For even the most hardcore party-people, 2:45 a.m. tends to mark the final frontier of night. It signifies the moment when, all across America, bartenders switch on the lights, turn down the music, and shout that universally sobering refrain, “Last call!” On Saturday night at Bonnaroo, however, 2:45 a.m. was only the beginning.
At least, that was the plan. Following a blazing set by Pearl Jam, hip-hop artist Kanye West was supposed to take the stage, having pushed his original early-evening show back into the dark recesses of the night so that his “Glow in the Dark” show could actually glow in the dark. Crowds pushed their way to the stage hours beforehand, staking out their rock-show real estate, but as 2:45 inched nearer, it became obvious that Kanye was MIA.
An hour and a half-later, Kanye’s crew was still loading in, and the crowd was losing its buzz and/or sense of humor. Rumor had it that Pearl Jam’s slightly late set ticked Kanye off, and that now he was refusing to come on at all. Alas, the hour-and-10-minute set finally kicked off at 4:30 a.m., building to a lackluster climax that had the audience alternately yawning and booing.
On the bright side, the belated show kept many festival-goers up way past their bedtime. It’s been a long day already, chock filled with sizzling performances and round after round of ice-cold beer. Among our greatest hits list: Cat Power’s cover of CCR’s “Fortunate Son,” Ben Folds’ keyboard gymnastics, and everything Levon Helm.
And it only got hotter, and weirder, as the sun went down. A white-suited Wayne Coyne showed up at the Cinema Tent roundabout 1:30 a.m. to introduce the Flaming Lips’ just-released film, “Christmas on Mars.” The Stanley Kubric-esque outer-space sensory-bender proved a little more than some dilated pupils could handle, but hey, we’d expect nothing less from the Lips. But the real “melt our faces” award went to Ghostland Observatory’s 2:30-4 a.m. set. Between the frenetic laser light show and the Austin, Tx, duo’s pulsing electro-spaz sampling, it’s a wonder nobody had a seizure.
Of course, it was entertaining enough just to stroll around Center-roo in the wee hours of the morning. The manmade wonderland, a dizzying dreamscape of lights and shapes silhouetted against a backdrop of illuminated trees, was equal parts performance space and playground. Kanye may not have been worth waiting up for, but we’re sure glad we did.
Photos to come.