Come Early, Stay Late
If you’re lucky enough to have a day to spare before or after Bonnaroo, you ought to spend it knocking around neighbor city Nashville, a mere 60 miles northwest of Manchester. Nashville’s hot shit right now, according to loads of style mags and newspaper trend pieces. And ABC’s night-time soap Nashville has only ratcheted up the buzz. But you don’t need to take some trend-spotter’s word for it—not when you can get the grand tour from a local.
Instead of the same old, same old rundown of all that’s hip, highbrow, historic, or holy in Music City U.S.A., here’s a grab-bag of tips from Marlene Dickson, who calls drag bingo night and sings in a drag gospel trio at Canvas, one of Nashville’s newer gay bars. Be forewarned: she takes just a little creative license with her stories.
Come Early Stay Late - Marlene photo 2
What’s it like at the drag bingo night you host? Why should Bonnaroo attendees come to yours as opposed to, say, one hosted by the Knights of Columbus?
We hold bingo the first and third Monday of each month down at the fellowship hall (Canvas Lounge on Church street). It’s a very low-key, fun evening. We usually just drink and talk a little about the Bible during the games. Sometimes, if we’ve had enough communion, we’ll even sing a hymn or two.
I guess having bingo there at the bar is my way of very subtly trying to introduce the gospel to all those who are lost and deceived. We also have a couple of our church girls (the Holy Rollers) come out and serve communion shots on skates, to help make everyone a little more comfortable.
Do you have any fond memories of visiting the Country Music Hall of Fame or the Ryman Auditorium? How up are you on your country music history?
I do have some very fond memories of the Ryman Auditorium. I remember back when I was much younger, and before I found the Lord, I ushered there at some of the country music shows. I remember Little Jimmy Dickens trying to get at my cookies backstage MANY times. I’m pleased to say he only tasted them twice!
I have also been to the Hall of Fame a few times. I helped lead tours there for the Tammy Wynette exhibit. Tammy and I used to be pretty tight back in the day. Lord, I can’t tell you how many times we prayed and popped pills together! My knowledge of country music history is pretty good, although I do have to admit, there’s some big gaps that seem to coincide with a few of my rehab visits.
Have you ever blessed the Sunday night bluegrass jam at the Station Inn or the Monday night Keep on Movin’ Dance Party at the 5 Spot with your performing gifts?
I have never had the privilege of gracing the stage at these places, but I do believe God can minister anywhere! So, if they’d like to contact the ministry headquarters I’d love to speak with them.
I’m not sure whether or not you’re a fan of sports, but have you ever attended a Nashville Sounds baseball game?
I have only been to one Sounds game. My sisters and I sang the National Anthem there once several years ago. I’m not sure, but I think the fact that we did it topless MIGHT have hurt our chances of going back….we had a little tequila before that one!
There’s a new fiber-optic art installation in the Cheekwood botanical gardens, and a one-of-a-kind recording booth at Jack White’s Third Man Records. Have you had the chance to experience either?
I’m not familiar with Cheekwood—is that a strip club? And concerning Mister Jack White, my lawyers have instructed me to keep quiet on that matter.
Marlene’s Top Five Things To Do in Nashville:
1) Hit up her drag bingo night at Canvas
2) Tour the historic Ryman Auditorium, then sneak across the alley to a Lower Broadway honky-tonk like Robert’s
3) Scour the vinyl bins at Ernest Tubb’s, Third Man, and Grimey’s record shops
4) Get some fresh air at the Cheekwood Light installation
5) Visit the life-size replica of the Parthenon in Centennial Park
What’s the first landmark you think of when you think of Nashville?
For every epic jam session that alters the contours of popular music, sometimes the music gods deal fans a cruel hand. Not every experimental union is perfect. Sometimes the participants get as far as the studio (Bob Dylan and George Harrison), sometimes the results actually get released and do more harm than good (Mick Jagger/Joss Stone/Damian Marley’s godawful Superheavy band). Here’s a look back at some of the most spectacular fails of Superjam-esque sessions that almost happened, leaving us with mere traces of the greatness that could have transpired if only history hadn’t skipped a beat.
Miles Davis x Paul McCartney x Jimi Hendrix
As reported recently, an artifact owned by the Hard Rock Cafe in Prague is being newly scrutinized as it sheds light on a possible, previously unthinkable jam. Imagine a group made up of the world’s best performers shattering boundaries of rock, soul, and jazz. In October 1969, Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, and monster drummer Tony Williams reached out to the Beatles’ Paul McCartney via telegram to join a recording session: “We are recording and [sic] LP together this weekend. How about coming in to play bass.”
The missive arrived at a time when tension riddled McCartney’s band. But McCartney was on holiday and never responded, and the short-lived promise of this paradigm-shifting session went unfulfilled. Beyond McCartney, the rest of the group has no known recordings, either – Hendrix and Davis reportedly jammed together at Davis’ New York apartment, but had not yet entered the studio together to record. The following year, Hendrix died. McCartney, the only remaining living member of the group, has yet to confirm or deny his receipt of the telegram. He does, however, regularly share a story and a riff in honor of Hendrix at his live shows.
