Howie interviews David Byrne, asks Haley Dekle to marry him
In this edition: NYC love, 19-year-old stoners, watching David Byrne’s stuff, a marriage proposal and The Dirty Projectors (pictured here. Cute, huh?)
I am suffering from such a huge Bonnaroo hangover that this morning, sitting in the salon before the kiddies come in, I poured coffee into my mug that I was holding upside down. It’s been almost I week since I left for Tennessee. Reality sucks. Yay me.
Hippies and hipsters — that’s what you hear all weekend buzzing from Bonnaroo Radio or from festival coordinators posting up for their umpteenth interview — hippies and hipsters, an announcement that the pop cultural civil war has ended and the utopia that sprung up is Bonnaroo. The eighth annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival spread its wings on a 700 acre farm in Manchester, TN (60miles from Nashville), drawing over 75,000 people to rock, roll, and step off the grid. The line up was headlined by jam band Phish (playing 3-hour Friday and Sunday sets), Bruce Springsteen, Nine Inch Nails, David Byrne, Bon Iver, Snoop Dogg and Wilco, among 100+ others.
Wednesday June 10
Don’t travel with 19-year-old stoners. Ever. You can go to the same destination as them and meet up with them later, but travel and rely on them for anything beyond blank looks — no. We rolled down in a rented minivan with my wife, a friend, his 19-year-old niece and her two friends, a lovely young couple from somewhere in Illinois. I was happy we brought the minivan into the Bonnaroo wild because if things got out of hand, I could look at the minivan, remember the driveway, think of my dog and home and that one way or another, things would be fine. At least that’s what I would tell myself.
Sun down, way southern Illinois, road trip cruise control. Our mini van was kinda pimp, one of those DVD player deals. Wilco Ashes of American Flags doc was going and I had stretches of highway sliding beneath my feet. There is a certain romance, rhythm, and feel to road trips. God knows I’ve done my fair share, crossing the country in every direction for one paradoxical reason after another. Driving through rural America has a lost-in-time sadness. Rusty bridges, ribbons of highway, rest stop stuffed animals for trucker’s kids, flickering lights from farms, Adult Superstores next to Best Buy — who lives out here? Books, bottles, stores called Shoe Carnival? Amazing double billboard: ABE LINCOLN NEVER SLEPT HERE BUT YOU CAN (hotel ad) and IF YOU DIED WHERE WOULD YOU SPEND ETERNITY? If I was smarter, I could write an article for The New Yorker on some Americana-social implications from these two billboard messages, but I’m more lazy than smart, which is where we’re at right now. You’re there, I’m here. Go.
Thursday June 11
This could easily turn into a Twitter-esque “next I waited in line next to funny looking people. Then I had an iced coffee. Mmmm” article about what I did and not what the festival is about. That’s all for another time. Maybe some installment shit next week. Isn’t the internet liberating? So, record skip and boom: here comes the music.
Alberta Cross. Like a bunch of other bands you might know.
It’s Thursday at dusk so people are still driving in, setting up tents, crashing out, watching other people set up camp and gawking as people bark orders while getting shit done. On stage, British mop locks reaching into a mixed bag of My Morning Jacket, The Verve with a bit of Arctic Monkey edge thrown in. And yes, I can speak in cliché other-band references because even though they did open for Oasis earlier this year, their website bumps you out to their MySpace page which screams “we have not arrived.” Way too 2006. Come on fellas! They really got the crowd shoegazing with spaced-out jam “Low Man,” conjuring up their best OK Computer impression. I’ll try to lay off the other-band references. Even I’m sick of it.
Friday June 12
Old friends: TOUBAB KREWE
And so began the Bonnaroo mash up. Stage to stage. Band to band. Brain waves pulsing and floating around. Sun perched high,sped-up music freaks running around their carnival of madness. First up, TOUBAB KREWE — steady rocker Afro beat from Ashville, NC. I went to high school with the drummer, Luke Quaranta. We used to kick it around the lunch room, run sports trivia and Pulp Fiction lines in Earth Science class; now he and his band are laying down big-riff, afro-beat madness all these years later on a farm in Tennessee. I caught up with him backstage, had a quick hug and what’s up. We made tentative plans to meet up later at the press tent, but we both knew this was probably it. This was first of my learning that there’s no time for plans at Bonnaroo; you just move with the crowd.
Standing a few feet in front of me on the side stage was an older fellow wearing white head to toe, jelly shoes like The Big Lebowski Dude, a beige paper boy hat and white, oversized robot wrist watch. Pretty damn hip for an old dude. Dude started emptying his pockets onto a flight case — wallet, keys, some papers, Bonnaroo program. Lead singer David Longstreth started talking, the crowd swelled with cheering, dude straightened his hat down and walked on stage for their last song. This dude was David Byrne and I was unofficially guarding his shit till he came off the stage.
David Byrne with The Dirty Projectors
Song ends, the crowd flip, hugs all around on stage, triumphant set, down the steps, pockets are filled, a nod of thanks is exchanged and Byrne walks to his golf cart. Things then moved like a 1950s movie — I bust out my pen and pad (oh, did I say I was gonna only talk music? I lied.) and walk over. It’s just ole DB and I, two New Yorkers, shooting the shit.
TCD: How does it feel to be rocking with a band like Dirty Projectors at a festival like Bonnaroo and not inside a club in NYC?
DB: Great. This is what it’s about.
TCD: What else is on tap for the festival? Who do you want to see and hang out with?
DB: St. Vincent and Santi for sure. Also Al Green. Definitely Al Green.
TCD: Any work with Phish this weekend?
DB: Oh, no. No time.
We talked a bit more about NYC, the changing neighborhoods, and a few other details of life and living. Haley Dekle, singer/percussion in Dirty Projectors walked over. And with that, we shook hands and he walked over to the band for more hugs of goodbye.
Haley is a sweet little indie rocker heartbreaker. Jean skirt, layered little dark hair bob, black tee: DANGER. I felt like full on nerd talking to hot girl in an ’80s movie. It was almost unfair.
TCD: Will you marry me?
HD: Excuse me?
(That didn’t happen.)
TCD: How’s the fest going for you guys?
HD: This is my first festival and it’s incredible. An absolute whirlwind.
TCD: Where ya in from?
HD: Charlotte, playing with TV on the Radio.
TCD: We can make this work you know, I’ll take to the fields and barn, you’ll bake and iron, the kids will be bright eyed and strong ….
HD: Excuse me?
(That part didn’t happen either). Friends swooped in, we high-fived goodbye and our festivals clicked into the afternoon toward night one. Phish. The freaks will come out. I’d like to tell you Santigold stole the show at Bonnaroo with her dubbed out 80s dancehall. Maybe I can recap it later. I’d like to tell you about walking around the festival and going back to camp to put on a German flight suit as my evening attire. But I can’t because at that moment the drugs took hold.
Aforementioned flight suit.
TO BE CONTINUED.