Things We Saw at Bonnaroo 2007

Dierks Bentley, Gillian Welch Among Musical Highlights

There are several of us at CMT who were outstanding in our field during the weekend. Actually, the field belongs to the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. But we’re happy to visit every year, along with 80,000 other music fans. From Thursday through Sunday (June 14-17), we roamed the acreage by Manchester, Tenn., in search of something cool and refreshing — maybe some music, a cold beer or a shady patch of grass. (Um, not that kind of grass.)

We are far too tired and sunburned to tell you everything, but here are some of our highlights from Bonnaroo 2007.

Dierks Bentley
Rather than trying to suddenly rock like the rest of the lineup, Dierks Bentley cranked up the country music during his Friday afternoon slot. Lots and lots of people showed up to hear him — and most of them sang along. This was kind of a shock to all of us. Special guests included Nashville cool cats Sam Bush and Buddy Miller. Special breasts included the voluptuous woman who crawled up on somebody’s shoulders to graciously flash everybody. Now that’s what I call free and easy. — Craig Shelburne,

Getting There Early
After setting up my campsite and meeting the campers around me, I ventured into Centeroo, where the vendors, stages and performance tents are set up. Because I arrived so early, the area was oddly quiet with only a few people walking around. The hugely popular Centeroo fountain was not working when I arrived, but by 3 p.m., scores of people were cooling off in its jets. Another popular attraction was a glassblower surrounded by a hundred or so people watching him create a vase. — Brian Tipton,

Bonnaroo Parade
As Friday afternoon’s music came to a close, people gathered around the giant bobbleheads for the nightly Centeroo parade. Led by an eclectic group of characters, including 10-foot-tall girls on stilts and a woman wearing a dress with eight dangling octopus legs, the parade snaked through nearly every part of Centeroo. Some onlookers merely gawked at the procession of people who were painted red, yellow, blue or green from head to toe, while others danced in place or joined in. — Brian Tipton

Citizens of All Over
When campers were asked, “Where are you from?” they’d answer, “Oh, we’re from All Over,” like “All Over” was its own state. As citizens of All Over, they created their own culture at the festival with their own unique nicknames, food, celebrations and language. They went by their first names but attached “a-roo” to the end. If your real name was Jack, you’d be “Jack-a-roo” to the campers. Their language was mostly mumbles and “woo-hoos” shouted at their favorite artists, but some terms were decipherable. They used jargon like liquorsaurus to describe a camper with a voracious thirst for alcohol before 10 a.m. Banana cream was used to describe something cool or neat. All Over citizens were friendly all the time. — Lauren Tingle, CMT Radio

Dancing Hippies
My favorite “wookie viewing” was two crazy hippies dancing Friday night during Tool’s concert. I think they had a little bit of something non-natural in their system. They would dance their asses off, then stand perfectly still and watch the show at a flip of a switch. Then back to dancing. Then they’d move 10 yards or so. They would dance and dance and dance, then they’d lie down on the ground and drink water all of a sudden as if they’d been resting the entire time. Then … up again … 10 yards away … more dancing. We couldn’t keep up. It was probably the most entertaining thing at Bonnaroo, other than the Police. — Emilee Warner, CMT Radio

The Flaming Lips
As fans tried to recover from the Police (the biggest name at the festival), the Flaming Lips began their bizarre Saturday night show as lead singer Wayne Coyne landed a hydraulic UFO onstage stepping out in a huge clear bubble. As they played their songs, confetti blasted and giant orange balls bounced over the crowd. Hundreds of dancing, female Santas flooded the stage. Their three-hour set was anything but normal. — Lauren Tingle

Gogol Bordello
This gypsy punk band from New York City made their Bonnaroo debut at This Tent, and their fans nearly tore it down with excitement. Ukrainian lead singer Eugene Hütz worked the crowd by throwing a bass drum to the audience’s reaching hands, then prominently stood on top of it, singing powerfully to the violent sounds created by the fiddler and accordion player. Photographers tried to capture the musical circus but couldn’t because dust from the dancing fans clouded their lenses. — Lauren Tingle

