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  • Bonnaroo 2009: Friday 6/12/09 1
Tags: , / Credit: Amrit Singh
Dirty Projectors & David Byrne

By Scott Lapatine & Amrit Singh
Not that it’s a competition, but at any summer festival you’ll be expected to answer What Was The Best Set So Far several times a day. We have a tie for Friday, at least from what we saw, between two Brooklyn bands at their peak. The melismatic strains of Dirty Projectors’ “Stillness Is The Move” and the singalong chamber pop of Grizzly Bear’s “Two Weeks” were equally enthralling moments that will be tough to top. Both acts’ sets focused heavily on their respective weeks-old LPs, rare instances where a grab bag festival audience actually wants to hear all the new stuff. (Don’t get any ideas, Bruce.) Afro-indie forebearer David Byrne was beaming sidestage (along with a bopping Bon Iver) during DP’s early afternoon set at That Tent; for the last song, he joined the sextet for the collaborators’ second-ever live performance of “Knotty Pine.” Especially with the Talking Head onstage, you’d be hard pressed to find a group of more photogenic musicians. A few hours later, Grizzly Bear’s sweaty performance cross-site got a late start. It was actually cooler outside the shaded tent, which is expected when you have too many bodies under one roof. The delicate crescendos and pristine harmonies of “Southern Point” and “Fine For Now,” mixed with the boys’ casual patter (“Who’s going to see Phish?” Chris Bear inquired at one point) made for a mellow, rapturously received sundown soundtrack. Unshaven and sporting thrift-store tees, Animal Collective took an expectedly breezy and aloof approach on the Which Stage a few hours prior.

For pure weirdness you can’t beat the trio’s assaulting mix of rhythmic shrieks and hypnotic electro beats; still, it would’ve went over better at night. On the same stage two hours later, Yeah Yeah Yeahs started a dance party with cuts from their new wave throwback It’s Blitz!, but all anyone was talking about after was the equipment fail that forced fan favorite “Maps” to be performed acoustic. Santigold had her own dance party going under That Tent, singing songs your TiVO normally fast-forwards through. (Get it? Because they’re all in beer commercials!) And if you still weren’t convinced that Brooklyn art-rock can translate to a farm in Tennessee, TV On The Radio followed neighbors and labelmates YYYs with new and old funk. It didn’t compare to Coachella, where the band’s horn crew was more sizable (yesterday just one Stuart Bogie on sax), but that’s probably our fault for going to too many festivals.

David Byrne, whose ubiquitous bicycle was parked next to the Which Stage in the afternoon, matched the energy of his interpretative dance crew in a two-hour set culled from Eno-assisted solo work and Talking Heads classics like “I Zimbra,” “Born Under Punches,” “Crosseyed & Painless,” and “Once In A Lifetime.” David invited everyone, not just the professionals, to take photos of the set using whatever technology they had. He just insisted we delete the bad ones. (There’s no taking a bad pic of you, David.) Meanwhie, Beastie Boys were cold kicking it live on the main stage, and their big surprise was a guest spot from Nas on a track from the forthcoming Hot Sauce Committee. (The foursome watched Santi’s set together a few hours earlier.) They did their best to bring their celebrated manic energy, offering Check Your Head punk (“Time For Livin’”) and “Sure Shot” early, and there’s a certain thrill to seeing them give it their all, but their tour rider probably should specify an oxygen tank waiting for MCA at all times side stage. Yauch was winded, y’all.

