An Under Cover Weekend Returns

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AUCW returns to St. Louis for 2017 with a renewed sense of purpose. Not only will it be taking over a new venue, Delmar Hall, but it will also feature a more diverse set of bookings than the local festival has ever featured before.

The first night of the festival will feature the best of the 80s, with Janet Jackson, Stevie Nicks, Madonna, Dolly Parton w/ Kenny Rodgers and Chaka Khan taking to the stage in the form of some of St. Louis most intriguing acts. Paige Alyssa promises to shine as Janet Jackson. Alyssa leans towards newer acts like Thundercat and Flying Lotus in her vibed out 80s sounds on “Beautiful” and “Lost Your Love”.

Night two rings in the 90s with Outkast, Third Eye Blind, Lauryn Hill, Counting Crows and the Offspring. Ramona Deflowered should prove interesting as the Offspring, and the band isn’t a stranger to AUCW as they return from a past performance as Joan Jett. Blank Generation should SHINE as Outkast if their Door No. 1 EP is any indication.

The 00s feel good on night three with Gorillaz (Blank Generation could make a killer Del the Funky Homosapien, just saying), Justin Timberlake, Erykah Badu, Amy Winehouse and Death Cab for Cutie. I am in love with Aida Ade as Badu and 20708344_400360467027785_5125459013846865304_nshe will definitely be a crowd favorite after her set. Her Soundwheel EP should definitely be on your shortlist for best releases by St. Louis artists in 2017.

There is a decent chance that the weekend will sell-out, so pick up your weekend tickets now on Ticketmaster. A three-day pass can be purchased for only $30.00  or you can pick which night you’d like to attend for just $12.00 a night.

Twenty One Pilots | 2.13.12

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Firebird, St. Louis

Note: I wanted to share my review of Twenty One Pilots from their 2012 show at the Firebird in St. Louis, MO. Seeing how far this band has come in just five years gives some perspective.

Twenty One Pilots fully encompassed every inch of the Firebird on a cold Wednesday night in St. Louis. Over an hour before the doors opened, hundreds of fans lined up outside for the sold-out show. Once doors opened, they did not move an inch as the headliners as well as the openers from Denmark, New Politics, took the stage.

New Politics, having previously played the Firebird, seemed extremely impressed looking at the large crowd that had filled in. The band from Copenhagen played through the majority of their first album in their short set and kept the crowd in it with a mix of fun pop-rock and rap, as well as a brief look into Euro-style break dancing by lead vocalist David Boyd.

The band played well with the ladies in the crowd, and given their (supposedly) not self-given doppelganger appointed looks, this was no surprise. Boyd proclaimed he was the James Franco of the group, with guitarist Soren Hansen playing the part of Kurt Cobain and drummer Louis Vecchio as Adam Levine.

All dancing and looks aside, the band put on a seriously awesome performance that left the crowd wanting more and looking forward to their upcoming album. New single “Harlem,” which is not related to the current “Harlem Shake” fad, gave a good sneak peek into the sound of the new album and got the crowd pumped up for the Ohioan headliners.

Twenty One Pilots—consisting of lead singer/pianist Tyler Joseph and drummer Joshua Dun—have jumped into the public eye since their December set at Peabody Opera House opening for fun. and The Joy Formidable. They scored a record deal with Atlantic subsidiary Fueled by Ramen a year ago, and now receive heavy radio play on alternative rock stations.

The duo quickly got the crowd moving, taking the stage in hoodies that fully covered their faces with the first song off their new album Vessel, “Ode to Sleep.” The song owes its intro to alternative bands like Hollywood Undead and further-reaching ’90s rap-rock, but quickly dives into a much more piano-pop friendly demeanor that takes over the rest of the night.

Seeming almost shocked by the crowd singing to every word and his every movement, Joseph had to take almost a full minute in between ukulele-featuring songs “Screen” and “House of Gold.” He proclaimed that every member of the crowd was a member of the band, though later in the show he admitted it felt a bit as if “you guys chased us around town all day, finally got us cornered and made us perform for you.”

