By: Sean Varicalli


‘That Tent’ turned in to a fiesta Thursday night at Bonnaroo. Playing to much of the delight of the unknowing and somewhat naïve crowd, Mariachi El Bronx showed them the art of salsa, playing one of the most unique sets you’ll ever hear at the festival this weekend. The incredibly innovative genre consists of traditional Mexican-American music mixed with the Bronx’s L.A.-based punk sound. The band opened their set with their latest single ’48 Roses.’ The unfamiliar crowd was taken back with the piercing sound of trumpets through the warm summer air here in Manchester.

Mariachi El Bronx at Bonnaroo 2012. Photo Credit: Bonnaroo

With minor feedback problems in the first few songs of their set, the band recuperated nicely by playing ‘Great Provider’ off of the band’s latest self titled record, Mariachi El Bronx. At this point, the crowd was captivated, with audience members quite literally stopping in their tracks to hear this incredible, new to the festival sound, Mariachi El Bronx. Wrapping the set up with a number of tunes including, ‘Poverty’s King.’ I first heard of/saw the band open for the Foo Fighters last year at The Palace of Auburn Hills and was immediately infatuated. Seeing them 300 miles away from that venue, I still feel the same way.


Without playing hometown favorites, a clear front runner for my favorite set of the 2012 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival has to be, none other than Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. The Ferndale based duo played to the largest crowd of the night that came by ‘The Other Tent.’ The audience had just sat through a deadpan set by The Cave Singers. Clearly were looking for something more energetic, almost begging for a band to unofficially kick off the evening sets of music. Jr. Jr. did not disappoint. Moving down to catch a better look of the performance, I couldn’t help but notice that campers were starting to pile in to the tent for their set.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. at Bonnaroo. Photo Credit: Bonnaroo

The crowd was as large as I have seen at a Bonnaroo stage this year (granted, I haven’t seen many crowds as of yet, but still). The group sprinted onstage wearing their iconic plaid suit jackets that they so famously wore on the cover of their first record, It’s A Corporate World. Screaming out, “put your hands up for Detroit!” which became an ongoing celebration as the night went on. Some highlights of the bands performance included their hit, ‘Simple Girl’ which concluded with a stage dive, paying homage to The Beach Boys with ‘God Only Knows’ and slipping in a brief cover of ‘I Will Always Love You’ by Whitney Houston during a jam break. Never have I ever felt so close to home so many miles away, but Jr. Jr. wowed the audience, many of which were from the Detroit area. The guys closed with ‘We Almost Lost Detroit’ and seemed a perfect ending to a nationally local show.


As my turbulent first day in Centeroo came to a close, I wanted to check out one last band. Fellow press members here in the media compound had suggested listening in to a band that most referred to as, a “great American rock band.” After trekking my way through the fields I arrived to witness the Alabama Shakes. Then I waited some more. A little longer. And finally, the band appeared, after what looked like difficulties with their sound check. The energy that the band used may have been the last time we saw any at all from them until they walked.

Alabama Shakes At Bonnaroo 2012. Photo Credit: Bonnaroo

As musically sound as the group was, they absolutely lacked stage presence and made the overall performance rather boring. A large part of the bore factor had to do with audience interaction. Except in this case, a lack thereof. Through the first 45 minutes of the set, the members of Alabama Shakes, kept to their instruments and microphones. Not even giving the crowd a “hey, what’s up Bonnaroo?!” like so many other famously have all day. With that being the main root of the issue, it didn’t help that the bad quite literally had no flow to their entire set. Groups usually pick up some tricks of the trade along the way and it seems that Alabama Shakes didn’t pick up any at all. Stopping and starting every song makes the set extremely difficult for the common fan to get to. The performance absolutely peaked though when they played their hit single, “Hold On.” After that, not many bright spots as the blues/rock band trudged along the rest of their set, seeing fans leave Centeroo on a low note.