Introverted Bands Having Fun
The bands seemed to be having a blast more this year than ever before, especially the bigger ones and especially artists who tend to be particularly introverted such as Maynard Keenan from Tool and Jeff Tweedy from Wilco. Keenan was very chatty during Tool’s set on Friday night and was very funny. In the 10 times I have seen them throughout the years, that has never happened. When they first came out on stage, he exclaimed, “I smell patchouli!” Hilarious. Also, “I took a shower today … with soap! Jealous?” Tweedy was also very talkative and very smiley during Wilco’s amazingly hot set on Sunday afternoon. He said something to the effect of, “We’re having a great time here today, and that doesn’t happen very often. I usually hate these sorts of things.” He also said something like, “I need to go to frontman school. I don’t really know how to talk to large crowds. But this guy in front here with the crutches is a trouper! So I will say hi to him.” Pretty funny. – Todd Hedrick, URGE

John Paul Jones
Having Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones as the special guest throughout the weekend was great fun. He loves bluegrass and turned up with his mandolin during sets with Uncle Earl, Gillian Welch and Ben Harper among others, not to mention the Ben Harper/John Paul Jones/?uestlove Thompson Superjam midnight performance on Friday that was filled with Zeppelin covers. Amazing. — Todd Hedrick

Lying Down Wherever
When you’re walking around in a pasture, it’s always a good idea to watch your step anyway. Bonnaroonies choose the most curious places to suddenly take a nap. I’m all for becoming one with the earth, but do you really want to do that in the well-worn pathway between This Tent and Which Tent? Or in the beer tent? Or in the Xbox 360 tent? And not along the sides but right in the middle! It was as if people’s batteries expectedly ran out and they just tipped over wherever they happened to be. Luckily, the upright fans didn’t give them a second thought. Of course, for the other kind of laying down, a little red tent was giving away free condoms. — Craig Shelburne

Mute Math
The New Orleans alternative rock band gave a fiery performance on Thursday night, filled with marching bass drum beats, energetic synthesizers and powerful vocals from singer and keyboardist Paul Meany. They wore the audience out with nonstop interaction featuring a musical mixture of electric and soulful roots-rock. One fan couldn’t contain his happiness and wanted to share it with the rest of the crowd. So he streaked across the stage, exposing his enjoyment to everyone at the show. — Lauren Tingle

Sasha and John Digweed
This Saturday night set was the most amazing thing I have seen in quite a while. Pretty much the world’s two biggest house DJs spun back and forth almost entirely in the dark, only lit by the giant hypnotizing pattern changing strobe lights behind them. The crowd danced hard without a break well past 4 a.m. — Todd Hedrick

Silent Disco
Loud music was everywhere, except at the Silent Disco. This tent housed a spinning DJ and large crowd wearing headphones blasting hip hop and dance music only they could hear. Partiers queued for a set of headphones all day and night. Once inside the Silent Disco tent, dancers mingled with one another, grooving to the pulsated beats in their heads but silent to the outside world. The scene was hilarious to watch but even more fun to participate! — Lauren Tingle

Tattoos and Bandanas
The girls with weirdly designed clothing — so they could show off their new tattoos — cracked me up. I never noticed how many weird outfits with missing sleeves or a hole cut out in the side to show off a tat were floating around until this year. The crazy Tennessee drought turned the entire 700 acres into a dustbowl. It didn’t stop anybody from doing anything, mind you, but the entire place by Sunday looked like a city full of bank robbers with all of the bandanas around people’s mouths while they were rocking. I’m still coughing up dust and scrubbing my feet. — Todd Hedrick

Definitely my favorite show at the whole event was this two-hour-plus powerhouse of classics on Saturday afternoon. Their rabid, crazy fan base spilled out on all sides of This Tent and knew every word to every song and sang at the top of their lungs. Homemade beach balls, flags and signs decorated with the Boognish logo flew around the venue the entire show and almost nobody left during the entire set. Great stuff as always. — Todd Hedrick

Gillian Welch
“We may be the mellowest portion of the day, but in our heart, we do love to sing rock ’n’ roll,” declared Gillian Welch, about midway through her Friday afternoon set. Still, even with John Paul Jones up there on mandolin, this set provided a welcome opportunity to catch your breath, soak up some harmonies and privately wish you could play guitar as quietly — and yet as powerfully — as David Rawlings. The crowd also ate up an exquisite cover of Radiohead’s “Black Star” and a rousing finale of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash’s “Jackson.” Any crowd that can get this riled up about a banjo is definitely a crowd that I like to be around. — Craig Shelburne