After a 16-hour drive from Connecticut, schlepping all out stuff twenty minutes from our car, and setting up camp in the heat, 7:30 rolled around and the music began. First up, The Little Ones. I had downloaded the only thing the band had released, a six-song EP, and enjoyed their breezy pop to a certain degree. However, the production left them lacking substance, resulting in the sort of songs you enjoy and then immediately forget when they're over. Not so live, where a little volume and a lot of thumping drums gave it the oomph it was missing. They're not profound - all their songs feature a "la la la" or "oh oh oh-oh-oh" singalong, with one track actually called Cha Cha Cha - but their enthusiasm made them enjoyable. After yelling "Happy Bonnaroo!" before the first song, the singer was so awed by the response he got that he yelled it before every other song too. They grinned the whole time as they went through every song on their EP and, though the crowd only seemed to know the last song, Lovers Who Uncover, they quickly got into it. A five-piece band might seem excessive for such simple bounce-rock, but when one wasn't playing he was busy adding percussion, dancing around, or just getting the audience to clap along. A lot of clapping along.
Next up, after wandering by some tent where we heard old people cover the Beastie Boys, we headed over to check out the Black Angels. We lasted about five minutes before I had a migraine. It was like prog rock lite, with a one note drone that never seemed to change from song to song. The thump of the bass drum was incessant and if anyone was singing, it was drowned out in the wall of unchanging noise. Horrendous.
So we headed over to The Other Tent to see the only other group playing then, the New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars. Though we were so far back we could barely see anything, it was a good set, very different than normal Bonnaroo music. In addition to the guitar/bass/drums set, you had a violin, an accordon, and a clarinet jamming out. Though there was a little too much soloing for my taste, the focused parts were very catchy, and I thought I even recognized a few tunes from my bar mitzvah days. At the end of the set they even got the whole audience breaking up into concentric circles and doing one of the classic dances.
Mute Math was a band I'd heard of month's ago when I downloaded Plan B as the free iTunes single of the week. A good song, but I hadn't thought of them again until I heard they were gonna be at Bonnaroo. Their CD was a little less fun and catchy than I'd expected, but they had no real competition live, so I headed over. Their songs sounded basically like they did on the album, but the stage setup made up for a lot. Three banks of vertical lights that would flash in different patterns as they all danced an thrashed around. And a lead singer playing a keytar is pretty cool (offset for one song by the naked guy who ran onstage). Typical opened the show and, after a new song I really liked, they hit into their single Chaos. Plan B came next, and at that point I'd seen all the songs I wanted to, so exhaustion and the fact that I could barely see took priority and we headed back to the tent. I hadn't realized how low-key Thursday was, but it just meant I needed to use it to rest for the next three days.