Now that Bonnaroo is over, I’m still going to write about it, but I’m going to write about what I’m interested in rather than whatever just happened. There’s a lot to talk about, and at some point I’ll put up an overall retrospective. Right now I want to talk about Kanye West’s performance.

For those of you who don’t know, basically what happened was that Kanye was supposed to go on at 2:45 in the morning on the main stage.

(This was a big deal for a couple reasons: it was the first late night show on the main stage at Bonnaroo, and it was also the first main stage performances by a rapper at Bonnaroo. Bonnaroo doesn’t have a lot of hip hop.)

But Kanye didn’t get on stage until about 4:30.

Here is how it happened: there were tons of Bonnaroo workers (at least 50) milling on stage up until about 2:30. Most of them were doing nothing in particular; I would estimate that at any given time, literally about 12 people were actually getting the stage ready.

Around 2:45, people started lugging out these huge wooden frames. It eventually became clear that about 20 of these needed to be put together the main setup, which we eventually found out would represent the surface of a distant planet.

I cannot emphasize enough how slowly these people worked, especially in comparison to how much faster they could have been. The average amount of people working at any given time at this point was probably 3, with at least a dozen people still on stage usually doing absolutely nothing. Even the people who were working were working really slowly. If you just watched the people working and you didn’t know when the show was going to start, you would guess the show was starting in about 8 hours. You would also guess that these people were getting paid by the hour, and they weren’t being supervised.

There was one especially ridiculous incident: at one point, about a dozen people were setting up part of the stage, and they could not figure out where which part went. But it was really obvious, because the surface of each piece of wood was curved differently, and the curves had to match up.

Still, twelve of these people could not figure it out for like three minutes. So eventually people from the crowd starting yelling up at the stage, sarcastically telling them how to put the stage together.

Have you ever seen video footage of apes (like in nature documentaries or something) where an ape is just standing there, and then it hears something in the distance, and it slowly turns its head and pauses to see what caused the noise?

That is how all of these people reacted. I am not kidding, each and every one of them stopped what they were doing and committed at least 20 seconds to look out at the crowd instead of setting up the stage.

The phrase I used when I told the story to my friends the next morning was “trained monkeys with ADD.”


There were signs on the side of the stage that said Kanye was going to be on at 2:45. As it became clear that that wouldn’t happen they changed it to 3:00, then 3:15, then 3:30, even though these times were ridiculous because the stage was clearly nowhere near done. Eventually the signs just stopped showing anything.

People started throwing glow sticks at the stage. No explanation was given for the delay. People started booing and yelling “Kanye sucks.”

Finally, at about 4:10, the stage was completely set up. Kanye came on at about 4:30.

Kanye didn’t give an explanation for the late start to his show, nor did he say anything to the crowd besides rapping and saying the dialogue for his show. (The show had a storyline about Kanye being stranded on a distant planet.)

Throughout the show, people continued to throw glow sticks on stage at Kanye. They never hit him, even though he never appeared to be dodging them. He never acknowledged the glow sticks that stayed on the stage near him, and he rapped and spoke in his normal tone of voice.

Here was the craziest part: an hour into his show he finished a song. After the applause died down, he signalled to somone off stage to lower the platform he was on, and he left without saying anything and without applause from the audience (since we didn’t know what was going on). The show clearly was not over, because he was in the middle of his story that drove the show.

The consensus after the show was that Kanye sucks for getting on so late. But Kanye couldn’t have possibly gone on before 4:10. Granted, the wait from 4:10 to 4:30 seemed really long at that time in the morning, after we had already been waiting for hours. But 20 minutes is a really short amount of time for an artist to actually get on stage after the stage is set up.

Then there’s the question of why the stage wasn’t ready until 4:10. Pearl Jam was the last show on the main stage before Kanye West, and they finished 45 minutes late. So they have to accept some blame.

Mostly, though, I blame whatever Bonnaroo guy was responsible for setting up the stage. Jesus Christ those people were inefficient. That stage definitely could have been ready by 3:30 if they had worked at an acceptable pace. (Then if Pearl Jam had ended on time, the stage would have been ready at 2:45).

I’ve heard rumors that Kanye didn’t want to get on stage until after the other late night shows were done. That would require that Kanye West told dozens of Bonnaroo workers to delay setting up the stage until the other late night shows were done. Wow, what a dumb and unlikely idea.

I am also blaming Bonnaroo for not doing enough during the delay to keep people happy. They gave us no explanation for the delay before, during, or after (they still haven’t said anything about the incident), choosing instead to let rumors develop. During the delay, the only information they gave us was obviously wrong (the updated concert start times).

They also didn’t entertain us at all. During other shows on the main stage when there was a delay, they would do stuff like have cameras aiming at the crowd that showed on the big screens. They didn’t do anything like that, and there’s no reason they couldn’t have.

Also, they (apparently) cut Kanye off. What the fuck? It was already 5:30 in the morning, there’s no reason it couldn’t have kept going.

I fault Kanye West only for not giving out more information, apologizing for the delay, or talking to the crowd. But I would have been upset too if people were throwing shit at my onstage during my entire one hour show. That’s incredibly disrespectful.

On the other hand, I admire Kanye for not caving in to the criticism and letting it affect his show. That attitude is exactly what made him become arguably the best pop artist in the world right now.

The thing about all of this is that because there is no official story on what happened, to an extent I’m forced to speculate here. I don’t actually know why it took so long to set up the stage, I just happen to believe that people are well-intentioned but sometimes lazy and incompetent (rather than choosing to believe that Kanye West is conspiratorial and endleslly selfish). I don’t actually know that Kanye was cut off, I just assume that he wouldn’t end his show early on purpose. In fact, I don’t even know that his show ended early, but I assume that he wouldn’t have ended the show so suddenly, with so little fanfare.

Anyway, he rapped really well, and the beats sounded really good. In a way it was really cool. But the bullshit with the delay took a lot away from the performance, which was too bad.

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