Best Of Bonnaroo: Jack Johnson, Rock n’ Soul Dance Party, Portugal. The Man

Portugal. The Man

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Portugal. The Man

The spirit of collaboration was in the air Saturday at Bonnaroo, where guest appearances were aplenty. Whether it was Weird Al Yankovic sitting in on the accordion for Portugal. The Man, or Brittany Howard of the Alabama Shakes coming out to do some Zeppelin tunes with Bustle in Your Hedgerow, fans were treated to some unique pairings.

Other than rocking out with Weird Al, Portugal. The Man played to their best Bonnaroo audience yet mid-afternoon on the Which Stage.

Impractically dressed in a green hooded jacket, lead singer John Gourley’s sweetly high vocals were right on for what was surely a defining moment for the band.

The set featured some songs from their new album, “Evil Friends,” as well as some good older rockers for the energetic set.

Perhaps in tribute to Paul McCartney’s set from the previous day, the band also broke out “Helter Skelter,” and closed out their set with the chant from “Hey Jude.”

Another Saturday highlight predictably came when Bjork took the stage. Dressed in a strange bubble dress (yeabuhwha?) and wearing an even stranger Pinhead-esque mask over her face, the Icelandic singer was backed by a slew of female backing vocalists, and a sparse band in contrast.

Rather than broadcasting her performance on the giant LED screens, Bjork opted to instead stream trippy videos synced up with the music. One of them featured starfish and worms crawling in and out of an animal carcass. It was… complicated.

Fans that didn’t get enough of Portugal. The Man were again treated to a stellar set when the band played the fountain just before Jack Johnson took the stage. The band played more songs off of “Evil Friends,” and even teased “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Before closing it out with “People Say.”


Jack Johnson

Speaking of Jack Johnson, his headlining set went off without a hitch, despite the fact that his band had not played a show in almost a year.

Which isn’t to say there weren’t some mistakes. The Hawaiian-born singer/songwriter flubbed some words here and there, and the band even had to restart a song. But what did some through was Johnson’s genuine love for his music.

Not even close to the spectacle that McCartney provided the previous night, Johnson and co. instead opted for an intimate performance that featured mostly love songs.

In fact, if there was one thing most of Johnson’s songs had in common Saturday night, it was that most of them seemed to be about his wife. When you consider the fact that the couple met over 20 years ago, and just how many love songs Johnson has, a clear picture begins to emerge of what the audience was in for.

Dan Lebowitz of ALO returned the favor from Thursday night (where Johnson joined ALO for some song) by joining Johnson for some tunes on the lap steel.

For his encore Johnson played some songs sans band before bringing them back out along with members of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band to close out the set with “Mudfootball.”

Rock n’ Soul Dance Party

The good vibes continued over at This Tent where the Rock N’ Soul Dance Party Superjam was in full effect.

Jim James led an all-star lineup that also featured Larry Graham, John Oates, Zigaboo Modeliste (of The Meters) and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. The band mostly stuck to covers, and what a selection. Highlights included Marvin Gaye’s “Don’t Do It” (performed the way The Band do it), and John Lennon’s “Instant Karma,” as well as when R. Kelly came out to do some Sam Cooke covers.

If there was any downside to Saturday night it was that there was so much going on, it was hard to settle at one set.

Across the field Billy Idol was rocking That Tent with songs from his days in Generation X as well as his hits from the 80s, and Weird Al was pumping out parodies left and right at The Other Tent.

But surely one of the best late night shows was Bustle in Your Hedgerow, which stretched into the early morning. Comprised of Marco Benevento and Joe Russo (The Benevento-Russo Duo), Dave Driewitz (Ween), and Scott Metzger, this isn’t just another cover band.

Perhaps the tightest show of the entire festival, the musicianship of Russo alone kept jaws on the floor. There might be better drummers out there, but no one makes it look as easy.

The band didn’t wrap it up until almost an hour after they were scheduled to play, but maybe that was all the Bonnaroo that could be handled that night.

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