Thursday, June 4, 2009

Bonnaroo, Newport Folk Festival or neither?

In 2005, when my VW van was still running, I treated myself to Bonnaroo AND the Newport, RI Folk Festival. Here's my thoughts...
- What was great about Bonnaroo was- well, not much. The price seemed high ($270 minimum at this point), and while
• the lineup was stellar (Iron & Wine, Donna the Buffalo, Alison Krause, Herbie Hancock w/ a surprise appearance by John Mayer, John Prine & many bands who I'd kinda heard of but didn't quite know- Dave Matthews, Rilo Kiley. And many more), that turned out to be a weakness. Did you want to hear Prine OR Krause? With seven stages, one was forced to choose.
• They searched religiously to make sure folks didn't bring in outside liquids-- there was free bad-tasting water, or beverages in the hot sun for $4 or some such.
• The audience was rude and unappreciative. I didn't know there was such a thing as Drunken Southern Fratboys (and the women who mysteriously tolerate them) til I went there. Folks, having paid hundreds of dollars for the privilege of listening to Alison Kraus, sat around and talked with each other. They could have done this in their back yard for free!!
The admission DID cover parking, which WAS camping, toilets (but not showers), the ability to walkdown Shakedown Street (my first time, and an adventure) and the right to have cops tell you to walk in the mud and not on the grass.
I hated it.

In contrast, the Newport Folk Festival was well-behaved and there were only three stages-- two small, one big.
The price was cheaper, but didn't cover camping or parking ($12/day). There was a kids area, which I think there wasn't at Bonnaroo. The lineup was also stellar, but more focused on what I like (the kind of Americana that WNCW plays), and I had strong sense of the history that I was entering into-- many folks there were active singing AND speaking out in the early sixties, and there were at least THREE next generation acts-- Peter Seeger and his grandson Tao's band, Peter Yarrow and daughter Stephanie (I think), and Richard Thompson and son Teddie. I discovered a whole slew of artists, some of whom I only comprehended later as time went by.
(Oddly enough, on the way home from there, I discovered & stopped in at the Purple Fiddle in West Virginia, and heard this unknown group that the venue owner totally vouched for. Since then, the Avett Brothers are taking the world by storm.)
(I suppose I could hyperlink the heck out of this entry, but you can quickly get to respective  web pages quickly enough).

So.... Bonnaroo, Newport Folk Festival, or neither? This year--  probably neither.

I'll probably just get my live music at the Grey Eagle.

1 comment:

TCB said...

I think you need to be stooooooned to appreciate Bonnaroo. It sounds pretty suck to me too. I went to Newport once, very long ago. That was a cool fest all right. Luci and I went to a couple of Merlefests and while it's a well-run festival, we got tired of it. The only other I've been to was last year's Austin City Limits, which I liked, though there were some problems (for one thing, Austin is a darn hot place for a festival).