Various Artists

Live from Bonnaroo 2003

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AllMusic Review by

Just as the world of jam bands has diversified, so has the genre's top festival, Bonnaroo. This double-disc collection of the best of 2003's performances kicks off with the spiritual leaders for the jam crowd, the Dead and the Allman Brothers Band, kicking it old school and delivering the perfect soundtrack to endless spinning. All of the new school (O.A.R., Jason Mraz, Ben Harper, etc.) turn in fine performances, but an especially boisterous Widespread Panic summons up that extra something while delivering its Southern-fried brand of rock. A good portion of the collection is given to bands that fall out of the usual jam band definition and judging from the audience reaction, the twists and turns were welcome. The Flaming Lips and the Polyphonic Spree's pop and rock are both ramshackle enough to fit in with the jam aesthetic and Sonic Youth's otherworldly racket sounds like a more focused and urgent version of the Dead's own "Space." The more rootsy bands (but not the Roots) suffer a bit from all getting stuck together at the end of disc two. Why did the producers feel listeners could bounce from Sonic Youth to Warren Haynes, but not from Béla Fleck to Galactic? Like any collection that attempts to pick and choose from such a diverse and long festival, Live from Bonnaroo 2003 won't have enough of the moments you want and has too many of the ones you don't, no matter what your angle. A looser definition of what is "jam" has made compiling Bonnaroo even harder, but there's enough great music here to warrant a trip to the next festival.

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