Live From Bonnaroo 2004
DVD Review by Ray D'Ariano



Directed by:
Danny Clinch
Produced by:
Danny Clinch
Gillian Grisman
Lindha Narvaez
Extra features:
Artist Info Pages
"We Have Arrived" Feature Film Trailer
Press Tent Artist Interviews

Studio: BMG Music
DVD Release Date:
May 17, 2005
2 Discs
Rating: NR



There aren't many DVD's where you can see and hear the thoughts of Mickey Hart, and that's ashame because he's an interesting guy and says things like, "This is really rites of passages. That's what this is really all about. You know, this is way out in no place. This is not a stadium. This is not an arena. This is a field, and so, you come out here to experience three days and nights of yourself and the humanity of it all. That's really what this is about."

Thanks for the explanation Mickey. If anyone can get a handle just what Bonnaroo is it's you, and the comment above appears on this great double disc set in the excellent press tent interviews section.

This eclectic and electric rite of passage has been presented for four years. This DVD documents year three, 2004. Bonnaroo is the really big show. It has become the top dog, the numero uno summer music festival. It rocks on rain or shine. It's chaotic and comfortable at the same time. That, my friends is impossible with over 90,000 fans and a diversified and eclectic lineup of musical talent. But nothing can be done that can't be done and so not only did A.C. Entertainment, Sanctuary Records, and Superfly Productions do it, they got it right, not only live for 4 years in a row, but they also nailed it with first rate DVD's of 2002, 2003, and now 2004 that are essential for any collection. If you were there you gotta have it. It is the perfect audio/visual souvenir. If you weren't there, you gotta have it to see and enjoy what you missed.

The DVD was directed by Danny Clinch. He and his team captured the overall feeling and atmosphere of the annual three-day festival that took place in Manchester, Tennessee. The camera work and editing and sound are superb. You get 4 hours of live performances. It's so diverse that everyone will find stuff they love.

Some of the highlights for me are:
The Dead with Good Lovin'. This performance is worth owning the DVD for. Everyone shines; the colors right down to the reflection of the lights on the rain soaked stage that spreads out before the band are dazzling. There are great shots of Weir and Haynes singing together. The sound is crisp, clear, and magical.

Phil Lesh of The Dead
Photo: Spark St. Jude

It's been many years now since Jerry moved on to the next level of consciousness. First there was no more Grateful Dead, then there was The Other Ones and now it's The Dead. This is perfect as it should be and this segment celebrates their return and is a tribute to their greatness. It demands multiple viewings. If the band's latest DVD "Truckin' Up To Buffalo" captures them in their glory days back in 1989, this clip gets them now as they continue truckin', kicking ass, and taking no prisoners. I hope someday the entire set will be released. This is the apogee of what the jam band scene and Bonnaroo is all about.

Then there's Primus with My Friend Fats. This performance just builds and builds. Les sings about his friend who is a jovial sort while a Pink Floyd/Phish/Metallica riff runs under the vocal forever just waiting to explode and then there's this amazing guitar solo in the middle of this heartbeat heaviness jam. This is nighttime at Bonnaroo. A nighttime that includes Trey Anastasio with his big band as colorful fireworks light up the Tennessee night sky. And the kids are alright as Trey dances around like a little old shoemaker who just had a dose of some special sun brewed iced tea, you see? With Trey shuffling across the stage playing electric, there's something phishy here because after years of seeing The Macy's Fourth of July fireworks spectacular accompanied by the sounds of Lee Greenwood and Ray Charles, it is so refreshing to now hear these sounds accompanying the light show. The combination of their performance, the camera work, editing and fireworks captures the spirit of the festival, the spirit of freedom and Bonnaroo. This field in Tennessee is transformed into an all American rave and it is a beautiful sight to behold.

Another highlight is Steve Winwood with Dear Mr. Fantasy. Backstage Winwood requests a glass of something with a reddish hue. He must have got it because this performance is super, classic rock from a classic rock artist. His guitar playing flows. The camera work and editing are excellent, both used to effectively capture the dynamics of the timeless tune. Just great stuff.

Gov't Mule check in with Blind Man in the Dark. Mule just keeps getting better and better. They are basic - keyboards, drums, bass, guitar, vocals - yet they have a totally unique take on the entire 50 years of rock and roll and the blues that came before it. The close-up camera work and editing is nothing short of sensational.

In addition to the performances there's a lot of cool bonus stuff especially the backstage press tent stuff. Any fan of Warren Haynes will love his insights. Here's a sample: "Every situation's different, you know, with The Allman Brothers, Gov't Mule, and The Grateful Dead it's a whole different approach to to jamming. Its different songs. It's different equipment, different guitars, different amps, and I just take a totally different mindset with each project, you know, just try to fit in the best I can and take different sides of my musical personality and put 'em into what I feel is necessary. I first started singing when I was about 7 years old and soul music was on the radio at the time, James Brown, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, 4 Tops, The Temptations, and that's what really made me wanna become a singer. When I eventually heard Sly & The Family Stone that kinda lured me across this bridge to Cream and Jimi Hendrix and that's what made me wanna play guitar. So I got a guitar for my twelfth birthday."

Dylan, Wilco, and a few other big names that were at the show are missing from the DVD, but rather than focus on what's not here, let me run down who is. In addition to the artists mentioned above you'll see and hear:

Burning Spear
My Morning Jacket
Los Lonely Boys
Gillian Welch
Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra
Dave Matthews & Friends
Robert Randolph & The Family Band
Ani DiFranco
North Mississippi Allstars Hill Country Revue
Kings of Leon
Chris Robinson
Femi Kuti
Antigone Rising
Beth Orton
Doc Watson & Jack Lawrence
Taj Mahal

How's that for a Saturday night's "get some friends together in the living room to chill" viewing?

And the final words go to Mr. Haynes, "Bonnaroo is really special to all the musicians including myself. It's a rare opportunity to get this many music lovers in one place, and this many great bands and musicians in one place, and its put together in a way that all the bands are bands that appeal to the type followers and listeners who come here, and that's really unique. I can't think of any other festival that does it quite that way. You know, you could walk a hundred feet in any direction and hear some great music, and I think the one thing these fans have in common is they're looking for fresh new music that they enjoy that's not being force fed to them. It's not necessarily commercial or mainstream music. These are all people that love music and don't mind searching for it."

What are you waiting for? Go get it.

Check out our CD review of the Bonnaroo Music Festival 2004


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