Bonnaroo Diary: Day 1

Videos by American Songwriter

photo by Laura Dart

We’re 24 hours into Bonnaroo 2011, and the damage is minimal. People are sunburned. A few toilet seats have been ripped off their foundations. There is a lot of sweat. But given the widespread devastation that usually occurs by this point – the rain that flooded entire campsites in 2009, the heat that baked everyone to a Tennessee crisp last year – we’ve been lucky.

View The Bonnaroo Day 1 Photo Album

As far as concerts go, Thursday is normally the tamest point of Bonnaroo weekend. The music runs on an abbreviated schedule, starting mid-afternoon and running until 2:00 a.m. or so, and the two biggest stages are closed. After setting up camp in our temporary neighborhood (which includes the publisher of Knoxville’s Blank News and the graphic designer of Bonnaroo’s 2011 festival guide – illustrious neighbors, indeed), we headed into Centeroo to catch our first shows of the weekend. Hayes Carll was holding court at the so-called “Other Tent,” strumming his acoustic guitar with a deadpan stare while the rest of the band worked up a country-rock froth behind him. Futurebirds were playing across the festival at the same time, paving the way for a follow-up performance by Freelance Whales, who proved that an unfortunate band name doesn’t necessarily hurt your fizzy electro-pop songs.

photo by Jamie Younger

Best Coast debuted new material and covered Loretta Lynn’s “First City” later that night, the Walkmen dressed themselves up in suits and crooned like punky lounge singers, and Twin Shadow got their ‘80s on by playing a mix of Eurodance and Cure-inspired synth-pop. We caught a few minutes of Deerhunter to help mellow us out, then headed back to camp to call it an early night. The weekend is young. Gotta pace yourself.


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Bonnaroo: Day 1 In Photos