Part of that awkward, uncomfortable feeling of watching a band discover its newfound fame is fun in itself. This is only amplified by an awareness that the next time they come through town will be at a much larger venue, losing some of that intimate feeling of a band personally expressing its appreciation.

Joseph spouts lyrics about depression that appeal to a new generation, while also bringing everyone together to say “remember this moment, when you and the other people in the room experienced this together, and how happy you are.” That group mentality is what drives fans to line up in the cold to get closer, and develops a near cult-like devotion. Alternative bands like 30 Seconds to Mars and My Chemical Romance have developed this so wonderfully by bringing the “broken people” together, as everyone in the crowd sings, lifting them all. | Bruce Matlock

MUSE/ Thirty Seconds to Mars | 6.13.17

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Rock has changed through the decades. Muse have changed over the last decade plus. When I first discovered them they were the headbanging band standing on the table in the “Time is Running Out” video. It could be said I learned how to headbang watching bassist Chris Wolstenholme playing the opening bassline to “Hysteria”.

This tour gave me access to fanboy excessively due to the stage setup that extended out into the pit area. As #Wolstenbeast ripped into that opening riff, I was transported back to being a 17-year-old kid.

Over the years I’ve grown frustrated with the bands’ insistence on providing America audiences with decidedly shorter and more pop-heavy sets than their European counterparts. Songs like “Micro Cuts”, “Assassin” and “Butterflies and Hurricanes” are routinely rotated overseas while American audiences are lucky to be thrown a bone and receive “Bliss” which lead singer/guitarist Matt Bellamy joked on Tuesday night, “a few of you might know.”

 

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“The Handler”

 

Having said all that, I had an excellent time. The first half of the set had my jaw constantly dropped as the band joyfully ripped through songs from a large portion of their catalogue. “Map of the Problematique” is always wonderful live, “Bliss” was bliss and “The Handler” is quickly becoming a great standard, and it’s visually impressive as well, with the band performing in front of giant hands pulling their puppet strings.

19149471_10154492985031976_1360083490405112541_nThe second half slipped a bit with a cover of The Cramps “New Kind of Kick” for which Bellamy was absent, and the combination of “Starlight” and “Madness” which just seem droll by comparison. Luckily, “Mercy” and “The Globalist” work well to end the main set, with the former stunning the crowd with massive amounts of confetti and the later with on-stage visuals.

 

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Leto rocking a look he described as “Stone Cold Steve Austin mixed with someone’s Grandma”

 

Before Muse took to the stage, Thirty Seconds to Mars played a brief set that lead singer, Jared Leto, noted was just a warm up for an album to be released in 2017 and a tour to follow. As 105.7 the Point’s Donald Fandango noted, St. Louis LOVES this band. They’ve been selling out shows  The Pageant since they released A Beautiful Lie in August of 2005.

19148998_10154492984506976_356228607502370355_nUnfortunately they didn’t have any new songs to play, which was disappointing, but as usual, Leto and co. more than made up for it with charisma and crowd interaction. Not only was there a proposal, Leto brought three crowd members onstage to judge which side of the crowd was more passionate, and as usual, the band brought up dozens of fans for the set-ending “Closer to the Edge”.

Show openers PVRIS also got the crowd going with an energetic set. New single, “Heaven” was well received, but it was “You and I” and “My House” off the bands’ debut album White Noise that got the crowd jumping and ready for what would be an excellent evening.

Roger Waters | 5.30.2017

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Three dates into the newly unveiled Us + Them World Tour, Roger Waters brought the epic political spectacle to the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, MO. The tour has received widespread publicity for its intense scrutiny of President Donald Trump.

Kansas City’s date featured several people reportedly walking out with middle fingers raised during Animals song “Pigs (Three Different Ones).” There was only one noticeable walkout in St. Louis, as an attendee raised a Trump yard sign as he was peacefully escorted out.  Waters noted towards the show’s end that, “Some morons suggested we might not receive a very warm welcome here in St. Louis, but we have received a very warm welcome. It means a great deal to us.”

