Indiana Daily Student

Showstoppers

Franz Ferdinand plays their well received show under the elaborate lighting for The Flaming Lips show.
Franz Ferdinand plays their well received show under the elaborate lighting for The Flaming Lips show.

It was a four-day carnival on acid that just happened to feature some of the biggest musical and comedy acts on the planet.

It can be hard to focus on the music amid the nonstop parade of sights and sounds, but the 80,000 music lovers who descended on Manchester, Tenn., for four days this past weekend did their best. Festival-goers raged on from noon Friday until past 4 a.m. Sunday, despite an unrelenting Tennesee sun that made it nearly impossible to sleep past 9 a.m.

The combination of heat and exhaustian made Bonnarees feel like they were running a marathon, but Lilly Allen summed it up best in her performance, singing, "Sun is in the sky. Oh why oh why would I want to be anywhere else?"

The festival, which in past years included mostly jam bands, featured more mainstream and indie rock acts than in the past. 

When one panelist at a press conference pointed that out, comedian David Cross retorted, “You mean it’s better.”

He didn't seem to welcome the crowd that the festival traditionally attracts. Cross expressed his hatred of hippies at every opportunity, especially when they interrupted his story about how his dog jumped on him while he was sleeping and he ended up getting off before the dog did.

Fans stood in line hours before some shows, but the longest lines were consistently at the comedy tent. Big name comedians like Lewis Black, Dave Attell, David Cross and Demetri Martin drew two-hour lines before they went on stage, even though each had four sets throughout the weekend.

Martin offered a few suggestions for popping the question to a girlfriend, like feeding your dog the ring and then asking your future fiancee to walk it. But his funniest idea was to break your girlfriend’s finger and have the doctor set the cast with the ring on it. When she gets the cast removed, he reasoned, you’re already three weeks into your engagement.

One idea he didn’t present was having Jack White of The White Stripes stop his band’s performance halfway through to allow a fan to propose to his girlfriend in a way that didn’t involve dog poop or a broken finger (as far as we know).

It's hard to argue whether the festival was better or worse than the past, but it was as diverse  a group of artists as Bonnaroo has seen. Ranging from hot newcomers like Allen and Girl Talk to veterans  like The White Stripes, The Flaming Lips and Tool, to rock 'n' roll icons The Police, John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin  and Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead. 

There's no right or  wrong answer when trying to figure  out who the musical highlights were. It completely depends on who you ask.

For some, it was the mind-blowing light show and theatrics of The Flaming Lips, who supplied the audience with thousands of laser pointers. For others, it was the Super Jam, the closest thing possible to a Led Zeppelin reunion concert, as Ben Harper and Questlove joined Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones for a midnight show.  

For five-time Bonnaroo attendee Jessica Thurman highlights included the songs former Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello played with Tool, The Police reunion show and John Paul Jones joining Ben Harper for their second rendition of "Dazed and Confused," a song Thurman called a theme of the festival.

Tough decisions had to be made by music-lovers as bands fought for attention. Tool, Widespread Panic and The Police were the only acts to play unopposed. Saturday evening, for example, festival-goers had to make the difficult decision between seeing Ben Harper, Franz Ferdinand, Spoon, Ween and Keller Williams, who all played at the same time.

One of Bonnaroo's biggest appeals -- the plethora of bands that perform in such a small amount of time -- is its curse, as well. But with five main stages, a comedy tent and enough sideshow attractions to fill a circus, it's conceivable for a group of people to never see the same show and have an incredible experience at what is becoming the premier U.S. rock festival. And of course, if one show wasn't a fan's cup of tea, there was always another stage to check out.

 Bob Weir played a great cover of The Beatles' "Come Together," The Black Keys got rave reviews for their blistering blues rock set, Wilco had a warm reception and DJ Shadow, Galactic and Girl Talk had fans dancing late into the night. 

Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips  entertained at every opportunity, using the soundcheck as a chance to play a rousing cover of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" an hour before they went on. And once they hit the stage, it was a never ending feast for the senses.

Jon McCarty, who lives within a few miles of the site, has been to every festival since 2002. He said a lot has changed over the years since the early days when "people would sneak in under blankets in cars." The bands that come through have changed considerably, McCarty said. A few years ago, he said, he never thought The White Stripes or The Police would ever play Bonnaroo. "You never know what you're going to see. You never know what's going to happen. It's great."

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