Lesh, Anastasio Provide Serious Jams For Oddly Named Festival

Bonnaroo lineup also included Jurassic 5, Widespread Panic, Ben Harper, Jack Johnson

MANCHESTER, Tennessee — The inaugural Bonnaroo Music Festival

treated more than 70,000 fans to three days of camping and music this past

weekend, proving that the reality of successful large American rock

festivals did not burn down with the fires that engulfed Woodstock '99.

While that festival three summers ago culminated in frightening scenes and

utter chaos, Bonnaroo offered an entirely peaceful weekend of eclectic music

featuring performances by Jurassic 5, Widespread Panic, Ben Harper and Jack

Johnson. With a lineup of 42 artists that brought together almost all of the

marquee acts in the jam band universe, the festival went off smoothly,

turning a 500-acre farm in Central Tennessee into a virtual amusement park

for music lovers.

Given the jam band scene's penchant for collaborations, naturally there were

many, and the artists appeared to be having the time of their lives playing

to enthusiastic crowds with their fellow musicians. The result was a weekend

of high-energy performances from performers like Southern rockers Widespread

Panic and Warren Haynes' Gov't Mule. There was groove-laden funk supplied by

scene favorites such as Galactic, Soulive and Karl Denson's Tiny Universe.

Hip-hop artists Blackalicious and Jurassic 5 earned new followers among the

tie-dyed fans with blistering sets that many thought were the highlights of

the weekend. Jurassic 5 brought down the house, even trying out some cuts

from their upcoming Power in Numbers, due in September.

Those who wanted to simply sit in the sun and relax with some tunes were

treated to a rare acoustic set by Harper and a solid performance by rising

star Johnson, whose chilled-out acoustic cuts from his recent bluesy

Brushfire Fairytales were the perfect complement to the tasty

microbrews on hand.

Those more inclined toward electronica could enjoy the Disco Biscuits, who

will release their fourth album this fall, Senor Boombox.

California-based newcomers Particle brought their intense "space porn funk"

to the ballroom stage on Saturday afternoon but returned for what the

"Particle people" were really hoping for later on — an unannounced set

that started around 5 a.m. and ended at 8.

Bonnaroo also made sure not to disappoint fans of those acts typically

associated with the jam band movement. Although the Grateful Dead and Phish

are not currently touring, they were well represented when Phil Lesh and

Friends with special guest Bob Weir took the stage Sunday afternoon followed

by Phish frontman Trey Anastasio's new band.

Lesh and Weir jammed through Dead classics, keeping them fresh and full of

energy. As the opening notes of "Franklin's Tower" echoed throughout the

massive venue, faces in the dancing crowd beamed with smiles. Perhaps it was

during those two hours that Bonnaroo seemed most perfect, as the music that

started it all was enjoyed live under the late-afternoon Tennessee sun.

Guitarist and reigning jam band king Anastasio and his nine-piece band

closed the festival with two sets of material largely taken from his recent

self-titled solo release. The new material is firmly rooted in a mixture of

Afro-beat and psychedelia, and although his live show recently blew away

crowds at smaller venues like New York's Radio City Music Hall, his music

seemed almost too sophisticated and complicated for the concert field at

Bonnaroo. The glowstick wars initiated by the crowd didn't complement

Anastasio's new tunes the same way they did during Phish shows. Nonetheless,

festival-long anticipation of Anastasio busting out some Phish songs or even

reuniting with Phish at Bonnaroo was met by his encore solo acoustic

performances of Phish favorites "Wilson" and "Bathtub Gin."

Perhaps as remarkable as the music, however, was the fact that organizers

managed to stage the biggest party in America last weekend while maintaining

a peaceful vibe throughout. Around 3:30 in the morning on Saturday, Denson

begged the massive crowd to shout back at him a refrain from one of his

band's infectious, groove-laden numbers: "If it's all right with you,

suddenly it's all right with me!" Everyone yelled it over and over as loud

as they could as the fireworks that had been exploding all weekend

continued. Denson's refrain might as well have been Bonnaroo's motto.

Latest News