Maximum Performance

Bonnaroo ’08: The Behind-The-Scenes Video & More!

Maximum Performance

Greetings earthlings. The wee hours of Saturday night have passed into Sunday morning.

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.

I've never anything quite like the numbers of people walking to the main stage for the Pearl Jam show. It looked like a strange, robotic exodus as well over 75,000 people (which is at least 23,000 more than live in my home town of Charleston, WV) streamed to the stage. The mass of bodies stretched from the gigantic stage back hundreds (and hundreds) of yards to the lines of freshly sucked porta-potties.

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.

On the way back, it was amazing to see the field in front of the "Which Stage" almost empty after being filled for Ben Folds and earlier, the manic gypsy-punk of Gogol Bordello (which was one of the day's standouts). But that would change by midnight when Phil Lesh & Friends took the stage.

The "Silent Disco" was filled to the brim with dancers. The concept is an interesting one: a DJ spins tunes and the dancers all wear wireless headphones. There's no sound system - hence the name "silent disco." At Lida Prince's bequest we tried it. Interesting yes - but I still felt ridiculous.

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.

It was now well after midnight and we wandered past the Coup, Oakland's hip-hop/rap duo to Sigur Ros, and the crowds were only getting bigger.

I was surprised at the number waiting to hear Ros, although with so many people on the grounds, every stage was packed. And, while their every caterwauling note was met with cheers, it was clear from other shows that it didn't take much at all to whip these Bonnaroosters into a small frenzy.

There were a number of acts scheduled until 4 a.m. but, to paraphrase Little Feat, my feets was failin'. Back at the hotel I can hear Kanye West from inside the room--and not just the thumping bass lines but the actual words. And we're easily a mile or so from the stage.

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.

The driver said he had met Metallica and said they seemed awfully nice--although he had never heard of them. "That's the only band I knew," said another.

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.

Catch the 2008 LIVE webcast on the AT&T blue room June 13-15. For more info on Bonnaroo, click here.

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