words by Michael Todd | photos by Bridget McQuillan
The smoke rose like a slithery handful of snakes after, oh, about 30 minutes in the dryer with steel-toed boots. It's hard to say what this composition of gases was thinking. But by the way the smoke inched and purled into the air then slipped surreptitiously into it after just a few seconds, maybe this consequence of going to 11 knew it wasn't supposed to appear.
When guitarist Cosmo Kilburn Di Giulio looked back to find out why he couldn't hear himself, he seemed hardly nonplussed. Just a small grin of satisfaction before turning to his tuner to prepare for whenever the replacement amp reported for duty, aided by a sound-guy samaritan who swooped to the stage to switch 'em out. This is surf punk on a schedule, and this is Team Spirit opening the Bonnaroo 365 concert at The Bourbon Theatre last Thursday, Oct. 25.
Bonnaroo booked a set of three bands — Team Spirit, Maps and Atlases, and White Denim — that worked for their place in the lineup. Musicians reached in their mouths, navigated and punched their way through the various walls to their hearts, and they played with them. "What's the big deal? Just using this vital organ as a guitar pick." Hyperbole yes, but only an unplanned-walk-home-from-the-bar's length from the truth.
Maps and Atlases enlisted what they called icy songs, which if personified would be Obama in a Chicago winter: part African, part Midwestern and talking about the cold. The world music rhythms and complex, often-tapped guitar riffs undergirded Dave Davison's voice high and pressurized like a weather balloon in the stratosphere. And a small note for percussionists: It's now OK to use a hair dryer while drumming, if only for the effect of wind-blown hair.
White Denim could have said anything. What mattered were the jams. Fingers moved all about the fretboards, cymbals shook on their sometimes unplanted stands, and when the audience asked for a song, they said nonchalantly, "OK, let's do that." A fitting end to a night of somehow planned-to-the-minute but simultaneously free-flowing, from-a-pure-impulse music.
See what I mean?
Michael Todd is Hear Nebraska's managing editor. He would choose the Bourbon over a sweaty Tennessee festival any day. Reach him at email@example.com.