Phish closed the night. Knowing they once covered Talking Heads’ Remain In Light cover-to-cover one Halloween years ago, we thought maybe they could convince Byrne to come out on a “Cities” or a “Crosseyed & Painless.” Since he was in a collaborating mood earlier in the day and all. But, well, that was a pipe dream. The band did play some covers (AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell” and the Beatles’ “A Day In The Life”), along with old jammy staples and some new songs that sounded like rewrites of old. The band’s as dexterous as ever — tautly reproducing the complex arpeggiated passages of “Divided Sky,” “You Enjoy Myself,” “Harry Hood,” etc. — but their jams were endless and, aside from some sorta interesting interaction/modulation during “Stash,” pointless. But the phans were enthralled, making them either incredibly patient, or incredibly loyal, or incredibly stoned, depending on who you asked. It was good to see the guys, though — aside from a lot of white in Mike Gordon’s hair, they look about the same, Fishman’s mumu and all, and Trey and Mike handled the trampolines during “YEM” with ease. If you’ve ever seen a Phish show before, you’ll probably be pleased with these reunion shows. Just be incredibly patient, loyal, or stoned during the improvs. Same as it ever was.

Comments (40)
  1. blah  |   Posted on Jun 13th, 2009 0

    Wow-those are some seriously passive compliments for Phish. Was it hard to muster some moderate enthusiasm after staining your gauchos during the Dirty Projectors set?

    and I don’t even like Phish.

  2. I prefer to keep a little distance from the stage because the people are not so agitated. Usually I don’t have problems and I can see the concert very well.

  3. Yeah Yeah Yeahs were the only worthwhile group there.

  4. imagine roping in Phish fanbase to learn and enjoy your work – instead you go vapid to retain your Universal funded indie cred – and actually call them “pointless?” You can always edit your posts. Phish has a loyal and dedicated fanbase – yours goes away once college is over.

    • i believe he said: “…their jams were endless and, aside from some sorta interesting interaction/modulation during “Stash,” pointless.”

      it’s true. i’ve seen phish something like 60 times, and once i quit smoking pot i didn’t get them anymore. pointless and endless guitar noodling is basically musical masturbation in front of 100,000 people- once you strip phish of trey’s guitar, and the awful lyrics of tom marshall, you have nothing, there really aren’t any songs- so “pointless” is an apt description of phish.

      they are “important” however because of what they were able to create (as far as a “community” around a band is concerned) on tape trading/word of mouth/live shows/drugs/drugs/drugs in the early nineties.

      • Nick Rock  |   Posted on Jun 15th, 2009 0

        I don’t smoke pot anymore and I still enjoy Phish’s noodling immensely. You have to approach it completely open-minded like jazz and, also like jazz, you have to be patient sometimes.

        • you compare a jam band to jazz? wow. that’s not only a ridiculous stretch, but completely mis-informed. what kind of jazz are you referring to? modal? be-bop? what “jazz” can be even remotely compared to jam band-ism? oh, that boring jazz-fusion of weather report and mahavishnu orchestra? that shit sucks, as does your comment, as does your knowledge of music.

          • i don’t think you really know much about music either. all of the members of phish have an extensive jazz background. also, “jam” is improvisation which, coincidentally, is a hallmark of jazz music. Nick’s comparison to jazz was completely valid. that said, so much for those 60 something shows…and i’m terribly sorry you ever needed pot to get phish’s music. life’s real hard huh.

            too bad objective reportage is near impossible…the people at stereogum can call anything “pointless” just as easily as I can call you out for making ignorant comments. Phish has been around for 25 years…so what if they can’t play quite like they used to? they still put on a great show after all that time and are continuing to do what they love, and pretty damn well considering what they’ve all been through. thanks for coming out though.

          • an “extensive jazz background” doesn’t give them the right to murder standards like duke ellington’s take the a-train and caravan and dizzy gillespie’s manteca. really- if you wanna have a pissing contest on here, while trying to stick up for a band that basically “mailed in” half of their performances from ’98 on, go right ahead. i’m guessing you’re one of the fratboy douchebags that contributed to the ruination of the scene- go find a hack circle and a kind veggie burrito, “bro”.

          • i’m “blown away” at how much of a “douche” you are. hopefully you’re “less sufferable” in real life. but i “doubt it.”

          • no, much much worse.

          • ha, ok that’s pretty funny. i’m voting you up for that.