The Band x Eric Clapton
In his speech inducting The Band into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, Eric Clapton declared an appreciation of the group to the highest order. Clapton admitted to dropping in on one of the group’s home studio sessions in the late 1960s. His end game: to make a case for becoming a member.
Clapton recalled, “I went to visit the Band in Woodstock, and I really sort of went there to ask if I could join the band. I mean, I didn’t have the guts to say it—I didn’t have the nerve. I just sort of sat there and watched these guys work. And I remember Robbie (Robertson) saying, ‘We don’t jam. We don’t jam, so there’s no point in sitting here and trying to, you know… We just write and work.‘”
Even though his plan faltered, Clapton said he was inspired from that moment to keep honing his craft. If only he spoke up, maybe they would have made a wise exception to their rule. Clapton and Robertson have since played together onstage at Clapton’s Crossroads guitar festival, and for decades have continued to push one another creatively.
But thinking back to that would-be jam session, Robertson admitted his own confusion at Clapton showing up without stating his intent. Roberston recalled, “I asked him, ‘Were you insinuating we needed a new guitarist? Were you coming to take my job? Or saying that we should have two guitars?‘ And he laughed and never answered me!”
Jay-Z x Jack White x Beyonce
Jay Z performs at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival 2010.
More recently, the stars at Bonnaroo 2010 seemed poised to align Bonnaroo for a constellation of major musical figures to share the stage. Jay-Z was not only a headliner, but he had boasted in interviews of recorded collaborations with fellow festival favorite Jack White. There was word of a track called “Ray Bans,” and others waiting to be released. White was also on site that year, performing with his latest band, The Dead Weather. Add to this that Jay-Z’s better half, Beyonce, was in town, and was seen hours before the show with her entourage.
As Jay’s show went on, B posted up on the stage to watch, but remained on the sidelines. White was given the perfect moment to rush on stage, a shout-out from Jay-Z—“Jack White, I see ya, boy! I see ya!”—but the Jigga man carried his own show from beginning to end. Jay-Z gave one of the hypest and most well-received sets in the history of the ‘Roo by himself. But there’s no question this triumvirate would have left a deep impact.
What would be your dream Superjam line-up?
Supergroups That Carried Sessions Beyond the Bonnaroo Stage
Superjam brings virtuoso collaborators together for a special one-night appearance as a band. The festival fosters plenty of musical energy and collaborative mojo. That’s why sometimes the music created is bigger than the given time slot. In fact, some of the relationships epitomize and transcend the Superjam, growing from or leading to longer-term work together.
Dr John x Dan Auerbach
In 2011, Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys helmed a Superjam alongside Dr. John, a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer with previous Superjam credentials. In 2003, the Good Doctor performed with Mike Gordon, Stanton Moore, and Luther Dickinson. (Dr. John also has one of the most important festival bona fides: he is credited with bringing the word “Bonnaroo” itself to popular parlance.) A year after rocking Superjam, Auerbach and Dr. John would carry forward the dynamic musical relationship they forged on stage into the recording studio. Auerbach produced Dr. John’s latest album, Locked Down, as part of a comeback that has brought the legendary New Orleans performer renewed acclaim and a Grammy award. As he told Spin, “Dan was just real honest with me…I could tell he wanted just to make a raw record, the kind he makes hisself. My spirit told me to do it. You don’t go wrong when you listen to your spirit.”
The organizers of Bonnaroo, Superfly Presents, preceded the formation of their own festival with a special jam session designed as a one-night-only trio. Oysterhead—Trey Anastasio of Phish, Les Claypool of Primus, and Stewart Copeland of the Police—joined forces to play for 2000’s Jazz Fest in New Orleans, a show put on by Superfly. After a highly regarded performance, the three virtuoso players followed up with a studio album, The Grand Pecking Order, and a tour in 2001.
Pulling together Oysterhead certainly paid dividends for Bonnaroo’s architects: Five years later, in 2006, Oysterhead reunited for a special two-hour set at Bonnaroo. The three men would also all play the festival separately—with their own bands plus appearances by Anastasio and Claypool in subsequent Superjams—but have not released new music as a trio since.
D’Angelo and Questlove
The return of D’Angelo is one of the greatest comeback stories in pop music. It also happens to have been routed through the Bonnaroo Superjam stage. As discussed already this week [link to Peck piece], the Roots’ Questlove (who Executive Produced D’Angelo’s classic Voodoo album) helped shape a soulful Superjam lineup that also served as a platform for D to show he still had it after a decade-plus hiatus from recording and performing in the United States. The reaction was astounding, and the music world welcomed D’Angelo’s return. But rather than rush out new material, the stage proved to be a space of renewal.
