I know Bonnaroo was three weeks ago but believe me it still lingers like the bizarre and massive smoke rings wafting from the Art of Such and Such’s fire pit. Like an alien jellyfish preying on the sun burnt horde of unwashed, the smoke perfectly captured Sunday’s general vibe; either the apocalypse was near or someone was bogarting a really big blunt.
Our day opened with the first of the three W’s, Wolfmother. While the Kings of Leon may challenge Tina Turner for best legs in rock, Wolfmother’s was not the first thing anyone should have to see after a three day bender. Pale, hairy Aussie in jean shorts generally should be outlawed. Luckily I was too busy getting my head bang on to worry about it.
While many smartly witnessed Mavis Staples’ set of Sunday salvation, I figured my soul needed “Joker & the Thief” just to get the gears going. Can we make it a rule that you’re not really at a true festival unless you are listening to “Mother” while “wolfing” down a breakfast burrito?
Strolled past the Tiki bar and primed myself for Telluride Bluegrass with a little Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys. Always nice to catch a living legend and see very young audiences appreciate every note.
Stanley may be best known for his rendition of “Oh Death”, but he still has the Reaper on the ropes. Long live Ralph Stanley.
Wilco, sun baked warm sound and perfect set list. Tweedy is definitely emerging as a new millennium front man. He can engage a whipped but still standing crowd with tongue and cheek stage banter, lead his finest lineup to date through a roller coaster of top notch material, and give each song the focus and energy it needs to illicit smiles and sing alongs. Andy Summer’s should take a page from Nels Cline on how an elder statesman should play guitar. Their set was easily in the top three of the weekend amongst some seriously stiff competition.
However, the show of the weekend for both musical prowess and electrifying stage presence had to go to The White Stripes. Talk about engaging front men, Jack White has set the new benchmark. It’s nice to see someone be moved by the music with seemingly demonic possession while still working a crowd into a frenzied yet holy deliverance. I also have a mega rock and roll crush on Meg White so I am unabashedly biased.
Without her hypnotic whoop-de-do, grounding simplicity, and detached demeanor, Jack would look like nothing more than a hyper active, snot nosed brat, overdosing on pop rocks and Pepsi. Their balancing act over such a precipitous musical abyss is so harrowing that you become completely sucked in body and soul, mystified by the raw power but also secretly awaiting a bloody train wreck.
I almost felt sorry for Widespread Panic having to follow up such a set. Kind of like Hendrix at Monterey Pop, no matter how great you are, who the hell wants to run out on stage with smoke still lingering? Did I mention the alien jellyfish smoke rings…..?