Mother Monster returns home

July 10-13, 2010 in Manchester, Tenn.

On June 10, over 100,000 people traveled from all directions to a small farm in Manchester, Tenn. to witness the ninth annual Bonnaroo music festival.

What began as a journey met by empty highways and country roads came to yield an unparalleled sight: an ocean of tents, cars, smoke and youth.

Though people gathered primarily for the non-stop, four-day concert, patrons also came for the atmosphere of excitement and pleasure; it was commonplace to walk down the dirt roads traversing the campgrounds and receive a few fist-pounds, high-fives and a reminder that you were definitely at the "'roo."

The main attraction, however, was the star-studded line-up that Bonnaroo had to offer. Just a few of the bands that played the festival were Neon Indian, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, The Flaming Lips, LCD Soundsystem, Dr. Dog, Stevie Wonder, The xx and Jay-Z.

The first night of the festival was an perfect introduction to the line-ups that followed: Neon Indian played a set full of raygun synthesizer sounds and bombastic beats, ending moments after The Dodos began their pared down, hollow body guitar-filled set. Ending the night, The xx played a disappointing set that lacked the energy fans have come to expect from them.

The next day was an epic of a completely different sort. The day began at 2 a.m. with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes' energy-filled set and ended at 4 a.m. with James Murphy's rendition of "Empire State of Mind." Edward Sharpe was followed by Dr. Dog, who played a set that sounded like it had been mastered and re-mastered somewhere in the time between them playing and the audience listening. After Dr. Dog, Michael Franti and Spearhead livened things up and paved the way for The Flaming Lips.

After a long setup, Lips frontman Wayne Coyne burst into the crowd in an air-filled bubble. The set, half of which was spent playing Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, included gigantic, laser-spitting hands, a confetti-filled rendition of "Do You Realize" and a version of Floyd's "Money" in which Coyne sent bubbles of real money out onto the crowd to be popped and collected.

The third day included a three-band line-up: Jack White's new band The Dead Weather was followed by Stevie Wonder and finally Jay-Z. Both Wonder and Jay-Z wowed the crowd with impressive sets that offset the traditional atmosphere of the festival. Regina Spektor, John Fogerty and They Might Be Giants ended the festival in a playful manner.

After an unforgettable 96 hours, pack-up and departure was laced with cries for another four days that won't be answered until next year's festival.

July 6, 2010 at Madison Square Garden

As thousands of devoted Lady Gaga fans flooded the halls of Madison Square Garden on July 6 - sporting platinum blonde wigs and soda can hair rollers galore - the arena buzzed with speculation about the first of a three-night engagement in the pop star's hometown.

What these little monsters didn't know, however, is that the Lady would soon surpass all of their wildest expectations and earnest wishes with her magnificent Monster Ball Tour. Gaga opened the show with her song "Dance in the Dark," appearing before her many screaming devotees as a simple silhouette behind a large, wrap-around screen.

The provocative 24-year-old performed hits including "Just Dance" and "Lovegame" from her record-breaking debut album The Fame in a purple leopard print bustier and a nun's habit, presumably acknowledging claims about her sacrilegious lifestyle.

Enveloping a freakish rendition of the classic children's story The Wizard of Oz, the concert showed Gaga and her band of misfits traveling through New York City landmarks on their search for the Monster Ball. Whisking her audience into a world that blurred the boundaries between staged theatrical epic, avant-garde art show and techno dance party, Mother Monster declared that, "[The Monster Ball] is a place where … all the freaks are outside, and we locked the f---ing doors."

From the spooky walkways of nighttime Central Park to the gleaming neon lights of the Lower East Side, the grand stage design allowed Gaga to charm her followers and, in turn, provide them with a safe haven away from rejection and disappointment.

After a brief intermission, Gaga performed songs from her second studio album, The Fame Monster, including "Telephone" and the summer smash "Alejandro." She also revealed a new track titled "You and I" from her upcoming album, which is expected to be released in early 2011.

While playing her song "Speechless," Gaga addressed her inspiration for the track - her formerly estranged father, who was in attendance that night. She joked, "Now Dad, I recognize that I am the reason that you drink … I recognize that as I'm sitting up here in my latex underwear," offering her fans a glimpse into her personal life.

Dressed in an incendiary brassiere and matching panties, Gaga later faced off with a gargantuan, anglerfish-type creature that she called "the fame monster" while belting out her third single off The Fame, "Paparazzi."

When she finally reached the Monster Ball, Gaga wrapped up the show with an astounding encore performance of "Bad Romance" that was welcomed with thunderous cheers and applause from her masses of little monsters. Performing a 19-song set list that featured 13 costume changes, Lady Gaga solidified her reputation as an exceedingly ambitious and gifted performance artist who thrives off of the love of her loyal fan base.