For the first time in my adult life, Waters is not touring behind a classic Pink Floyd album, but rather had put together a set that blends expertly with a few songs off of his rock release since 1992 album, Amused to Death, titled Is This the Life We Really Want? The new songs blend seamlessly, which is great news for fans of Pink Floyd. “Smell the Roses” and “The Last Refugee” particularly stood out.

The stage is intense and perfect. The screen is as large as the famous wall from his last tour when assembled. There were some staging issues that arose before the St. Louis show. The large screen that stretched over the middle portion of the crowd during “Dogs” and “Pigs (Three Different Ones) apparently malfunctioned during rehearsals, so a decision was made to take it down to avoid any potential crowd danger issues.

At the end of the day, it didn’t matter. The stage was stunningly executed, the sound was PERFECT, and the crowd returned the love sent to it. As the iconic pyramid was formed from lasers during “Comfortably Numb” it finally hit me how surreal of a moment I was actually in. As two giant hands on the screen finally connected and an explosions of confetti with the word, “Resist” printed on them rained from the sky, a sense of connectivity washed over the crowd. Political messaging aside, this was a night that brought together Waters collective discography and (almost) everyone in the room.

Video:

Finale

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“Another Brick in the Wall”

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I’m begging you, please wear earplugs

My first concert was in 2004. Since then I have attended 223 concerts. I am now 29 years old and have tinnitus. Another thing I have learned in the past few months is that tinnitus worsens anxiety, and anxiety makes your tinnitus worse. It used to be that I would hear the ringing every night while going to sleep, so I’d turn on a fan and hope it would drown out the noise.

Now, I hear it non-stop, regardless of how quiet a room is. There is no cure.

If I regret anything in my life it would be that I didn’t heed the advice given to me and wear earplugs at every show I went to. Maybe if I had known you could spend $10-$30 dollars and get quality earplugs that didn’t completely muffle out nearly all sound I would have. Those cheap foam plugs you buy at your local CVS are great for being on a factory floor or in a construction area, but for hearing a wailing guitar solo they are about as effective as pouring cement in your ears.

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If you’re someone like me, you probably lose everything that isn’t literally strapped to your body, so it’s hard to justify spending $15 dollars on something so small that you’re almost certain to lose before you even use it. My last purchase was EarPeace HD Ear Plugs. They are on the higher end cost-wise at $21.95 on Amazon, but in my opinion, they are worth it. They come with a small metal cylinder that can be put on your keychain when you go to a show, so you’re less likely to lose them and more likely to use them. They also don’t ruin all levels of sound going into your ear. In fact, when I saw the Flaming Lips last month at The Pageant, I felt like I could actually hear the music better than if I hadn’t had them in at all.

There are plenty of option out there that are barely visible in your ear so your friends won’t think your lame for wearing them, and when you’re 40 you might even still be able to watch TV without the volume being pumped to the max. Or you could join me and keep your fingers crossed that science develops a procedure to reverse a condition that forces musicians off the road, and people like me to lose sleep.

My Top Live Acts of 2016 (and what i’m looking forward to in 2017)

2016 may have been the most depressing of my life (29 years). When it came to live music however, it was one of my best. It featured TWO shows at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado, a Beatle,  two Cage the Elephant shows and an exclusive show in St. Louis by rock and roll hall of famers Green Day. While this year guaranteed i’ll never see David Bowie or Prince live… I also saw the emergence of Lewis Del Mar, Judah and the Lion and Anderson Paak..

10.14.2016 – Lewis Del Mar at Blueberry Hill Duck Room, St. Louis, MO

These dudes ended up being the top of my most listened to according to Spotify, in spite of the fact that their album didn’t come out until October. When I realized I had an opportunity to see them in the dark basement of Blueberry Hill, class the next morning wasn’t going to stop me.”Loud(y)” was my top song of the year and the eruption from the minute crowd upon hearing it let me know Lewis Del Mar is destined for much bigger venues.

