The artists' view on Bonnaroo: Van Zandt, Costello, Byrne tell us what to expect

Lindsey Maksim, left, and Katlyn Dennis, both of Fort Wayne, Ind., cheer as they listen to The Raconteurs at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival 2008,  Friday, June 13, 2008, in Manchester, Tenn.  (AP Photo/Bill Waugh)

Photo by Bill Waugh

Lindsey Maksim, left, and Katlyn Dennis, both of Fort Wayne, Ind., cheer as they listen to The Raconteurs at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival 2008, Friday, June 13, 2008, in Manchester, Tenn. (AP Photo/Bill Waugh)

Lindsey Maksim, left, and Katlyn Dennis, both of Fort Wayne, Ind., cheer as they listen to The Raconteurs at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival 2008,  Friday, June 13, 2008, in Manchester, Tenn.  (AP Photo/Bill Waugh)

Photo by Bill Waugh

Lindsey Maksim, left, and Katlyn Dennis, both of Fort Wayne, Ind., cheer as they listen to The Raconteurs at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival 2008, Friday, June 13, 2008, in Manchester, Tenn. (AP Photo/Bill Waugh)

Bonnaroo

  • Where: Manchester, Tenn.
  • When: Thursday-Sunday, June 11-14
  • Tickets: $272.10, available at www.bonnaroo.com

The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival brings upward of 70,000 music fans and approximately 100 performers to 700 acres in Manchester, Tenn. Now in its seventh year, Bonnaroo has become a tradition for some, but, for others, it's still a new experience. That applies to not only the fans, but also to the performers.

First-time Bonnaroo attendees Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band will probably perform for the largest crowd at the festival. E Street Band-member Steven Van Zandt says he's anticipating a big night.

"I'm really looking forward to it," says Van Zandt. "I have been encouraging (the band) to do as many of these festivals as we possibly can. We're doing a few this year, in Glastonbury in England, PinkPop in Holland and I hope we continue to do many more in the future. I'm expecting at least half of the audience will have never heard us - and it could be 75 percent. That's going to be a whole new fun thing to win over a new audience. It's nothing but good. It'll be something different. We're ready for that now."

Van Zandt says the group has no problem performing for huge crowds.

"You're playing to that couple thousand people right up against the stage. That's who you're talking to all night. And because of the video screens, the people in the back get that same intimate experience from seeing that intimate reaction. It's not that different from a club any more. It's obviously a bigger stage, but you're still playing to that two thousand people you'd be playing to in a big club."

Elvis Costello is a Bonnaroo veteran, having performed a show with legendary New Orleans singer-songwriter/producer Allen Toussaint in 2007. This time, however, Costello will perform a solo show. Some of Costello's set will be dedicated to songs from his new album "Secret, Profane and Sugarcanes," which was recorded in Nashville with country music players.

"I'm playing six shows in June with the Sugarcanes (Jim Lauderdale, Jerry Douglas, Mike Compton, Stuart Duncan, Dennis Crouch and Jeff Taylor) and I have four dates in July with the Imposters," says Costello. "But for the dates for Bonnaroo, the members of the Sugarcanes were already booked to play with other people."

However, Costello says he enjoys presenting his songs in different musical environments, and there is a good chance that musical friends also performing at the festival will stop by to do some duets.

David Byrne has an even more active role in the festival. Byrne, who has also performed previously at Bonnaroo, was asked to curate a Bonnaroo stage for a day.

"Ashley (festival co-founder/organizer Ashley Capps) gave me a pretty much of a free hand, so I thought, 'OK, then I'm just going to reel off some names that I'd like, that I've seen, and we'll see where it goes,' " says Byrne (in a Bonnaroo teleconference).

Byrne's choices? Santigold, the Dirty Projectors, Ani DiFranco, St. Vincent and Norwegian band Katzenjammer.

Byrne said if he were actually designing an entire music festival himself it would probably be a little more akin to Knoxville's Big Ears festival than Bonnaroo.

"You go to a club and you hear maybe two acts that are at a certain level, and then maybe the next night you go to a medium-sized theater and see somebody else who ... can draw a slightly larger audience and you can kind of make a week of it. And sometimes you can go see a couple of different acts in the same night, if it works out that way. That's a little bit more to my taste as an audience member. But I also ... know that there's no way you can do something like that, and get the kind of level of acts that are squished into a few days at Bonnaroo. ... Economically there is just no way to do it."

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