When you see all the photos from Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival this weekend — the crowds of folks and tents and arm-swaying humanity — remember that this is what it looked like before the gates opened today. Bonnaroo home Manchester, Tennessee, also is my hometown. I was there earlier this week visiting my mom and dad and we drove out to look at the 700-acre site, just about four or five miles from my parents’ house. On one hand, it’s out in the country on one of those narrow winding two-lane rural roads that natives take at about 80 miles an hour and everybody else creeps along. On the other hand, Bonnaroo is only a few yards up a hill from an everyday residential neighborhood that in the course of normal events usually does not play host to the likes of Steve Martin and Dave Matthews. Except during Bonnaroo. Because then my normal and everyday Tennessee hometown goes suddenly crazy. But in a fun way. On the Tuesday night of our drive by, the muscley official Bonnaroo guys riding four-wheelers around to check out the generators and fences and all the million details of the Bonnaroo infrastructure — they’ve built a city there, people — far outnumbered the trickle of regular folks who were starting to congregate. And on our closeup view, I noticed that those who live adjacent to the Bonnaroo site adopt one of two strategies for the duration: They either 1) abandon all hope and rent their houses out to Bonnaroo people or 2) go all in and rent out their yard space to vendors, open their doors to anyone who needs a roof and join in the party. One enterprising woman set up an awning, tables, chairs and grill and declared it to be “Momaroo’s Kitchen.” Why not? This morning the long line of traffic from everywhere else made its way slowly but efficiently to the Bonnaroo gates, and the good times began. Learn more about Bonnaroo and follow along at http://www.bonnaroo.com/.
I admit I’m not young and cool. I admit I think Lady Gaga should put some pants on. I admit I’m in that demographic of Super Bowl halftime-show viewers who said, “You know, Pete and Roger haven’t changed that much since I first saw them in ’75. When we had to walk 10 miles in the snow uphill both ways to get to the show.” But I was blown away by the great music I heard on the recent Grammy Award broadcast. I mean, despite Lady Gaga’s weird green Tinkerbell ensemble, her performance was powerfully awesome. Same with Beyonce and Pink. And Green Day and Kings of Leon. And I found myself tapping and clapping along with newcomer the Zac Brown Band. And Taylor Swift was intriguing — I mean, she knows she can’t sing but she’s so supremely confident that she does it anyway? Who is this kid??? So then I wanted to hear more from these folks — and of course classic favorites such as the Dave Matthews Band and even the Black-Eyed Peas. If I were music-savvy and had plenty of money, I’m sure I’d already have a Grammy-worthy CD and iTunes collection. But I’m not and I don’t. So, Wal-Mart to the rescue! Running past the electronics department — between office supplies and dairy — I spotted this $11 CD of Grammy nominees and I’ve been rocking out ever since. I promise you have to smile when you hear Fergie promising you a good night and Sugarland bemoaning that “It Happens.” You can order it from http://www.grammy.com/, too. This is like bullet points for pop music of the past few months — your kids and friends will be impressed.
I know next to nothing about music. My radios are all tuned to NPR stations and my CD/iPod collections lean heavily on the classics — as in Fleetwood Mac and the Beatles. That’s why I rely on the annual Grammy Awards to cue me in on what’s hot and what’s not. Luckily, 23-year-old Younger Daughter watched along with me on Sunday night and we made a great team: She explained what the Blackeyed Peas were singing about and I told her who Alice Cooper and Stevie Nicks are. But what a show! I was moved to tears, moved to laughter and then at times simply moved to leave the room until my ears (and eyes) stopped bleeding. Here are some highlights, and if you want more go to http://www.ew.com/ew for complete coverage:
As somebody tweeted on Sunday night during the broadcast, “Where’s Kanye when you need him?” Even folks as musically challenged as I am could tell that teen-country-diva Taylor Swift mangled her live performance, but apparently that’s normal for her. And I wasn’t sure if I should be proud of Stevie Nicks for going along or embarrassed for her part in the debacle. It’s so hard to tell with Living Legends! And truthfully I do not understand how Swift has slipped into super-star status. I mean, she’s cute and perky and nice — is that all you need nowadays?
I loved Pink’s rock-‘n’-roll-meets-haute-couture red-carpet gown, which contrasted directly with her performance ensemble of a white sheet covering criss-crossed white bandages. And were the folks sitting below her high-rise swing act issued umbrellas and ponchos?
Multi-winner Beyonce was strong, confident and powerful in her performance. But what’s with the headache-inducing hair tossing and the weird techno-military backup dancers? I mean, when do gimmicks for gimmicks’ sake cross the line from entertaining to annoying? Or maybe being annoying is part of the entertainment. Now my head aches.