12.4.2016 – Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats – The Pageant, St. Louis, MO

Stardom looks good on the 38 year old from Hermann, MO. It was clearly a very emotional night with Rateliff avoiding cracking up most of the night, and early on mentioning he didn’t want the evening to go down a darker road. It felt more like a celebration, like a returning champion, though the band calls Denver, CO home now. By the time “S.O.B.” arrived, the crowd was in a fervor that ended in the entire building humming the tracks famous chorus until the band returned to the stage.

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6.22.2016 – Sia – Red Rocks Amphitheater, Morrison, CO

The first of my two prior mentioned Red Rocks shows. It was not a pleasant evening, especially if you weren’t a local who knew. As show time approached a chill swept over the mountain and rain licked the faces of fans. No one was leaving, maybe to the gift shop to buy every blanket and rain jacket they had. Those who waited and laughed at the pure oddness of being shown a preview of BBC nature show “The Hunt”. Even the spokespeople for the event were almost blown offstage. Arrive Sia did, and a performance ensued. I say that word specifically because it was not a concert. Yes, a vocalist performed, and dancers acted out breathtaking scenes, it was beyond what a concert is. There was no front man cracking jokes or doing power fists. There was a shy Australian named Sia Furler hiding at the back and exiting with a meek “thank you”. Coloradans are insanely tough.

10.26.2016 – Green Day – The Pageant, St. Louis, MO

Green Day have never been ones to shy away from a small venue tour. Hell, they go as far as to tour as other bands entirely. This felt special though, in a way that St. Louis doesn’t normally get this kind of show. It was supposed to be the first of the tour, but due to sickness ended up being the last show. Maybe that was for the best as the band were as tight as you can imagine any band being. All of the new songs were great, and extremely well received. The selection of covers are silly and lighthearted, and the politically commentary was sharp. Billy Joe Armstrong lead the crowd in a chant of “No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA” only two songs in during “Bang Bang”. The closing combination of “Ordinary World” and “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” was surreal, even though the real world came back all too fast.

01.22.16 Tool/Primus, 3.19.16 Cage the Elephant, Silversun Pickups, Foals

I’ll call these two shows, having your cake and eating it too. Normally with bands this large, you either settle for a sub-par opener or perhaps more often none at all. These mega-tours broke that norm early in the year. No band I saw this year was a better live band than Cage the Elephant. The antics may have calmed down a bit, but the band sounds all the better for it, and the lightshow is excellent but not distracting. Tool may be the most perfect sounding live band on the planet. The intensity is doubled somehow live, and after the oddity of Primus, Tool somehow levels everything in you spiritually.

 

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SO far next year we have Red Hot Chili Peppers, Roger Waters, the Flaming Lips, Jay and Silent Bob, Colony House, Guns N Roses (yes, you read that right). Hopefully a return to Bonnaroo as well as Beale Street Music Festival. Fingers crossed for a North American Radiohead tour in the Spring, a A Perfect Circle show somewhere within 6 hours of me and whatever new and crazy things I can discover.

Green Day | 10.26.16

It isn’t very often a band in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame plays a venue that holds under 2,300 rabid music lovers.  That was the case as Green Day wrapped up their small club tour at The Pageant in St. Louis, MO. The show was supposed to be the first date of the tour, but ended up coming last due to a sickness that forced the band to postpone three dates. Lead singer Billy Joe Armstrong thanked the fans for their patience and said nothing was going to stop them from making the rescheduled gig.

The story starts sometime well before the show though. When a band that size does go on a tour that is designed for the fans, special ticket redemption scenarios are often implemented to keep tickets out of the hands of scalpers. This took the form of a fan club presale that forced ticket buyers to enter the venue only with the credit card they purchased them with. Everyone else in attendance was forced to pick up tickets via the box office on the day of the show.

