There”s been a triad of music First Ladies, a series of trailblazers that have shaped the goosebumps on the skin of everyone”s sunburned arms at Bonnaroo. Friday brought the Queen of of Rockailly, Wanda Jackson, among one of my favorite Immaculate Noise interviewees. Last night brought my first full set sit-in, from country great Loretta Lynn. She wore a combination of Flashy Loretta and Down-Home Loretta, with a simple pant-suit with a bibbed, rhinestone shirt. Her petite frame was fragile against her male-dominated, inveterate band and she rarely strayed from her place on stage.
She also never lifted her arms above her shoulder and gestured only slightly, while her voice was strong and happy on songs like “Honky Tonk Girl,” the first song she ever wrote, a montage of “Walkin” After Midnight” and “Fallin” to Pieces,” a pair of Conway Twitty tunes, “Fist City” and closer “Coal Miner”s Daughter.” Her own daughters Peggy and Patsy sang a pair of songs together before Lynn took the stage, and her band did their version of “Man of Constant Sorrow,” a song heard for the second time that day (Jerry Douglas and Union Station played their “O Brother Where Art Thou?” take earlier in the day). She, like Wanda, hinted at the presence of Jack White (he’s produced music for them both), but the Nashville convert was nowhere onsite.
There was a bit of a to-do as Lynn exited the stage, requiring help from some burly handlers, and a hurried move to her air-conditioned car. She sat down once during her performance. It”s kind of breathtaking, her delicate state.
Mavis Staples didn”t seem to have much of a problem, other than a cough. She also had a little help from her friends: the gospel queen – who has seen a resurgence due to Jeff Tweedy”s production and participation in her latest record – had Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller to back-up. She also brought the heat-beleaguered crowd to church today, Sunday, the closest we”d get, she said, to any sacred hall. She also tipped her hat to The Band, with a cover of “The Weight.”
I had to leave Mumford & Sons early for Loretta, but from the front-of-the-front row, in the photo pit, they had the crowd owned from note one. I love the band and watching its slow-grown success, but live, they play to the mean-bastard joke I have in my head.
“Oh, I like that one Mumford & Sons song…”
“The one with the four-part harmonies….”
“The one with the dramatic, overwrought chorus that hits a high note and then repeats…”
“The ones with the guitars and mandolin…”
And so forth. But they”re hella cute when they dance.
Ray LaMontagne has his own version of solemnity, keeping his eyes hidden under a brown hat and a mat of hair for his set. He started small, and solo, but clearly by the end caught his breath and bashed through big tunes from latest, folksy-titled “God Willin” and the Creek Don”t Rise.” The Pariah Dogs pounded through the Nor”easterner”s natural shyness, despite a slow start.
Ben Sollee made the rounds, predictably, this weekend, sitting in with groups like faves Low Anthem and My Morning Jacket. But he had his solo Sollee stand on Friday, right before Justin Townes Earle took the stage. Both wade dangerously toward Precious territory in their live sets – the former with his sweet, cute arrangements and the latter with that http://www.hitfix.com/galleries/bonnaroo-2011-lil-wayne-florence-and-the-machine-and-arcade-fire/7www.hitfix.com/galleries/bonnaroo-2011-lil-wayne-florence-and-the-machine-and-arcade-fire/7 – but as a combo, they performed tightly, with Earle”s gall and Sollee”s improvisational guts. Match made in heaven.
Deer Tick has a bratty, lavishly snickering sound that I love (RIYL Lucero, Paul Westerberg), and they blasted through the majority of their newest record “The Black Dirt Session” with ease on Saturday. Friday night, I hear, was a bit of a different story. Performing as Deervana – the band covering Nirvana tunes – they apparently got sh*thoused and collaborated with equally inebriated Phosphorescent during the set. Forget the Arcade Fire or Eminem VEVO streams: I”d much rather watch that on an internet near me.
I know that chronic chonic-user Wiz Khalifa was just a stage over, but is it me or does Alison Krauss come off as more, erm, disassociated during her set? Regardless, it”s ever a joy hearing the purity of her voice against Jerry Douglas”, having me believing in angels on earth. And as for smiling-nodding-bouncing Wiz: good stuff, if you need an hour of songs about smoking weed and f*cking women.
I saw Amber Rose backstage. She is quite small.
Eugene Hutz had no interested in saving up his energy for his band Gogol Bordello“s 2 a.m., never-ending slot for late Saturday: he was all over his own curated stage, which burst with the most “world” music the fest has seen over its three days. He bounded around with Forro In The Dark, who look good, sound good and clearly earned new fans at the fest.