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My First ‘Roo: Artists Reflect On Their Past Bonnaroo Experiences (Nigel Hall, Darkside, The Black Cadillacs)

by Mike Greenhaus on June 14, 2014

A selection of this year’s artists reflect on their past trips to The Farm as fans, performers and the muddy spaces in between

Nigel Hall

Bonnaroo Classes: ‘11, ‘13

If anybody knows their way around a Bonnaroo SuperJam, it is Nigel Hal. The soulful keyboardist and singer first appeared at Bonnaroo in 2011 as a member of Warren Haynes Band. While that performance was not technically a SuperJam, Haynes’ solo band brings together members of several prominent funk and jam acts, and the guitarist has long served as Bonnaroo’s most loyal jamband ambassador. In 2013, Hall made his second Bonnaroo appearance along with the rest of his mainstay funk band Lettuce. The New England-bred group served as the house band for Bonnaroo’s all-star hip-hop SuperJam, allowing Hall the opportunity to share the stage with rap royalty like DJ Jazzy Jeff, Schoolboy Q, RZA, Chad Hugo, Ghostface Killah, Redman and Method Man as well as Solange Knowles and Pretty Lights (who played bass). As if not to be pigeonholed, last night Hall became one of a handful of musicians in Bonnaroo history to take party in two SuperJams when he joined another Allman Brothers guitarist, Derek Trucks, during his soul-and-blues jam. Lettuce guitarist Eric Krasno, who sat out last year’s SuperJam while on tour with Trucks, helped orchestrate the jam session and the Lettuce Horns also lent some extra weight. Below Hall discusses his favorite Bonnaroo memories.

What were your expectations of Bonnaroo before your first trip to the festival?

First time I did Bonnaroo I played with Warren Haynes Band and I remember it was freakin HOT! I wasn’t really expecting anything—I usually dive into the unknown with an open mind.

What do you remember most about your own performance?

I remember being a tad nervous. But I also remember Ivan Neville standing on the side and him watching me and somehow it made me calm, which is weird because he’s one if my favorite keys players. You'd think if you were already nervous that would drive you to the point if peeing yourself.

How does Bonnaroo compare to other festivals you have played?

I thought it was crazy when I heard Pretty Lights playing something I cut vocals on to about 30,000 people. Pretty rad.

What was your quintessential Bonnaroo moment from years past?

I would say that last year’s rehearsal at SIR [for the SuperJam] was pretty epic—with DJ Jazzy Jeff schooling us on real hip hop. Just because he was on Fresh Prince doesn’t mean that he has no credibility as a DJ. In fact, he’s the last REAL DJ we have left.

What band would you most like to collaborate with at Bonnaroo this year?

The band I'm in this year: James Gadson, Willie Weeks, Chaka Khan and all my friends.... Couldn’t ask for anything better.

Darkside’s Dave Harrington

Bonnaroo Classes: ’03, ‘06

Darkside, the psychedelic and experimental but also danceable duo of guitarist Dave Harrington and electronic producer Nicolas Jaar, have emerged as one of 2014’s most sought after late-night festival bands. So it makes sense that one of Harrington’s favorite Bonnaroo sets took place in the wee hours of the morning. A jazz trained bassist with ties to Downtown New York’s avant-garde music scene and improvisational masters like John Zorn, Harrington attended Bonnaroo as a fan its sophomore year in 2003. He enjoyed himself so much that he returned three years later when Radiohead, Tom Petty and Phil Lesh co-headlined the festival. One night Harrington wandered into Centeroo alone where he caught a late night set by New Orleans legend Dr. John where the pianist broke out his classic 1970s Night Tripper regalia for a special performance of his classic material. A few years later, he hooked up with Nicolas Jaar, who had roots in New York City’s underground minimal techno scene, and the duo formed Darkside. Their 2013 release Psychic served as the welcome meeting point of experimental-psychedelic and electronic cultures and helped Darkside score marquee festival spots around the globe. They will perform in That Tent at 2:30am tonight (technically Sunday morning) and will be accompanied by scenography from Children of the Light.

What were your expectations of Bonnaroo before your first trip to the festival?

This will be my first time playing but I came as a fan in 2003 and 2006 I was just so excited to see a thousand different kinds of amazing music and to see so many of my favorite artists all in one place.

Describe your craziest Bonnaroo experience.

Being able to hear the roar of Neil Young & Crazy Horse from miles away while I was hanging out with friends at our campsite.

How does Bonnaroo compare to other festivals you have played?

It's been so long since I’ve been it’s hard to say, but I’ve always thought it was truly awesome how Bonnaroo could unite so many different types of music fans and create a sense of community that was just about the music.

What was your quintessential Bonnaroo moment from years past ?

Wandering out into the festival alone in the middle of the night to see Dr. John play—still to this day that was one of the most amazing shows I’ve ever seen.

What band would you most like to collaborate with at Bonnaroo this year?

So many amazing artists it's hard to choose, but I’ve always been a huge fan of the Master Musicians of Jajouka and it would be incredible to just have the chance to sit in with them!

The Black Cadillacs’ Will Horton

Bonnaroo Classes: ‘06, ‘07, ‘10, ‘12

Though The Black Cadillacs have never played Bonnaroo before this year, for singer Will Horton the festival always feels like a homecoming. Members of the blues-based indie rock band are based in Knoxville, Tenn. and members of the group hail from each of the state’s musical centers of Nashville (which is currently enjoying a rock-and-roll revival), Memphis (which is known for blues and soul) and Knoxville (still a hotbed of country). Horton has also already attended Bonnaroo four times as a fan, where he camped in the pods and witnessed iconic moments like Radiohead’s marathon 2006 set. Bolstered by their breakthrough album Run, The Black Cadillacs are currently in the midst of a major festival sweep and were recently anointed as a Summer Star by the Bonnaroo Beacon’s parent publication Relix. After four years of practice, Horton will make his official Bonnaroo debut this year and will use the opportunity to showcase two sides of their live show. They will perform a full set at the Cafe Where Stage (9:30 PM) this evening and play an acoustic set tomorrow on the Sonic Stage (4PM).

What were your expectations of Bonnaroo before your first trip to the festival?

I was seventeen the first time that I went to Bonnaroo and had heard plenty of what I should expect from older friends: the nude parades, late shows, the camping out—it all sounded like a wild time—but I was so excited about the lineup that year that I focused on trying to see as many shows as possible. To this day 2006 remains one of my favorites. I can’t wait until we perform this Saturday

Describe your craziest Bonnaroo experience.

One of the craziest experiences I’ve ever had at Bonnaroo was watching Radiohead in 2006. The set was amazing, and as intense as any show I've ever seen. It was raining and the whole band looked like they were having as much fun as the rest of us. (To this day the band describes the set as among their favorite performances.)

How does Bonnaroo compare to other festivals you have played?

Bonnaroo is up there at the top with some other really great festivals. It’s really special to us because it is our home state's festival. The audiences are hungry for new music, and there are always awesome new additions to the lineup.

What was your quintessential Bonnaroo moment from years past?

Definitely my quintessential Bonnaroo experience would be around day three—having given up on the idea of bathing and doing anything to find shade mid day [Laughter.]

What band would you most like to collaborate with at Bonnaroo this year?

There are a lot of fantastic performers this year so I’ll narrow it down to a few— Phosphorescent, Broken Bells, White Denim, Jack White and Dr. Dog


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