Posted Jun 14th, 2012 (12:05 pm) by Bradley Hartsell
Bonnaroo 2012

And then the rains came. In the very early morning till about eight in the morning, it absolutely poured. The rain luckily corralled the immensely out of hand dust overrunning the grounds, and cooled the weather down, but overcast skies with annoyingly light drizzles throughout the day was a bummer. Despite the weather, the lineup, unlike the day before, looked very strong, so as long as another heavy rain stayed away, it was going to be a good last day at Bonnaroo.

We tore down camp when we woke up, prepared to leave after The Shins. When we headed down to Centeroo, we found a good spot for The Black Lips at Which Stage. The Black Lips were one of those bands I had heard about forever but never actually listened to. Their psyche-folk, stoner country vibe was fresh because the whole weekend, I had seen artists put on these very tight, very focused sets. The Black Lips just hacked away at their songs, almost as if they sought to belie their melodic prowess. Those dudes can write pop songs and they delivered a very strong set. To top it off, their interaction with the crowd between songs/after the set was fucking hilarious. The best one: "This next song is gonna be on the Bad News Bears 3 soundtrack, out this September starring Tony Danza!"

A scheduling conflict arose as I wanted to see The Beach Boys and The Antlers but they were staggered only thirty minutes apart. We got a spot in the back for The Beach Boys, who came out doing their surfy schtick. Me and my buddy gave them four songs to play something from Pet Sounds. When that didn't happen, it was time for The Antlers. As we were walking about to That Tent, we could hear "Kokomo" playing, only reinforcing our leaving. I know they played "God Only Knows," but I can only wondered how it sounded (there wasn't an orchestra onstage, just a lot of guitars). My buddy theorized The Beach Boys thought we were ignorant apes who only wanted to hear the surf pop tunes, not realizing we were fully aware they recorded the most influential American album, you know, ever. I speculated that at their age, it was just too hard to re-create those intricacies. Plus, this is Mike Love's band now, not Brian Wilson's, and Love adores the cheesy stuff. What, Brian Wilson is going to reappear after like forty years and shove a timpani in their face? They seemed to be having a lot of fun, and it's amazing how massive the crowd swelled to, so maybe Pet Sounds was only on my mind.

The Antlers were slotted for a full hour but I swear it only seemed like twenty minutes. They were killer, bringing out all of the infinite sadness from Hospice and Burst Apart in That Tent. It was a no-frills set, playing most of the "highlights" from their two albums, but they sounded so rich live, never missing a beat. The Antlers made a great counterpart to the untucked The Black Lips set.

After The Antlers, we spotted up for Bon Iver at the main What Stage, whom I saw in 2009 (he played a Tent that year; look at him now). I sacrificed Kurt Vile for Bon Iver, though I like Justin Vernon's music more even if Vile appeals more to my sensibilities. Vernon played a ton of Bon Iver, and some highlights from For Emma, Forever Ago and Blood Bank EP. It was solid, but a lot of nuance fluttered away in that gigantic area Vernon had to cover. It just never totally sounded right, plus Vernon was taking liberties with his vocal melodies, seemingly getting bolder and not as good. Yeah he's red hot right now, but that was a pretty forgettable set.

We left Bon Iver a little early to catch The Shins, thanks to another scheduling overlap. By then, the precipitation was getting to the point of being accurately described as "rain," as the festival took a collective groan. The Shins, to my pleasant surprise, didn't hammer on the new album. They came out firing with "Caring is Creepy," and kept peppering in Oh, Inverted World, Chutes Too Narrow and Wincing the Night Away material. I was impressed by James and The Mercers; even if I've grown distant from the band, it was nice to remember how much I used to love them.

After The Mercers, we said goodbye to Bonnaroo 2012 without any regard for the four-hour Phish set about to take place. The weekend's lineup was terrific and most everyone brought their best out, with many of the artists expressing a sincere humility to be performing at this mythical giant. Bonnaroo's four days always feeling like it's happening in its own state, with its own government, its own culture, and this weekend was one to be remembered, as they are every year in Manchester, because the other 361 days are nothing like it.

© Inyourspeakers Media LLC