If there was a moment--make that three hours--when all the energy and focus of Bonnaroo came together it had to be for Pearl Jam's set. The 10:15 start time and the fact that there was a two-hour block where nothing else was scheduled (save for Wolfman Washington at the "Something' Else" tent) seemed to confirm that.
With plenty of time allotted for his set, Eddie Vedder built the set slowly with plenty of ebbs and flows and kept the hits coming. From our vantage point--close to the back of the crowd--the stage still loomed large but the band was all but invisible; even the two large screens seemed the size of postage stamps. And the massive PA was reduced to sounding like transistor radio. We doubled back to the guest area and eventually found a couple of empty lawn chairs that were about 100 feet from the stage. There was no line of sight but the sound was clear and just a few people scattered around.
One area we hadn't seen in action was "Such and Such." During the day it seemed like little more than a curious outdoor sculpture garden. But now, each of the 10-foot metal creatures were highlighted with flames with occasional blasts of fire streaming from what the heads while teams of fire dancers and fire breathers entertained the crowd.
On the ride back in the shuttle we got a little dope from behind the scenes.
Explaining that he had talked to some girls from California who had driven three days to get to Bonnaroo, one local who was one of hundreds of paid workers (not all locals dread the festival) commented, "I wouldn't drive three days to walk around in a cow pasture."
The others traded stories about selling the $6 beers ("I could buy a whole six-pack for that," said the driver), including numerous accounts of festival-goers giving them $20 and just walking away. "These kids must have rich parents," said one.
There was also a story about a local girl who had bought a $275 ticket--which turned out to be counterfeit. "Then she had turn around and pay another $275 for a real ticket," he said. "That's a shame, I know she couldn't afford it."
Finally, one of the workers was amazed at how peaceful everyone was. "That's because they're all stoned," the driver said half-jokingly. "You could walk up to one and tell them, 'Hey, someone just stole your car' and they'd say, 'That's OK, they must have needed it.'"
Check out the video below for a behind-the-scenes look at what Bonnaroo 2008 was really all about.
And remember: The only thing lamer than writing a blog is reading one.
- Pearl Jam