Not to take anything away from the randomized mixtape of bands on hand, but it's hard to imagine leading a story about the fourth and final day of the 2010 edition of Bonnaroo with anything other than the heat; Sunday (June 13) quickly became a series of feats of human endurance (i.e., remaining upright and mobile for three straight 19-hour days in the Tennessee summer with barely any precipitation).
But naturally, those who braved the heat were rewarded with a variety of impressive live performances, a country-themed stage, the graduations of Phoenix and the Zac Brown Band to the big stages, the closing-night performance by the Dave Matthews Band, and general live-it-up-while-you-can merriment.
Dave Matthews Band took over the headlining slot held down in 2009 by Phish. Their expanded roster, which included new saxophonist Jeff Coffin, oft on-hand guitarist Tim Reynolds and a horn section, was on hand and the big band's sound was certainly full enough to reach all corners of the pretty comprehensively filled What Stage area. What their set lacked in surprise, it made up for in well-practiced reliability: "Don't Drink The Water" seethed, "Why I Am" and "Shake Me Like a Monkey" proved welcome additions to the band's A list and a set-closing mash of "Time Bomb" and "Two Step" seemed to well sate the jam-band fans on hand. And though Matthews introduced it haltingly, his cover of Neil Young's "Needle and the Damage Done" was poignant and faithful, and for the final song of the fest, they delivered a well-practiced but roaring cover of "All Along the Watchtower."
Video: Dave Matthews performs "Neede and The Damage Done"
In a festival dominated by high-profile hip-hop, reggae, rock and country artists, Ween happily grabbed at the party-band mantle with a funky, hard-rocking set that ran the gamut of the band's extensive and diverse repertoire. "My Own Bare Hands" and "Mister Would You Please Help My Pony?" played for laughs, but after loosening up the crowd with David Bowie's "Let's Dance," the band delved deep into the well for a raucous "Gabrielle" and intense workouts of "Voodoo Lady" and "Buckingham Green." The spacey jam intro to b-side "Did You See Me?" was a more apt re-imagining of classic Pink Floyd than the Flaming Lips' Friday-night take on "Dark Side of the Moon."
Zac Brown Band and Phoenix simultaneously threw down with twilight sets on Sunday, no mean feat for two bands that spent last year's festival earning new fans with late-night sets on Thursday and Friday, respectively. Both toured extensively over the past year and returned as alumni-made-good to the penultimate time slots, rocking polished shows to their exhausted but appreciative audiences.
Brown dedicated "Free" to troops fighting overseas, using the occasion to promote his Letters for Lyrics project, which promises a free CD to anyone who sends a note to a soldier overseas, and included a new song, "Colder Weather," as well as snippets of "One Love," "Into the Mystic" and, for the previous night's headliner, Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely."
Phoenix laced 'em up for a 90-minute set on the Which Stage that painted a fuller portrait of the group's music than 2009's frenetic tent performance. Opening up with a salvo of uptempo rockers including "Lisztomania" and "Long Distance Call," the group got loose and jammy on "Run Run Run" and worked up a mesmerizing incarnation of the two-part "Love Like a Sunset" to accompany a beautiful real-life tableau. "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix" highlights "Big Sun" and "Rome" led the band toward its cathartic closer, single "1901," replete with crowd singalong.
The afternoon brought a series of impossible decisions, made more difficult by the insistent human need for water and/or shade: They Might Be Giants mixed mid-'90s chestnuts with songs from their late-era bevy of children's albums, Kris Kristofferson crowned 'country day' on That Tent (which also featured Miranda Lambert and Jamey Johnson) and the Dropkick Murphys brought out Dave Matthews Band bassist Stefan Lessard for "I'm Shipping Up to Boston," and eventually departed the stage to cries of "Let's Go Celtics!"
Elsewhere, Regina Spektor captivated early afternoon Which Stage revelers with her breezy, quirky pop music. "The Calculation," from her latest album "Far," opened things in rollicking fashion, but the meaty middle of the set was most filling, with the melancholy crooner "Eet" and the bouncy "On the Radio."
Even more elsewhere, Blues Traveler included a slightly reggae'd-out cover of Radiohead's "Creep" in the Other Tent, complete with a John Popper harmonica solo, of course. John Fogerty and his loud seven-piece band roared through a set that was less individual songs and more iconic slices of Americana, Ingrid Michaelson ended her early afternoon set with a carbonated version of Britney Spears' "Toxic" and people grabbed discarded handfuls of ice cubes where they could find them, because, as we may have mentioned, it was hot.