Day three started in the afternoon for me which allowed me to relax at the campsite for a bit. It was my first time waking up to the true Tennessean sun and holy fucking shit balls! How do people deal with that every day? As I ran to the water pod to give myself a semi-shower I saw three girls who were shirtless bathing themselves as their boyfriends watched onlookers like vicious hawks…yep that definitely had to be a moment you’d only experience at Bonnaroo.
The first act of the day I caught was Blind Pilot, a group that played primarily acoustic based tunes with dual vocals from a male vocalist/guitarist (Israel Nebeker) and female vocalist/banjo player (Kati Claborn). It was definitely fitting catching their set so early and I really enjoyed myself with what I saw and heard. The Temper Trap played the main stage next and during a small press conference which took place before the gig front-man Dougy Mandagi stated that he hoped fans of the band would embrace their sophomore album with their live show and not spend the whole time simply waiting for Sweet Disposition. Well if the bands Bonnaroo set is anything to go by then I’d certainly say that Mr. Mandagi could consider that goal a mission accomplished. Need Your Love and Trembling Hands fit perfectly well with debut album tracks such as Fader and Down River and the band wore their confidence on their sleeves while owning the main stage that afternoon.
Battles had This Tent filled and they’re set was something I could honestly say I had never seen before. Three men were placed closely together at the stages front and simply played music in a breakneck speed pace. The keyboardist had his keyboards on their sides and tilted like the Earth on its axis, to play he simply sprinted while slapping his hands onto his keyboard, while next to him the bands drummer leapt to hit a cymbal that was taller then his entire kit.
Punch Brothers played a highly anticipated set and Santigold bought theatrics to life in a truly mesmerizing way on the What Stage (main stage, keep up now). Her back-up dancers were gorgeous and they’re choreography was just seamlessly badass like one couldn’t believe. Gary Clark Jr amassed an incredible crowd at the Sonic Stage and didn’t disappoint with his impressive guitar chords which instantly created the feeling of being in a dirty bar with wooden floors stained with budwiser and cigarette ash. The crowd was practically hypnotized to his set and his deep vocals certainly only helped keep the crowd’s attention entirely fixated on him.
Mogwai played a mellow yet vicious set of instrumental guitar music at This Tent, it was brilliant finally catching them live. Comedian/actor Donald Glover bought his Childish Gambino persona to life on the Which stage. His set was a high octane fury of beats and rhymes that never once faltered on delivery and energy. I always knew Glover was a talented actor (come on Community is practically flawless) but his set as Childish Gambino is something I could never have prepared for.
The Roots played a long set at the main stage before Red Hot Chili Peppers, and despite the Chili Peppers playing an unbelievable set you almost got the feeling some people incredibly missed The Roots and wanted them back on stage. Though what truly helped to battle that to the ground wasn’t only the Chili Peppers back catalogue but also their on stage persona. It has to be said, the bands new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer is an absolutely incredible performer and his playing at Bonnaroo completely won over crowd members. Him and Flea had a great repertoire throughout the entire set and their on stage antics of facial expressions, guitar jabbing, and dance movements simply enhanced what was already a great live show.
This year Bonnaroo has been massive about their late night sets and during the evening I caught a great set by We Are Augestines, which was unfortunately cut short but still stood out as a great Bonnaroo moment. I also caught Alice Cooper’s show and the only way to describe that would be an experience. Cooper has put so much production into his live show that to see it blend effortlessly with the actual music segments of his hits/new songs was an amazing fucking feat to behold. The last act of the night for me was Skrillex and say what you will about the dubstep artist it has to be said; Skrillex is a great fucking performer. Sure he sat in his spaceship stage set up but he made sure to interact with the crowd and showcase what a great time he himself was having, which simply forced the crowd to follow suite. During his set it felt like all of Bonnaroo was there to watch and my mind was blown at the passion his fans exerted throughout his long set, especially during his rendition of the Beastie Boys smash hit Sabotage.
The fourth day was a whirlwind of incredibleness (it’s a word now) for me. Some of my favorite acts played that day, such as Delta Spirit and Black Lips, as well as Grouplove who simply played as though they were home at Bonnaroo. Seeing their energy exerted on stage was such a beautiful sight and it was impossible to not just put your arms in the air and have a good time.
The Beach Boys and Mac Miller played the same time; I luckily got to catch both sets. Brian Wilson and companies set was of course a major nostalgia trip and seeing Wilson act out emotions (such as point to his face and holding himself with a hug) really did silence the importance of everything else. I also noticed my heroes The Joy Formidable watching the bands set from the front of the crowd on the stages right and I also got to catch their amazing set which began with fan favorite tune The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade. Miller’s set was actually more fun then when I experienced his festival set last year at Governors Ball. He worked up the crowd in a similar fashion but this time around his songs had more polish to them and energy.
Bon Iver played the main stage and it was an interesting experience seeing what all the fuss was about. Everyone at Bonnaroo seemed to make it priority number one to catch what the Grammy winning artist nobody could stop talking about was about. Despite being incredibly into Bon Iver I can say that an interesting quality to seeing him and his group perform live is that you truly get the feeling that they're creating music infront of you while they're playing it live. That probably sounds very standard to see at a live show but the way it unfolds live with them is that it literally is being crafted together, the strings are literally being arranged to fit each other and it's just a very intriguing thing to see take place in front of you.
Other stand out sets were The Black Box Revelations early set at the That Tent and The Antlers set at the same tent later on in the day. Both sets demanded the crowds to provide their full attention to the bands but for different reasons. Revelations had a bar rock feeling to them with foot stomping guitar chords and drums, while The Antlers produced an incredible ambient feeling with their music due to their light guitar chords that felt as though they were cut by crystals (think of Two Door Cinema Club and Phoenix chords). I also discovered The Civil Wars at Bonnaroo, a group I’ve heard a lot about but never heard before. The only way to describe their live set would be beautiful, truly beautiful. You could just see the passion on stage and feel a welcoming feeling from their fans who watched their gig silently yet still found the chance to yell with enjoyment.
My last sets of the days were also the two best and truly unforgettable stand out shows I witness at Bonnaroo. Fun. and Young The Giant, two bands I have seen multiple times as both a fan and journalist and wow…just wow. Festivals amass grand crowds of people from various cities, towns, and areas of the world. To share your music with so many people is a great privilege and seeing an act embrace that is the best thing you can hope to see at a festival. This is what took place during both bands set. Both acts exerted passion in a way I hadn’t seen in such a long time, completely unfiltered and with energy that practically screamed with “Dude we’re playing fucking Bonnaroo!” good job guys, good fucking job.
To find out about how day 1 and 2 of the festival went be sure to read about it here.
This review was written/photographed by Ken Grand-Pierre, a writer/photographer/graphic designer/bear fighter in New York. If you want to see more photos from this show and more be sure to visit his flickr. Also if you like what you see and you want to hear about more than be sure to follow on twitter and tumblr
Back to top
Back to top