Appearing at the same time as R. Kelly and “Weird Al” Yankovic, Billy Idol has some stiff competition when he makes his Bonnaroo debut in Manchester, Tennessee next month. “It’s a shame we can’t get together on one stage,” the iconic punk-turned-New Waver told Rolling Stone, chuckling in his trademark cockney accent during a conference call with reporters about the festival. “Weird Al, R. Kelly and me – that’s [three] pretty diverse acts. If that’s trying to give people a choice, Bonnaroo has really exceeded what it needs to do.”
To compete, Idol promises Bonnaroo-bound concertgoers a festive late-night set chock full of his revved-up Reagan-era radio hits. “We’re going to be doing our party set,” the singer said. “A lot of the [set] is gonna be ‘Rebel Yell,’ ‘Eyes Without a Face,’ ‘White Wedding,’ ‘Dancing with Myself,’ ‘Mony Mony’ – the songs people know.”
Longtime Idol diehards need not fear, however, as the singer said he’ll also dig back to his punk beginnings with a song or two by his early band, Generation X; he’s opened recent sets with the speed-addled, sneering rallying cry “Ready Steady Go.” Idol also said he’ll test out some new songs on the Bonnaroo crowd, performing a couple tracks from a full-length he hopes to record this fall. The singer predicted the album will be a throwback balance of “Eyes Without a Face”-style ballads and “Rebel Yell” rockers.
It’s perhaps worth noting that Idol is the first of his old-school English punk peers (depending where you rate Elvis Costello) to appear on a Bonnaroo bill. “That’s pretty exciting,” he says. “It gives me a little bit of a chance to show off some other sides to my music that maybe people haven’t heard . . . Generation X, we were a great band, really. There’s some great songs there, and the band I’ve got today [which features the return of longtime lead guitarist and collaborator Steve Stevens] can execute those almost better than the original group.”
So how does this punk feel about playing for Bonnaroo’s hippie contingent? “I usually go onstage pretty straight these days, so I’m hoping to get the biggest contact high of all time,” he said.
Bob Saget, who will also make his Bonnaroo debut next month with a pair of performances in the festival’s comedy tent, can relate. Like most first-time festival performers, the comedian has questions about Bonnaroo – “Nobody can actually slingshot some Ecstasy into my mouth from the audience, right, where by the end of my second set I’m just in love with everyone?” he asked reporters during the same conference call. “I assume they’re gonna be stoned, so I’ll just get high from that, so by the second show I’ll be high just by being near them,” he told Rolling Stone.
He said he’s been asked, “Are you worried about [Bonnaroo]? Or ‘They won’t know you.’ And I just think that’s not even possible. I mean, I know who I am – I’m 57, so I’ve kinda figured out where I fit in.”
One thing for certain is that the veteran comic’s crass, childish-by-design toilet humor (“It kinda comes from the rebellion of a 9-year-old boy that doesn’t really grow up”) will come as a mind-melt to millennial festivalgoers who grew up seeing Saget play dad on Full House or hosting America‘s Funniest Home Videos.
“I will not be dust busting,” he says. “There won’t be any synthesizer strings coming on as they tell kids what they should and shouldn’t do and ‘Don’t drink beer at the sock-hop’ or whatever the hell I did on Full House.”
Saget instead offers a colorful preview of what festivalgoers might expect. “I’m incontinent,” he deadpans. “So they’re gonna see a show that they’ve never seen: I actually come out and the poo is just flying. Iit’s kind of like Gallagher. I’m gonna cover the first few rows in plastic. And I have a Slip ‘n Slide on the stage, so as I continue to have diarrhea, I slide on it.
“I just do fun stuff that’s funny,” he says, promising his act will also include music, along the lines of his novelty number “My Dog Licked My Balls.”
Coincidentally, Saget and Idol both have autobiographies in the works. “It’s sort of my recollections, which is almost a massive joke because I can’t remember anything,” Idol says of his chronicles. “The bits I do remember, I’ve tried to write about. I’ve tried to give an overview of my career, or my love of music, and a little bit of personal stuff – my personal travails or whatever.”
“It’s really about death and comedy and how I find the two closely related, and how they’ve been related to my life,” Saget says of his memoir. “I lost two sisters and four uncles, and a lot of people I was very close with have passed away . . . It’s really about my journey. And it’s also about my testicles quite a bit.”