My feet are just starting to forgive me after the torment they went through on the day of reckoning of Bonnaroo, Saturday. This is the day where everything comes to a crescendo that lasts into daybreak the following day, a day where a main act might play from 3 AM until sunrise, where Skrillex does a secret set on the smallest stage for the lifeless beings that stayed awake the entire night before.
Started out the day right with a Bonnaroovians essential diet of multiple PB&Js and granola bars. Embarking out to Centeroo still trying to recover from the day is a testament to human strength and capability, I promise you. Started the day out light by, listening to groovy vibes cast forth by the electronic duo known as Classixx, with their backdrop of images that filled a 1980s computer generated animation aesthetic. After getting some food and watching a little bit of the World Cup, my group wandered over to the main stage to in line for Damon Albarn. We ended up getting front row on the barrier for Damon Albarn (whom you probably know from his musical past in Gorillaz and Blur). This show ended up being one of the best of the weekends as he brought out guests (to his own surprise at points) such as De La Soul to perform “Feel Good Inc.”, Del the Funky Homosapien to rap his legendary verses on “Clint Eastwood” and a choir to help out with Damon’s own solo material. I can only imagine the excitement of people who randomly went to see Damon, not knowing his past in music, and then hearing him play classics from Gorillaz while bringing out a medley of guests.
As a collective we then went out to see Slightly Stoopid, and stop what you’re thinking, we weren’t there for Slightly Stoopid. We were there just to get a good spot for James Blake. Slightly Stoopid was the least enjoyable music act of the weekend, with their obnoxious stoner reggae and horrible (and surprisingly gigantic) fan base. Luckily the crowd shuffled out quickly, and even more quickly once they learned that Lauren Hill got switched for James Blake, so there we were, front row for James Blake, one of the main reasons many of us even went to Roo. James came out to bass so heavy that I’m shocked I wasn’t sent careening backwards off my feet. This is the kind of bass that makes it hard to breathe. It was beautiful. James Blake played a set unlike any other, his surreal vocals mixed with his potentially damaging bass and fantastic band made this set one of the best of the weekend, and one of the best I’ve ever seen in general.
It’s incredible to be able to go from James Blake to see one of the most important musicians of our generation, Jack White. It really is unfortunate that his set was slotted at a point where many had to leave early at some point to get ready for either Frank Ocean, The Flaming Lips, the Skrillex Superjam or Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. Apparently Jack White’s set was one of the best in Bonnaroo history, having done an hour long encore afterwards, ending with “Seven Nation Army”. I’m just glad I stuck around to see “Icky Thump”, “Lazaretto” and “Steady As She Goes” before trekking solo to see The Flaming Lips.
People told me I was making the wrong decision and that I should see Frank Ocean due to his lack of touring, but I can promise that if you weren’t at The Flaming Lips you seriously missed out. Notorious for their live set up, The Flaming Lips created the most vibrant and colorful stage including the usage of props such as a giant balloon that read “FUCK YEAH ROO” to having giant inflatable characters such as aliens and mushroom people come on stage to dance to songs. Ending their set with a cover of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” perfectly wrapped up their set ending with a magnificent cascade of confetti and colorful graphics the likes of which I have never seen.
Darkside was obviously slotted for a late night set, stretching all the way until 4 AM. This is one of those shows that I’m going to look back at forever in astonishment over how surreal it was, I jam to Darkside late at night frequently as it is but seeing it live was mind-blowing (I had seen Darkside last October but I hadn’t listened to them yet and had to leave early to see a different act). Darkside has crafted a genre of its own in which its own minimalist light show that came to become entirely expressionist reflects (kind of a pun seeing as though their set-up is lights being shot at a rotating mirror).
Somehow our feet were able to carry us back to the tent, although a 5 minute walk had turned into 20 by this time. We get back to our site only to realize that we could very clearly hear the pounding EDM of Kaskade, this was only made worse when someone told us its tradition for Kaskade to play until sunrise, which is exactly what he did. And I heard every bit of it.
As if dealing with the physical pain from my aching feet and legs coupled with my back wasn’t bad enough I was beginning to get sick. Luckily enough Sunday was a relaxed enough day to wear I didn’t have anything spectacular planned. So we spent the day mostly wandering around taking advantage of our last chances to indulge in Roo Food up until we took a pit stop seeing a ritual performance by the voodoo inspired band Goat. I’m not a huge fan of acid rock so we left pretty early on, no disrespect to Goat, they were unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
One of my favorite characteristics of Sunday is that it contained the most bluegrass, which I don’t really get the opportunity to experience much of even though it really interests me. So we took a trip over to the main stage to see Yonder Mountain String Band while also waiting for Arctic Monkeys whom I stayed for a total of two songs, not that Arctic Monkeys are a bad band or anything, just doesn’t appeal to me. So we wandered around some more from a hip-hop DJ set to a Disco featuring only oldies, as we then perused the various acts the festival offered from Washed Out, to City and Colour, to Broken Bells, until we decided to go watch Game 5 of the NBA Finals, which was so delightfully entertaining, given all the ‘true’ Miami Heat fans there.
On the way to see Elton John and in the spirit of bluegrass we stopped by the one of a kind bluegrass superjam for a few songs, and even got to hear a bluegrass cover of ‘Crazy’ by Gnarls Barkley which was superb.
Elton was scheduled not too long after, which I stayed for only about 3 songs just so I could see it (his music doesn’t really interest me but it was cool to see nonetheless). We were actually somewhat close and had to leave early through a crowd of 90,000 people in order to get to one of our cars as half of us planned on leaving that night to go to someone’s house to sleep and shower. Because some of our group took so long, we hit Bonnaroo traffic hard keeping us at a standstill for about 4 hours in which we just pulled over and decided to sleep in the car, which hadn’t traveled more than 100 meters from the campsite.
And with that my first Bonnaroo ended in style, deathly tired, sleeping in the passenger seat of a truck feeling mildly sick. I couldn’t have been happier, no matter what uncomfortable circumstance I ended up in, I had the experience of a lifetime and can confidently say I will be an annual Bonnaroovian from the year on and would love for you all to join me.