Houston artist Tyagaraja recently won the Ford Fiesta Team Houston Battle of The Bands, the grand prize of which was a trip to perform at the Bonnaroo music festival in Tennessee. Quite the opportunity for exposure, no?
Meghan Hendley, keyboardist/vocalist for Tyagaraja, reports back to us with her tales of the festival. Hendley, who returned to Houston with the rest of the band Monday evening after a 17-hour journey by car, said she was suffering from "festivalitis" (a.k.a. heat exhaustion) but was happy to give us details of the event any way. Check back in the rest of this week for more of her tales from the road.
What is this? Are you some kind of hypnotist? Waving your powers around/the sun eclipse behind the cloud --Flaming Lips
Throughout my journey this past week, I pondered on the word 'hypnotic'. Experiencing something as aesthetically stimulating and mind blowing as Bonnaroo can throw you into hypnosis of melodies and sights. The reoccurring awakening to what is truly going on during your journey and throughout the festival is the main goal. As a member of Tyagaraja and a festival participant, I found myself in the midst of moments of hippie hypnotic happenings and magical movements of music all wrapped up in this stream of positive energy and friendship.
Caravanning in two large vehicles to Manchester, Tennessee, built an air of camaraderie and anticipation throughout the southern journey. Dramatic readings of labels of Vitamin Water, crazy gas station stops (one 'Tiger Mart' gas station in Louisiana had a live tiger in a cage by the gas pumps), sing-alongs to the Beatles, and sublimely beautiful scenery propelled us to our destination. The hypnotic stream of mountains and winding country roads floated you in and out of thoughts of classic America along with what you were about to experience for the first time. When we arrived to Manchester, hypnotist broke and we were snapped into festival reality. Thankfully a decent trip allowed us to stay calm as we waited over two and a half hours in line to get in to Bonnaroo. (Supposedly, we got the luck of the draw. Some festival-goers waited over 4 hours.)
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Weaving through the throngs of hippies who offered festival 'delicacies' at our car window, we arrived at our trailer only to find that our trailer was without AC and water. Rock star dreams had turned into a festival wake up call. Throughout our stay, we battled with this issue hunting down men in large pickup trucks, pleading oh so nicely to come to our aid. Musicians we were, treatment that comes along was not.
Despite the trials and brutal heat, we still remained unshaken by adversity, coming closer together to create a family unit sharing laughter and woes. We camped outside our trailer in the early morning sizzling sun to rehearse our songs and fine-tune vocal harmonies. Our drummer even implored the use of our trailer sink and discovered that it had different sets of tones that fit songs such as "Human and The Dove" just right. We discovered that we all have mad skills in the dancing department when we started our own soul train line during the Stevie Wonder set. When I was frustrated and lost amongst the 80,000-plus people trying to swim my way back to our spot in the field, our core pulled their strong voices together to yell my name at the top of their lungs out into the night sky so that I could rejoin them for the Jay-Z show.
Those voices that had been fined tune during early morning rehearsals and chanted my name late Saturday evening united together for our performance on Sunday during the final afternoon hours of the festival. Hypnosis slipped back in and this time it was the crowd that was mesmerized by the strains of southern soul and energy that Tyagaraja produced during our 40-minute set. Battered by brutal heat, our audience immersed themselves in the beauty of "Human and The Dove" accompanied by the graceful Indian Classical dance performed by Gunjen Mital.
Their souls were ignited with ours as Tyagaraja jumped into the crowd and dropped to his knees due to vocal force during "Experiencing the World as a Soul". By the end of this song we had drawn the motley crew crowd in to our experience as we added new members into our own Bonnaroo family. During "Only In Texas", they lyrics appropriately changed to "Only at Bonnaroo, where the sun shines when it rains" much to the crowd's joyful enthusiasm. Our final song was offered up as an anthem to all those who had traveled long hours to be a part of the unity found at Bonnaroo. "All The Names of God" joined all of us in a thriving dance of energy and life as we jammed out the final motives and melodies. Out of my entire music career, never have I felt so many positive chills through my being... you know, those ones when the music pulsates through you and takes you to another place. Our music had waved its powers around and the evening sunset, eclipsed behind the cloud.