As the show was kicking off inside with opener Dog Party, hundreds remained in line to get their tickets from the box office, no doubt to the frustration of many. The Sacramento punk two-piece roared through a set worthy of the headliners. The sisters Lucy and Gwendolyn Giles focused on tracks from Til You’re Mine ending with a raucous cover of Bikini Kill track “Rebel Girl” while Green Day drummer Tre Cool danced on stage in a 14889756_10153876897946976_1556539113537330781_o.jpgbunny outfit.

Before Green Day emerged, the crowd came together in a singalong as “Bohemian Rhapsody” blasted over the loud speakers. Once their vocal chords were properly warmed up, Green Day emerged with the only track that would be heard from 21st Century Breakdown, “Know Your Enemy”. The band have never been one to shy away from controversy, and Armstrong came head first at it, calling out Donald Trump to thunderous boos from the crowd.

After that though, Armstrong seemed much more interested in peace and love, calling for the crowd to let the show be their “own personal underground” where they didn’t have to put up with the “bullshit” outside. New songs “Bang Bang”, “Still Breathing”, and “Revolution Radio” all became loud singalongs, which is extremely impressive considering the album came out just two weeks before the show.

“Geek Stink Breath” and “Going to Pasalacqua” both received their first airing in 2016 in the fan-service portion of the show, and the crowd wasn’t quite a receptive, though that might have just been more of a mid-set energy dip.

Closing out the rock portion of the evening were “American Idiot” and “Jesus of Suburbia”. The tracks still feel as relevant as they did in 2004 when the album was released in the heart of the Bush administration, and the album may be one of the best of the aughts.

Sadly, things did have to end after two-and-a-half hours and 30 songs. Armstrong returned to the stage alone with an acoustic guitar to play the excellent new track “Ordinary World” and a staple, “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”. It felt bittersweet, yet knowing the band is just beginning its touring cycle is a bit of a relief. However, no arena show will compare with this intimate evening. | Bruce Matlock

Coldplay | 07.21.16

From now on, it may be referred to as The Sauna at Scottrade Center. The amount of sweat filtering through the mostly filled arena could have very well formed a palpable river, if not for the confetti soaking it up. Coldplay returned to St. Louis filled with optimism, fan worship, and enough confetti and hormones flying through the air to write an entire Young Adult book series.

coldplay_confettiRecent divorcee Chris Martin and the band have gone through enough changes in their time to draw in the 45-year-old who came to hear “Yellow” or “The Scientist,” along with the middle-aged female who requested A Rush of Blood to the Head’s “Green Eyes.” They also draw in fans of Beyoncé, who saw the two together at the Super Bowl, or heard her small addition to new song “Hymn for the Weekend.”

The show was a never-ending list of highlights of Martin being beyond charming. The first piece of the show ended with a remixed version of “Paradise”—originally done by Tiësto—that featured an intense amount of lasers on top of an arena’s worth of flashing bracelets. The second part of the set was highlighted by a climax of “Fix You,” leading into an accurate reproduction of David Bowie’s “Heroes,” dedicated to Bowie as well as Prince. “Viva La Vida” served as the loudest singalong of the night, with Martin remarking, “This is what they sound like in St. Louis.”

After a brief break, the band returned to stage that couldn’t have been bigger than 8′ x 8′ at the back of the arena. Martin introduced the band, and then himself as “the former Mr. Gwyneth Paltrow.” Before the band returned to the main stage, Martin delivered “Green Eyes,” a request from Instagram videos fans posted of their favorites, as well as the slinky “God Put a Smile Upon Your Face.” As he sang, Martin took the long way around the floor of the arena, greeting all he could.

coldplay-250The band wrapped things up with three newer songs—which felt a bit odd, but who can argue with “A Sky Full of Stars” while literal star confetti rains down from the sky? Newest single “Up & Up” ended proceedings with its ever-positive insistence that “when you think you’ve had enough, don’t ever give up.”

Coldplay is a band that brings together multiple generations, consistently finds new ways to bring the crowd closer in spite of the size of the venue, and spares no expense on its show. Martin may see himself as Entertainment Weekly fodder at this point, but the band’s fans remain as loyal and willing to dish out large amounts of money to hear their own “Green Eyes” as the fan who traveled hundreds of miles wished for.

