(guest blogged by Howie Klein)
When the Bonnaroo Festival first started on a farm near Manchester, Tennessee, it was a celebration of jam music-- a long weekend for hippies, most of whom missed the 60s. Something like 70,000 people showed up to the little-publicized underground happening that first year. They got to see jam bands old and new, from Phil Lesh and Bob Weir to Trey Anastasio, Umphrey's McGee, String Cheese Incident, Les Claypool, Gov't Mule, Widespread Panic, Ben Harper, Disco Biscuits, Norah Jones, Jack Johnson.
It got bigger every year and opened up to more and more genres of music. No Justin Timberlake, no Fergie, no Hannah Montana, and no Shop Boyz, not yet, anyway.
But, as Jon Pareles pointed out in the NY Times Bonnaroo isn't just about the jam bands anymore. This year's headliners were The Police and Tool. And Pareles was excited about James "Blood" Ulmer bringing the "splintered harmolodic approach of Ornette Coleman to power-trio blues." I would have been too. But I'm in Montreal this week, not Tennessee.
If you haven't heard Ulmer, take a listen to him doing a suitably jam-band classic, "Sittin' on Top of the World," but at Radio City Music Hall in NY with Alison Krauss, made famous by the Grateful Dead, Cream, Dylan and, most recently, Jack White, but first performed by the Mississippi Sheiks in 1930.