As pre-festival volunteers, I and fellow attendee Paige Smith had been at the Bonnaroo site since Sunday afternoon, preparing hundreds of RV beds for VIP’s, high level staff members, and celebrities. While this may sound like ludicrously easy work, it’s important to point out that the AC was not on in these RV’s, resulting in inside temperatures around 110 degrees. With six beds in each RV, it was not a fast job, and resulted in some frustration–but overall, I give a big thumbs up to the Bonnaroo volunteer program. Though it’s hard to believe that Bonnaroo really gets much out of it, the experience itself is a good time, and serves as an excellent orientation to the wild days ahead.
While Thursday brought the beginning of the music and the continued onslaught of 70,000 campers, my first job was to find a way offsite to the local Manchester radio station in order to retrieve my much coveted Media Pass. While in the van off the Bonnaroo grounds, the thunderstorm that had been threatening all morning broke and dumped its contents all over the freshly prepared campsites. Somewhere, a certain tent was being flattened and soaked…but that’s irrelevant for this story.
After waiting out the storm at a hotel, Paige Smith and I made it to the radio station, and began the wait to pick up the credentials. I felt rather out of place in this line of reporters, photographers, and official “press” folk, all tweeting, texting, and emailing away–but a grilled cheese sandwich, sweet tea, and fries with honey mustard put all my fears to rest.
We managed to enter Centeroo not long after it opened, and were able to enjoy the various activities scattered around that are generally over crowded. The “Fuse barn” was offering vinyl records (hey, that’s us!) to turn into spin art, a paint company was offering temporary tattoos, and most importantly: Paige Smith and I both had time to experience and graduate from the Bonnaroo “Scratch DJ Academy”. While all of these activities were a little silly, getting to partake in them without the usual crowd was great fun.
But what you care about is the music, which began a few hours later. Thursday at Bonnaroo seems to routinely pick out bands on the rise, and this seemed to be the case once again with Hockey, Chairlift, and Passion Pit all playing at This Tent.
The lead singer was by far the most fun to watch, though he may may have taken it a little too far when he managed to unplug his own microphone in the midst of “Learn to Lose” (disaster averted, however). Hockey’s full length album “Mind Chaos” is set to be released August 25th, off of Virgin Records, and will receive a full review on Vinyl Press as the release date nears.
Following Hockey was Chairlift, known best for their song “Bruises” which was featured on an iTunes commercial. Featuring a drummer, guitarist, and the front-woman vocalist, Chairlift
did demonstrate an impressive range in song composition and textures. From songs that sounded like they were straight from the 80’s (synth guitar and wispy female vocals), to traditional “indie-pop” songs such as “Bruises”, to songs with rapped versus which utilized a drum machine rather than the standard drum kit.
Both Chairlift and Hockey broke into rap verses at times, with the each song temporarily derailing in order to encompass a more “hip-hop” percussive quality and offer the each lead singer a beat to rap over. Is this the new direction of indie-rock? The heavy bass and drum machines featured in ultra-indie bands such as Animal Collective (or Hockey and Chairlift) proves the hip-hop influence to some degree, while simultaneously many new hip-hop releases such as Rick Ross’ album feature “synths” that come from the electro world. What does all this mean?
Well, it’s hard to know, but my night ended with a visit to the Dutch DJ’s Kraak and Smaak (who, if we’re really seeking to make cultural connections, made heavy use of the hi-hat rhythm traditionally found in Baltimore Club tracks).
Next up…Friday! With Gomez, Animal Collective, Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, TV On the Radio, Phoenix, Crystal Castles, Girl Talk…