U2 To Do Festivals Again! Glastonbury Confirmed & Bonnarumored

November 29, 2009

Just recently, Glastonbury and U2 confirmed that the Irish quartet will headline the 40th anniversary of the mother of UK rock festivals in June 2010. Almost immediately after that announcement, the hints and rumors (what I would rather call “focused and prayerful speculation”) began that U2 would also headline the American Glastonbury in small-town Tennessee, better known as the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival.

When I think about U2 and the festival scene, I think of the band’s ascent in the early and mid-1980s: Bono scaling the scaffolding at the US festival in California; Bono taking the white flag into the crowd at the stone amphitheater of Germany’s Lorelei at the Rockpalast festival; or U2 headlining its own Longest Day festival at a drenched Milton Keynes Bowl in 1985, with openers like R.E.M. and the Ramones and the band appropriately covering the Beatles’ “Rain” for the soaked and sodden masses.

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I never really expected U2 to join the postmodern festival movement, but now that Glastonbury is confirmed, I wholly support the hints and rumors already circulating in the blogosphere that U2 will come to Bonnaroo.  While I cannot lay claim to starting the rumor, I would be happy to spread it: U2 might be the Friday night headliner on the What Stage on Friday, June 11th in Centeroo, USA.

When I think about the American festival scene in the last days of the last year of the first decade of a new century, I think about Bonnaroo. Known for its Deadheads and Phisheads, costumes and road crust, long dusty days and longer lovely nights, it’s the last place we’d expect the middle-aged (and sometimes seen as middle-of-the-road) rulers of stadium rock to drop in for a show. But Bonnaroo is also an American World Series of Popular Music, recently the benefactor of three-hour-headlining-sets by Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen the last two summers.

Awesome arguments abound for why U2 should headline Bonnaroo 2010, and any arguments against the proposition could be turned into reasons why it’s still a great idea.

The best case for bringing the boys to my backyard might be how infrequently U2 have ever played the Volunteer state: opening for J. Geils at UT Knoxville in 1982, headlining the Murphy Center at MTSU in Murfreesboro on the Joshua Tree tour in 1987 (around the same time they Rattle and Hum film crew went to Memphis), and bringing the spectacle of Popmart to Memphis in 1997. Atlanta has always been U2’s mid-south staple, and the current 360 dates for summer 2010 only include one southern date in Miami.

The second best case for U2 addressing the throng that assembles each summer in Manchester would come from the Bonnaroo organizers and their commitment to attracting top-tier rock performers. If U2 does not get the nod and play their first Tennessee show in over 13 years, whoever takes the What Stage on Saturday night will likely be one of U2’s elder peers like The Stones, The Who, or Paul McCartney, a true peer like Green Day or R.E.M., or one of the younger pretenders to their throne, a band like Coldplay or The Killers. Tennessee homeboys Kings of Leon have already played day set on the mainstage at Bonnaroo, and it’s likely too soon to bring them back as the main act.

The third premise for U2 at the ‘roo has already been floated to defend the Glastonbury decision: reaching out to a younger audience and even expanding the band’s already enormous fanbase. Clearly, Bonnaroo goes for the righteous blend of hippie and hipster, adding to its jamband roots a plethora of jazz, world music, reggae, electonica, and indy-rock; U2’s globally-minded musical and social spirit could actually do quite well at such a gig. If sluggish sales for No Line On The Horizon and casual demographic surveys of the crowds at 360 shows are any indication, it would not be all wrong for a band with U2’s impressive resume to reach out to the crowd that comes from around North America to for this top-shelf event.

Bonnaroo regulars return each summer not just for the impressive array of artists but for the experience itself, its particular convergence of the communal and the cosmic, from the sometimes treacherous logistics to the frequently transcendent memories. Many of us would love to add a U2 set to a long list of Bonnaroo bests.

Fan-author and devout U2 follower Cathal McCarron understands the potential beauty of U2 bringing its noise to a major festival. He comments about the Glastonbury decision: “This is the best bad news I’ve ever heard. I’ve been to Glasto eight (or nine, it’s hard to remember) times. I’ve have been to the Pyramid Stage watching headliners like Radiohead, Coldplay, Paul McCartney, The Killers, The White Stripes, and God knows who else, and usually thinking about just how much U2 would demolish the place. And then they go and announce this for one of the two years when I’ve not got a ticket! The atmosphere by the Pyramid Stage for the headliner at Glasto is beautifully, almost indescribably, electric. It’s a genuinely magical experience; there really is something special in the air there—just a few days after the summer solstice and just a few miles down the road from Stonehenge. The atmosphere is going to be far and away better than the atmosphere at some regular U2 gigs.”

I feel the same way about U2 as my Irish brother Cathal does and see the similarities between Bonnaroo and Glastonbury; modeling his festival after Glastonbury was one of the stated intentions of Bonnaroo founder Ashley Capps when he began the project just after the turn of the century.

