Cage the Elephant
This Bowling Green-based quintet has gotten plenty of radio play since blowing up at the Austin, Texas South-by-Southwest Festival and then in Britain. They played a lunchtime tent show at Bonnaroo Sunday for a good-sized crowd, considering half the festivalgoers were just then rolling out of their tents, recovering from Saturday night’s blitz.
The fuzzy, growling-guitar rock brought by the band, invoking standard rock sounds from the ’70s, early ’80s and ’90s (think somewhere on the scale between the Pixies and Black Flag, perhaps a Nirvana-lite without the galaxy of Cobain) ignited the fans of a festival where heavy music was sparse. The set was capped by the band’s strong single, Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked, now getting commercial radio play in Louisville.
Frontman Matt Shultz bounced around his bandmates in a red superhero suit as they zipped through songs. Later, he launched himself over barricades and into the crowd and, at points, he was bending over and shaking his ass at fans. I spoke with the band after the show, where the cockiness subsided and the humble Kentuckian within them shined through.
They were glad to be playing only a few hours from home, working their way up from British dive bars to return to the states for a far-flung tour. The band started what they called a grassroots approach with EMI, a UK label, to maintain more creative control on their debut album. American distribution has been handled by Jive Records. Budget blown, they relied on word of mouth to sell out shows in England. Sunday they finally arrived in near-home Tennessee with a fair amount of buzz.
“It’s cool to be able to prove it (success) to your family and friends,” said Brad Shultz, brother of Matt. Of the music, Brad said, “This is shit we just got down with in the basement.”
And it has taken them from the basement toward the penthouse, allowing them to be blown away by the ride. Talking of how others around the world viewed his home state, Matt shrugged off the misconceptions of the bluegrass as uneducated and backward.
“I think it’s weird,” he said, “we still live in a society where people think where you’re born has an effect on your intelligence.”
Band of Horses
Prior to watching this quasi-country, quasi-indie group, I knew little of them. I still didn’t see much to form a strong opinion in favor or against them. Some people say they’re like MMJ, but I don’t know if I fully buy that — maybe three or four years ago one could have said that and been more congruent. Pretty music, I guess, but it does seem overly conventional, and that’s where I’d make my split in comparison. BoH drew one of the smallest crowds spotted at the Which Stage, second largest on the farm, throughout the weekend. Apparently, Bonnaroo was more excited about the final two acts across the way on the main stage.
Perhaps the most iconic rapper in history, the D-O-double-G ran through a list of hits, enticed the fans to chant the f-word and s-word in a three word sentence (sandwiched around the word “this”), among other back-and-forths with crowd. Erykah Badu, who performed earlier, sung on Lodi Dodi. Snoop also busted out a cover of House of Pain’s Jump Around.
Phish (part II)
In a dark, spooky voice, Trey arrived on stage a few minutes after the scheduled 8:30 start and asked “You’rrre stillll heeere?” envoking a chorus of cheers from the ocean of Phish heads still remaining, who threw beach balls, glow sticks and, of all things, thousands of tortillas, into the air in jubilation. A phunky second set continued into the night after Springsteen had made a guest appearance, doing a few of his songs with the world’s greatest cover band to close the first set.
Photos by Alisha Eli / Words by Joshua Coffman