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Festival Review and Photos: Bonnaroo 2012

Saturday, continued…

The Roots

Official Bonnaroo press shot. Photo by Morgan G. Harris

As the evening of a restless afternoon began to settle, the main stage began preparing for the arrival of The Roots. With a steady gig as the house band of Jimmy Fallon’s late night show, the Philadelphia-born veterans seem to rarely leave the comforts of the NBC studio. Luckily for us they decided to dress down and join us for a party on the festival grounds. Introducing themselves as the hardest-working band in hip-hop is hardly any overstatement — the Roots have a level of virtuosity and professionalism that is hitherto unmatched by other acts of similar stature. With ?uestlove at center stage, his pocket drumming provided the pulse for seamless movement through R&B cuts like “Break You Off” and the forlorn “You Got Me.” Black Thought supplied the visible charisma at the stage front, shrugging off exacting verses to jazz expansions of “Proceed” and “Mellow My Man.” With an encyclopedic arsenal of covers at their disposal, the band played characteristic takes on G’n’R’s “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” “The Bottle” by Gil Scott-Heron, and Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up,” extending the party invitation to attendees not of their fan base. What made their show such a pleasure to watch, though, was not necessarily their expertise or precision. The real draw for the Roots is their unwavering aim to have fun. Be it synchronized dances, sporadic sprints into the crowd, or ?uestlove’s jokes only audible through the band monitors, it is made evident that at the foundation of a tireless work ethic is the common bond of friendship and a love of music.

– Malcolm Martin

Red Hot Chili Peppers

If there’s any band on the festival circuit catching flak this year, it’d have to be RHCP above all other comers (yes, including At the Drive In’s money-grab of a tour). With their only post-Frusciante LP nearly a year old, and that same album having failed to make any noise loud enough to justify the band meriting much interest sans their most talented member have left the super power an unlikely choice of headliner, and a particularly inspiring one.

In other words, the Chili Peppers had it stacked against them. I’d seen the band before, and the Klinghoffer replacement simply didn’t interest me much, so I plopped down to reenergize and lazily see whether the Peppers could sell their show. The band’s entrance went without the fanfare one might expect, instead plunging directly into the hits. Flea, both apparently tripping (Keidis even remarking to him “you must be coming up now, eh?” as he expressed confusion towards a floating stage lantern) and game, did his damnedest, but the Peppers simply couldn’t live up to the Blood Sugar Sex Magick peak that shall forever plague them. For the matter, this wasn’t Californication, By the Way, or even Stadium Arcadium. This was a tired band, fat off their entrance into the Hall of Fame, phoning it in for a big stadium show. Nothing more.

– Chase McMullen

Alice Cooper

Superjam: The Roots and D’Angelo

You gotta love Questlove. If you don’t, then you probably dislike rap completely, but even then, you’d be foolhardy to discount the maestro’s musical ability. He’d hosted superjams before, but the whispers in the air suggested this would be his grandest yet. Some rumors suggested Jack White – “he lives close, after all”, and the even more boldly hopeful hinted at Thom Yorke, leaning on his presence at Roo for his own show as a solid reason for his arrival. I knew better than to believe either, imagining ? would rather throw the spotlight to a performer dearer to his heart and his own perspective on music, but I wasn’t sure who.

If I’d had a brain, I might have thought D’Angelo, with their standing friendship, not to mention Quest’s adamant support of the soul Godfather as he attempts to clamber back onto the music scene. I was still flabbergasted, as ? listed off his co-performers, when he paused, looking down with what could only be reverence, gasping, “I’ve been waiting 12 years to say this…D’Angelo.”

It seemed too good to be true. I was floored. Skinny white boy or nay, both the man’s albums had been total essentials in my musical upbringing, and the name D’Angelo had been near the top of my dream shows list for as long as I could remember. And it was happening, now, out of nowhere on a Saturday night at Bonnaroo.

The audience, previously disgruntled at how long they’d been kept waiting, was, for lack of a better term, flipping a shit. A guy next to me whispered to his buddies, “We’re witnessing history right now.” He was more right then he knew. Of all the moments at this year’s Roo, the behemoth that is Radiohead included, this was the most memorable. As D’Angelo and an awe inspiring supporting cast swept through their set, which included covers of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix, I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, this was my moment for the year’s festival. At what’s arguably America’s most impressive festival, Questlove and D’Angelo had swept in and taken my top spot, a decision that usually takes days of reflection and self-flagellation, with ease. I don’t know if this is a show they’ll turn into a DVD some day, but its the class that deserves it. As the jam came to an end the audience begged for more, with Questlove explaining they simply couldn’t – ‘we learned these songs right before I went on earlier [Questlove had played with The Roots earlier that day], we literally don’t know anymore songs.” You’d think it might cheapen the experience, make it seem rushed, arbitrary. Nope. It only made it all the more impressive.

– Chase McMullen


How does one follow Questlove and D’Angelo, let alone top them? Well, one hardly can, but if they’re going to, grabbing GZA to perform Liquid Swords is certainly among the best of possible methods. That’s just what Bonnaroo did with one of their last minute additions, and the stage was set for a show that run into the wee hours of the morning.

This being Roo, there was a twist: GZA was performing the whole thing with a band backing him. Not just any band, but Grupo Fantasma, a Latin funk orchestra from Texas. Apparently they’ve won a Grammy. Just imagine. What you hear might not even sound pleasant, but never fear, the band must have rehearsed their asses off at the chance for some buzz, because they’d dreamed up some creative and engrossing ways of embracing the grimey RZA sound into a new live experience. GZA, not surprisingly, played other tracks as well, including some of his fallen friend ODB’s material. The show was never going to match what came before it, but but an energetic turn from the Genius made for a great outro for Bonnaroo’s Saturday night.

– Chase McMullen


[Intro] [Thursday] [Friday] [Saturday] [Saturday – Cont’d] [Sunday] [Survival Guide] [Gallery]

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