If you listen to Lady Gaga’s music, you do not picture a drag queen-like constellation-wearing pale skinny girl. I say congrats to anyone who can work their way up, create an instantly recognizable image and construct such an enormous fan base as she has. If you’re a friend of Elton John, that’s good enough for me.
All I have to say about Lil Wayne, Eminem and the other hip-hop/rappers is, “Could you please pull your pants up? Thank you.”
But I’m not all you-damn-kids-get-outta-my-yard old-lady-grumpy here. I loved the performances by Dave Matthews Band, Zac Brown Band, Slash and Green Day. And the Andrea Bocelli and Mary J. Blige duet was so lovely. Now, that’s music.
On our way to Louisiana’s Cajun Country for a wedding this past weekend, my friends and I spent a day in Mississippi doing some of things we do best: Eating and shopping. And stumbling on Wacky Ideas That Might Come In Handy Sometime Because You Never Know. Like these two examples that solve the problem of what do you do with all those 45s/albums/CDs that you will never ever listen to again? At the 101 Cafe in Brookhaven, Mississippi — a funky sandwich spot with a very cool 1960s-hippie vibe — one of the walls was decorated with a huge peace sign made out of old 45s. I love this idea — how great would it be for a rec or media room? And then at Upscale Resale — a fun consignment shop in Jackson, Mississippi — we found this gleaming and holographic mobile made out of CDs. Now, this is true recycling! Check back tomorrow for one more Cajun Week post — I saved the best for last!
As the calendar gets ready to flip over to September, these are exciting days in Alabama. Why, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you — and you know that if you have to ask, you obviously don’t live in Alabama. Because … it’s Football Eve! Finally, after weeks — months? — of anticipation and planning and hard work and sweat and tears, football is here again. Tonight there are a few high school games, with the bulk of the high-school season openers on Friday night. The University of North Alabama, our hometown college that’s always a powerhouse, plays its first game on Saturday, and then next weekend we get down to business as Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss and others show us what they’ve got. All across the state, everybody’s busy checking supplies of school T-shirts, pom-poms, shakers, grills, BBQ and coolers. And of course, just because the season’s starting doesn’t mean that practice time is over. There are still hours ahead of drills and run-throughs under the steamy summer sun as frustrated cries of “Left! Left! You’re supposed to turn left there!” and “Didn’t you see Clint there on the 50-yard line? How could you run over him?” ring out across the practice field. But it’s all worth it on Game Day, as the lights pop on and the crowds gather and the fans follow your every move — roaring approval and rising to their feet in wildly enthusiastic applause for a job well done.
Yup — I love marching band season. Why? What did you think I was talking about???
Okay, here’s a travel quiz. Can anybody guess where we are? That’s Younger Daughter, and she and I and my husband were visiting a sacred (to some) site near our home here in northwest Alabama. I don’t have any prizes for the correct answer — you’ll just have the satisfaction of knowing that you know. But that’s all right. I just can’t help believing that you’ll get all shook up one night and any day now you and your little sister will figure it out.
Sorry — couldn’t resist.
Oh my goodness. In my town of Florence, Alabama, the annual W.C. Handy Music Festival is the party of all parties. It’s a full week of music and dancing and getting out and being friendly with folks you may only see during Handy Week. You probably associate Handy with Memphis or St. Louis, but the Father of the Blues was born in Florence in 1873. In 1982 some local folks formed the Music Preservation Society to remember and honor the favorite musical son. The first Handy Festival was a weekend of music featuring Dizzy Gillespie. Now, it’s a week-long celebration of jazz, blues, gospel, country, rock-‘n’-roll and things I don’t even really understand but enjoy anyway. Music is everywhere during Handy Week — or just “Handy,” as the locals say. You can hear performances at restaurants, in parks, in stores, on sidewalks — anywhere a musician can set up. Most of Handy is free, although a few concerts have admission. Handy Week wraps up on a Saturday with a New Orleans-style street strut through downtown. Folks deck out themselves and their parasols — many marching for a cause such as breast cancer awareness — and strut their best stuff. So much fun! The two things I like best about Handy Week are 1) You can park yourself somewhere and sit and enjoy free live music for hours and 2) Everybody — and I mean everybody — gets out and has a good time. Tentative dates for 2010 are July 17-26. Put that on your calendar and check the W.C. Handy Music Festival site, http://www.wchandymusicfestival.org, for info and the TimesDaily site, http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20090725/VIDEO/907252012# for a video of the strut.