Alessia Cara and Foxes opened the show with a similar sound, while being distinct in their personalities. Foxes lead singer Louisa Rose Allen has the current claim to fame as vocalist for Zedd’s hit song “Clarity.” Allen was mostly quiet, seemingly taking in every face in the crowd while dancing around the stage. Cara, on the other hand, spoke often and rocked the stage with a large presence, despite her young age. Cara signed last year with Def Jam Recordings at the age of 18, and has already produced a radio hit in “Here.” | Bruce Matlock

Bonnaroo 2015

 

Live Nation will ruin Bonnaroo. Coffee County’s new DA will ruin Bonnaroo. Bonnaroo will ruin Bonnaroo. The list of things that will end Bonnaroo never seems to end, but the festival keeps going, improving, and growing. Coming from a veteran of seven years, the festival’s infrastructure and experience has never been stronger.

This year saw several new and rather large improvements to the grounds, including a couple groups of flushable porta-johns (which did amazing things for the smell walking into Centeroo); large screens outside all the tents, which changed the vibe from one of frustration for many to a more relaxed, sit-down experience; and lastly, yet another year of growth for shade trees planted on the Farm a few years back.

It was a dusty, hot year, however. By Sunday, facemasks were widely accepted apparel. As the crowd rushed in to the What Stage area on Sunday, an intense dust storm kicked up behind them the closely resembled something you’d see in a desert, or Mars, perhaps.

Thursday 6/18

Thursday continued to be a day for the new. Unlocking the Truth started off what would turn out to be one of the stronger metal lineups the festival has had. The insanely young thrash metal band from Brooklyn got several mosh pits going, which is several more than there are at Bonnaroo some years. Ryn Weaver played several songs off her new album, The Fool. She did suffer from poor sound from which The Other Tent seemed to suffer for a large portion of the weekend. Unless you were right underneath it, you had better luck hearing what was going on at other stages.

As dark approached, a crowd gathered under the newly placed disco ball that had been previously topped by the clock tower. Excitement grew as the end of the parade promised the opening of the Grove. The area would supposedly add whimsy to a festival jam-packed with it. As the lit-art cars approached, a ring of enclosed porto-johns opened and people wearing little more than see-through raincoats and clear umbrellas emerged. The crowd quickly caught on and ran into the area. Over the weekend, the Grove featured insane dance parties, magic acts, and plenty of time to relax in hammocks. As a side note, there have also been reports of people emerging from the Grove with poison ivy.

Other Thursday highlights included the comedy stylings of Ron Funches and Cameron Esposito; an advance screening of Trainwreck, the new film featuring Amy Schumer and Bill Hader; and Vernor Winfield Macbriare Smith IV, aka Canadian singer-songwriter Mac Demarco.

Friday 6/19

With the sun and Tennessee humidity oppressively beating down like Apollo unhitched his carriage and took a break directly over the farm, Friday was a day not to be taken lightly. Metal bands generally don’t come along with bright sunlight and drinking as much water as possible, but Pallbearer and Brownout (presents Black Sabbath) both received the opportunity to bring their sludgy sounds to an otherwise bone-dry day.

Pallbearer vocalist Brett Campbell quipped that it was unfortunate the festival had booked “two Black Sabbath cover bands” in the same timeslot. He most likely noticed the crowd, albeit enthusiastic, was rather thin. Metal has a shaky history at the fest, although Tool notably delivered a memorable headlining performance in 2007 and Gwar received a coveted late night spot in 2010. Brownout, on the other hand, swapped out Pallbearer’s doom metal for Latin-infused renditions of Black Sabbath hits and deeper cuts alike.

Continuing the day’s theme of ear-busting rock, Royal Blood took the Which Stage in a fashion that would be impressive for someone on their 3rd or 4th Bonnaroo. The U.K. duo was not overwhelmed by the size of the gathering crowd but right at home as they continue playing to massive festival crowds worldwide. Running through their entire discography (all one album), they took little time for chatter and only a few brief moments to look over the crowd and soak it in.

