In lieu of talking about how very frigid and below freezing it is outside, and my miserable cold, which is a result of the weather, let’s heat things up by imagining that it’s hot, and I mean steaming hot. That stupid, ridiculous kind of hot that makes your head hurt and puts you in a foul mood for days, sometimes even weeks. The kind of hot that makes you static and lethargic; the kind of hot that draws sweat beads from your forehead and neck within the first few moments of stepping outside.
That’s the kind of hot that it was when I first heard the funktastic Janelle Monae, and her band, this past summer at Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival.
I stood near the Other Tent waiting for Janelle Monae, some artist I had never heard of before, to come on stage. At this point I was already sweaty, as I felt the sun baking my shoulders, and my head beginning to feel moist underneath my straw sun hat. I could feel the humidity of the threatening grey rain clouds as my hair went from wavy to seriously curly in no time. The one person I came with had already left me for the photo pit, so I began my basically lone weekend at Bonnaroo, trying to be discreet about my sour attitude, but unable to even fake a smile.
As I looked around I was feeling unusually negative to be at one of the biggest music festivals in the country. Sure, I was there on the job, and I wasn’t there with a pose’ of friends, geared up for a wild weekend of mind altering experiences, heavy partying, and subconscious experiences, but looking back, I was being unreasonably negative.
As I saw it, I was treading water in a sea of eager, sweaty strangers, all uncomfortably close to me, pushing their sweaty, hairy bodies forward and into me in the anticipation of the music to come. I felt jaded. This was my fifth Bonnaroo, fourth time covering it, and the summer before the photographer and I had travelled all across the country looking for the ultimate festival experience. “Had I really exposed myself to too much of a good thing? Had I really robbed myself from feeling festival euphoria every again?” … I was really starting to feel sorry for myself at this point. I was unimpressed and uninspired.
Finally, three people entered the stage; all wearing black pants, white dress shirts, bow ties, cumber buns, and saddle Oxfords. The crowd began to roar, everyone screaming and all smiles. As I heard Janelle Monae and the band begin to play, my heart began beating faster. That familiar feeling of butterflies and star-dust kicked in. The music, vibrations, and energy took hold of me, as the boom of the audience grew louder, and the anticipation in the air exploded….Janelle considers Big Boi and Andre from OutKast as her music mentors, and the OutKast influence in her music is funktastically undeniable….I immediately fell in love with her sound.
After the show I awkwardly hovered around the platform for a couple minutes and waited my turn to try and talk to the band. I told Janelle and the band how much they rocked my socks off. Janelle touched her heart, and genuinely smiled from ear to ear. She pulled me in and gave me a huge hug, then someone snapped our picture.
If you get a chance to see Janelle Monae do not pass it up, no matter how cold or hot you are. Trust me, you will thank me later…. xoxo