2012: A Music Odyssey Part 2
Words by Jakob Ross
When the Heritage Hunter tour was announced, I knew I had to go. Opeth was the band on the tour that I was the least familiar with, and upon fully immersing myself in their challenging brand of progressive metal, I knew I’d be in for a fantastic show. Combining light, almost beautiful song structures with the louder, heavier sounds of common heavy metal (and a touch of dry, awkward humor from frontman Mikael Akerfeldt in between songs) the Swedes managed to put on a show that was set right in front of an amazing Atlanta sunset.
9. Umphrey’s McGee
With great jamming comes some great responsibility. Umphrey’s McGee are a jam band known for ridiculous song covers, odd stage presence, great lights, and insane guitar playing. Keep in mind, all this comes from six dudes who look like they could be working at a Best Buy or Target, and call themselves “Umphrey’s McGee.” They’re a cult act, no doubt, and this 2 AM – 6 AM concert at Bonnaroo showed that their fans will go where they go. I only stuck around for the first half of the show (I left right around the time Big Gigantic played their guest spot) but I got what I wanted. I got a “Bulls on Parade” tease, a “Stranglehold” tease, and some of the most intense jamming I’ve heard from any band. It was a rock and roll set, without a doubt, and it was one of the best rock and roll sets I’m sure Bonnaroo has ever seen.
The headlining act of the aforementioned Heritage Hunter tour is a force to be reckoned with. Mastodon is a band that is exactly what the name implies: A big hairy beast that could crush a thousand men with the stomp of its foot. They played mostly new material from their stellar 2011 album “The Hunter” during the hometown gig and barely addressed the audience, but the concert was full of the sheer force that the Atlanta boys are known for. The facial hair on these guys alone should be enough to make the average man cower in fear. I would’ve liked to hear more from “Crack the Skye,” but it’s hard to complain when you’re witnessing one of the most brutal sludge/doom/weird metal bands of the past decade play songs in front of you.
Dispatch make catchy summer music and Bonnaroo is a festival built for specifically that. After nearly a decade long break from touring and releasing new material, the jam/roots rock band with a massive cult following has returned to rock the faces off frat boys who graduated from Dave Matthews Band University. The trio are phenomenal instrumentalists and write a great catchy tune. Although I couldn’t see the whole show, I saw enough to know that Dispatch’s music translates very very well to a live setting, especially when you’ve got a bigger crowd then one would expect from a band with literally no mainstream help.
6. Flogging Molly
Celtic punk isn’t for the critics, and neither is Flogging Molly. Nothing about Flogging Molly is very original, but it is a lot of fun. The sand that lined the floor was in the air and in my lungs by the time these guys finished their high-energy set. This set included their most well-known song “Seven Deadly Sins” as well as a Bob Dylan cover. Flogging Molly didn’t show up to promote any new music, but they did have a blast, as did I and the many other people who witnessed them perform.
5. St. Vincent
Anyone who knows me knows about my year-long crush on Annie Clark, the brains behind St. Vincent. And when I finally got to witness her perform music live in front of my eyes, I was not at all disappointed. Everything about this performance was everything I could’ve wanted from a St. Vincent show and more. She played mostly songs from her amazing 3rd album Strange Mercy, but threw in a couple songs from her first two albums. The set was full of energy, as well as beauty and intensity. And the way she plays that guitar… I could go on forever about how great of a musician this woman is. Bottom line is, you need to see her live if you want a great show.
4. Childish Gambino
Anyone who knows me knows about my man crush on Donald Glover, a standup comedian, writer, actor on the greatest comedy on television “Community,” and rapper. The rapper part of this complicated equation, Childish Gambino, put on a monster of a set at Bonnaroo. He walked on stage with what I can only refer to as “swagger,” wearing a black tanktop that was purposely a bit too big. He led the audience through energetic versions of “Bonfire,” “Freaks and Geeks,” “Heartbeat,” “You See Me,” and plenty more that just turned into sing-a-longs, for lack of a better word. It’s the only real hip hop show I’ve ever been to, and it was a fantastic experience. Gambino isn’t the world’s greatest rapper, but he certainly knows how to handle himself on stage.
Radiohead release some of the most beloved music of the past 15 years. Almost every other album they put out is hailed as a classic: OK Computer, Kid A, In Rainbows, etc.; and if they aren’t hailed as a classic they’re almost always lauded by critics and fans alike. The reception for their most recent release, 2011’s The King of Limbs, wasn’t as positive as it was for some of their other albums, but it still gets better with each listen. Radiohead’s 2006 Bonnaroo performance is often hailed as one of their best, and they without a doubt topped that performance with their 2012 Bonnaroo performance. Although half the set was songs from In Rainbows and The King of Limbs, the 25-song set was one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen. They ended the first encore with Everything In Its Right Place and the second encore with Paranoid Android, two of their most incredible and ambitious works. And not only did they play with energy and emotion, but the lights and the screen display was one of the best of all time. Up there with Phish and Pink Floyd. Speaking of Phish…
I saw Phish twice this year. And from the very first song at Bonnaroo (Down With Disease) I knew that I was witnessing what might be the best touring band in America. The jamming is top-notch and the lights display is astonishing, especially since a good portion of the show is improvised. At Bonnaroo they brought out country music legend Kenny Rogers and performed his hit “The Gambler” with him, which proved to me that Phish can do a great cover. I also got to hear them perform their cover of TV On the Radio’s “Golden Age” the first time (I heard it again in Atlanta). Also in Atlanta I heard their cover of Ween’s “Roses Are Free” which was perhaps a tribute to the newly split group and they encored with a cover of The Beatles’ “A Day In the Life,” which would have made John Lennon proud. They’re not a band you’d expect to put on a great live performance since they hardly move from their spots while they play, but somehow they are able to reach these incredible crescendos that create this cloud of energy. Both shows I saw were amazing, and they’re a band you must see live at some point.
1. Flaming Lips
Has anyone ever seen Flaming Lips and been disappointed? Even if you’re not a big fan of their music the way they perform and the amount of effort they put into making the live experience perfect should earn them some respect. Lights, balloons, streamers, strings, explosions; all of this and more were a part of Flaming Lips’ Saturday night performance in Atlanta. They played some of their stranger songs like “See the Leaves” and “Pompeii am Götterdämmerung” as well as their more accessible hits like “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Part 1” and “the Yeah Yeah Yeah Song.” They ended their beautiful and powerful live show with the all-out emotion-fest that is “Do You Realize??” which is probably their best song. It’s full of thought-provoking lyrics and is so powerful when performed live that it almost brought happy tears to my eyes. If you’ve lived this long without seeing Flaming Lips live, then I feel a bit of pity for you. But Flaming Lips tour very very often when they’re not busy paying tribute to King Crimson or Pink Floyd on record. So go out and see them. I did, and I have no complaints whatsoever. They’re the best band I saw this year, and probably the best band I’ve ever seen.