What It’s like to be a VIP at Bonnaroo 2009 by Dave Hill
Comedian and musician Dave Hill was summoned to Bonnaroo this past weekend to be part of both the comedy and music going-ons at the four-day Tennessee festival. I asked if he'd mind sharing his experiences (and pictures) with BrooklynVegan.com. He agreed. I regretted it. He sent it anyway, so here it is (starting with some MP3's by his rock band Valley Lodge), but warning: this post is not for the squeamish (NSFTS)...
Dave Hill tests face-melting licks out on some chairs
I've just returned from four magical days and nights at Bonnaroo, where my rock band Valley Lodge was the house band for Triumph the Insult Comic Dog's "Bonnapoo 2009" shows, which featured all sorts of awesomeness from Robert Smigel aka Triumph as well as sets from the great Todd Barry, Amy Schumer, and Kumail Nanjiani.
"Smigel performed four sets as Triumph at Bonnaroo, which annually hosts a comedy tent along with its smorgasbord of music acts, spread out over five main stages on a farm in rural Tennessee.
"My live act is a huge undertaking because Triumph kind of thrives on the immediate, discussing what everybody's thinking about," said Smigel while whisking past festival-goers in a golf cart, puppet on hand." [AP]
The excitement started on Wednesday night when I got on a plane to Nashville with my close personal friend Janeane Garofalo, Pete Holmes, Kumail Nanjiani, and the rest of my rock band Valley Lodge. If you've ever wanted to be on a completely hilarious plane, you could do a lot worse than to have been on this plane. As you can probably imagine, all of us were running back and forth between our seats spraying each other with seltzer bottles and throwing pies in each others' faces. At one point, Pete Holmes came over to my seat to shake my hand and it turned out he had one of those joy buzzers on his finger. Man, was my face red. I got him back though by spraying him in the face with a prank flower I was wearing at the time. We both just laughed and laughed after this happened. He couldn't stay mad at me.
Once we got to Nashville, some unmarked vehicles took us all to Murfreesboro, the popular Tennessee town where we all stayed at the Doubletree Hotel, which is really classy. Because I snore and also like to get up to all sorts of hardcore banging in hotels, I had my own room. When I dropped off my bags, I looked around the room and got all excited about all the snoring and hardcore banging I would be doing in my room over the next few days and nights.
After I dropped off my bags, I headed down to Fanatics, which is a really fun bar/restaurant they had in the hotel there. If you like big screen TVs, karaoke, and what the bartender there described to us as "fried shit" (turned out to be chicken wings, fries, mozzarella sticks, and not actual shit), you would really love this place because they have nailed it as far as that sort of stuff goes. At Fanatics, I sat around with Todd Barry, Robert Smigel, Pete Holmes, Amy Schumer, and some other folks and while none of us ended up doing karaoke that night, it was really great to know that we totally could have if we wanted. I did have the chicken wings and mozzarella sticks though and they delivered on their promise. "Fanatics: Making you wake up with regret since 2007!" This is just one of the many slogans for the popular Fanatics bar/restaurant I have thought up in my spare time.
The morning after partying super hard at Fanatics, I headed over with the rest of the band to get all set up for our first show with Triumph that night sometime after midnight. The comedy tent at Bonnaroo had a separate compound in the back where all of us comedy types could hang out and eat snacks and do pratfalls and things like that. It was really fun. The bathroom in our trailer wasn't working for some reason, so instead we had to use the two port-a-johns they had set up for us. Fortunately, the event planners made sure someone took a series of gigantic dumps in both of them ahead of time so no one would have to feel self-conscious about being the first one to take a big crap into the weird blue water.
Things were running a bit behind schedule on Thursday night, so the Triumph show didn't start until sometime after 1am. Normally that would be too late for a delicate guy like me, but earlier that evening I had dinner in the artist tent and decided to cover my chicken in some really hot hot sauce they had there. I thought I had washed my hands reasonably well afterward, but shortly after using the port-a-johns after dinner, I realized that I was mistaken. As I walked back to the comedy tent, my goods became overwhelmed with a distinct burning sensation, which- despite being rather painful- managed to make me really alert until about 6am the next day, which is about when the first show, which ran a bit on the longish side, ended. The show was a lot of fun though and it was exciting to see Triumph work his magic. In all the rehearsals leading up to Bonnaroo, Robert had been leaving Triumph at home and just singing and talking in the Triumph voice, which was funny to us and- I'm guessing- really confusing to the rehearsal room rental guys who kept walking in while we were practicing and wondering what strange band this was.
