Thursday, June 14, 2012

Bonnaroo 2012

Bonnaroo was amazing.

I left on Monday, June 4 and spent two nights in Virginia before leaving with a group of four friends to drive
to Manchester, Tennessee. After much traffic and many jokes about The South, we arrived in Bonnaroo
traffic and entered the festival grounds without (much) hassle. We set up camp alongside forty other people
in our "groop," toured some of the grounds with our veteran leader, and waited for the music to begin.

On Thursday, nine of us set out to venture into Centeroo, where we got lunch and soon got separated. Some
of us took a nap. I'm not sure what others did. After some independent exploring, I went to see EMA. After
EMA, I went to see Mariachi El Bronx. The members of this band had a previous band, The Bronx, before
they decided to start a mariachi band "as a joke." Their mariachi band is now more popular than the original.
Next, I went to see Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., stuck around for a bit of White Denim, and then went to see
Marina Orchestra. Marina Orchestra was probably my favorite set of Thursday. They're within the "world"
genre, but I don't know what that means, so I would classify them as folk+dance+fun and say they're a bit
similar to Sixpence None the Richer, as far as style/sound. I then saw a bit of Phantogram and stuck around
for MiMosa - an EDM/dubstep group with a good light show, but not much else.

On Friday, the same group of nine made a more distinct effort to have a meeting plan throughout the day.
I went off on my own early in the day because I wanted to see Katie Herzig (look up her song, Hologram),
who did a performance/interview on the tiny little Solar Stage within Planet Roo. After that, I went to catch
the end of Tune-Yards and stuck around for Two Door Cinema Club, which was one of the bands I was
most excited to see. I then headed to the main stage to meet back up with the group and see The Avett
Brothers, Rodrigo y Gabriela and C.U.B.A, and Radiohead. In doing so, I missed seeing Key and Peele,
as well as Ludacris, but being close to the front for these three acts was well worth it. The Avett Brothers
were good, but a little rough, probably because they were most likely hung over from the CMAs in
Nashville that had taken place a day or two earlier. Rodrigo y Gabriela were AMAZING. And Radiohead
was so much more mind-blowing than I ever could have expected. Afterwards, most of us headed to see
Major Lazer and Flying Lotus, but I ended up going back early to go to sleep.

On Saturday, I headed out to see Das Racist, who were not very good live. After, instead of going to see
Blind Pilot, I stuck around to see Battles, which was a terrific decision. Battles is tied with Radiohead as my
favorite set of Bonnaroo 2012. Afterwards, I explored a bit until going to see half of Childish Gambino's
set, before going to see all of Mogwai's set. During this time, a older hippie gentleman noticed my pins on
my camera case strap and gave me one from his box of buttons to add to my collection. On it, it says:
"The United States of Bonnaroo." Mogwai announced that they would be doing signings after their
performance, so I stuck around for that. Two boys and I were the first people to find guitarist, Stuart
Braithwaite, and I provided my sharpie for Stuart's signings. After he signed my bandanna, I followed him
to see if he would be joined by his band members (and because he still had my sharpie). After waiting for
a bit, I decided I wanted to head to Red Hot Chili Peppers, so I got his attention and told him that he could
keep my sharpie if I could get a picture with him. He agreed to the picture, but told me that he did not want
my pen to do signings. I was hesitant, but left. Two seconds later, he caught up with me and admitted that
he did need my sharpie because he was getting mobbed and no one had a pen. As I handed it to him, I said
I told him so and he gave me a hug in thanks. On the way to RHCC, I saw a bit of Dispatch. I got close
enough to RHCC to take a few pictures, but was exhausted, so I walked through the crowd to find a place
to sit. I sat next to a hippie woman, who also noticed my pins and asked if we could trade one. She had
many Mumford & Sons pins and gave me her favorite. I told her about Frankie Muniz and gave her my
Kingsfoil pin. We also talked about the older hippie gentleman with the box of pins, who she had met last
year. After getting trampled on too much during RHCC, I found a safe place to sit and passed out until I was
woken by the sounds of 80,000 people stampeding out of the main stage area after RHCC's set. Later, I
met up with what was left of the group. We tried to see Superjam, but could not get close enough for it to
be worth it, especially once Skrillex started. I watched a bit of Skrillex's set, but was too far away and
amongst not enough people to truly appreciate it, so I walked back to our campsite and went to sleep to the
soothing sounds of dubstep after I spent ten minutes killing the colony of ants that decided to enter my tent.

On Sunday, I woke up in puddles. Annoyed, I spread out a plastic tablecloth under one of our canopies,
dragged out my mostly-dry sleeping bag, and tried to sleep more. On Sunday, I took it easy because I knew
I wanted to be awake enough to appreciate Phish in their fullest. The first set I saw was Stooges Brass Band,
followed by half of War on Drug's set and half of The Antlers' set. On my way to see one of Kenny Rogers'
songs, I cut through Planet Roo and passed the Solar Stage, where I ran into one of my good friends and
watched a bit of Blind Pilot with him. After being unsuccessful at meeting up with him all weekend, it was a
delightful surprise. I then stopped by to see Kenny Rogers and walked by Ben Folds Five on my way to get
a good spot for Bon Iver and Phish. Bon Iver was incredible and Justin Vernon repeatedly mentioned how
in awe he was of having the opportunity to open for Phish. Phish was also great, although their set was slightly
heavy for my tastes, especially in comparison to the lighter set of fun songs they performed in Hershey.
My favorite part of Phish was how clear it was that Trey Anastasio was having a great deal of fun and that
he was amazed how passionately the Bonnaroo crowd cheered for them. After Phish, I exited Centeroo
through the main entrance so that I could walk under the Bonnaroo arch for the first time. Back at the
campsite, four of us reflected upon all of this great music and spent some quality time together. I then went
to sleep in one of our cars, as my slightly damp sleeping bag had since turned into my very saturated sleeping

