After having a few days to absorb all I saw at Bonnaroo I think my favorite performances were the Arcade Fire as I mentioned in part 1 and Swedish pop singer Robyn’s show on Sunday (Eminem might come in third for sheer showmanship and the ability to blast through hit after hit without a lull while playing for practically the entire festival population).
When people asked who I was most excited to see at Bonnaroo this year I would, without hesitation, reply “Robyn!” (pictured above) to typically blank stares. Aside from 1997's Top 3 singles “Show Me Love” and “Do You Know (What It Takes)" and club singles “Cobrastyle” and “Handle Me," which charted in 2008, Robyn hasn’t made much noise in the states. In the last year she’s enjoyed a slightly higher profile thanks to the fantastic “Body Talk” album - my favorite album of 2010. She sang a snippet of her single “Dancing on My Own” at The 2010 MTV Video Music Awards (and it’s been in my head ever since) and in January “Entertainment Weekly” declared her “Totally Amazing” and asked “Why isn’t she a superstar?”
I’m hoping maybe her road to superstardom will be a little shorter after Sunday’s performance, which “Billboard” declared the best of the entire festival. The magazine posted some of Sunday’s set on YouTube (Warning: profanity on the second track). You can feel the love from the crowd. I too was bouncing and singing along behind the sound board. Robyn said it was the best crowd she and her band, who are currently touring the US opening for Katy Perry, have had here.
She and the aforementioned Nicole Atkins were the highlights of my day. The Strokes played practically everything I wanted to hear, but I felt it deserved a spot on the main stage or at least better sound or volume. All I was getting through the chatty crowd was bass and occasional vocals until I moved farther back where “Whatever Happened?” (probably my favorites Strokes’ song) was competing with my favorite Explosions in the Sky song “The Birth and the Death of the Day.” Explosions, the instrumental Austin-based outfit best known for its "Friday Night Lights'" soundtrack work, sounded incredible as always.
Despite having seen Robert Plant (pictured above with Patty Griffin) in Charlotte in February my husband gushed about his favorite show of the weekend long after Plant and his Band of Joy left the stage (his favorite set the last time we attended was Plant with Alison Krauss). He was extremely impressed by band members Buddy Miller and Darrell Scott, who are great artists in their own right.
Given the number of acts playing at one time there are always some you’re sorry to miss. We saw some of G. Love, Ryan Bingham, Junip, Apache Relay, and Neon Trees (who soldiered through losing its P.A. during one song with the crowd urging them on by clapping the beat along with the minimal sound wafting out of the monitors on stage). We heard Widespread Panic’s entire marathon set from afar. My friend Lisa hasn't stopped talking about Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens, a Daptone Records (Sharon Jones’ label) group that played early in the day. It was probably her favorite artist of the weekend and one she’d never even heard of before (her vote for worst was Best Coast). For all the groups we heard and saw I wouldn’t say anyone was bad, although despite giving Daniel Lanois’ Black Dub a try both on record and now live I’m still not a fan.
The food – Plenty of it including vegetarian samosas, wood-fired pizza that’s actually worth the $9, gourmet food trucks, and fried Oreos (an improvement in my book). When it comes to food Bonnaroo has it over the other festivals I’ve been to.
The merch – Again, plenty of it. I could spend a fortune at the art print and poster tent (we bought Star Wars prints for our boys), the clothes and handmade goods are cute, and the drum building experience was something I would’ve never thought I’d do, but made me miss making art.
The dust – Back when we attended in 2006 and 2008 water spewing trucks would drive around when it got too dusty, but that wasn’t the case this year. The view outside several tents was obstructed by a cloud of dust.