On Friday around 5:30 p.m. the crowd at What Stage, the main stage at the ’Roo, waited patiently for the three-piece all star group Oysterhead. After Pink Floyd’s “Us and Them” stopped blaring out of the loudspeakers, the supergroup took to the stage.
The show was full of surprises and tricks. Les Claypool donned many faces throughout their hour-and-a-half set in the heat. Claypool came out with a pig mask on and later took it off to replace it with an Elvis face for their rendition of “Jailhouse Rock.”
The cover was like no other. Claypool had some strange bass apparatus with a bendable neck like a sitar that made the craziest noises I had ever heard, until Trey Anastasio started wailing on his synth guitar with deer antlers that he twisted and pulled for strange effects. The set consisted of long exotic jams full of ups and downs.
Ex-Police drummer Stewart Copeland played like he was 20 years old again and it was easy to tell he was having a great time by the huge smile he wore on his face and the fact that at the end of the set he came up to the mic and told the people of Bonnaroo that he wanted to take off his clothes and jump upon them. After Claypool tried to get him to do it (with no success) they left us to wander through the crowd in search of the next great show.
Saturday was a tough day at Bonnaroo with the heat at it’s peak, amongst many other things, and so much to see. The decision was tough because Cypress Hill, Beck, Les Claypool’s solo act, Medeski, Martin & Wood and Blues Traveler were going on at the same time. I decided to check out a little of all of them, but when I arrived at Which Stage for Cypress Hill I was not able to leave. The smoke thickened as the crowd (which was beginning to smell worse) got into the right mind set for the Cypress Hill explosion. It was a great change of atmosphere from the usual Bonnaroo sound of lead guitars and harmonicas.
It was pretty unusual though to see all of these peace-loving, PETA-activist hippies turn magically into gun-toting gangsters and sing along to “Cock the Hammer” it’s time for action and “How I Could Just Kill a Man.”
B Real and Sin Dog put off the most energy and the most smoke out of anyone at Bonnaroo. During the whole weekend the people never jumped as much as they did for Cypress Hill, quite a contradiction to what most believe about potheads being lazy. The crowd roared as the group jammed old hits like “Hit’s from the Bong” and “I Want to Get High.” They weren’t the only ones with the urge that day.
Cypress Hill blew up a 30-foot Buddha with an herb leaf on his big belly in the middle of the set, passing a rolled-up treat to the crowd like they always do, saying “Now you’re getting stoned with Cypress Hill.” It was a very special moment. Just when you thought it was time to calm it down, the group let loose with the super-hit “Rock Star” and the crowd went crazier than they did for “Insane in the Brain,” which I thought was impossible. They played everything you could imagine from their 10-year-plus catalog.
On Sunday, I was worn out but still had to find something to get into. The comedy tent looked perfect. I was finally worn down enough to need to sit in the 1,000-person line. Once inside, the air conditioning proved to be a well needed reward.
Lewis Black took the stage and the crowd stood up and went crazy.
“Now what am I gonna do,” Black said. “I already got a standing ovation. It can’t get better than that. You can all leave now, thanks.”
His routine was full of intellectual cynicism reminiscent of Bill Hicks and Eddie Izzard (who we would love to see at the ’Roo next year?hint hint. Someone make it happen please). Black went on his rant about evolution and creationists making people cry and jump for joy at the same time.
Mr. Black also had a lot to say about politics. He made jokes about cowards that go quail hunting and said that it was the equivalent of going to a goldfish bowl and grabbing the poor, innocent fish and saying “I got it.” You can get the equivalent of one chicken finger from a quail.
He also said if you’re a Republican or a Democrat, stop now. When Lewis Black gets pissed is when people love him the most. Lewis Black’s anger and cynicism brightened my day.