After Bonnaroo, D’Angelo spent the rest of the summer touring with Mary J. Blige and landed an evening spot at Jay-Z’s Made in America Festival. As he continues to ready his comeback album, D’Angelo held a public jam session with Questlove this spring at Brooklyn Bowl. D’Angelo’s fire is back. And the spirit of Superjam lives on, too.
What is the best song ever covered during a Superjam?
“The Kids Are Going To Go Crazy When They See This”
An Interview with John Oates, Superjam Musical Director
John Oates’ musical feats can be measured in heavyweight numbers
—eight Number One hits and 60 million records sold as a part of the powerhouse duo, Hall and Oates. But this summer, at his first-ever Bonnaroo, Oates will take on a new challenge that has a far less measurable metric for success. He will serve as musical director and on-stage performer for one of the festival’s Superjams, the “Rock-n-Soul Dance Party,” featuring Jim James with special guests Larry Graham, Zigaboo Modeliste, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Bilal, and others to be announced. This gig is all about mystique and moving the crowd.
We spoke with Oates about how he envisions his role and what to expect from a band that he is helping to build with soul power, even if for onenightonly.
How did you get involved with this summer’s Superjam?
I was introduced to Carl Broemel from My Morning Jacket. Carl reached out to me when they were playing at Red Rocks, and asked if I wanted to come by and sit in. My wife and I went over to Red Rocks, and we hung out with the band and I played with them that evening. It was an awesome show. We just hit it off.
A few months later, I got a call from their manager saying that Jim James was going to host the Superjam. He wanted it to be a rock and soul kind of revue, and thought I would be a good person to be the musical director and pull it together. I think for a number of reasons—one, I’m old enough to know that music really well, and two, I’m fairly organized. I’ve obviously been with Daryl Hall for many years, putting on shows and putting bands together. I was very honored that they would ask me. I got excited about it and jumped right in.
When did you begin working on the line-up and plan for the show?
I went to work right away. I began to coordinate with Jim, and we discussed the style and started throwing songs together. About a month and a half ago, Jim had a little break, and I went up to Louisville and hung out with him and we really honed in on the set. In the meantime, we began to reach out to the various guests and to pull together a really incredible band. We basically have a house band, and then we plan to keep it loose and really spontaneous, with a lot of guest vocalists popping in and out.
It’s going to be a work in progress right up to the show itself. And that’s what makes it so exciting—we have a plan, but the plan has a lot of flexibility built into it. It’s reacting to the moment that makes Superjam so exciting and so cool for us on stage and for the audience. Because really, we’ll go in there with an idea, but who knows what will happen in the course of an evening?
Superjams are built around several significant relationships on stage that hold the experimental aspects of the show together. How has that worked for you in building the band?
This goes back to the moment I stepped on stage with My Morning Jacket at Red Rocks. We just had a ball. It was seamless, it was fun, it was kinetic and exciting. And I think that carries over. Since I’ve gotten to know Jim a lot better lately, he’s an incredibly amazing and creative person, and it’s his vibe and his reputation, combined with what I bring to the table—the two of us, we’re kind of the nexus, and then people start going, “Hey, I want to start playing with these guys.”
We got Larry Graham to play bass. That lends a certain type of authenticity. And then we got the Preservation Hall horns; those guys are just incredible, and they have a relationship with My Morning Jacket because they’ve done shows together. Then all this synergy starts to work together. We got Zig from the Meters [Zigaboo Modeliste], who is one of the great drummers of all time. He’s so unique and so well-respected that people hear these names and see this amazing collection of talents start to form. It’s like a solar system. It starts to suck in planets from outside.
This is a band that is forming now, over several months, but will only rehearse days before the show. How do you make sure that all goes smoothly?
In addition to my role as music director in terms of playing and singing, part of my job is to make sure the nuts and bolts are covered. There’s all these little fractional elements that have to come together. It’s like building a house, it all starts from the foundation. If you don’t have a good foundation, I don’t care how fancy the house looks above the ground, it’s not going to hold up, it’s going to fall apart. So the house band is the foundation and now that we have that foundation, all the fancy stuff is starting to come aboard.
What have you heard from others about playing Superjam? What are your expectations?
It’s a little bit daunting, but rather than look at it as something that’s intimidating, I look at it as a challenge. I want this to be the best Superjam that’s ever happened. Jim and I are on the same page—we want this to be mind-blowing, nothing less than that will be satisfactory. Why not reach for the stars when you’re doing something like this, that only happens once in a lifetime? Pedal to the metal, let’s go, and that’s what we’re going to do. I have no doubt in my mind, the kids are going to go crazy when they see this.
There are some great Philly Soul elements to the ensemble, as well as New Orleans and Nashville legends. What kind of range are you aspiring to?