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Bonnaroo veterans would consume most of the next several hours. Ben Folds brought along Y Music to play an almost entirely new set of songs that will be released in the fall. Folds noted that everyone in the crowd must be very smart to have come seen a chamber ensemble. The band was not enough, however, as he often turned the entire audience into an instrument, bringing beautiful music from both behind and in front.

Nashville band Moon Taxi has been at the festival what seems like…every year. This year, however, felt different. They captivated a large Which Stage crowd and worked them into frenzy with their combination of indie and jam sounds, which no doubt has been developed and influenced by playing Bonnaroo over the years. They are a band that could easily play with Walk the Moon or Phish, and they closed their set with an excellent cover of “Wake Up” by Rage Against the Machine. If that doesn’t get your interest, keep listening to your Florida Georgia Line album.

The night suffered from what felt like the lack of headliner. Technically, Kendrick Lamar and Deadmau5 held the title, but the fact neither were unopposed seemed to give away the festival also felt like neither could please a large enough audience. If anyone after dark put on a headline-worthy set, no one received more buzz the rest of the festival than Earth, Wind and Fire. That’s right: A band more used to playing at performing arts centers delivered a packed set to twenty-somethings while Deadmau5 was showing off his new toys and Run the Jewels were putting on one of the best hip-hop sets in Bonnaroo history.

Saturday 6/20

Saturday morning starts out with the feeling that two more days are an eternity. Saturday night brings the realization that this is your last chance to listen to music until sunrise for another year. Andrew Hozier-Byrne, aka Hozier, felt like the perfect Bonnaroo act. He may be Irish, but somewhere in there is a little Tennessee. His presence is captivating and his voice smooth as apple butter on a hot summer day. One could easily see him playing in the same place a few years later, after another successful album or two.

My Morning Jacket are the consummate Bonnaroo musicians. Enough hits to bring in a crowd, enough jam to keep the old-school Bonnaroovians happy, and enough sound to fill the entire What Stage field with dreamers soaring through the cool night air. Their new (excellent) album felt right at home with a heavy dose of songs from Z and It Still Moves. Jim James isn’t the reincarnation of Jerry Garcia, but My Morning Jacket may be the closest thing this generation has to a band that knows how to jam, yet also keeps the casual interest of the many with solid singles.

After two solid hours of My Morning Jacket, having Mumford and Sons to follow felt excessive coming after a night with lesser headliners. Their new album may be the definition of meh, but the band had something to prove after missing its last headlining Bonnaroo gig due to bassist Ted Dwane’s requiring surgery to treat a blood clot. The band made light of the situation, but took its redemption very seriously. They (as well as their stage) looked the part of headliner, and the setlist followed suit. The band is used to pulling out special guests on the farm, and this time was no different as My Morning Jacket, Hozier, Ed Helms, and members from several other bands came out to perform “With a Little Help from My Friends” (the Joe Cocker version) to close out the night.

Walking back into Centeroo, an amazing (or devastating) realization set in. Bassnectar had begun on the Which Stage. What that essentially meant was you were either about to jump into a crazy rave, or about to hear a crazy rave while you watched D’Angelo bring his new album to fruition. In the case of the latter, it was very disappointing to find that, unless you were right underneath the This Tent, your chances of hearing any of D’Angelo were next to zero.

Things were slightly better over for the Superjam at the Other Tent. Producer Pretty Lights, DMC, Robert Trujillo (Metallica), Jack Antonoff (Bleachers/fun.), Chance the Rapper, and Jamie Lidell promised to bring a throwback dance party. What actually happened was fun, but a bit disjointed. Zach Galifinakis and Jon Hamm kicked off the party. After a few songs, things devolved into a Pretty Lights set, which was great but not as advertised. The mix of metal, pop, hip-hop, and soul didn’t leave much room for continuity as the vibe constantly shifted between headbanging, dancing, and awkwardly waiting for the next act to get its mic ready. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but calling it a dance party might be going a bit far.

