In 2009, so far at least, the Marlboro Marathon Runners have gone to festivals including Wakarusa and Bonnaroo, we’ve been to shows on rivers, shows in theaters, we’ve seen girls kissing girls (and liking it). 2009 (so far) has arguably been our best year for music yet. Since we took an extended hiatus from this venue, we’re giving you a review of what we’ve had our hands in so far.
Wakarusa – Our first festival of the year, Wakarusa was a welcome warmup and break from the overall intensity that Bonnaroo has come to mean for us. With the much more moderate climate, going to the outdoor stages was not quite the hassle it has meant for marathon runners at past festivals, which enabled us to catch some of the best shows of the festival, including Les Claypoon, Joe Purdy, Matisyahu, The Black Crowes and Porter Batiste Stoltz. Other than these less than blistering temperature wise shows, some of the highlights of the festival were Joe Purdy’s first performance under the tent, where he proclaimed his love for the beautiful Arkansas girls. When a man in the crowd doubted him he just said “clearly you are not from Arkansas”. Other highlights included the two nights of Yonder Mountain String Band, with blistering performances both under the tent and on the main stage, and surprisingly spectacular performances from The Hood Internet and previously unknown (to us at least) My Dear Disco, Josh Phillips Folk Festival, Public Property and Northern Lights. From what I gather, Wakarusa’s move from Kansas to Arkansas was an all around plus for the fans and the festival. Certainly this year at least.
Bonnaroo – Truth be told, I was not overly excited for Bonnaroo this year other than the phenomenal lineup (at least for me and fellow marathon runner Kyle). Add a particularly rainy forecast to the mix, and I was downright not very excited. Until the music hit. Passion Pit, arguably the most hyped and loved new band of 2009, kicked the festival off from the headlining slot Thursday with what I contend was the show of the festival. On a night when festival goers were downtrodden with the realization that Bonnaroo was to be a mud pit for the next four days, Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos and crew made people forget that for about an hour and just want to dance like it was the 1980’s again. Friday there was no more rain, but instead a giant 700 mud pit, which was easy to forget with electrifying performances from The Reverend Al Green, who just wanted to dance with the crowd and be united with his fans, The Beastie Boys, who acted as the catalyst for the party that was about to begin, with fan favorites Phish’s first ever appearance at the world’s arguably most jam band friendly festival. And what a party it was. Openig up with Chalk Dust Torture, Trey and company launched into a 3 hour party on the main stage with the best set I’ve ever seen on the main stage at a music festival. Weaving Phish classics in with stellar material off of their upcoming album, Joy (out September 8th), Phish set the stage for the most anticipated Sunday set in the history of Bonnaroo. But before that, it was Boss Time. Bruce Springsteen, my personal music hero, showed the crowd that someone nearing 60 could still take a crowd of tens of thousands captive. While his setlist didn’t start out quite the way I would have recommended for a festival show, he rebounded during the semi-request portion of the show with theri slightly out of place, yet well received version of Santa Claus Is Coming To Town all the way through the electrifying encore with classics like Rosalita, Glory Days and Dancing In The Dark. Before them though, Jenny Lewis, Elvis Costello and Wilco rocked the festival through dusk, with the former two duetting on Lewis’ Carpetbaggers off of her 2008 release, Acid Tongue and Wilco warming up the crowd on the mainstage, with Jeff Tweedy letting everyone know it was quite alright for them to boo today, because they weren’t really booing, but instead yelling “Bruuuuuuuuce”. Sunday rounded up the festival with festival friendly artist Andrew Bird playing at his self proclaimed favorite festival, Erykah Badu and Snoop Dogg working the crowd up to a soul filled frenzy before the Vermont quartet that is Phish took the stage again to end the festival. While this show was not as solid to me as the late night Friday venture, but made up for it, in my eyes at least, when Trey’s (and my, for that matter) boyhood hero, Bruce Springsteen came out to end the first set with Mustang Sally, Bobby Jean and Glory Days. The second set ended with fan favorite Tweezer Reprise and predictably, left the crowd wanting more, but content with what they’d just witnessed. While the weather didn’t quite appease me (or the masses for that matter), the music more than made up for it, which in past years may not have been the case.
The Marathon Runners plan to end the year covering ACL, Phish’s Festival 8 and Voodoo. Stay tuned for reviews of those and various other shows.
MEMORABLE 2009 CONCERTS
Old Crow Medicine Show – On my first day back in the state of Texas after an extended hiatus, me and two of my buddies drove to the capital for a bluegrass show that we anticipated would get put the 2008-2009 school year to rest in the best way possible, and it succeeded. With their unique fast paced, high intensity, drug referencing brand of bluegrass in hand, Old Crow delivered on a hot May night in a way that sent the packed crowd at Stubb’s in Austin into a frenzy. Overall, the night would be remembered for the high octane parts of the show, but my favorite songs included Old Crow’s cover of Bob Dylan’s Lay Lady Lady and Humdinger, a groover and a mover off of their 2008 release, Tennessee Pusher.
Ghostland Observatory – If you’re familiar with us here at MMR, you know we love Ghostland Observatory and their shows as well. In accordance with this, their second annual performance at Whitewater Amphitheater in New Braunfels was no exception to their repertoire of phenomenal live shows. This show was particularly memorable for the exceptional crowd that surrounded us and Ghostland’s newest foray into the visual stimulants – blindingly bright background lights that, when mixed with smoke and their trademark lasers, enhance the light show to a level I would have never expected for an outdoor show. Mix this show in with Aaron Behren’s solo effort at a benefit at the Beauty Bar in Austin three nights later, and I’m lead to believe that these guys are about to bust through whatever ceiling we might have thought there was for them.
Jenny Lewis – After skipping out of her set early (just before Elvis Costello came out to duet on Carpetbaggers) to claim a solid spot for Wilco and Bruce, I knew I couldn’t pass up an opp with a night of Jenny Lewis. While the crowd was abysmal, interrupting multiple quiet songs and causing Jenny to abort one song prematurely while struggling with the crowd for control during her in crowd encore, they could not completely overshadow the Rilo Kiley frontwoman and former child actress. With songs like Silver Lining and Jack Killed Mom, Lewis wrangled the crowds attention away from chatterboxing and took hold of the venue, and kept control for most of the night (Houston concertgoers are relentlessly terrible for the most part). However, she persevered with a show that I don’t see being beat as one of my favorite club shows I’ve been to.
The Old 97’s – As good as some of the show’s I’ve been to this year were, The Old 97’s were above and beyond anything that those shows meant to me. This may have something to do with the fact that they are now neck and neck with Bruce atop the charts for me personally, but irregardless of that, they put on a phenomenal show near where it all began for them in Fort Worth. Their show at Bass Hall weaved through a catalog that includes songs that are twangy country and songs that are Belle and Sebastian inspired twee pop. The one constant was the quality of the music, which, in my opinion, has the same quality, if not better as any of their studio material. Lead by the ageless faux teenager Rhett Miller, the Old 97’s worked through songs from their first album all the way up to their most recent effort, 2008’s Blame It On Gravity as well as a track off of Miller’s most recent, self titled album. Topping it off for me was an in song, in crowd proposal during the undeniably heart melting “Question”. The other stand out track (if a stand out was possible) for me this night was Won’t be Home, off of their 2004 album Drag It Up. On the hole, this show left me going away a bigger 97’s fan than I was before, and I think that’s saying something. In general, I think that’s the goal of a show, and it obviously doesn’t always happen. But for me, for that to happen with a band I love as much as the Old 97’s it was truly a spectacular thing.
Look out for more to come from us here at MMR, as we hope and strive to be posting more regularly.