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February 2018
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bonnaroo superlatives

Ever since the first Lollapalooza when I was in 10th grade xxx years ago, I’ve wanted to go to a music festival. For one reason or another, it’s never worked out–until last week when I was fortunate enough to attend the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn. It was four days of sweaty, camping fun with some of the most fantastic live music (and most horrifying port-a-potties) I’ve ever seen. Shall I break down my favorites for you?

Best Overall: Nine Inch Nails
I’m sure this comes as a surprise to exactly no one. It’s true, I’m a big NIN fan and would have enjoyed the show even if Trent Reznor sang a duet with Triumph the Insult Comic Dog (more on that later), but this performance was phenomenal. They sang almost all of my favorites and didn’t play Closer, which I thought was kind of awesome. Trent Reznor said it was their last show ever in the United States, and I’m very glad that I got to see it.

Best Stage Presence: Yeah Yeah Yeahs
It is so nice to see a woman with as much rock star power as Karen O. Her outfit was amazing, and she was lots of fun to watch. The band played an impromptu, acoustic version of Maps that just blew me away. We stood through the awful Animal Collective show in the hot, hot sun to get close to the stage for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and it was worth every minute.

Best Surprise: Raphael Saadiq
I’m not really a fan of R&B, but I thought Raphael Saadiq and his band were great. I really like watching musicians like these who clearly love what they do and enjoy performing.

Second Best Surprise: The Dirty Projectors
This was another band with powerful women on vocals, and they had David Byrne of the Talking Heads join them on stage for one song.

Best Show: Of Montreal
Of Montreal always puts on a really creative, theatrical show, and this was no exception. They were having problems with the sound, and the band members seemed to be getting more and more irritated. I think that’s the reason they smashed all their instruments and jumped into the crowd while playing The Past is a Grotesque Animal at the close of the show.

Best Seen from Far Away: TV on the Radio
I really like TV on the Radio, and I thought we were in a perfect spot to see the band right up front. I was wrong. Although we had a great view, the bass was enough to rattle my eyeballs in my skull. I couldn’t handle it and had to move way to the back of the crowd, where I enjoyed the music a lot more.

Like it but Didn’t Love It: White Rabbits, Heartless Bastards, Chairlift
For these shows, either I was too far away to see properly or the bands didn’t interact with the crowd much, which made it more like listening to a CD than being at a live performance.

Too Crowded to Enjoy: The Beastie Boys, Wilco, Public Enemy
The area surrounding the main stage was massive and packed with about a million people for all of the acts who played there.

Best One-Man Band: AA Bondy
You’d never guess AA Bondy was such a talented musician; he looks like he should be working in a gas station. But I loved his soulful voice, and I’ve listened to his CD a bunch of times since I’ve been home.

Sorry I Missed It: Lucinda Williams, The Mars Volta, Ani DiFranco, The Features
With a festival of this size, there was bound to be some scheduling conflicts, and I missed out on a few of the bands I would have liked to see.

Biggest Disappointment: Neko Case
I love Neko Case, and maybe if I’d seen her on Day 1 instead of Day 4 I would have liked her show more but probably not. It really seemed as though she didn’t want to be there. She let her back-up singer do almost all of the talking, she kept fanning herself and adjusting her bra, and she’s the one who did the unforgivable duet with Triumph–Swing Low Sweet Chariot while the dog puppet was humping a puppet of Yoda. I am not making this up. Ick.

Even with the crowds, the mud, the heat and the hippies, I had such a fabulous time at Bonnaroo, and I’ll never forget it.

Psst…you may have noticed that I haven’t exactly been keeping up with posting here. I’ve totally been cheating on this blog with Twitter. If you want to hear from me every day, please follow me at


Comment from Marianne Kunkel
Time: June 23, 2009, 2:55 pm

Woo-hoo! I agree whole-heartedly. And your description of Neko Case’s concert made me laugh. Maybe that means I’m over it.

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