, but within minutes the twisted evilness of "American Life" made it all worth the long stand in ankle-deep muck and continuous rain. This highlighted an evening that saw Robert Randolph and the Family Band perform a jaw-dropping cover of "Black Sabbath" by Black Sabbath at 3 a.m.

Across the field in the "Another Tent", DJ Cut Chemist of the Jurassic5 continued spinning soul music with a host of other SoCal friends calling themselves Funky Sol till 5 a.m. to the delight of the chemically-inspired throngs.

By Sunday, the sounds of 80's favorite Camper Van Beethoven and their cover of "Pictures of Matchstick Men" were warmly welcomed along with the sunshine, before the band switched hands and launched into a set of Cracker songs that included the FM hit "Low". Moe made their Main stage debut and is one of only three bands who have performed at all three events. They paved the way for quirky David Byrne who opened things up with the happy Talking Heads hit "Road to Nowhere" in his custom-inflated suit.

By the time the rain had returned in bucketfuls, Bill Laswell and his project Material had begun an almost-unbelievable set that was accentuated by the fluid fret work of New York underground legend and Praxis/Guns and Roses guitarist Buckethead. His mind-blowing fingering techniques and ear-shattering guitar solos, along with a brief tribute to Sir Ray Charles, were the perfect end to a near-disastrous weekend of mud and music.



 

 

 

 

Scramble Cambell

 

 

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