Before you start digging away, please keep in mind that I tried to be objective as possible about everything found on this page. However, music is, by its very nature, a subjective art form and everyone has a right to his or her own opinion. My goal was to be fair and consistent.
Regarding the rankings, they are simply to give our readers an idea of how some of the artists performed at the festival. I did not spend hours discussing them with others at Consequence of Sound. Giving a certain number of points for specific, uniform categories might have helped in some ways, but most likely would have caused just as many problems. Instead, I tried to come up with a list that I am comfortable with, while considering not only my enjoyment of each show, but also my observations of others in the crowd at each artists set. Of course, if I went into an act with low expectations and it blew my mind, I do not think there is anything wrong with using this surprise and allowing it to affect the ranking.
CoS Top 20 Performances of Bonnaroo 2008
- My Morning Jacket
- Against Me!
- Ozomatli (Sonic Stage)
- Talib Kweli
- Ghostland Observatory
- Stephen Marley
- The Swell Season
- The Avett Bros.
- Chali 2na w/ Galactic
- Pearl Jam
- Sigur Rós
- The Raconteurs*
- The Postelles
- TiÃ«sto w/ guests
- Lez Zeppelin
- Abigail Washburn & the Sparrow Quartet (Sonic Stage)
- José González:
*If I saw the full set, I have no doubt that they would be significantly higher in my rankings
- Loudest per capita: Against Me!
- Best mosh pit: Mastodon
- Most pure fun: Ozomatli on the Sonic Stage
- Best party: Ghostland Observatory
- Most ecstatic crowd: M.I.A.
- Most memorable set: My Morning Jacket
- Most ripped performance: ummm Kanye West (no controversy with this one)
- Best hip hop performance: Talib Kweli
- Biggest small-name performance: KNaan
- Most soul: Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings
- Most impressive flow: Chali 2na
- Largest crowd at a small stage: Broken Social Scene
- Most emotionally powerful performance: Pearl Jam
- Best cover band: Lez Zeppelin
- Best substitute for caffeine: the Postelles
- Best place to see an act: Troo Music Lounge
- Best storytellers: Tegan & Sara
- Worst costume: Sweaty guy in chicken suit
- Best fan costume: Hippy Ghostbusters
Most Disappointing Performances
- Super Jam
- Kanye West
If you read my journal already, you know some of my feelings about Kanye Wests performance. So how is it possible that I did not view Kanye as my #1 disappointment? Well, to be honest, I did not have extremely high expectations for his show to begin with
On the other hand, while Ive never been into jam bands, I was extremely excited to catch the Super Jam on Friday night. People were hyping it up on the message boards as the one traditional set of the festival that was a must see. Then once I arrived in Manchester, everyone was saying how amazing the Super Jam is every year. Its not that it was terrible, but compared to everything else that I saw, it was rather on the boring side. In addition, there is an opportunity cost to every set that you choose to see at Bonnaroo. When I went to Super Jam, I was also taking time away that could have been used to see more of TiÃ«sto or to head back to My Morning Jacket.
Things I Did Not Like About the Roo
There are a few things about the schedule that got to me while we were at Bonnaroo. First off, I do not agree with putting the headliners up with no competition. Sure, I can understand limiting the number of acts on the other stages or even giving the headlining spot an opportunity to be the only show for the first hour. However, a two to three hour break in the middle of the day really kills momentum, particularly when one has been outside and going strong all day.
Second, related to the first issue, the organizers are practically forced to schedule the second and third tier acts extremely early and late in the day. These slots should be saved for the up and coming or party acts (nighttime). However, with slots limited, Bonnaroo ends up with many more of the best artists playing at conflicting times.
In addition, I cannot figure out why the organizers would separate the genres so much. For example, what is the point of reserving all of the hip hop artists for after midnight on Saturday? Sure, its great for the people going to Bonnaroo only to catch these hip hop shows. On the other hand, by not staggering them throughout the festival, it more or less guarantees that the general audience will have to make a big choice. With these artists performing at a far stage, it was virtually impossible to bounce in for fractions of sets. Of course, then there was the fact that Bonnaroo rescheduled Kanye Wests performance to overlap with the hip hop acts. Fans of the genre were left with a decision of whether they should watch West on the main stage or smaller artists (Talib Kweli and Chali 2na) on a smaller stage. Since just about everyone who attends Bonnaroo, does so to catch a diverse range of acts, it naturally seems better to mix in the genres.