When we started putting our song list together, that might have been the most challenging part. When you’re going to do a show like this, and you have the entire history of pop music at your disposal, where do you start, where do you stop? Every song is like a dream song. We kept saying, “Let’s do this, let’s do this, let’s do this,” and before we knew it, we had 30 songs. Jim and I looked at each other and said, “We can’t do 30 songs.” As it stands, we’re still doing a lot—the list stands at 21 songs, which is a lot of music. We’re going to get our money’s worth, no way around it. And keeping it open for people to just jump on stage because they happen to be there and turned on and want to participate is going to make it even better.
You have your own impressive and legendary catalog. Do you think of this show as a part of your body of work? Or will this be a crazy, funky one-off for the ages?
Right now, it’s a crazy, funky one-off. For me, it’s another notch in the belt, in terms of clicking off major career moments. Having played Madison Square Garden, playing the Apollo Theater, doing Live Aid—this is a really, really significant moment for me. I think what this gives me a chance to do is to bring all the experience I’ve garnered over 40 years of being a professional musician. No one else can do that, because they don’t have the breadth and experience, other than maybe Zig or Larry Graham. I think that it’s something special.
It feels like, even though I didn’t realize it, I’ve been preparing for this moment for a long time. I look at music, pop music in particular, as a growing legacy. I feel like I have my place in that thread, but at the same time, the thread continues—Jim James is how that thread continues, and Bilal, and people like that. I feel like I’m standing in the middle of it. So I think my biggest challenge on the night of the show might be to make sure that I’m so present, I don’t let a second of the experience pass me by.
Who would you like to see join in for this year’s Superjam?
The Inside Story of D’Angelo’s Rebirth
Superjam guru Paul Peck recounts how last year’s show, featuring the return of soulstar D’Angelo, went down—despite missed flights, backstage chaos, and the comeback of one of music’s most elusive and talented voices, live from Bonnaroo.
Pressure was mounting to get the Superjam together, and I’m the guy. It was the beginning of May and I had nothing. Ambitious ideas had been discussed and pursued relentlessly to dead ends. This is often the case on these types of shows: From every angle, building a band from scratch is incredibly challenging. For better or worse, though, these types of gigs are my specialty.
Hurdle Number One: The band assembly phase. It’s not just about getting the artists to agree to perform; first, it means getting everyone in the chain of decision-makers to grant you access to the artist so that they can even consider whether or not they want to do all the work. This means a lot of explaining about what exactly this weird, challenging, labor-intensive, and risky show is in the first place.
Festival shows are inherently more chaotic and challenging than regular shows—which is one of the reason artists get paid more for them. Most great artists are perfectionists who meticulously plan, prepare, and study the craft of performance, constantly fine-tuning their skill over the course of their careers. Now they have me on the phone, asking them to step outside their comfort zone and learn two hours’ worth of new, usually super-challenging music, to be played after only a day or two of rehearsal, with a whole bunch of new people, for a show in front of an enormous crowd. Oh, and btw—every music publication in the free world will be covering the show extensively, and it will probably be streamed live to the furthest reaches of civilization. If you fuck up, everyone from Tennessee to Kuala Lumpur is going to be trashing you on Twitter in real time. On top of all of that, we’re going to film the whole thing—rehearsals, backstage—immortalizing it all as part of Superjam, the web series. So stakes is high. (I’m getting stressed out about this year’s Superjams just thinking about it!)
I was on the phone with an agent when one of our office interns walked up to my desk. “Questlove is on the phone for you.” I obviously jumped off immediately to take the call. I’ve worked with Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, drummer of the Roots, several times, including the first show I ever did for Superfly—a Superjam in New Orleans with him, George Porter, Jr. (of the Meters), Eric Krasno (from Soulive), and Tim Green (one of my favorite all-time sax players). The show was amazing and featured two sets of incredible covers (email me if you’re interested and I’ll try to send you the music). Questlove had an idea. He started off by saying, “Last year at this time I would have said there is a 99% chance this can’t happen; now I’d put it at 50/50—D’Angelo.” My response was “Wow,” and I was thinking 50/50 ain’t that bad.
He added, “He hasn’t performed in the U.S. in 12 years. This would be historic.”
Ahmir explained his vision, a reunion of Soulquarians and Soultronics Supercharged (D’Angelo’s band for his legendary Voodoo Tour in 2000) with some of the best live musicians around—people like Eric Leeds (saxman from the Family and Prince & the Revolution) and Jesse Johnson (The Time), alongside members of the Roots. Superstar bassist Pino Palladino, who currently tours with The Who and previously performed with Herbie Hancock and Questlove in a Superjam, was the top choice as bassist. His goal was to create music history at Bonnaroo, but above all, he explained, “I’m beside myself with the idea of jamming at Bonnaroo with my brother who I haven’t played music with in over 10 years”.
