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  • The 10 Best Things At Bonnaroo 2013

04. Holly The ASL Translator

When superstorm Sandy hit NYC, residents tuned in to Mayor Bloomberg's daily conferences like they were Depression-era fireside chats. This was, in part, to keep track of the city's response to the unthinkable deluge swallowing our city. But it was also largely to keep tabs on the storm's breakout star not named Chris Christie: Lydia Callis, Mayor Bloomgberg's passionately demonstrative, highly interpretive ASL translator. She became a household name, that Lydia, before she backed away from the limelight and receded into a veil of privacy. As a result, the ASL world could use a new face. For that position, I submit Holly (pictured above, on the right), who was on duty for the likes of Wu-Tang Clan and R. Kelly and didn't just sign every word, but put back into it. In fact, Matt & Kim called her onstage during their set, and she was a game participant, satisfying Kim's request she demonstrate the signs for "pussy," "vagina" (note: same sign!), and "Bonnaroo." For a more multimedia illustration from the R. Kelly set, please see this Vine. See?

This year’s Bonnaroo curators covered important bases in terms of top-level talent: from iconic boomer-fare like Paul McCartney and Tom Petty, to iconic R&B fare like R. Kelly, to iconic hipster/hippie fare (a Bonnaroo speciality) in Animal Collective. And the undercard was ripe, too, with strong names from most every genre over four days on the ’Roo family farm. You could focus on bands like Baroness, or Death Grips, or Nas, or Edward Sharp. Which is not to say you should focus on every band, but as a New Yorker once said, the world is yours (is yours is yours).

In Centeroo, the festival’s central marketplace, folks danced to a dubstep remix of Sublime’s “Santeria.” Molly was everywhere, but it was most especially with the ripped kid wearing a shirt that said “MOLLY MONSTER,” who took the xx’s midnight set to announce loudly “I’m on probation, too. Guess what? I’M ON EVERYTHING.” Welcome to Bonnaroo 2013.

Take our word for it: The shows were great! The experience was immersive and things were remarkably organized, midday and midnight alike, in that way that makes Bonnaroo a special American festival. And so, onstage, many special things happened. A quick rundown of some memories:

Matt & Kim had something like 100 people crowdsurf their way up to the stage from the back, on demand. Solange sang “Two Weeks” with Grizzly Bear during their set, then did her cover of “Stillness Is The Move” for her own. St. Vincent sang “Don’t Swallow The Cap” with the National, then performed her customary full set with David Byrne. Swans conjured ominous grey storm clouds with their punishing seance-rock, then Tame Impala parted them, ushering in a psychedelic sunset horizon immediately thereafter. (Both were terrific, though Swans played to not enough people and Tame to so, so many.) Kendrick Lamar charmed and owned, backed only by his DJ, during a 5PM mainstage set that was about three-times as large as Nas’s similarly timed, similarly staged full-band set the day before; “Weird Al” wore like 30 outfits in an essentialistic revue of his meta brilliance. Oh, and Nas turned “New York State Of Mind” into, yes, “Bonnaroo State Of Mind.” It was that sorta thing.

Those were all good things. But now for the 9 best, starting here.

Comments (11)
  1. I enjoyed reading this Stereogum. That is all.

  2. My favorite Bonnaroo moment was when I chilling out at the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in a rotation for a joint, when the guy next to me took a hit and just started screaming. We were all laughing, and I ask the guy across from me, with the joint in my hand, and I ask him, “Dude, what was in that?” And he answers, “A shitload of coke!” I immediately fled.

    I went to go see R. Kelly just because I figured I should, but I ended up being thoroughly entertained. I never realized just how talented of a performer he is. The “I need a towel” song was definitely my favorite. I think my favorite performance was Killer Mike, just because of how fucking humble and grateful he was to be on that stage. The man started crying near the end of his set because he told us that he never ever thought his life would turn out like this and how he loves all of us and loves his wife and everything, then we all started chanting “KILL-ER MIKE!!” Then he said, “Let me take a picture with you!” and turned around on stage and his stage guy took a pic of all of us. And we were all turnt up as fuck. It made for one of the best concert experiences of my life. Least favorite show I saw was Grizzly Bear, since they had no facets of showmanship at all. Sure, they make good music, but I got noting out of seeing them live.

    I didn’t see too many bands I haven’t heard of, but while I was waiting for Japandroids (which kind of sucked by the way, the drums were too loud and the guitar wasn’t loud enough), I saw Deap Vally, and they kicked so much ass. It reminded me of The White Stripes if Jack was a woman and Meg had super chops as a drummer.

    The stupid-ass bro mosh pit in the center-front of the Death Grips show almost ruined it for me. And there was this plump chick with green hair and no eyebrows yelling “FUCK ME MC RIDE” the whole time. Ew. I was also bummed Zach Hill wasn’t there to play drums, but they still did an incredible job. MC Ride doing his neck and back stretches while staring menacingly into the crowd was terrifying.

    Listening to people try to pronounce DIIV was pretty funny.

    My friend and I almost got trampled trying to get into the pit for Kendrick Lamar’s show. It was a war between lines, as the C’roo don’t actually know shit about organization, and told us two different locations for the Kendrick pit line. So when they were trying to choose, my line just chanted “FUCK THE OTHER LINE” until they let us all go in at the same time. Totally worth it though. I also spotted Reggie Watts and David Cross up in the VIP section, which was really cool because I like it when the people I like are fans of people I like.

  3. Uh oh—guys, I think Stereogum is running out of money. They couldn’t afford the usual 10 things and had to knock the list down to 9. :-(

  4. Looks like this list is missing the Jim James Superjam. Seriously, one of the craziest things I’ve seen. Jim, John Oates, Brittany Howard, Larry Graham, Billy Idol, R. Kelly – fuckin’ Bonnaroo, man.

    • Super Jam was unreal. It began with a baseline of excellence and continued growing till it was jaw droppingly unbelievable. Whoever put that together (Jim James?) deserves a lot of credit because of how perfect of a Bonnaroo performance that was.

  5. Kanye is hated at Bonnaroo because he refused to go on while Phil Lesh & Friends were playing. Lesh & Friends planned on playing til sunrise but they were kicked off so Kanye could put on his shitty set. Grateful Dead is the reason why festivals like Bonnaroo exist, and that arrogant prick thought because he sold a bunch of records that year he had precedence over them.

  6. THOUSANDS of performance pictures from Bonnaroo, taken by the crowd:

  7. That thing on Bjork’s head sure is a… thing on Bjork’s head.

    Gotta love her.

    • It actually looks better than the one she wore at her Hollywood Palladium dates. That one was less translucent and obscured her face almost entirely. I guess it’s kind of fun watching your musical idols descend into senility…

  8. Unfortunately you missed the best Bonnaroo moment of, potentially, all time – the small stage (Solar Stage) show featuring a Supergroup of Soul Khan, Black Violin, Jeni Suk, and Knower. This was an incredible, once-in-a-fucking-lifetime show.

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