Sunday 6/21

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Sunday is a more laid-back Bonnaroo experience. There isn’t very much EDM left, so many who came just for the party head out early or stay at camp for the majority of the day. It is a day for those aware of the marathon ahead on Thursday. There were, however, lots of great tunes that a large portion of the crowd could enjoy. Robert Plant led the Sensational Space Shifters through a solid career-spanning set that saw him put a twist on classic Led Zeppelin songs “The Lemon Song” and “Rock and Roll.” If you are against revisionism of art, his set would most like cause more pain than joy, but given how long he has been performing, it’s only fair that he should still be able to enjoy the songs, as well.

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Twenty One Pilots win for having the set that caused the most number of dust tornadoes. As the What Stage gates opened around 2:00 p.m., somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000 to 5,000 people rushed in for a chance to stand in the sun and get as close to the stage as possible. Though the band arrived close to half an hour later than scheduled (supposedly due to Bonnaroo forcing them to sign anti-climbing stuff paperwork), they quickly got the crowd jumping and climbing on each other’s backs. Twenty One Pilots undoubtedly spent more time in the crowd than any act all weekend, and ended in a climactic version of “Guns for Hands” with drummer Josh Dunn and singer Tyler Joseph riding the crowd on top of drum kits as confetti covered the sky over the pit.

Thankfully for those looking for something besides Billy Joel, the Bluegrass Superjam ran late and seemingly featured every musician still on the grounds. Annually curated by Ed Helms, this year’s version of The Bluegrass Situation featured Trampled by Turtles, Punch Brothers, Rhiannon Giddens, Bela Fleck, Abigail Washburn, Jerry Douglas, Shakey Graves, and probably more. The group covered staples of Bluegrass music as well as other songs throughout pop culture. One cover featured Shakey Graves singing through “Little Red Corvette.”

All good things must end. Though few in attendance could admit to having actually seen Joel, the man from the Bronx did a fairly successful job of wrapping things up. Some odd things occurred. For instance, did anyone need to hear his backing band cover AC/DC and ZZ Top? Even Joel asked the crowd to stop him if it was awful, but Southerners are too kind for that. The rest of the set was a tight collection of hits that put him on par with the last two Sunday headliners Elton John and Tom Petty.

Bonnaroo is unique in that its crowd (in large part) is composed of true music lovers. You don’t come to the middle of nowhere in Tennessee to be seen or noticed. You don’t bake all day to check one or two bands off your list. You’re just as likely to see 70-year-olds in the audience at Childish Gambino or Twenty One Pilots as you are to see teenagers at Billy Joel or Robert Plant. We are just music lovers coming together to share in a judgement-free zone, and dance. | Bruce Matlock 

Gruesome Twosome 10.07.10

It wasn’t quite Halloween yet though you wouldn’t have known it from the inside of the Family Arena on October 7th. The two greatest shock-rockers of all time  took to the stage in front of “the smallest crowd of the tour” according to Rob Zombie.

Opening up for the show would be Slipknot/Rob Zombie drummer Joey Jordison and the Murderdolls. The band, lead by Wednesday 13, did their absolute best to warm up a crowd that was still not liqueured-up enough to fully engage in the otherwise very entertaining opening performance.

Alice Cooper took to the stage next and would show the other acts the true meaning of shock-rock with his “Theater of Death”. I can only imagine what it was like to see Cooper in his prime as even now he fully engulfs the stage with his presence. His backing band does an incredible job of keeping up and still interacting with  crowd while making sure Cooper was in the spotlight.

Alice Cooper brought the old-school but Rob Zombie brought the old (White Zombie classics) and many tracks from his newest effort Hellbilly Deluxe 2.

Coming out like a metal version of the Flaming Lips Zombie quickly coated the floor with a thick layer of confetti that would later be topped with an immense amount of what were seemingly feathers.