What I remember about my first show with Questlove was how excited he was to be playing with an amazing group of musicians, and how low-maintenance he was throughout the whole process. I watched him turn giddy talking about what songs to perform, what version and arrangement of each tune, which specific parts to accentuate. It was obvious that he was a music encyclopedia with a producer’s ear—the guy knows everything. That excitement was back as he talked about the possibility of getting D’Angelo back on stage at Bonnaroo. Ahmir loves special shows, he loves Bonnaroo, and he loves going after those magic moments.
I started calling the band members, and everyone was as excited as Questlove was. It started to feel like it was going to happen. D’Angelo’s camp had given a verbal commitment, but there was still that deep-down fear that something could happen. We were never 100% sure until he walked onstage, and we never announced who the Superjam headliner actually was.
Ahmir was recording with Jimmy Fallon on the day before the gig. The plan was for him to fly out first thing on Saturday first thing, at 5 a.m., arrive in Nashville, and go straight to rehearsal where the cats would be waiting, set up and ready to go. They would have one day to pull together the set, and they would work up until Questlove had to head to the Bonnaroo site for his set with the Roots, directly prior to the Red Hot Chili Peppers on the main stage.
After his set, he’d have a few hours to decompress and get the band ready for the Superjam, which would start at midnight. When he showed up in Manchester, though, there was one problem. No D’Angelo. He missed his flight; the reason was unclear.
I stopped by the rehearsal space around noon to check in. I already knew D’Angelo was delayed, as I had been getting constant updates. I wanted to make sure the band was all set, and that Danny Clinch and his documentary team were getting all the access that they wanted. I entered the room and saw Clinch and Co. filming away. Ahmir was behind the kit leading the band through the various part of the Led Zeppelin tune that was in the set list. After the song we spoke for a moment—he assured me that it was going to happen and not to worry, but I could tell he was stressed.
Sometime during the Roots’ set, D’Angelo arrived in Manchester. When I got the text, it felt like a huge weight was lifted. Instead of a few hours of “down time,” it was straight back to the rehearsal space, where Questlove and the band ran through the set once before going onsite and getting ready for the gig. At this point, most of the gear at the rehearsal space had to be moved to the This Tent, which meant that the one, rushed rehearsal with D’Angelo would have to be on stripped-down equipment. Questlove’s chill time had been immediately transformed into full-on work mode. But he didn’t really ever seem to be out of sorts; this is a situation that he’s not all that uncomfortable with. We were down to a few hours till show time.
I was texting with Questlove while watching the Chili Peppers at the main stage. Things seemed to be moving in the right direction. When I showed up at the tent, he had his hands full prepping the band. When I approached him for the update, he said “This is a stressful moment. It’s going to be fine, though.” As the crew scrambled to get the gear perfect onstage, Questlove gave the musicians final instructions.
Finally the setlist had been taped in all the positions, the music stands had been set up, and the band was waiting sidestage. Questlove took the stage first, and the tension gave way to goosebumps as he intro’d each member from behind the drum kit. As each person took the stage, the groove expanded. Finally he broke the big secret that we’d all been struggling to keep in the vault for the past month…
“Ladies and Gentleman…D’Angelo.”
Who would you most like to see make a comeback in a Bonnaroo Superjam?
The Science of Superjam
Since 2002, almost every year of Bonnaroo has featured a spectacular anomaly in the lineup—an off-kilter and supremely funky collaborative jam session. There is no way to fully account for the composition of each Superjam performance; all we can do is highlight the interplay of artists who help create one of the best and most unpredictable nights in music each year.
Musical titans, consummate stage performers, creative virtuosos—they’re are all labels that apply to past participants, including such alums as Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, Trey Anastasio, Questlove, Dr. John, and Ben Harper. The group that gathers on stage creates a one-night-only experience, in which the band gets no second chance to do it right. Only the best in the business can live up to the mantle.The rep will grows bigger this summer as Bonnaroo will grow the franchise to include even more Superjams on-site.
This week, we’re looking at the history and future of Superjam, but first we need to consider the session’s essential components. We polled the behind-the-scenes engineers of the annual get-down, to figure out their methods of concocting perfectly strange and stupendous ensembles.
Step 1: Build around a key existing musical relationship
The architects of Superjam, the producers of Bonnaroo, look for some of the most compelling and eccentric musical relationships possible to build once in a lifetime live shows. That relationship could be based on earlier collaboration (co-members of a band, say Phish) or synergy that has yet to be fully realized (Dan Auerbach and Dr. John, pre-Locked Down). Once this backbone is in place, it becomes possible to add the more experimental collaborators, and to imagine show and prove for their peers.
Sometimes it just comes down to understanding the shoes you’re stepping into. Three-time Superjam participant Questlove remarked of his 2007 stage session with Jones and Ben Harper,”We were doing Zeppelin songs, and there’s such a pressure of living up to the legacy of John Bonham’s. I had to prove that the myth was true, that I was worthy.”
