Alec Ounsworth of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah treated the Bonnaroo press corps to a solo acoustic performance, and calling it “intimate” should seem redundant. It isn’t, and simply looking at directly his face seemed intrusive (to say nothing of the cameras, notebooks and tape recorders, which seemed monstrous). Weary-eyed with a head of tousled hair, Ounsworth sang with a haunting voice that occasionally broke, and the frequent comparison of Ounsworth to David Byrne of the Talking Heads is only partly justified. Byrne tackled a range of sonic directions with the Heads, but his voice is colder, sometimes deliberately so as in “No Compassion.” A warm reception from the reporters and photographers showed that, fortunately, the press can be fans too.
The Magic Numbers had great reviews in England, but they said they were surprised by the turnout here. Their sound probably would have been right on home on the radio during the 1960s, and their drum set even had lettering similar to that introducing early Hanna Barbera cartoons. Though their lyrics can border on saccharine, the Numbers keep the attention of listeners by shifting from singer to singer and layering the vocals and instruments in different fashions. They drew the largest response from the crowd when the let the words drop out of the framework of the songs and left only their famous “oohs” and “ahhs” to hold up the rest of the melodies. The lyrics may seem simplistic, but when accompanied by the soap bubbles and lighthearted dancing from the crowd, they seemed like the perfect fit for Bonnaroo. “I identify with the music and I think it’s universal,” said John Hull of Albany, New York.
At That Tent, there is smoke in the stage lights, and the top of the rippling tent looks like water glistening in the sun. Dungen is playing music that sounds like it would come from a radio station on an alien planet, and for a non-Swede every word and sound is foreign. “When they start jamming out I feel it,” Canadian fan Alex Kleiner said. “I don’t even know how to describe it.” Dungen plays psychedelic rock that is mind-altering for the listener, and probably pretty tiring for the lead singer. He threw back his frizzy, overgrown hair, convulsed while performing and gave an energetic performance where intriguing instrumentation took center stage. ALEX DIMITROPOULOS