2) Mow the fn lawn!!!
As I mention in the journal, when I first hopped out of my car in the general camping area, the grass stood up to my knees. I thought that maybe this was only because I was out in BFE and once I arrived at the tent only section, I would find some nicely trimmed grass.
I was wrong. For some reason, no one takes the time to mow the lawn, which is a real shame. Not only do little spiders and ants fill the grassy camping zones, but people have also warned me about the ticks.
3) More showers!
I have no idea how many showers there are in the camping areas at Bonnaroo, but I am certain that there are not nearly enough for the people attending the festival. The first morning, we headed down to take a shower and the line was ridiculously long (at least a forty-five minute wait.) Keep in mind, very few attendees even bother to shower because of the hassle (and $7 fee.) I met a ton of folks during the weekend and only one took one shower (and this was my wife.)
4) Keep to the set times and schedule
On far too many occasions, artists started their sets late (and when I use the word late, I mean they started behind schedule enough that the time was virtually a later set time.) Further, artists often did not play the full amount of time listed on the schedule and, instead, finished the sets early. This is terribly frustrating to those of us in the audience who took the time to plan out our schedules. For example, if I planned to catch Band A at 3:00 for 45 minutes of their 90 minute set, before hustling over to another stage to see Band B play the final 50 minutes of their 90 minute set, everything gets really screwed up if Band A starts 30 minutes late or Band B ends 30 minutes early.
In addition, it is really a pain when the organizers throw curveballs by changing the schedule in the final minutes. Sure, there are unforeseen events (or spoiled artists) that leave them with no other solution but reorganization. It is great that Bonnaroo released the schedule a month before the festival, giving everyone ample opportunity to plan their weekend. However, shifting every artists start time on Which Stage (after moving West to the main stage) seemed like the easiest solution, rather than the ideal.
5) People throwing their damn glowsticks
Seriously, what was up with that? Ravers, you should be ashamed of yourself! I have never seen anything like this at a concert. Hundreds of flimsy glow sticks flying through the air, hitting kids in the face and then hurling them back. Even worse, kids started throwing other things (like Frisbees) that could really cause some damage.
One thing that irritates me with the sudden explosion of festivals throughout the country is the number that takes place during the hottest months of the year. Further, if the organizers are planning festivals for the summer, why are so many down south? If I were traveling to a hot region, I wouldnt mind going when its freezing up north, instead of leaving one hot climate for another.
It was excessively hot at Bonnaroo and apparently, this was nothing compared to last year. Well, if it were this hot every June, why would they not plan the festival in March or February or even January? It would definitely be much more of a pleasant experience for us campers. I like spending a nice day out in the sun just as much as anyone else, but standing in a packed crowd of people or sleeping outside without a/c might be more comfortable at a cooler temperature. The first signs of daylight might not even force us to wake up. In addition, the artists would probably be more comfortable and might make it through sound check without sweating out all the liquids in their body.
7) Stage names
Ok I get it. The names of the stages are very funny, ha ha. Im sure the organizers get a great laugh off them, but come on. It really should not take hours to figure out the names of the stages at a show. The organizers should give the stages names that make attendees lives easier, so they dont have to sit somewhere studying a map. In reality, at Bonnaroo, it can take even days. Here they are for those of you who do not know what Im talking about: What Stage, Which Stage, This Tent, That Tent, and the Other Tent. Ridiculous!
Bands I Missed that I Still Want to See
My Morning Jacket (full set)
I also wish I made it to one of the comedy shows. We were super excited that David Cross was on the bill and I definitely would have made it to see him if he did not cancel. Im not sure who the number one comedian was without him maybe Zach Galifianakis? Did you guys hear about the dude that peed on everyone? Gross! Hmmm well, maybe Im glad I didnt go.
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