MANCHESTER, Tenn. — The Dirty Guv'nahs may be on the cusp of making it to the big time. But they still might need a ride home.
The six-piece band returned for a second appearance at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, helping to open the 11th annual event in Manchester on Thursday.
And hopefully get rid of their old van.
The rockers came out swinging at the first large stage show of the four-day festival Thursday afternoon. And for anyone who didn't grab a spot early, they likely only heard the high-energy, distinctively Southern band at the rear of a crowd spilling out on all sides.
"We couldn't have designed it better — we started when nobody else was playing," said lead singer James Trimble, remembering the distinctively smaller audience they drew at their first Bonnaroo show. "It was like 10 times the crowd (Thursday), just incredible."
The rockers first played the festival in 2009 as a late-booked act based on the attention they gained with their first album's near sellout release party at the Bijou.
"That really kick-started things for us," Trimble said.
Before the year was out, the boys accepted an offer to record their follow-up album, "Youth Is In Our Blood," at Levon Helm's studio in Woodstock, N.Y.
"All that happened because of Bonnaroo," Trimble said.
Now Trimble — joined by brothers Justin Hoskins on bass and drummer Aaron Hoskins, keyboardist Chris Doody, and guitarists Michael Jenkins and Cozmo Holloway — can't help but wonder what exposure another, bigger Bonnaroo gig might do for them.
"It's kind of what we've dreamed about," said Trimble, a bit cautiously. "Hopefully it doesn't rain."
A larger tour will follow in support of their latest effort, "Somewhere Beneath These Southern Skies," set for release Aug. 14.
The Guv'nahs share a bill with some 150 other music acts and performers, including headliners Radiohead, Phish, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, recent Grammy winner Bon Iver, rapper Ludacris and a 50th anniversary reunion of the Beach Boys.
Cofounded by Knoxville-based AC Entertainment, the event consistently draws some 80,000 music lovers to its sprawling, 700-acre farm in Coffee County on a reputation as one of the top, most musically diverse festivals in the country.
Of course, as anyone in the music industry knows, you haven't really made it until a fan pays cash money for your old touring van.
The Guv'nahs are donating "the Blue Bullet," their beloved 1994 Ford Club Wagon to the festival's silent auction, which supports a host of charitable causes under the umbrella Bonnaroo Works Funds.
At 270,000 miles young, what the Bullet lacks in air conditioning is made up for in a character forged by nearly four years of touring — including the haul to Woodstock, and a lap around Bristol Motor Speedway for the band's "We Were Young" video.
And Trimble swears it'll still start.
"We cannot believe the Blue Bullet still runs," he said. "It does run, though. We'll see what it'll fetch at Bonnaroo. It might be a dollar, it might be a thousand."
Regardless, they've already graduated to fellow Knoxville rocker Scott Miller's former tour van.
"It's really more of a short bus." Trimble quipped.
But it does have A/C.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!