Benham Jones on the Odyssey of Bonnaroo, pt8: WILCO and Smoke Rings

by Landry on June 15, 2009

from WFUV’s photostreamSunday, June 15th

8:42 am CDT

Yes, yes, yes; finally some peace. I’m currently at Nashville International at Charley’s (“Good Food, Good Times”) Steakhouse, waiting for my Ultimate Scrambler. It’s an unusual feeling returning to civilized society after Bonnaroo, especially here to BNA. I slept for about two and a half hours before cleaning, packing and hustling to the shuttle, and I’m experiencing that really weird exhaustion where my stomach is nauseous with a grainy heat and my eyes seem carbonated. Not a particularly pleasant sensation, sure, but Satchmo is on the radio and coffee is on its way and it is nice to be upright in sturdy chair.

from WFUV’s photostreamI guess that I’ve got some backtracking to do. All the way back to Saturday evening, seemingly ages and ages away on the Bonnaroo clock, and I had just finished up with Patterson Hood in the press area. The original plan was to roll back towards the campsite and take a breather before Bruce and Nine Inch Nails, but I became hypnotized by Wilco while making my escape. I’ve seen Wilco a number of times before, but this was probably the most satisfying show I’ve gotten served since 2001 and the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot tour. Jeff Tweedy is looking older these days but pointed in the right direction; rather than drugged and bloated, he is starting to look like one of the heavies, one circle out from Bruce, Bob, Petty etc… in the Inferno of Rock. The band’s real trump card was played be guitarist Nels Cline, consistently injecting classic Wilco with squealing bits of genius from his Fender Jaguar; in a guitar battle orchestrated by Tweedy, Cline emerged as the peoples champion when set against multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone. The new tunes from the band were a welcome return to looseness, drawing upon the FM vibes of Sky Blue Sky, but ultimately opting for sounds a little bit uglier.

photo Rob SheridanAbout half-way through the set, perhaps right near the start of a DEAFENING rendition of “Misunderstood,” huge smoke rings the size of convenience stores started blowing up from the other side of the festival. It was like live animation with a Wilco soundtrack, watching these smoky ovum morph from lemons into cigars into lines. And then from out of nowhere, a hot-air balloon rose from behind the tree line and slowly canvassed across the festival grounds. This was probably the moment that I realized Bonnaroo had become its own solar system, a rural reimagining of Oz and the Emerald City for Generation What The Fuck. This was probably the turning point of the weekend for me, the moment I stopped being stressed and grumpy and started to love Bonnaroo.

They are boarding first-class now and my battery is about to die. I’ll cover Bruce etc… when I get back to NYC.

Benham Jones currently lives in New York City with his four year old cat Stella.

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