Friday at Bonnaroo began with a ritual we'd continue for the rest of the weekend-- a pre-concert stop for Bacon, Egg and Cheese Texas Toaster sandwiches at the Manchester, TN Sonic. Though I believe Sonic establishments do exist in California, (I've seen plenty of TV spots touting it as "your morning drink stop" though I'm not sure that any the food items in an ever-widening nutritional range that I've at one time or another called "breakfast" ever included a 44-ounce flourescent soda) I'd never had the opportunity to eat there. Yet another first for me on this trip. Now I love those toaster things. I'd totally misunderestimated their flavor power and I plan on actively seeking one out when I go to Vegas in 2 weeks. God help my arteries.
The lineup to get in was once again, mercifully short. The Joker brought the heads out in full force as we rolled toward the entrance. The young black man who checked our wristbands at the entrance to day parking got in a hilarious heckling match with the George W. Bush head.
"We will smoke them out of their caves!" Bush drawled.
"Yeah? Well you'd better bring my boys home soon, you motherfucker!"
It was then that I noticed the silver dog tags around his neck. The guy was probably just home from that desert shithole himself. I was glad that our silly clowning at least gave him a good laugh.
Our first show of the day was Ben Folds, now a fully functioning solo artist after the disbanding of his former grouping, Ben Folds Five in 2000. I've been a fan of his since spending many a rainy late-nineties afternoon in my dorm room listening to "Brick" on repeat. He played that one, of course, along with several cuts off his new album Songs for Silverman including "Jesusland," and "Landed" along with a song he wrote in a Waffle House and a piece he collaborated on with Dr. Dre. I thought he played a fantastic, energetic set and wondered why I hadn't seen him live before now. Guess it was all those years I spent as a slave to Hollyweird.
Next on the day's agenda was a set from Mike Gordon's new project, Ramble Dove. Pauly warned me that they were a little bit country. I'm open to just about all kinds of music, but when it comes to the reaaally twangy country stuff, I can't go there. Give me Johnny Cash, but please no Toby Keith.
As Ramble Dove's bluesy country-jam set reached its first cresendo, I recalled the Entertainment Weekly piece on Phish from a few years back. The writer declared that "Phish could urinate in their listeners' ears" and their fans would still show up and buy tickets. While far from aural urine, Ramble Dove was all about bassist Gordon, with disenfranchised Phisheads going apeshit for every solo, though it was far from their usual cup of tea. One redheaded dude likely peaking on his third roll of the afternoon, danced wildly for almost ninety minutes straight. Pauly passed our bowl to a fortysomething guy in jean shorts and he returned from his next beer one with a tall cold one for the Doctor. It's true. People really do just give him things.
We moved camp to the main stage for Oysterhead and Tom Petty. The Joker is not only a master of concert props and costumes, but of crowd navigation. He took us around to the far side of the field where we snagged a prime, easy-to-defend spot about halfway between the stage and the soundboard. We took our first dips into the molly as 5:00 rolled around and the sun's punishing heat began to abate.
Oysterhead is a supergroup consisting of Trey Anastasio on guitar, Primus' Les Claypool on bass and the Police's Stuart Copeland on drums. The three collaborated for the 2001 album The Grand Pecking Order and a subsequent tour but haven't been heard from much since. I'd seen Primus several times waaayyyyy back in my mid-90's alterna-rock phase (complete with combat boots and brown lipstick) and was, of course a Phish fan (though not quite as "gay for Trey" as some of my traveling companions). However, I'd never heard much of Oysterhead beyond their title track, "Mr. Oysterhead." So I went into the set fairly cold. The molly kicked in about halfway through and I faded in and out of a mini-trip as they played. Their sound was a bit heavy for me but I was too high to care. Claypool went through a couple of costume changes, at times wearing a pig mask or an Elvis wig while Vermont boy Trey sweltered in a longsleeve denim shirt. At the end of the set he had a huge sweat stain where his guitar strap used to be.
After a dinner of sketchy chicken pita and losing $5 to BTreotch at gin, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers took the stage for a wicked set. Petty busted out with a ton of crowd favorites including "You Don't Know How It Feels," "Mary Jane's Last Dance," "Free Fallin'," "Won't Back Down," and the Traveling Wilburys hit "Handle Me With Care." My mom loved the Wilburys and that's her favorite tune of theirs. In a moment of drug-induced goodwill, I called her cell phone and left a minute or so of the performance on her voicemail. The second half of the set brought a special guest to the stage. Stevie Nicks emerged from the wings in a flowy black number and joined in for four songs.
Stevie Nicks! Stevie Fuckin' Nicks! When I was 14 I wanted to BE Stevie Nicks. Half a lifetime later, I think part of me still does.
Tom Petty certainly drew an interesting crowd. More and more random rednecks started showing up as the set went on. A beer-gutted, trucker-capped man chain smoked with one hand and held the waist of his scrawny, methed-out wife with the other while a rowdy, shirtless drunk behind us intermittently shouted toward the stage, "You're still good, you old fuck!"
After a smokin' encore of "American Girl," we packed up our camp and made our way through the crowd toward This Tent (or was it That Tent?) for the final set of the day-- a late-night performance from My Morning Jacket. Ten hours of music already and we were still thristy for more. Joker's expert navigation landed us perhaps 20 feet from the stage. Sweet. Pauly had never seen MMJ before and babbled about how excited he was for the set as we took a smoke break on the grass before the boys took the stage.
I've been a fan of My Morning Jacket for a couple of years now, ever since picking up their 2003 disc It Still Moves. But I had never seen them live (a running theme to this weekend). Their sound runs the gamut from southern roots-rock tunes like "Golden" and "Dancefloors" to their lush, trippy arrangements of "Wordless Chorus" and "Gideon." This set certainly sent their stock up in my book. I danced like an idiot and jammed out with the crowd for over 2 1/2 hours in a perfect closer to our first day. A sick cover of the Velvet Underground's "Head Held High" was the cherry on top. Pauly was a blithering fanboy as we exited the tent. He had a new favorite band.
We chilled out on the grass and smoked behind the tent where the Disco Bicuits were still playing. Passed-out hippies dotted the grassy landscape. I felt like a million bucks compared to the way they looked. And I'd get to sleep in air conditioning tonight instead of having the sun rise on my muggy tent in only four hours time.
Two days down. Two big ones to go.