Friday was the first big day of the festival. I got things started by heading over to this really cool, out of the way local coffee shop near our hotel with Todd Barry. Todd and I drank some coffee and talked about the night before and then speculated on what might happen later that day. He is a really down to earth guy. It was a great hang. After we finished our coffee, Todd and I headed back to the hotel where we ran into Kristen Schaal, Janeane Garofalo, and some of the Daily Show folks. We all stood around and talked to each other like completely regular people might even though none of us are. It was really nice.
On Friday, there were two back-to-back Triumph shows so I had to make sure to go to the bathroom an extra whole bunch beforehand so as not to soil myself onstage (historically not a problem but you never know). Also, I managed to not get hot sauce on my dick before these shows, so instead I drank some coffee to make sure I was alert. It's pretty much one or the other these days.
Adding to the excitement around the comedy tent was that Drew Barrymore had showed up in a big hot rod flame-covered tour bus and was parked next to the comedy tent/comedy trailer/comedy port-a-john area. I never managed to actually see Drew Barrymore at any point, but some of the other comedy folks did and they said it was pretty awesome when that happened. Drew Barrymore was in the movies "Firestarter" and "The Amy Fisher Story."
The Triumph shows on Friday were lots of fun and went more smoothly than the first show on Thursday night. I missed not having hot sauce on my privates but you can't have everything. After the shows, I headed over to the Artist Area with the rest of the guys from the band and also my personal manager because I like to have representation with me whenever possible, even when I'm just sitting around eating hot dogs and stuff. There is a big beer tent next to the food tent, so after we ate we all headed over there and partied so fucking hard it was not even fucking funny. While I was at the beer tent, I ran into Conrad from Takka Takka. When we first saw each other I said "Oh no! Here comes trouble!" and then we both just laughed and laughed. That is one of the great things about Bonnaroo- running into friends and then joking around with them.
Friday night was the first time I got to check out some music at Bonnaroo. I saw the Beastie Boys and they were awesome. The last time I saw them was back in the '90s when they played at about 3am at a place called the Building in Chelsea after "Check Your Head" came out, something I only mention to make myself seem cool. Anyway, they were really great at Bonnaroo and played pretty much every hit you can think of. Because I am a VIP, I stood in the VIP section with other VIPs and enjoyed the show in a way that only a VIP really can. I love being a VIP. It is awesome.
After watching the Beastie Boys for a bit, I went over with some other VIPs to see David Byrne. We used a special VIP route to get there. I saw about four songs and they were all awesome. David and his band were all dressed in white and it looked really cool too. They had great choreography too. Most bands skimp on choreography. We could all learn a thing or two from David Byrne. And also Beyonce. She has choreography too. Anyway, after watching David Byrne and his band be awesome, I walked back to the comedy tent to tell everyone how I had just seen the Beastie Boys and David Byrne and that I really enjoyed both. Then we all got in a van and headed back to Fanatics, where it's pretty much good times all the time.
At Fanatics, I had chicken tenders, mozzarella sticks, and fries. I forgot to mention this earlier, but the great Corn Mo was a part of Valley Lodge for these shows and he was at Fanatics too. He got up and sang some karaoke too and he was good as fuck at it. He sang "Cowboy," the popular Kid Rock vehicle and then maybe another one too. I got up and sang "White Rabbit" with Amy Schumer and her sister and we pretty much nailed it, so much in fact that they closed Fanatics immediately after we finished because they were all like "Fuck, that was awesome" and also they had to close.
Saturday was a the big day at Bonnaroo and everyone was really excited. It was the day of the last Triumph show and the mysterious word from above was that Elvis Costello and Jenny Lewis were supposed to come on the Triumph show and sing their duet "Carpetbagger" together. All of us Valley Lodge guys were really excited about it- me especially since I am a gigantic Elvis Costello fan- and we scrambled to learn the song so we could back them up like a pack of "Carpetbagger"-playing motherfuckers. When the big super secret surprise musical guest moment came though, only Jenny Lewis was on the scene. She came out with her guitar player and we backed them up on "Carpetbagger." It was really awesome, but backstage afterward everyone was all like "Where the fuck was Elvis Costello?" Oh well, at least I didn't get hot sauce on my dick. Sometimes that's enough to make a day beautiful.
