Sweet Talk’s Bonnaroo 2007 Part Three
After waking up “early’, I dragged my aching soles to the Sonic Stage, my favorite venue on the farm, for the first live music of the day.
It’s always refreshing when your musical expectations are surpassed and the Brooklyn Salt Mines super group, American Babies, did just that and then some. The Hamilton brothers (Brothers Past) and Joe Russo (Benevento Russo Duo) recently solidified their fledging band by adding guitar whiz Scott Metzger (Rana, Particle, Project Logic) which allows them to translate their soaring and exquisite Gram Parson’s steeped Americana blues to the stage.
Front man Tom Hamilton’s panache and infectious delivery make his stage presence like 70’s Spingsteen and it’s a surprising treat to find complimenting harmonies behind all of Russo’s deft drumming. Let it be known that the kid has some serviceable pipes.
They earned their slot at the festival the hard way via the democratic process of OurStage.com. It goes to show how the site is slowly weaving itself into the programming fabric of today’s music scene. I originally had my doubts, but it’s cool to know that fans can now have at least a small say in new bands grabbing such big time opportunities. Ironically, American Babies is proof that the democratic process still works somewhere in America.
The rest of the day was blur of stage hopping, but Ben Harper’s late afternoon run through “Diamonds On The Inside”, “You Look Like Gold”, and “Burn One Down” was so blissful it almost made you feel that the swirling dust from shuffling feet was a nice addition to the halo effect of sunbursts and miles of smiles.
Unfortunately the golden hue didn’t last long as the festival’s headlining act, the recently reunited Police were actually a major disappointment. Granted Sir Sting’s voice was in fine form, and festival veteran Stewart Copeland was banging his balls off to try and get the train on track, but Andy Summers was stuck in Chick Corea jazz hell. They just never seemed to get on the same page, and the “Stingification” of some of the best ska songs ever written didn’t help matters at all.
The admitted novelty of seeing a seminal band from my impressionable musical youth live and in the flesh wore off quickly, literally as the trio decided to only play an hour and twenty minutes (including two “encore” breaks) out of their two and half hour allotted slot.
Listen, I wanted this to be a highlight of my weekend, and this to be a raving review of the return of the prodigal sons, but when the best Police song played over the weekend was the Roots cover of “Roxanne”, you need to look elsewhere for a highlight.
Luckily the early exit of the Police made more time for the magnificent Okie carnies known to most as the Flaming Lips to sate the thirsty throng of musical omnivores.
Yes, they landed in a spaceship; yes there were gaggles of dancing Santas and mini-skirted Martians; yes there were confetti cannons, hundreds of monster balloons and enough dry ice to choke a dolphin; yes the stagehands included Thor, Captain America and the Flash; and yes Wayne Coyne popped out of the mothership in his hamster ball and rolled over the audience in majestic and awkward splendor, but of course most of this is old hat. What was not “mundane” was handing out ten thousand laser pointers to the audience.
There is not enough memory on my hard drive or words in our limited vocabulary to adequately describe ten thousand piercing beams of light all aiming at Coyne and him welcoming it all with open arms only to pull out a convex mirror right at the song’s climax and shoot all the rays back out into the Tennessee heavens. Mind blowing is not hyperbole or overstating the collective effect.
Although there is nothing like the Lip’s showmanship, what should not be lost was their musical prowess. Unlike the Police they carried through all the fan favorites and injected a very rare and a decade plus absent “Mountain Side” until 2:30 am when they thankfully ended the marathon with a note perfect and poignant cover of the Stone’s “Moonlight Mile”. As the re-boarded the mothership and ascended from whence they came. Whatever planet these guys visit next will be completely satisfied.