Rolling Out Bonnaroo with the Little Ones, Black Angels, and the National
Finally, the music kicks off, Bonnaroo fans ignite, and the real show takes shape.
It’s day one of Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival and my voice is already shot. And so far, the only downside of my newfound ailment was the inability to hoot and holler for the Los Angeles-based boys of the Little Ones last night (June 14) as they kicked off the festival over at This Stage. Walking back stage prior to their show, I caught the band in a moment of celebratory embrace, basking in the roar of the crowd before ascending the stage and kicking into a set of sunny, good time indie rock tunes. Lead Little One Ed Reyes’ shimmied and shaked as the rest of the band belted out spot on, characteristically cheery renditions of synth-fueled “Cha Cha Cha” and bubbly rocker “High On a Hill,” both of 2006’s Sing Song EP.
One hot dog and two beers later, I’ve traversed the festival grounds to That Tent (yes, very confusing) to check out Austin, TX’s Black Angels. This outfit, also storming the stage amidst a ravenous first night crowd, grinded out slow diving neo-psychedelic, shoegaze-tinged tunes while glow sticks, beach balls, and well, a few people, flailed atop the crowd. Standing solemn, distinctive top hat in place, frontman Alex Maas lumbered through a solid set, including Passover’s “The First Vietnamese War” and “Black Grease,” while the rest of the boys, and of course the driving, jackhammer beats of girl drummer Stephanie Bailey, conjured a wall of trance inducing, teeming fuzz.
Next, following a bob-and-weave through the dispersing crowds, I returned to This Stage, awaiting for the buzzing Brooklyn-based outfit the National to saddle up. The crowd burgeoned, and finally, at about 11 P.M., the moody six-piece arrived and seethed a set chock full of ethereal, oft-epic tunes drawing heavily from fourth album Boxer. With their brew of dark, dramatic indie pop, illustrated with violin layered “Squalor Victoria” and the rolling sonics of “Mistaken for Strangers,” the National’s blog buzz was affirmed in the flesh by a starry eyed, clearly awestruck Bonnaroo crowd. Sauntering, totally exhausted back to the Spin camp compound, a brief mental tally of Bonnaroo’s first night’s events revealed, quite simply, day one’s crowning moment — Black Angels’ apt, elongated cover of Iggy Pop and the Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” WILLIAM GOODMAN