We’re out of water. Our beer is warm. The sun finally refused to be oppressed by sun block. It’s the last day here at Bonnaroo.
Yesterday was a mixed bag of all different kinds of artists and contrasting performances. Gregory Alan Isakov opened our day with a beautiful, restrained set of folk music. Isakov doesn’t often perform festivals, despite being grouped among some of folk’s best, having hit the road with Iron and Wine and others.
Bleachers played an absolutely blistering set later. Jack Antonoff is non-stop energy. How he possibly plays the number of shows he does is far beyond explanation. When he’s not singing he’s screaming at the crowd. It’s a miracle that his vocal chords withstand the abuse. The band’s performance screamed ‘80s rock, with running synth lines and power choruses. Fun. may so far be Antonoff’s most commercially successful band, but Bleachers are soon to overtake them if their path continues.
Bonnaroo veterans My Morning Jacket took the stage for one of the night’s two major headlining spots. Adorning what looked like a new-age kimono, Jim James looked like a throwback kind of rock star. And he played like one too. The band’s sound has always been one that blurred boundaries between classic-sounding rock and thoughtful folk, new indie rock and modern arena rock. Their set took on the appearance of all of the above at times, blending haunting folk harmonies, huge keyboard melodies and intricate guitar solos.
Childish Gambino, the do-it-all rapper/actor/screenplay-writer/comedian, brought his relentless energy to the late-night crowd. Performing a mix of his most popular tracks like “Sober,” “3005,” “Oakland” and so on, Gambino had a huge crowd moving along with him. The set didn’t lack in musicality, as his band brought the intricate tracks to a more simple, rock-sounding life. But what it may have lacked, is the same thing that Gambiono’s career has always lacked: continuity. One song would border on gangster rap, another would be soft R&B. That’s not to say that it didn’t work, but where Kendrick’s set seemed like one cohesive experience, Gambino’s set was more like a sprinkling of a bunch of different ones.
Sturgill Simpson quietly had one of the weekend’s best sets— if not the best. The singer/songwriter dabbled in bluegrass, psychadelia and country balladry, and did all three flawlessly. He neither demanded too much attention nor shied into the background. He commanded the songs gracefully and did just enough talking to keep the crowd interested. In a world where everyone seems to be looking for the newest gimmick, the newest fad to capitalize upon, Simpson takes music back to its origins. His deep southern tenor is so strong that the massive Bonnaroo PA could barely handle it.
One amazing Bonnaroo tradition is the Superjam. Superjams bring all kinds of artists together to perform. This year’s theme was dance jams, and the artists brought no shortage of that. In a massive surprise, Zach Galifinakis introduced the Superjam, met by massive applause by a shocked crowd. Chance the Rapper moved the crowd with covers of Will Smith’s “Summertime” and Notorious B.I.G.’s “Single Mother.” He later came out to join SZA for a duet. Jack Antonoff had a busy night, but the highlight was when he covered the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer.” There was even a Metallica burst as Rob Trujillo led the band through the infamous “Enter Sandman” and Ozzy’s “Crazy Train.”
Superjam’s represent everything that Bonnaroo stands for: fun, positivity, creativity and collaboration.
SET YOU CAN’T MISS TODAY: FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE
Billy Joel is the obvious choice here, but I think that the day’s best performance might come from a different place. Florence Welsh already has no shortage of hits with “The Dog Days are Over” and “Shake it Off,” but her new album is equally great, and arguably deeper and more sincere. When that kind of emotional impact translates into song beautiful things, and Florence will radiate positivity and charm, while bringing great musicianship and soul to the main stage.
SLEEPER SET: TWENTY ONE PILOTS
It’s hard to consider this band sleepers, but the dense Bonnaroo lineups will do that. The perform today at 2:30 and will bring their unique blend of pop-rock, hard-rock and hip-hop to the festival crowd. They obtained impressive commercial success with their last album, and their new record is equally impressive. They may not be creating the deepest music lyrically, but the success of the band’s lead singer who battles serious mental illness is an uplifting story and a major part of the band’s persona.
WEEKEND’S BEST SET: STURGILL SIMPSON
A lot of people will not agree with me, but anyone who witnessed this set yesterday knows how special it was, and how incredible Sturgill Simpson is.