Step 2: Get managers and agents on the phone
Think about explaining to an artist and their team the logistics of playing Superjam: Take a week out of your summer touring or recording schedule. Step outside of your comfort zone, away from your own band, production team, light show, or whatever other factors are tailored for your road show. Join a band you’ve only dreamed of joining, and only practiced with once or twice before. Then step out on stage, in front of tens of thousands, and also online, to be documented and delivered on-demand for the rest of your career. That’s how the conversation begins. “We’re building a band from scratch,” says Superfly’s Paul Peck. “Every element in the process is incredibly difficult. I’m asking a musician to do something that’s incredibly risky.” Artists up to the challenge, though, can handle the pressure, and see the opportunity in letting go.
Step 3: Begin work on the set list
Even improvised stage shows need to have a structure. The set list gives a launching pad. They are developed not merely based on genre or region, but crafted by the ensemble’s vision. This determines who fills out the band, too. Sometimes the song selection skews honorific to a legend on stage; other times they take the crowd on a journey away from the proscribed limits of genre and create something entirely fresh. The set list is the blueprint for a wild ride.
2012 setlist: Questlove’s Bonnaroo Superjam featuring D’Angelo & The Soulquarians
Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland) [Jimi Hendrix] (including Go Back 2 The Thing & Superman Lover [Johnny Guitar Watson] teases) >
Pride And Vanity [Ohio Players] >
Players Balling (Players Doin’ Their Own Thing) [Ohio Players] >
Funky Dollar Bill [Funkadelic] >
Hit It And Quit It [Funkadelic] >
What Is And What Should Never Be [Led Zeppelin]
Babies Making Babies [Sly & The Family Stone] >
Hollywood Squares [Bootsy Collins] >
Mother’s Son [Curtis Mayfield] (including Chicken Grease tease)
Power of Soul [Band of Gypsys]
She Came In Through The Bathroom Window [The Beatles]
My Summertime Thang [The Time] >
Jam (including Fire [Ohio Players] & other teases)
Full Audio Download Here: http://funkit.virose.net/?p=2561
Step 4: Start rehearsing – days before the festival
The general rule is that a few days before the festival, the entire band gathers near Bonnaroo for several intensive rehearsals. These are not run-throughs per se, but instead meant to build familiarity and flow. But even as they prep, by the end of the rehearsal much of the main stage gear will already have left town, en route to being set up on-site for the actual show. By the end, the players in the band will rock through with bare-bones equipment. If necessary, as with last year’s D’Angelo apperance, missed flights and crossed signals mean the run-through may occur at the festival itself, just minutes before the band goes on.
Step 5: Showtime
Once scheduled, the crowd knows only the basics about the show—mostly. They get the gist of who the key players are, where to go, and when to show up. Of course, major surprise guests and unforeseen song choices are a built-in feature of Superjams. The band will step out on stage and immediately begin feeding off the crowd. At this point, planning and preparation cannot anticipate what will unfold—the band truly launches, the crowd feels and fuels the energy, and the guest players hop on stage. As the session builds, the night takes over and the legacy of Bonnaroo’s Superjam grows. We can try to explain how this all these steps add up to something spectacular each year. But science cannot fully account for the magic of the moment.
What’s your favorite Superjam moment of all-time?
AIN’T NOTHING LIKE A LATE NIGHT PARTY
When other music festivals in North America are closing down for the day, Bonnaroo is ready for another launch—the incarnation of late-night bacchanalia and all that comes with it.
The SuperJam and the annual early Sunday morning second-line parade can be traced to New Orleans late night culture, where shows (especially during the wee hours of Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest) often don’t begin until 2 a.m.
A major source for the unduplicated success of the whole Bonnaroo night experience is the farm itself; the sheer size allows for the magnitude of overnight guests who stake their claim in the tent city.
“People don’t have to drive or go home,” says Kerry Black, Superfly Co-Founder. “They are there to be in the moment and experience it, and to go as far as they can. It takes on a life of its own. The costumes come out and it gets pretty wild—heck, my costume comes out.”
Bonnaroo 2009 - Day 3 - Atmosphere
The people with the responsibility of making the late nights unforgettable take their party planning seriously as they’re out scouring the world, determining which artists possess the right energy to bring to Manchester in the middle of the night. The formula is pretty simple.
“It’s usually bands I want to party to,” laughs Black. “I’m an eternal music sponge. But I find that after going to all these shows, going to SXSW and Pitchfork and other festivals, I still find most music through my friends. “
Paul Peck, is also entrusted with going out to find the acts who will work best in this slot, which has now become highly-coveted among artists. “We’re very detail-oriented when programming the festival, making sure everything fits and that there are tasty options,” he says. “You can choose where you want to go, to go here for an hour or there for an hour, but first and foremost it’s a dance party. The music must be high-energy, funky, fun, improvisational—something that you don’t know where it’s gonna go.”
