by Jeff Hahne
Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival
June 12, 2011
My day got started at noon with The Head and the Heart. They're one of those buzz bands that's hitting most major music publications these days, and the first few songs proved them right. The band has solid songwriting, good vocals and just a great vibe. I'll be looking forward to hearing more from them.
I next went to catch the Smith Westerns and wasn't impressed. The indie rockers from Chicago appeared a little bit bored. The music lacked anything to grab onto and keep me interested.
I then saw a brief bit of Mavis Staples. The legendary soul/gospel singer looked and sounded great. She brought a bit of religion to the Sunday morning crowd.
Former Charlotte resident Nicole Atkins was up next and her vocals and band are sounding better than ever. She has a new album out, giving her more material and a more updated sound than the '50s/'60s style she had in the past. There's a bit of shedding of the retro style and more focus on her strong vocals. You can catch her at the Milestone on June 20.
Neon Trees put on one of the most high-energy shows of the day as the band's singer bounded around the stage, screamed his head off, kicked and leapt his way around. The music has hints of '80s style in it, but the pop rock band has a bit of its own niche. Definitely an entertaining band to watch.
I caught a bit of the mellow style of Bruce Hornsby next. His traditional, contemporary sound has a bit of blues and jazz mixed in. It's hard for me to see him and not remember the days when I saw him in concert with The Grateful Dead though.
Junip hit the stage at 3 p.m. and I wasn't quite sure what to think. The band uses a variety of instruments and objects to create soundscapes that are sometimes intriguing, yet sometimes boring. After a little while, it all started to sound the same to me.
Daniel Lanois's Black Dub hit This Tent at 3:30 offering blues-driven songs that were heavy on guitar and the vocals of singer Trixie Whitley. Lanois is best known for his production work, but his skills on guitar were just as impressive.
Robyn, celebrating her birthday, hit the Other Tent stage at 4:30 with a fireball burst of dancing. She rarely found time to settle down, instead dancing around the stage, shadow boxing, humping the bass drum, acting silly from time to time. It was just fun to watch her enjoy every minute on stage while a techno beat dropped behind her vocals.
Cold War Kids hit This Tent and sounded better than any of the previous times I had heard them. The band is another Bonnaroo discovery from a few years ago, and I think the band is getting better with age.
The Strokes hit the Which Stage in front of a massive crowd. While singer Julian Casablancas unleashed a brief smile at first, he then went into his typical "mood" and barely said or did much other than going through the motions of singing the songs. Most of the band looked bored at times, too. While once labeled as the future of music, the band lacks passion and interest these days.
For me, Bonnaroo wrapped up with Superjam. Starting more than 30 minutes late, it featured Dan Auerbach, Dr. John, members of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the drummer from My Morning Jacket performing a number of songs in tribute to the city of New Orleans. It wasn't as much of a jam as it was a bunch of musicians trying not to screw up and getting the songs completed in a not-so-haphazard fashion. It's tough to jam in a superior fashion when more practice is needed.