Best & Worst Moments of Bonnaroo: Day 4

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Miranda Lambert / Photo by Kyle Dean Reinford
WRITTEN BY
SPIN Staff

BEST CHARISMA: MIRANDA LAMBERT
She sang about "holding up my smoking gun" ("Kerosene"). She gloated to the nice girls: "But we got a lot in common you will see / We're just like you, only prettier" ("Only Prettier"). Her witty abrasiveness was probably a slight culture shock to the many country neophytes at Bonnaroo on Sunday, but Miranda Lambert was charming enough to win them over. The young artist, who gained fame as a finalist on the reality show Nashville Star, donned a guitar and let her tremendous pipes ring out for her inaugural Bonnaroo show. The badass subject matter was delivered with a bright pageant smile and solid guitar chops. Lambert has the makings of a true crossover star; she may just headline a future Bonnaroo. -- STACEY ANDERSON

BEST REASON TO ORDER ANOTHER ROUND: LUCERO
"I'm usually not awake this early," said Lucero's Ben Nichols, halfway through the band's resolutely rugged set in the parboiled This Tent. It was 2:30 in the afternoon. But in the musical cosmos of these barroom-haunted Memphis road dogs, such a statement was no exaggeration. Virtually every Lucero song, whether it's night-sweats punk or thrashy soul or blustery country, revolved around drinking yourself stiff and the consequences thereof. On "Kiss the Bottle" and "I'll Just Fall," Nichols' gravel-gargling voice sounded both like a helpless man who regretted his shitfaced existence and the most belligerent drunk in the bar who'd fight anybody who questioned his need for that 14th shot of tequila. Boosted by pedal steel and a horn section, the band tore into set highlight "The Ballad of Maggie Chascarillo," inspired by the Love and Rockets character, with Nichols paying growling tribute to the "punk rock girl and lonely saint." -- CHARLES AARON

BEST FAREWELL SUN-KISS: PHOENIX
The French pop-rock quintet's astronomical rise over the past year reached a sunny summit on the closing day of Bonnaroo. Having graduated from the tent they played in '09 to the massive outdoor Which Stage, the dapper boys played much of their new album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, as the setting sun shot sherbet blues, yellows, and oranges on the clouds shining above the stage. "Love like a sunset!!!" Mars sang on the titular track, while on a new one, "Countdown," he pleaded, "We're sick for the big sun." It was all a bit cinematic -- after all, they have contributed to the soundtracks from Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation, both from Mars' partner Sofia Coppola. Fans ate it up; many cocked their necks to stare at that big sun and all its splendor. -- WILLIAM GOODMAN

BEST ATTITUDE: AGAINST ME!
Despite the severe heat that plagued the tents on Sunday afternoon, Against Me! blazed (almost literally) through an exceptionally high-energy set with grins plastered on the entire time. Perhaps the Florida five-piece was just used to the climate, but Tom Gabel and crew made it look easy, pulling largely from 2007's New Wave and the just-released White Crosses. They also played a couple tracks from their 2002 debut, including the galloping opener "Pints of Guinness Make You Strong" and "I Still Love You Julie." At the end of the latter, Gabel turned to his band's recent addition, former Hold Steady keyboardist Franz Nicolay, and complimented him on his vocals: "Great job!" Punk rock never felt so polite. -- CHRIS MARTINS

BEST JOB OF ACTING LIKE A LEGEND: KRIS KRISTOFFERSON
These days, Kris Kristofferson is probably more famed for his various acting roles (Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, A Star Is Born, He's Just Not That Into You) than for his songwriting ("Me and Bobby McGee," "Help Me Make It Through the Night," too many others to mention). And for his hour-and-a-half set at the That Tent, the 74-year-old appeared on shaky ground, playing before a reverently rowdy crowd with just his scratchy-at-best voice, acoustic guitar, harmonica, and some notes scattered on a music stand. So what did he do? Relied on his easy, ain't-that-a-pisser? charm, and faked his way through it. A duet with Jamey Johnson on "For the Good Times" was more affecting curio than revelation, and for his version of "The Pilgrim, Chapter 33," dedicated to the late Dennis Hopper, he sagely bullshitted his way through his own epic poem about the allure of life as a prophetic bullshitter ("He's a walkin' contradiction / Partly truth and partly fiction / Taking every wrong direction on his lonely way back home"). Then, the mayor of Manchester, Tennessee, gave him the key to the city. -- CARead More From Bonnaroo Day Four On Page 2 >>