Matthew “Chewy” Smith has witnessed the rise of the late night scene since Year One, and what it means today to the artists that cover that shift. “A late night set at Bonnaroo is one the greatest time slots you can get, because you’re guaranteed that every person in the world is going to be there. What started out as, ’Oh, man, I have this 1 a.m. set time’ has turned into ’Holy shit, I have the 1 a.m. set time!’ Now it’s a prized time at the festival.”
LCD Soundsystem 1
LCD Soundsystem performs a legendary late-night set at Bonnaroo
Smith breaks it down even further, examining what the late night session means to a band whose fans come from all over to see their favorite act. “A band goes out and draws 1,500-2,500 people in any given city on any given night,” he says. “Then they come to Bonnaroo and they play to 8-9,000. That’s what it means to an artist doing a late night set—it instantly heightens them.”
Of course, it’s another animal entirely determining how to keep your energy up for the late night, and how to engage and be a part of it. For those in the know, it’s pacing, rest, and hydration that lead to victory.
“When you’re at the late night show, it feels like it has exclusivity, because you had to know the right thing to do,” says Peck.”You have to manage your stamina and control your partying to be able to really enjoy it. But having the feeling that where you are is the best place in the world at that moment? That’s very rewarding. It’s fully focused and really intense, the way it’s supposed to be.”
But “Chewy” Smith knows that, most importantly, it’s the energy produced that brings nirvana for both performer and fan. “The band is giving it back to the crowd and the crowd is giving it back to the bands, who give it back to the crowd,” he explains. “It creates this circular energy that cultivates this giant orgasm of people at five in the morning. It’s a pretty phenomenal thing to be a part of.”
What is your trick to lasting all night at Bonnaroo?
LATE NIGHT BONNAROO BUDS
Every year before Christmas, I get a text message from my pal Tyler Mesanko about the coming year’s Bonnaroo line-up. Now that I’ve retired from the holiday party circuit, I usually don’t know anything; my opinions are more like educated guesstimates. Sometimes our prejudicial predictions are spot-on, but sometimes they suck.
Like clockwork, Tyler leaves his shop on the Jersey Shore, in the beginning of the busy season, for his three-day musical fix. He lives and breathes music. Bonnaroo and gig posters fill his store, Shaded Vision. He comes down to Manchester with the same group of buddies every year and they take it all in—though the way they do it has changed over time.
“Late night for me has changed in the six times I’ve been to the ‘Roo,” he says. “Originally, it was all about the headliners, the big acts, the main stagers. Maybe because of age and maturity or all the years going, I’ve opened my mind. Now, it’s all about the late night.”
It’s true: When you get older, you pick your spots more wisely, either for energy or patience’s sake. But for all of us night creatures, there came that moment over the years when we get hooked on the ritual. “The show that started it all for me was the Flaming Lips,” says Mesanko. “I look up and see a spaceship landing, a confetti cannon, laser pointers. It was insane, I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere. There have been magical times where I looked over at my best friends and knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime moment
For a family man, a doting dad of two tow-heads, and a small business owner, life is full. But it’s the tribulations (like rebuilding from a hurricane) or the mundane (like the Jersey Shore in the winter) that spur him on to seek the new and the nuts at Bonnaroo
“The late night is for the innovators, the magicians, the scientists of music—and, of course, it’s a chance to see something fresh,” he says. “But it’s also for the pixies, ravers, hippies, and music freaks of all shapes and sizes. No festival can touch the magical vibe and the people that make it what it is. I love me some crazy, and I love late night Bonnaroo.”
Sean Avery used to fly around at breakneck speeds on a patch of ice, chasing a small round disk while hulking dudes aimed to rip his head off. When his season ended as a hockey player for the New York Rangers, he would come directly to Bonnaroo and forget the pains of a grueling campaign. “It’s the purest three or four days that I spend with myself and with people out of the whole entire year,” he tells me. Avery, now retired at age 32, is a bonafide Bonnaroo veteran, a globe-trotting festival attendee, and a Hall of Fame fun-seeker.
Sean Avery knows a party when he sees one, and he knows his music. “To have music playing for 17 hours in the day is unheard of, and the late night sets are always the best—there’s no question about it,” Avery says passionately. “There’s a vibe that drops over the 700 acres when the clock strikes midnight. Everybody seems to ramp it up. Either you fall in love at that point (laughs) or you go on your own or your group gets bigger. It depends on the music, the weather, and your mood—combinations that are pretty special, and that make for some epic evenings.”
Avery loves that he never knows what he’s going to be turned on to when he’s going from This Tent to That Tent, or getting way out at The Other Tent. It’s what he chases all weekend. “You know going into it that the headliners and the bigger bands are going to be great,” he says. “But you move on and see what’s happening, and you’re surprised with a great show. Bands that you would probably never see or interact with, not knowing what you’re going into—that’s exciting.” Last year, Avery had one of those instances in the heat of the night, with tens of thousands of his new closest friends and Skrillex. “When Skrillex went on at 2 a.m., there had to be 40,000 people there,” he says. “He turned a lot of people into fans of Skrillex—but not just Skrillex, electronic music as whole. Seeing metalheads and hippies getting into it, that was the ultimate few hours for everyone.
