From Paul McCartney to Pretty Lights to R-Kelly to Dirty Projectors, the 2013 Bonnaroo Arts and Music Festival had a wide variety of talented musicians, all of whom were showcasing their distinctive sounds and genres. Among the sea of musicians, rappers and dj's was Patrick Watson, who happened to put on the best and most underrated performance of the entire festival.
I had always been a fan of Patrick Watson. His music is so versatile, and is seemingly the perfect fit to both a gloomy day and a bright one. I always knew there was something special about Patrick Watson. Little did I know that he would prove to be the most emotionally evoking and breathtaking musical performance that I've seen to this date (and I've seen a lot of live music).
I ventured to his performance at That Tent. It was the first show I saw so I was sitting down, taking a break from the sun and the constant motion of Bonnaroo. I didn't see him (as there was a crowd of standing people in front of me) nor did I think I needed to. It was only till I went to his later show that the true artist in him shined bright. Almost too bright.
It was at Sonic Stage, which is one of the littler stages, meaning there was only an audience of about 30 people. I was about 5 feet from the stage and there unfortunately was a man directly in front of me, who was so deep in to his acid trip that I think he thought he was conducting the music. For some reason, that didn't inhibit the emotion of the performance in the slightest.
Patrick Watson was so effortlessly brilliant. His deep widening grin paralleled with the wind of his music. His voice constantly oscillated between dark and innocent, producing a sound that flew so smoothly into the ears of all who listened. He played a lot of the same songs that he played in his previous act, yet this time, it seemed as if his music was consuming him.
I'm making it seem like the most intense concert and there was definitely an aspect to it that was extremely intense but in reality, he was joking around the entire time. But, that's what made it so amazing. In between songs, even during songs, he would display his undeniable comfort on stage. He was definitely a little drunk, but it purveyed an honesty that seemed so genuine. At one point, with neither a lighter or a match, he attempted to light a cigarette. After he threw it aggressively on the ground, he grabbed the microphone, as if he was wielding it as weapon and began singing "Luscious Life." Even being a little drunk and a tad careless, his voice evoked an emotion that was both vulnerable and infectious. His intoxicating voice was so deeply rooted in an emotion, that acted as a keystone to the entire sound. He'd occasionally chuckle between words, at what I'm not sure, meanwhile the unbearing emotion ran creepily up my spine.
In this volatile and inspiring world, when an artist creates a specific sound, it's almost impossible to perfectly know where the inspiration sparks from. Even if the lyrics are clear and indicative of what they were trying to convey. This performance was the perfect mirroring between an artist and his music. He was living in the music and the music was living in him.
Bonnaroo was a little bit of a disappointment for me. I didn't see enough old hippies and I saw way too many people who seemed like they were more interested in Instagramming and popping MDMA than actually listening to the music. The line-up was varied, which was good besides the fact that the line up had no common keystone. You could distinctly tell who was there for what. However, it seemed as if Patrick Watson had the ability to make that all go away for that 45 minutes that he played. There were many people walking by the peformance, yet once they heard his voice, they began to listen. There was a sense of curiosity and indulgence that was undeniable. He is the type of artist that can be universally appreciated, and not in an unoriginal way, quite the opposite actually. Defining the beauty of music in the most simple way, he used his voice to get through to people. He forced anyone who heard his music to void their mind of the chaos of Bonnaroo and listen to the music. The most beautiful thing about it is that we all were doing more than just listening, we were truly feeling it.
One of the last songs he played was "To Build A Home." A solemn and aching song that silenced the audience. He began to pound on the keyboard, perfectly creating a sound that was both chaotic and confined. It was the most brilliant performance I had ever seen.
Patrick Watson is an experimental indie singer/songwriter from Montreal, Quebec. The name refers also to his band, which consists of guitarist Simon Angell, percussionist Robbie Kuster, and bassist Mishka Stein. Watson has toured with several artists, including John Cale, The Cinematic Orchestra, Cold War Kids, Amon Tobin, The Dears, Feist, and James Brown. They released their fourth studio album in April 2012, titled Adventures In Your Own Backyard, which is available here.