On Monday, we packed up the rest of our campsite, did a bit of sanctioned looting, and headed back to
Virginia. In Chattanooga, we stopped at Bojangle's for lunch and made even more jokes about The South.
At Bojangle's, I ran into another friend from back home in Pennsylvania, which was likewise astounding.
Although it seemed like we were making good time at first, it ended up taking us FOREVER to get back to
Virginia, where I was greeted by being yelled at to immediately take a shower.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Growing Enthusiasm for Music and Culture

On the way home from Bonnaroo in the midst of a discussion of 90s pop music, I tried to figure out when
I got into music. I missed a lot of pop music during my childhood (N*SYNC, Backstreet Boys, Brittney
Spears, etc) because I wasn't a part of that scene. I was busy listening to unknown Christian artists like
RAZE or more popular ones like Steven Curtis Chapman. So where was the turning point? How did I
get from RAZE to Battles, Mogwai, Phish, Two Door Cinema Club, Elbow, Radohead, Styx, Supertramp,
The Bravery, SWEET, Bon Iver, S. Carey, and countless others?

Somewhere along the line, I transitioned from the younger generation of Christian artists to more
mainstream artists like The Newsboys (thanks to my brother). Also around this time, my family and
I found a Wang Chung album (on cassette?!) at a library book sale during one of our vacations.

My first concert was sneaking into the end of Festival con Dios to see Newsboys. A year or two
after that (2005 or 2006), I started going to the Purple Door festival. In addition to seeing some
mainstream Christian artists, these festivals were also opportunities to discover lesser-known artists,
such as Joy Electric, Finechina, Brave Saint Saturn, Anathallo, and Seabird. There were also incredible
groups, like mewithoutyou. This exposure to a wider range of music can again be attributed to my
brother, as well as a few specific friends.

This transition period was also influenced by a growing interest in oldies and classic rock. Honestly,
I think my interest in oldies was revealed by Recess: The Movie, which features a number of classic
songs from the hippie era. This interest was synchronized with my resurrection as a pianist, which
was fed by Reader's Digest piano books, many of which consisted of songs from the 20s-50s.
Shortly after this, I was suddenly a hardcore fan of Styx. While I'm not sure how or why this fandom
occurred so abruptly and severely, this later led me to love The Who, Supertramp, Yes, and Genesis.
The musical expansion into oldies and classic rock was supported by one of my best friends and my dad.

Then things get blurry and I really don't know how I got from where I was after attending concerts of
Styx* and The Who; to where I have been recently with concerts of MacROCK 2011, Matt and Kim,
Iron and Wine*; to where I am now after Bonnaroo 2012.
*The Pretenders opened for Styx
*The Low Anthem opened for Iron and Wine
There were definitely a few friends during my time at Bridgewater College who fostered my growing
knowledge of music, but this was mostly through mutual sharing, which means that I was already well
into music before getting more into music with these friends.

So what happened?

While I'm not sure and while the blurry spot between oldies/classic rock and indie/alt will probably
always be blurry, I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I tend to be adventurous, curious, longing
to discover, and continuously interested in culture.

While music is definitely about the music, to me, it is also about the culture. Sometimes, the interest in
culture surpasses the interest in music (or performance). For example, on June 2, I drove through
tornadoes and tsunamis to Baltimore to attend a spoken word concert. My mom asked if it was a
multicultural event and I replied yes, because I was there. Now, in retrospect, this sounds far more
ethnocentric than I intended. What I meant was that, even though I went to this event for the poetry,
I ended up enjoying it even more because of the cultural experience. There is culture in the audience.
There is culture in the words of the performer. There is culture in the music of the performance. There
is culture in the thoughts behind the words and the music. There is culture behind the performer.

There is culture behind that culture.

And this makes sense and starts to sharpen the blur.

At some point in time, I was interested in the culture of Rock Horror Picture Show, so I watched it and
"discovered" the music of Meatloaf. There was a car commercial that utilized the song, Ballroom Blitz,
which my brother and I looked up and I have been a fan of SWEET (as well as the culture surrounding
this band) ever since. One time, when my brother and I we exploring Vermont, we stumbled upon a
radio station and our minds were blown by the deepness of Flobot's Handlebars. This led me to explore
Flobots more and, thanks to another friend, led me to an entire field of politically-outspoken artists and
rappers. My brother was really into Beck's Guero album at one point in time and, once he outgrew that
obsession, I took it over for him and continued it by exploring Beck's older albums (Mellowgold,
Odelay, and Sea Change, thanks to another friend) and later his newer work (The Information). This
exploration allowed me to see how Beck's newer work incorporated culture from his older and more
recent albums.

And so, this interest in culture, along with sharing music with friends (albeit sometimes with undertones
of "I know more bands than you"), has led me to where I am today.