June 14, 2013
Manchester, TN USA
Review by Davis Marret
Photos by Davis Marret
As I watch the sunrise atop the rolling hills of central Tennessee, I think back to the miracle I witnessed just a few short hours ago. It may not be considered a miracle to all, unless of course you are a diehard Beatles fan as I have been my entire life.
Through the hoots, hollers, and excitement of the first night, something strange and incredible is blaring through the trees. It's a bluesy jam that entices a few intrigued listeners to the side entrance of the main What Stage. A troop of Mounties on horseback blocked the passageway to the field thus indicating that something or someone important was beyond those trees. An image on the JumboTron soon shows us that it is indeed Sir Paul McCartney strapped with an axe and belting "Bonnaroo, Bonnaroo, what you want me to do?" I sprint back to my friends who are meandering about and explain with gasping breaths that "Paul McCartney...through the trees...(gasp)...stop what you're doing...follow me, NOW!" The crowd now has a solid 60 people and we all stand in amazement as he tears through classics such as "Magical Mystery Tour," "Penny Lane," "Lovely Rita," and "Why Don't We Do It In The Road." This was indeed McCartney's sound check for the following evening. The excitement is palpable as Beatles fans chat and sing along to some of the greatest songs in rock ‘n roll history. Some of the songs we heard were never even performed live by the Beatles such as "The Benefit of Mr. Kite" and "Lovely Rita." Here we stand, listening to them banter and rehearse transitions as they would in a recording studio. The set lasts almost a full hour and I am already feeling the magical energy of this tumbleweed, musical paradise.The night rolls on and we hear the awful news about Ted Dwane, bassist for Mumford & Sons who was diagnosed with a blood clot on his brain, and the official press release that they are relinquishing their headliner spot on Saturday night. We are sad yet excited as we all give insight as to who will join us on the farm to replace them. We later enjoy the final set of the evening by a great Santa Barbara-based jam band named ALO (Animal Liberation Orchestra). They were on top of the world as 3,500 plus people bobbed their heads to their funkafied grooves and throbbing thumps of bass. An unknown guitarist appears onstage and begins wailing away without having a nod of introduction. After several minutes, a collective group of aficionados confirm that Jack Johnson is indeed that wailing guitarist. Having never really been a Jack Johnson fan in the past, I am surprised to find myself loving the collaboration happening in front of us, and continue to dance until dawn.
The next day at the farm was filled with great acts and new bands just waiting to be exposed to the hungry and sweaty crowds. Foals are a great example of a band that is not entirely new to the scene, but on the brink of making it big. As their drummer stands atop of his stool preparing everyone for the inevitable banging of heads and melting of faces, their energy seamlessly seeps into the crowd. The British indie rockers hail from Oxford, England, but they are invading the U.S. scene with ambitious tenacity. Their tracks "My Number" and "Inhaler" are arguably their most accessible songs on their sophomore album, Holy Fire, and the crowds at This Tent would most definitely agree. Foals bring an aggressive approach to indie-rock and a whole new meaning to the British Invasion.
As we wander through the psychedelic mushroom fountain, gigantic bobble heads, and food stands selling veggie quesadillas, we take a seat in the grass in front of Bonnaroo's second biggest stage, Which Stage. The performers prepping us before McCartney are from the slums of Shaolin, or at least that's what they lead us to believe. Turns out, it's Method Man and the Wu-Tang Clan. After paying obligatory respect to ODB (Old Dirty Bastard), they run through fan favorites like "CREAM," "Bring da Ruckus," and "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing ta F@#* With." Classics like these are the type of unforgettable, timeless sing a-longs that surely will make your mother cringe.Fast forward one hour and we are engulfed in modern electronic-infused Beatles classics. Rare pictures, images, and video clips are shown on the big screens while we all patiently await the arrival of Sir Paul McCartney, aka Macca, aka the Walrus. Could this be the first and last time some of us ever see a live Beatle in action? Whatever your answer may be, it was hard to find a music lover in the crowd who did not admit it was the best show they have ever seen in their life. Charleston, S.C. native Adam Berns agrees "Sir Paul exceeded all my expectations! He flawlessly performed hits which spanned his entire catalog." His set starts with early Beatles classics like "Eight Days a Week," "And I Love Her," and Wings hits like "Let Me Roll It," which certainly felt appropriate due to the exuberant amount of "grass" on the farm and a hazy crowd. During a pungent pause in the set, Sir Paul exclaims, "That's some pretty good weed I can smell."
I have always thought that side B of Abbey Road is one of the greatest series of songs ever recorded in modern rock history. As we moved from "Golden Slumbers" into "Carry that Weight," there was a feeling that something bigger was among us. We were not just listening to music; we were being taken on a mystical journey that was far beyond the reaches of the material world. As we inevitably reached "The End," I wondered how the hell one person could write such influential and inspiring songs. Maybe I was amazed at the love and smiling faces of all my friends brought together for the love of music.