“It was like ’Holy shit, there was no stopping it, so let’s just go with it.’ You just lose it, you’re so into it. Collectively, when that many people are into the same thing, it’s very powerful, and you don’t get that at any other festival. There’s no way.” I knew I’d see Jeff Kravitz, camera around his shoulder for almost 20 hours. It was so late it was getting light, yet there he was, as Springsteen once described, “in the lonely cool before dawn,” his bald spot shining like a beacon in the night.
“I‘ve got Bonnaroo in my blood,” Kravitz says. “I’m ready to go all night long. I appreciate the fact that there’s programming that goes until dawn, because that’s the place to do it—Bonnaroo is where we can really let loose.” He’s the kind of guy who is the first one in and the last one out. He’s got a serious case of what I call FOMS—“fear of missing something”—but fortunately he’s in the perfect profession for someone with this affliction: professional event photographer. “The year the Flaming Lips played late night, I admit it, I did take a nap. I woke up with 20 minutes left in their set, and they were doing Dark Side of the Moon. Being a photographer, you don’t have to be there for four hours—if you get good stuff, it looks like you were there the whole night,” he says with a laugh. But he sure does seem to be everywhere at once, because he’s a true soldier, a defender and chronicler of fun.
In order to do that kind of running around, of course, you need a plan, and Kravitz always has a plan. “You have to have good legs to make it through the late night set, and it helps to have a golf cart, ’cause it’s late, man,” he says. “By the time you get to that point in the day, unless you have your cocktail right, you ain’t gonna make it.” Kravitz is a veteran of both the Grateful Dead and Phish scenes. He started shooting music back in 1979 (first show: Yes at the Philly Spectrum) as a student at Temple University. Between all of this experience and being raised in Atlantic City, he has seen the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to how humans act when the sun is rising to the east.
“There’s always a sense of community at Bonnaroo—even more so during the Late Night, because you know you’re in on the magic,” he says. “To be out there in the tents and walk back and forth, that’s a Herculean effort, and I’m sure there are parties in the campgrounds that go even later, that don’t stop. It’s like a jungle: If you survive all night, you get the gold.”
QUESTION DO YOU SPEND YOUR BONNAROO LATE NIGHTS WITH FRIENDS, NEIGHBORS, OR IS IT ALL ONE BIG FAMILY?
ROCKING IN THE CAMPGROUND WITH MMJ’S PATRICK HALLAHAN
If any one performer could personify Bonnaroo, it just might be Patrick Hallahan, co-founder and drummer of My Morning Jacket. His affable demeanor, quick wit, monster talent, and down-home modesty make him a prime choice to hang with Late Night at Bonnaroo. What’s funny is that he wants to hang with you as well — and chances are he has.
“The very first year we played, I was fascinated by this mobile city that is the festival camping scene,” says Hallahan. “I feel that there’s actually another festival going out there, but a lot of people, the performers, don’t get to see it. I now make it a point every year to go out to the campgrounds and walk around. It’s very much part of the festival for me.”
Patrick Hallahan is one of us. He’s played everywhere there is to play at Bonnaroo; to my knowledge, he’s the only person to ever play the campground, the tents, and the main stage.
“In 2006, after we played late night, I went out to the campgrounds, struck up some conversations, and just hung out,” he says on the phone from his Louisville home. “There was a band playing, and they asked me to sit in with them. It was so fun to play with people that I’d never met, never mind played with, before. That year in particular, I embraced that other world. It’s such a fond memory for me.”
He’s a rare bird, that Hallahan. At that point in the night, he’d rather hang with you in the campground than see more music (though he does count seeing Ween as his favorite late night musical moment.) “I’m sure I could have gone to see David Byrne or whoever was playing— and I’m sure that David Byrne was great — but that would have been easy. I gravitate more towards the campgrounds then the late night sets, because I find a lot of adventure out there.”
As a repeat performer at Bonnaroo, he’s played in the middle of the day and the middle of the night, and feels the difference once the darkness comes.“There’s an energy shift. The sun going down is a turning of a page for the whole day, and it becomes a completely different festival.”
Bonnaroo 2009 - Day 4 - Atmosphere
This energy fosters a sense of being involved in something greater than yourself, and it allows the artists to tap into something that is not available anywhere else, at any other time. “From a performer’s standpoint, it feels like I’m playing in my living room for a bunch of friends that I invited over,” he says. “A performer feels that sense of comfort, and they open up a lot more. The more interesting moments happen in those settings, versus the ones in which you’re being judged or being seen to be seen.
“There’s just something about it—everyone, artists and fans, we all have a distinct ownership of our involvement, how we conduct ourselves the entire weekend. It’s just beautiful.”