After we finished not playing with Elvis Costello but still having a really fun time anyway, I headed over to the Artist Area again for some more hardcore artist-style partying, which was awesome. There was a Converse tent there and I stopped by with Rob Riggle, Rory Albanese, John Oliver, Wyatt Cenac, and some of the other Daily Show folks. Because we have all been on basic cable television, the Converse people let us all design custom sneakers and then also take home some Chuck Taylors. This is pretty much how life goes when you have been on television. Man, is it awesome. When I got home, however, I realized I had grabbed the wrong size Chuck Taylors so now I'm all like "What the fuck?" I hate myself and want to die.
Later that day, I saw some music. Bon Iver played and was really great but I was all dizzy from wearing a suit so I had to cut out early and take a nap. Later on I went to see Elvis Costello and that shit was awesome. He pretty much made Bonnaroo his bitch. Afterward, we stood around behind the stage in hopes of saying hi to Elvis but we pussed out in a gigantic way and now I have totally not ever met Elvis Costello ever. Fuck. That sucks more than getting hot sauce on your dick and balls. And I would know.
After not meeting Elvis Costello, I went and ate some more and then went back to the comedy area, where all sorts of folks were hanging out and having a really nice time, including Hollywood's Nick Kroll and Aziz Ansari. We all took turns jumping through a big paper hoop when everyone least expected it and it was awesome every time. Then NIck kept reciting his lines from the hit movie "I Love You, Man" and it was just like in the movie.
The big show on Saturday was Bruce Springsteen. I really wanted to go but by the time he went on I was too full of chocolate cake and sea bass to make much sense of anything. Instead, I decided to stick around the comedy tent and struggle to form sentences until it was time to head back to the hotel to party down in a major, major way at Fanatics, Murfreesboro, Tennessee's number one sports bar for two years running now. Phil, Rob, Eddie, and Corn Mo aka everyone in Valley Lodge but me, managed to catch some of Bruce's show and they really seemed to like it. I asked them how it was and they said it was good. He is "The Boss" after all. Bruce Springsteen sings "Born to Run" and "Born in the U.S.A." If I ever meet him, I will ask if he has ever thought of combining the two songs into one song called "Born to Run in the U.S.A." It will be nice to find out what Bruce Springsteen sounds like when he is laughing his ass off about a joke made by someone he is about to become really close friends with.
Sunday was the last day at Bonnaroo, but it was time for most of us to head back to New York City so we missed out on the good times going on that day. I rode back on a plane with the guys in my rock band and also Todd Barry, Amy Schumer, Kumail Nanjiani, Pete Holmes, and some other friends. I heard a rumor that Kumail threw up on the plane, but I don't know if that is true. I am going to ask him about it next time I see him and then if he did in fact throw up I intend to give him a high five. "Get it up, buddy! Get it up!," I will say to him and then hopefully he will high five me. I mention most of this only because I am hoping Kumail has himself on Google alerts and is reading this and will know to high five me next time we see each other. That would be really great.
Also on our plane on Sunday was Warren Haynes, whom you no doubt know as the guitar player for Gov't Mule, the Allman Brothers, and the Dead. I am a big fan of his and wanted to say hi to him at the baggage claim area but was still so upset about the not meeting Elvis Costello incident that I didn't have it in me to bother him. In a bizarre twist, however, Warren noticed the Witch Taint hoodie I was wearing and came over and asked me about it. He was a super nice guy. Also, we both play Gibson Firebirds, so when mine came out on the conveyor belt I had him sign mine. Holy shit- that was really cool and a nice way to end my Bonnaroo experience. Now whenever I get to shredding I can look down and see his autograph and think "Oh yeah- I met Warren Haynes at the airport!" I wonder if Warren Haynes has ever gotten hot sauce on his dick. I guess I will have to ask him about that next time.
You can find Dave Hill next at the following locations...
June 17 @ the Studio @ Webster Hall as part of Walter Schreifel's band
June 18 @ Europa as part of rock band Valley Lodge w/ Corn Mo
98 Meserole Ave.
Valley Lodge 9
Corn Mo and .357 Lover 10
Sky White Tiger 11
More dates, including actual 'stand up', at Dave's Myspace.