J. Roddy Walston and the Business At Bonnaroo: Drunk, Weird, and Very Bonnaroo

At any music festival, the shared love of music provides a basis for unity. But Bonnaroo, the four-day festival just outside of Manchester, Tennessee, is particularly interested in cultivating a sense of community. Everyone wishes each other "Happy Bonnaroo"; people walk around with free hug signs; and weed is essentially communal. Even the festival organizers do things like declare Friday "High-Five Day" and play PSA videos about social inclusion on stage screens in between sets. You can't stand in one place for too long without a stranger talking to you. On stage Thursday night, J. Roddy Walston and the Business' frontman seemed like another one of those affable strangers. "Let's get drunk. Let's get weird," Walston told the Bonnaroo crowd. The crowd was going to get drunk and weird anyway, but the roaring cheers they gave in response proved they appreciated the fact that the (sorta) Baltimore-based rockers understood the weekend's goals. After issuing what could become Bonnaroo's unofficial slogan, the band launched into "Take It As It Comes," the jangly single off their 2013 album Essential Tremors, the title of which is also a fitting summary of how most Bonnaroo attendees handled their weekend. Though the decidedly southern-sounding foursome moved to Baltimore about ten years ago (read last year's City Paper profile, "Taking Care of Business"), the band formed in Cleveland, Tennessee, and their Bonarroo set was a bit like a homecoming. They exuded comfort, delivering easy going rock, an ideal soundtrack for dancing, drinking beer, and inspiring plenty of mass singalongs. And J. Roddy's songs have enough "oooos" and "ohs" that even if you don't know their songs that well, it's easy enough to pick up and go with the crowd. And people at Bonnaroo sure do love a good singalong. They also love communal platitudes, so Walston asking, "You guys ready to sing like a family?" went over well. J. Roddy didn't have to rely on instructed singalongs alone; the crowd knew most of the words to the songs already. The tent was filled with fans who chanted the band's name before they came out, and one of whom waved a Maryland flag for the first few songs before putting it down to join in on the mud-stomping dancing. Toward the end of the set, an audience member right in front of me was tapped on the shoulder by a friend who had come to find him. He laughed when his friend told him it was time to go, and replied with a very frank "No." Then he went right back to dancing. The crowd didn't hesitate at any of the knowing cheesiness involved with J. Roddy's performance (turning every song into a singalong, the band members flipping around their very long hair, etc.) J. Roddy transcended playful pandering to the crowd; they were honestly connecting. After all, Bonnaroo as a whole is unabashedly cheesy (one more time: there is "High-Five Day."), but the cheesiness is part of what makes it such a good time. The same could be said of J. Roddy. And yesterday, J. Roddy Walston and the Business just announced a headlining tour that begins in July and goes through November and also includes a number of festival performances: July 11: Cincinnati, OH (Bunbury Festival) July 12: Detroit, MI  (Mopop Festival) July 14: Petaluma, CA (Lagu Mini Ampitheatre) July 19:  The Woodlands, TX (Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion) July 24: Dewey Beach, DE  (Bottle & Cork) July 25: Port Chester, NY (Capitol Theater) July 26: Newport, RI  (Newport Folk Festival) July 27: Philadelphia, PA (XPoNential Music Festival) July 29:  Cleveland Heights, OH (Grog Shop) July 31: Chicago, IL (Schuba's) August 1: Chicago, IL (Lollapalooza) August 17:  Rochester, MN (Down by the Riverside Festival) August 22: Pittsburgh, PA (Mr. Smalls Theatre) August 23: Frederick, MD (Flying Dog Brewery) September 6: Charlotte, NC (PNC Music Pavilion) September 15: Minneapolis, MN (Fine Line Music Café) September 16: Madison, WI (Majestic Theatre) September 18:  Chicago, IL (Metro) September 19: Columbus, OH (Newport Music Hall) September 20: Bristol, TN (Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion) September 27: Baltimore, MD (The Shindig Festival) September 28: Raleigh, NC (Lincoln Theatre) September 30: Athens, GA (Georgia Theatre) October 1: Oxford, MS (The Lyric Oxford) October 3: Austin, TX (Austin City Limits Festival) October 6: Lawrence, KS (The Bottleneck) October 8: Fayetteville, AR (George's Majestic Lounge) October 10: Austin, TX (Austin City Limits Festival) October 13: Tucson, AZ (The Flycatcher) October 16: Los Angeles, CA (Troubadour) October 20: Portland, OR (Doug Fir Lounge) October 27: Denver, CO (Bluebird Theater) October 29: Dallas, TX (Trees) November 3: Atlanta, GA (Terminal West) November 4: Winston-Salem, NC (Ziggy's)

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