The common-sense argument against U2 joining the festival movement at this juncture seems to stem from the apparent incompatibility of U2 fans with the types of folks that go to festivals. Given my extensive experience at both Bonnaroo and U2 shows, there’s plenty of truth to this claim. But just this kind of cross-cultural experience (even if it is only across mostly white, privileged rock-fan subcultures) might serve both U2 fans and Bonnaroo fans very well. Of course, some U2-haters would denounce such a decision, just as U2-hate is currently clogging the comment threads on some UK newsites where the Glastonbury tag has been noted. I doubt anything could rival the hate Bonnaroo fans had for Kanye in 2008. The worst U2 could get is a mediocre reaction like the Police did in 2007, but that was mainly because Sting was whiny from the stage and the set was criminally short.

Across the Universe

Bono’s long-hair and suede-fringe circa the Conspiracy of Hope tour notwithstanding, U2 are not hippies, and U2 fans are definitely not hippies. But Bono can certainly play well with hippies as he did as Dr. Robert in the film Across The Universe. If this rumor comes to pass and U2 are announced as Bonnaroo headliners, I am immediately starting another rumor that “I Am The Walrus,” the song Bono sang in his Dr. Robert drag, will be in the setlist on June 11th.

For a band that has been accused of safe, corporate business decisions, unclawing the megatour for some festival dates represents a brave move. For the true U2 fan, every day on tour is our own private Bono-roo, but going to Glastonbury is an Edgy decision of Adamic revelation and risk, taking our private Larrypalooza to a larger public. I hope the Bonnaroo decision will come early next year. –Andrew William Smith, Editor

US Festival Image by © Joe Giron/Corbis

Video Link: U2 at Germany’s Rockpalast Festival in 1983

Remade Horizon: Dirty Projectors bring their experimental indie rock to Minneapolis

November 15, 2009

dpdavid400Considering how incredibly tight the vocal and instrumental interplay on Bitte Orca is, I was, needless to say, skeptical about whether or not the Dirty Projectors would be able to reproduce their avant-garde indie rock/pop sound live. Luckily for me and everyone else at the Cedar Cultural Center, it turns out that the band is exceptional at doing just that, and even better, they’re able to maintain their melodies and harmonies while improvising and jamming into and out of songs–a mark of true musicianship.

The sunny opening chords of “Cannibal Resource” fittingly opened the show, setting the mood for the remainder of the night. All nine songs from the Projectors’ highly-acclaimed 2009 album, Bitte Orca, made an appearance in the set, with the remaining few songs being a mix of new and old material. One of these new songs was “Ascending Melody,” which recently appeared on the UK-only Temecula Sunrise EP. The track is full of text painting, featuring several rising or “ascending” melodies (clever ones, those Dirty Projectors), particularly obvious during the chorus. It was one of my favorite songs from the concert, embodying the radiance and playfulness of the band; unfortunately, the majority of the audience seemed to have never heard it before and watched the performance with little reaction.

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The middle of the set slowed down considerably, moving from “No Intention” to “Two Doves” and finally to “The Bride” from Bitte Orca, before coming to a complete stop as the band sorted out some technical difficulties. After fixing the sound issues, another new song was played, “When the World Comes to an End,” which was debuted live on Jimmy Fallon’s late-night show and has not been released on record as of yet. The band’s women–Amber Coffman, Angel Deradoorian, and Haley Dekle–steal the spotlight on this (and, let’s be honest, every) track, which showcases their ability to flawlessly pull off complex vocal interplay. Bitte Orca‘s first single, the funky, bumping “Stillness is the Move” followed, putting the crowd into a dancing frenzy that was further extended into “Useful Chamber,” the song that contains the iconic, cathartic shout: “Bitte orca! Orca bitte!” Translation: “Please orca! Orca please!” It makes little sense, but sure is fun to yell out along with hundreds of others.

A two-song encore containing “Fluorescent Half Dome,” another fitting choice, considering its placement as the last song on Bitte Orca, and “Knotty Pine,” from the Dark Was the Night compilation closed the performance. Leaving the stage ablaze with ecstatic songs, the Dirty Projectors cast their overjoyed light upon the audience, who walked out into the night newly illuminated and gleaming.—Cassie Traun, Editor

Up Against The Wall: U2′s Berlin Set Sparks Criticism

November 9, 2009

Given U2′s connection to Berlin with the Achtung Baby album, given U2′s history having “been around” when the Wall fell, given the historical moment that just transpired and U2′s desire to transport fans to a better place via music, it makes complete sense that the band would be invited to mark the anniversary with a free concert. All that said, most of the reports, like the one that follows, focused on allegations concerning the temporary fence that kept some fans from seeing the show.

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Karen O lets her inner child shine throughout the soundtrack to the film adaptation of classic children’s book Where The Wild Things Are

November 2, 2009

The start of Karen O’s career led us all to believe that this badass rock chick probably didn’t even know about the existence of an acoustic guitar, but this soundtrack finds her diving head first into the world of laid-back folk textures. The lead singer of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, O’s voice can be as raspy and whiskey damaged as Lemmy; yet for the ballads she has the ability to summon a silky smooth, [Read more]