Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Woo-hoo Bonnaroo!

Hammy and I lucked into tickets for Bonnaroo this weekend. (Bonnaroo is a huge 4 day music festival that happens to be held in Hammy's hometown of Manchester, Tennessee.) Hammy's folks live a couple of miles away from the site. Hammy's dad, being connected to several of Manchester's illustrious bureaucrats, got Hammy a pass. The day before Hammy was going to leave, a friend of mine said she had an extra ticket and did we want it. Neither boy wanted/could go with Hammy so I blew off work and went.

We showed up Saturday in time to catch the last few songs by Ben Harper. Powerful and beautiful! I had tears in my eyes as he closed with this song:
Ben Harper - Better Way
I'm a living sunset
Lightning in my bones
Push me to the edge
But my will is stone
Fools will be fools
And wise will be wise
But i will look this world
Straight in the eyes
What good is a man
Who won't take a stand
What good is a cynic
With no better plan
Reality is sharp
It cuts at me like a knife
Everyone i know
Is in the fight of their life
Take your face out of your hands
And clear your eyes
You have a right to your dreams
And don't be denied
I believe in a better way

We stayed around and watched the Police. Hammy'd seen the Police once or twice "back in the day" but I'd never been much of a Police fan. I allowed the worst of their pop to define them for me. Recently, though, I rediscovered the song "Spirits in the Material World" and have added it to my "Soul" music play list. I also appreciate the lyrics to "Message in a Bottle" about alienation, loneliness and reaching out. So, seeing the Police was nice.

The next day we got to the festival in time to see Mavis Staples perform. Wow! She and her fabulous band had the tent rockin' and swaying! Her songs are one's of hope and uplift: "Keep Your Eyes On the Prize" and "This Little Light of Mine" and "Respect Yourself". She was Hammy's favorite act of the weekend.

Mine was the next one on the same stage: T-Bone Burnett. He had an incredible band with him and his songs are lyrically mysterious and wonderful but it's his arrangements that transform his songs into haunting moments of music and feeling. When I listen to his work, I'm taken to another place; one that's strange to me-disconcerting, maybe even a little frightening because I never know what's around the next corner. In a black and white world, he seems to see everything in the twilight. It's hard to know if his songs are full of hope, fear, cynicism, regret, earnestness or all or none of these things. The first time I saw him perform was 20 years ago (at Summer Lights) and I identified with the outsider feel to his music. I guess I've mellowed with age because I now hear righteous anger mixed with genuine hope.

"If I could only see through glass
I would know what has come to pass
I wouldn't hurry,
but I'd get there fast
What's last is first
what's first is last.

We're marching on to Zion.
That beautiful city of God"
(from "Every Time I feel the Shift")

Is he using Biblical imagery for to make a cynical point or is he really seeking heaven on earth? Does it matter? What I hear is that he is aware of the veil separating us from Spirit and longs to see past it but knows that this human journey has to lead where it is inevitably leading and all we can do is accept that we're on it and walk it with as much truth as we can.

Umm, moving on...we tried to see Flaming Lips and White Stripes but both bands were on a stage way too small for the number of people who wanted to see them and I wimped out on fighting the crowds so we didn't stay for either show.

We saw Wilco, which made Hammy very happy, they being one of his favorites. I was tired out from having been on my feet all day so I didn't really enjoy them the way I usually would have, but I did appreciate the dynamic power of their music to evoke mood and create emotional tension and resolution. I haven't listened to more than a song or two from their latest CD but I understand many of the songs are about addiction and heartache, which I thought they masterfully expressed through the alternately melodic and cacophonous music.
They didn't play the song "What Light" (or, if they did, I was daydreaming and missed it), but it's from their latest CD and I really like it. Here's some of it:

If you feel like singing a song
And you want other people to sing along
Just sing what you feel
Don’t let anyone say it’s wrong

And if you’re trying to paint a picture
But you’re not sure which colors belong
Just paint what you see
Don’t let anyone say it’s wrong

And if you’re strung out like a kite
Or stung awake in the night
It’s alright to be frightened
When there’s a light
(what light)
There’s a light
(one light)
There’s a light
(white light)
Inside of you

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