Bonnaroo 2011 – Day 2: Grace Potter rips, the Flecktones rule, and Ben Sollee sits in with everyone
“Alright you fucking hippies. Let’s do this.”
So said the Arcade Fire before entering the second half of their day-topping mainstage set Friday night here at Bonnaroo. If anyone was offended by being called a “fucking hippy,” their groans were drowned out by the rest of the crowd – with all its roaring and cheering and drunken grunting, all its splashing about in its own dripping sweat and body odor, all its coughing through the four flavors of smoke in the air.
Who are we kidding? This place is swarming with “fucking hippies.” In the good way.
Hippies and hipsters, rather. I battled the latter for a strained view of Florence and the Machine somewhere around dusk, but no amount of craning and stretching and ballerina-toe-standing could have given me an honest view of that band. So thick was the throng of hipsters – both nearly-nude and strangely dressed (Mexican wrestling masks had to be hot) – I stopped for a song and a half and then made my way to the something-or-0ther tent to dork-dance with my people to the bluegrass and jazz.
Anyway, my companion had mistakenly referred to Florence and company as “Grace Potter,” and I couldn’t come up with a suitable retort. We’d already seen Potter absolutely rip the mainstage to shreds (easily one of the best sets – top to bottom – of the entire weekend so far). Watching someone who sounded a bit like Potter but without the visuals (at least from where we stood), seemed a bit silly at that point.
So, instead, we landed amid a far smaller collection of company for Del McCoury Band with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Holy hot damn. The set trumped Grace Potter and the previous night’s stand-out Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band set. Granted, we were a little late on the uptake and saw McCoury perform a small handful of tunes before ceding the stage entirely to the Pres Hall guys. It would have been tough to not fully appreciate an old school jazz band getting a field full of “fucking hippies” to sing along to “You Are My Sunshine,” with all its traditional verses which spank of stalking a possibly less-than-enthusiastic lover.
Justin Townes Earle had Amanda Shires on fiddle, Bryn Davies on bass, and Ben Sollee on cello. The set dragged slow like summer honey, but the band couldn’t be any tighter. It was a fabulous set, but would have been even better if we were all sitting down in the A/C somewhere, or if there was nothing else going on. Also, Earle came dressed in long pants and suit coat, necktie and hat. I hope that thing was lined with ice bags.
Speaking of Ben Sollee, he’s just flat-out incredible. I watched most of his set without even thinking of where else I could be. A tall order for a festival of this size. It’s always nice to have a single artist rip at my full attention span, so kudos to Sollee. (He also appeared last night with My Morning Jacket, according to his Twitter feed, but I’d left that set before he showed up. A shame.)
Bela Fleck held the Which Stage at full attention for a good hour and a half, backed by his original Flecktones. What can be said about them that hasn’t already been? Fleck is one of the most exceptional musicians on the face of the planet, and his band is right behind him. If you get a chance to see them on the road this year (they’ll be at Telluride too), go. You simply must.
Speaking of some of the world’s most exceptional musicians, Greg Leisz sat in with Ray LaMontagne. Sara Watkins was there with the Decemberists. And we’re still only halfway through the weekend. Who will be sitting in with Alison Krauss & Union Station today? What lucky sucker will get pulled onstage with Buffalo Springfield? Will Ben Sollee make another appearance with Mumford & Sons? Only time will tell. It’s going to be a hell of a day. Here we go…
photos courtesy Bonnaroo