Third Man Records Vault exclusives, Part 22: Jack White "Live From Bonnaroo 2014"
I recently received the 22nd set of exclusive vinyl items offered to platinum members of Third Man Records’ Vault service. For those who are unaware, Third Man Records is the label owned by Jack White, who is the leader of the White Stripes, the Raconteurs, and the Dead Weather, and is now a solo artist as well. The Vault service promises to deliver exclusive vinyl-only records (one full-length album and one 7” single) to its platinum members every three months. According to the postal service, my package was sent on December 13th. I received it on the 17th.
This twenty-second set of items revolves around Jack White’s epic 27-song concert at the Bonnaroo rock festival on June 14th of 2014. The concert is captured on vinyl on a 3-LP set, and presented visually on DVD. There is no 7-inch single included in this package. It’s packaged just like a commercial boxed set, with a seemingly bottomless treasure trove of goodies inside. The box’s cover art features a cleverly designed lenticular image of a TV monitor in place of Jack White’s face.
The triple-LP Live From Bonnaroo 2014 (pressed on one white, one blue, and one black vinyl disc) contains the audio of the 135-minute concert at the Manchester, Tennessee festival. In front of an audience of about 70,000, White tirelessly performed songs from both of his solo albums (including the then-just-released Lazaretto) as well as selections from all three of his well-known bands. He was backed by the Buzzards (Daru Jones, Dominic Davis, Fats Kaplan, Cory Younts, the late Ikey Owens) and Lillie Mae Rische from the Peacocks. White had plenty to say to his fellow Tennessee residents (and everyone else who was in that crowd), performing about 65 miles away from his Nashville home base.
After a brief summer jam intro, White and his band open the set with a performance of the White Stripes’ “Icky Thump” that is full of ‘70’s prog-rock style instrumentation. White’s band adds a more old-fashioned country feeling to the Stripes’ stomp “Hotel Yorba”, and a more blues-based instrumental spin to the Raconteurs songs “Steady As She Goes” and “Top Yourself”. Kaplan’s spacey theremin sounds mark “Lazaretto” and “Missing Pieces”; Younts’ harmonica playing stands out on the ferocious “Hello Operator”.
The then-brand-new songs “Temporary Ground”, “Alone In My Home” and “Three Women” receive good, faithful treatment, as do “Love Interruption” and “Sixteen Saltines” from Blunderbuss. “Freedom At 21” still has potency without studio effects; meanwhile, studio-like echo effects can be heard during the Stripes’ “I’m Slowly Turning Into You”, which slowly turns into a ten-minute extended version.
The Stripes’ “Ball And Biscuit” is paired with a cover of Zeppelin’s “Lemon Song” for a tasteful blues jam (which tastefully leaves most of the ribald lyrics out of the latter song). At the end of the fifth side, White smartly sandwiches the Dead Weather’s “Blue Blood Blues” between the Stripes’ “Cannon” and “Astro”. An instrumental medley of the Chantays’ “Pipeline” and Dick Dale’s “Misirlou” reproduces their surf-rock sounds with a hefty dose of fuzz.
It’s still somewhat odd to hear White perform White Stripes songs with a full backing band, but the results are usually agreeable. It would have once been impossible to imagine “Seven Nation Army” as the showy eight-minute concert-closer that it is here, and “You Don’t Know What Love Is” also sounds a bit turgid in this setting. But “Little Bird” works just fine as a blues-band showcase. The long-introed “Hardest Button To Button” also works well, even though it sometimes makes Jack sound as though he’s shouting above the din.
As good as it is to listen to the lengthy concert on well-mastered vinyl, the DVD provides a more illuminating visual document of the show. The visual aspect gives us a better perspective on the event, not only because we get glimpses of the crowd and a feeling for the full-moon-on-a-summer-night atmosphere, but also because we get a close look at the performers and their contributions. Moments that sometimes seem like oddities or mistakes when heard on record (for example, the instrumentation on the two Raconteurs numbers) make more sense when viewed through this medium. Thus, the DVD gives us a fuller scope of the event, which some have described as one of the best concert sets in Bonnaroo festival history. For those of us who weren't there, this Vault box set is a fine way to experience it.
Uniquely enough, this package also contains a bonus USB, containing 50 exclusive still photographs from the concert, as well as Third Man Records wallpapers designed for different devices.
Additional bonus items in this package include: four 8 X 10 black-and-white concert photos by David Swanson (three of which appear in color in the USB files, while the fourth one is seen there in two different b&w adjustments); a patch designed to resemble the onstage TV monitor; an illustrated 12-inch concert poster; and a replica backstage pass sticker resembling a baseball card. Also, the package contains matching black, white, and blue inner sleeves (with soft-touch aqueous coating) to use with the corresponding discs, in addition to the plain white ones the records come packaged in. Last but not least, the package contains a postcard-sized dedication to keyboardist Isaiah “Ikey” Owens, who died at age 40 from a heart attack in October while on tour in Mexico with the band.
A note for fellow vinyl aficionados: the forgotten practice of engraving text in the dead wax, or the runout grooves between the sticker and the last track’s grooves, is present on this 3-LP set. The following six quotes, from White’s onstage banter, are carved in the six album sides: “Just because they write about it doesn’t make it exist”, “This is a warning to anyone who has something better to do”, “I don’t believe in any of it, but I believe in all of it”, “This is like China meets the internet all at once”, “Fried my little brains”, and “Nobody can fault me for that”.
Jack White “Live From Bonnaroo 2014” (Third Man TMR294) 2014
1. Icky Thump
2. High Ball Stepper
4. Hotel Yorba
1. Temporary Ground
2. Missing Pieces
3. Steady, As She Goes
4. Top Yourself
1. I’m Slowly Turning Into You
2. Freedom at 21
3. Three Women
4. You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You’re Told)
1. We’re Going to Be Friends
2. Alone in My Home
3. Ball and Biscuit
4. The Lemon Song (Led Zeppelin)
1. The Hardest Button to Button
2. Hello Operator
3. Pipeline (The Chantays)
4. Misirlou (Dick Dale)
5. Sixteen Saltines
7. Blue Blood Blues
1. Love Interruption
2. Little Bird
3. Seven Nation Army
Jack White “Live From Bonnaroo 2014” DVD (Third Man TMR-294) 2014
The DVD documents the same concert, with the same track list as above.