The summer of 2009 was supposed to be a glorious time for the Beastie Boys. Their new album Hot Sauce Committee Part 1 was in the can and scheduled for a September 15th release date, and they were booked at festivals all across America in the months leading up to it. The trio warmed up with club dates in Baltimore, Maryland and Asheville, North Carolina, in early June before formally kicking off their summer festival tour at Bonnaroo, taking the stage between sets by Al Green and Phish.
The 24-song set was packed with tunes from their entire career, going all the way back to “Egg Raid on Mojo” from the Polly Wog Stew EP in 1982. Much of the night was devoted to their 1990s albums Ill Communication, Check Your Head and Hello Nasty, though they did nod their head to old-school fans by breaking out “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” and “Paul Revere.” Nas came out halfway through to join them on “Too Many Rappers,” the only Hot Sauce Committee tune of the evening.
The show ended with a raucous “Sabotage,” which Adam Yauch dedicated to his cousin Eric Yauch. They had a bit of trouble getting started. “As you can see, there is no tape, there is no iPod,” said Adam Horovitz after a false start. “This is live music, y’all.” Nobody in the audience seemed to care, and even the Phish fans in front that were merely trying to secure a good spot for the final act of the night were having an absolute blast.
Not long afterwards, Yauch explained the “Sabotage” snafu in an interview with Gothamist. “We tend to mess up a lot, because we just play live music up there, and we tend to wing it a lot,” he said. “And I think it might have been some mess up with the monitors; there’s a part in the middle of the song where I come in and play a bass break by myself, and then Mike comes in, and I think Mike couldn’t hear what I was playing, because his monitors were messed up, so I think he came in wrong, against what I was doing, and then we had to figure it out, put it back together somehow.”
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A little over a month after Bonnaroo, the Beastie Boys announced that the album and the rest of their tour was being postponed because Yauch had been diagnosed with salivary gland cancer. “I just need to take a little time to get this in check, and then we’ll release the record and play some shows,” Yauch said in a statement. “It’s a pain in the neck (sorry had to say it) because I was really looking forward to playing these shows, but the doctors have made it clear that this is not the kind of thing that can be put aside to deal with later.”
Tragically, the cancer was more serious than anybody realized. The group retooled the album as Hot Sauce Committee Part Two and released it in April of 2011. Adam Yauch passed away about a year later. Surviving Beastie Boys Adam Horovitz and Mike Diamond have made it very clear they’ll never perform without Yauch, meaning this performance of “Sabotage” was the Beasties’ final performance.