  5. equipment failure causing the yeah yeahs yeahs to play maps acoustically?
    i think that’s just how they’ve been performing that all tour. that’s how it was at sasquatch and in detroit.

  6. i’m not a fan of phish but i was watching them and sometime in the middle of their set a guy shat his pants and skittered away. i thought it was interesting if nothing else.

  7. hummer  |   Posted on Jun 13th, 2009 0

    Not being an avid Grizzly Bear fan, I am surprised to say their set was the best I saw yesterday. Fucking rocked it hard.

  8. Jeff B.   |   Posted on Jun 13th, 2009 0

    Fantastic rack on David Byrne’s back-up singer.

  9. Mike K  |   Posted on Jun 13th, 2009 0

    Does anyone know the name of David Byrne’s backup singer and the URL where I can find naked photos of her?

  10. The Projectors have been playing Knotty Pine on their tour with TVOTR (sans Byrne).

  11. omnomnom  |   Posted on Jun 13th, 2009 0

    A Day In The Life is on Sgt Peppers, not The White Album. Blerg.

  12. Wait, wait, what? Stereogum likes Grizzly Bear and Dirty Projectors? I, for one, am shocked.

  13. It’s good to see Brooklyn own it at Bonnaroo, if even for one day.

    I think Phish’s earlier recordings show what great composer/arrangers they really are, things started to get lost and diluted more and more once you are this side of “A Picture of Nectar”.

  14. Total cute girl overload with them Dirty Projectors, but more Angel pictures, please!
    But otherwise, way to provide the solid scoop for those of us that couldn’t make it to Manchester.

  15. True Stories or Mailer's Riff  |   Posted on Jun 14th, 2009 0

    Sterling Morrison loved Quicksilver Messenger Service and Lou Reed of all people called the Byrds divine…if anybody in NYC needs their head pulled out of their ass.

  16. This all just sounds amazing, super jealous.

    Side note: the 160 x 600 ad running on the main page with Diesel producing a music video for people really just looks like two dudes dry humping with their guitars. Just a thought.

  17. alvysinger  |   Posted on Jun 14th, 2009 0

    i don’t understand why its so hard to just say that animal collective put on one of the worst live shows in recent live show memory…

  18. karen088  |   Posted on Jun 14th, 2009 0

    Animal collective were terrible at Bonnaroo. Grizzly Bear and Beasties were my favorite of day 2. Yeasayer was great last night too

  19. Dude, I wish it was as sweet as that time Trey played Divided Sky until his hands bled. I think it was Red Rocks. I totally finger-banged a hippie chick in the Honey Bucket for a half of shrooms, ate em all, and did it again cause I couldn’t get the smell of patchouli off my hand. Figured her karma needed it. Oh, and my frat bros were all, yeah, she’s like a 6. Nice boobs, though.

  20. Goon  |   Posted on Jun 14th, 2009 0

    Dirty Projectors are pretty terrible live. Dave misses half of his notes and the experimentation just plain sounds better on record.

  21. @Ron Jenkins: i was totally right near the guy who shat himself! hilarious.

  22. everyone  |   Posted on Jun 16th, 2009 0

    Everyone agreed AnCo were kinda an epic FAIL at bonnaroo

  23. AL GREEN WAS AMAZING!!! He doesn’t even have to try …he’s great. What a treat (the whole weekend) … I wish all of you (minus douchey – douches) could have been there.


  24. Does no one remember the Beastie Boys screwing up TWICE on Sabatoge? And why did they decide to play so many punk songs? Phish was good but lacked the energy they once had. But it was good to see them playing together again. Given how they sounded right before the break up, I thought they were pretty solid. NIN and TV On The Radio were the best acts of the weekend. Blew me away.

  25. The Beastie Boys are a throwback to an age when you wanted one band to be your everything. Where now there is an artist for every niche and we only need them to do one thing well, Beastie Boys hoped to bring all the music of their late-1970s and early 80s youth together in one place.


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