WORST CULTURAL MISAPPROPRIATION: ZAC BROWN BAND
There was a strange smell emanating from the What Stage on Sunday evening -- a scent that Stevie Wonder made a point to identify the night before as he stood in the exact same spot as the current bandleader, Zac Brown: "bullshit." As the Atlanta-hailing, Grammy-winning country act launched into its hit about a fortuitous trip to Mexico, "Toes," the presence of a steel drum onstage underscored the issue at hand. For a song with a chorus sung in Spanish, the lyrics conveyed a dubious appreciation for the culture being celebrated: "All the muchachas, they call me big papa / When I throw pesos their way." Jimmy Buffet knew better than to go there.-- CM

BEST SELF-DEPRECATION: INGRID MICHAELSON
The New York pop warbler unwrapped her honeyed hit "The Way I Am" late in her Other Tent set, but she was similarly introspective in the banter leading up to it. "I'm worried I have boob sweat," she said bluntly after one particularly cutesy ode ("The Hat"), toying with her long red tunic. Her more saccharine moments were striking, pulsing gently against the folk-rock bleats of Monte Montgomery in the adjacent That Tent. Intense fan requests ("Tell me more, Ingrid!") led to another incongruous aside from the Everybody mischief-maker: "This song is cute; this is my Care Bare shitting out Skittles," which served as an entirely serviceable introduction to the earnest "You and I." -- SA

BEST REPRESENTIN': CROSS CANADIAN RAGWEED
Their name sounds like a new strain of Great White Northern marijuana, but Cross Canadian Ragweed are, rather, just a crop of good 'ol Yukon, Oklahoma, boys who combined their surnames into a solid red dirt country ensemble. As such, they culled from most of their seven studio albums for their That Tent show, and produced arguably the Most Southern Moment of Bonnaroo: lead singer/guitarist Cody Canada unbuttoning his red plaid shirt and chain-smoking his way through "To Find My Love," the cigarette never leaving his mouth during the chorus. Bravo, sir. -- SA

BEST 3 P.M. OASIS: REGINA SPEKTOR
The normally immaculate songstress sat down at her piano, and flubbed one chord. Then another. "Aack, how do you guys do it?" the New Yorker exclaimed to the multiplying Which Stage sea. "I've only been here a few hours. You guys are like heat superheroes." This earned some proud hooting -- dammit, we are! -- but anti-folk's queen bee is nothing if not a quick study; no further slip-ups ensued. Her thoughtful, dense lyricism was a perfect umbrella in the sweltering early afternoon; she slipped languidly through the wistful anecdotes of "The Calculation, "Folding Chair," and several other songs from 2009's Far, her gorgeous verses allowing the audience to lie quietly on the lawn, ponder her poetry, and not move one single superhero muscle. -- SA

WORST ATTENTION SPAN: WEEN
To say that Ween has stylistic ADD is to also acknowledge that the sky has clouds: The playful duo of Gene Ween and Dean Ween flirt with incongruous genres on their albums, the only connecting thread being the tongues in their cheeks. But even that pales to the frenetic style-swapping of their live show, in which they're content to play fractions of their vastly dissimilar songs without pause. The Which Stage was churned into froth by their heavy metal, dance, and pop hop-scotching; a nasally singer-songwriter ode smashed abruptly into the salacious hair-metal parody "With My Own Bare Hands" ("she's gonna be my cock professor, studying my dick!"). Tellingly, there didn't appear to be one tie-dyed shirt in the Ween audience; talk about harshing the mellow. -- SA

IN BRIEF:

Comedy tent performer Jeffrey Ross, looking sweaty and disoriented, watched Phoenix from the main crowd. -- SA

Our love for the Ben and Jerry's booth -- which was handing out free scoops of "Bonnaroo Buzz" all four days -- may have verged on the obsessive, but our, ahem, persistence was rewarded when the titular Jerry Greenfield himself stopped by to greet his adoring public. -- CM

One festivalgoer took his love for the event to a whole new level: He shaved B-O-N-N-A-R-O-O vertically down the center of his densely wooded chest. -- CM

Spotted watching Miranda Lambert: a young man with a gigantic torso tattoo of Dr. Zaius looking down balefully at the Status of Liberty. Someone likes Planet of the Apesa little too much. -- SA

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