Though I'm saving the final verdict until all is said and done, my intuition tells me I've just witnessed Bonnaroo's best performance courtesy of Dr. Dog. The Philadelphia-based fivesome hit This Stage early in the day yesterday (June 16) and numerous performers and Bonnaroo industry types looked on; all the Cold War Kids, Gogol Bordello's Eugene Hutz, Elvis Perkins, and Frodo himself, Elijah Wood, all turned out. The band, a returning festival act, strolled through a set drawing heavily from their latest and greatest album to date, We All Belong. The band's George Harrison-approved guitar rock grossly packed full of sha la melodies and gritty, dusty crescendos was epitomized by key heavy, near vaudeville rocker "My Old Ways," the saloon bounce and vocal screech of "Alaska," and the rhythmic transformations of personal favorite "Keep a Friend."
Wiping the awe from my dust caked face, I strolled over to the Which Stage to catch New York City's Regina Spektor kick off her set. Standing in the photo pit, I overheard one unidentified concertgoer sporting a bandana and bikini top joyously belt, "This is what we're here for, through all the sun and camping, ahhh!" Spektor plucked her piano keys and offered her trademark quirky lyrics to the classic, rolling ditty "Us," quivering vocals of "Fidelity," and minimal, punky guitar work and playful, confessional lyrics of "That Time."
From there, I traversed the concert ground under the scorching sun to That Tent in hopes of catching North Carolina's experimental indie rockers Annuals. I'm in luck, and upon my arrival, the band dives into their set. The band, rotating instruments in a whirlwind, offered an hour and one half run, lightly hitting upon tunes from Be He Me, including "Bleary-Eyed" and "Carry Around," utilizing two drum sets and loose leaf snares for rhythmic freakouts, while axeman Kenny Florence's slick fingers breach neo-psychedelic status.
Frontman Adam Baker glinted his teeth, energetically wailing emo-tinged vocal cries and moonlighted as a drummer while Florence took the mic on a few numbers. Annuals pianist, the lovely Anna Spence (my heart swells), walks through non-overpowering key intonations, hiding behind her drape of fiery red mane and sporting a seemingly Amish Sunday school dress. When the band finally capped their set, and the Hold Steady poised to follow, I took a minute to soak up what I witnessed; three flooring, poles apart sets from just as many acts. My cheeks are exhausted from holding a continuous smile. WILLIAM GOODMAN