Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Not Going to Bonnaroo? Here's Something Better
If you had told me when I was growing up in Manchester, Tennessee, in the sixties and seventies, that in the first decade of the twenty-first century my hometown would be the location of the largest ongoing rock festival in the world, I would have told you that you were doing, well, some of the same drugs I was doing, with different results. But it's true. Manchester has maybe 12,000 people, but once a year the population goes up by 90,000 or so when Bonnaroo comes. As to why they come, I can't really tell you; there was one really stellar year, I think it was probably about 2004, when almost everyone I would have wanted to see in the pop music world played there, from Bob Dylan to Ani Difranco to Liz Phair, and I don't remember who else. Unfortunately, most of the acts were announced late, and I wasn't in a good phase and couldn't go, despite the fact that you could hear the damn thing from my mother's carport.
Anyway, since then, the line-up has sucked so bad I can't believe it sells out. The headliners this year are the Police, a band that should have stayed broken up (if we could only get U2 to join them in oblivion...). There are a few good acts, but my days of spending four days in what promises to be mind-numbing heat in a former cow pasture are over. I did once live for three days at a bluegrass festival in North Carolina on acid and whiskey and almost got beaten senseless by Hell's Angels, but I digress. I no longer emulate Hunter Thompson as much as I admire his work. My advice: if you absolutely must go to Manchester, TN, this coming weekend, avoid Bonnaroo like the plague; I'm avoiding the whole town, even at the cost of not seeing my dad on Father's Day. Instead, the guy who just sold the land to Bonnaroo owns some real farms in the area, and if you drive around the right pastures you can see bison! Yep, real, authentic beefalo! This is the other thing I never wouldn've believed I'd see in Manchester -- rejects from a bad Kevin Costner movie (or is that redundant) are everywhere! A vision of the past without drugs! Whatever.
I also suggest that while you're avoiding Bonnaroo, you hop on your I-Tunes (or if you must, order a CD on the internet, or maybe while you're hunting bison you can still find a record store) and download Bif Naked's latest album, Superbeautifulmonster. You've seen me mention Ms. Naked throughout the months in these blogs, and I did feature that beautiful video someone made from computer game graphics with her version of Metalica's "Nothing Else Matters"; in fact "Nothing Else Matters" is on Superbeautifulmonster, which came out in 2005 (I am nothing if not timely). I just got around to purchasing her laterst because I listened to all of her previous stuff so much for so long I kind of burned myself out, but I was ready, and this album is worth it. If you like heavy but catchy pop-rock this is for you. Her music always gets stuck in my head and on my car system.
Bif's story is kind of interesting, too. I'll let you read it on her website, but basically, she was just another rootless rock waif, raised in India by Canadian missionaries, who came back to British Columbia to die of punk rock and alcohol. Then something changed; inspired by Gail Greenwood, one of my favorites who played with Belly and L7 among others, she went Straight Edge (until the fascistic edges of that movement got on her nerves), but stayed vegetarian, and has adopted a lot of the Hinduistic culture of the country where she was raised into her consciousness. In short, she became quite a fascinating human being, and she makes great music. I've seen her live a couple of times, and if you get the opportunity, don't miss her; she doesn't tour outside Canada often, and certainly not in the American South. She gives a great live rock and roll performance (think, latter-day Joan Jett, whose appearance at the Tennessee State Fair a few years ago reminded me that you can still be cool over 40, which thought I was desperately in need of), and she's absolutely beautiful, if tiny. Really neat tattoos, too. I just really find her inspiring, somehow.
Of course, like all the best music from the 90's, especially all those great female-fronted acts, Bif's career seems to be languishing now. But go out and get I, Bificus, and see why she almost broke big. And then you can wish she would show up at Bonnaroo, instead of the crap that's playing there. Apologies to Hot Tuna and Junior Brown, who are great, of course.
Here's an old video off Bif's Purge album. Enjoy! It's music time, again.