Together with approximately 80,000 other people we headed to Manchester, TN to witness this year’s edition of Bonnaroo. With great vibes and amazing music on display throughout the 4 days it is clear that Bonnaroo isn’t outdone by any of the other global festivals.
With a 2pm set, UK’s Sam Smith kicked off Day 2 of ‘Roo properly. In the last year, this contralto has exploded onto the music scene – specifically across the pond and into the States. His absolutely gorgeous vocals have taken him very far in the last year, and hearing them live is truly hypnotizing. Smith played mostly slower tunes as the crowd slowly but surely gravitated to the power of his sound. He waited until the middle of his set to perform the upbeat “Money On My Mind” and let the true magnetism draw the thousands nearer. Despite everyone wanting Disclosure to come on stage for a few of the collaborations the duo has with him, Smith performed a solo acoustic version of “Latch,” instead.
Taking over the What Stage on Friday afternoon Janelle Monae, accompanied by her fantastic band and dancers, put on one of the more elaborate performances at Bonnaroo. It is a truly rare sight to see full blown choreography on the farm – it’s just not that kind of festival – and yet, Monae owned her audience, captivating the crowd with not only her high energy, but with her soaring vocals. The best moments were crowd-pleasers “Dance Apocalyptic” and “Tightrope” which had everyone dancing in the grass, and wishing she had a few more uptempo tracks.
For those that don’t know the story behind this controversial show, allow me to briefly enlighten you, as I learned the real story from Kanye West himself while he ranted on stage in between long stretches of silence and hit songs. Back in 2008 Kanye was slotted to play a 2am set at Bonnaroo, and didn’t go on until about 5am – apparently this was because Phish ran over their set by about 2 hours, and there wasn’t enough time to set up all of Kanye‘s pyrotechnics that he refused to perform without. According to him festival-goers even vandalized his equipment in the interim before he took the stage.
Needless to say Bonnaroovians were outraged, and despite our main slogan being “Radiate Positivity,” most have additionally adopted the slogan “Fuck Kanye” – and the whole community is aware of how hard it has stuck.
Joining the stage at exactly 10pm on the nose, Kanye began his set by angrily growling a few choice Yeezus tracks into the microphone while wearing a gold mesh chain face mask. After his first of many pontifications, he went directly into “Power” with the all-too-appropriate lyrics “screams from the haters, got a nice ring to it, I guess every superhero need his theme music.” The show was a bizarre roller coaster of emotions – some boo-ing, some cheering, some chants of the aforementioned abhorrent phrase, and some people like me who were singing along loudly. You can’t deny West‘s ability to turn a crowd around that quickly. Highlights included “Jesus Walks,” “Blood On The Leaves,” “All Falls Down,” “Heartless,” and his verse on Jay-Z‘s “Run This Town.”
As I have been saying for years, in the simplest words, Kanye is brilliantly out of his mind.
We’re all here for the music, and it was nice to take a break from the talking and get back to the dancing with Disclosure. The electronic duo gave us the epic dance night that Friday nights at ‘Roo are supposed to be. Playing out “When A Fire Starts To Burn” along with the incessant teasing of “Stimulation” the audience was overwhelmed by endless clever beats to move to. The day came full circle, as the boys introduced Sam Smith to join them for their final song of the night, “Latch.” It was expected, extremely worth the wait, and naturally the perfect way to close out their set.
Note: I did catch South Africans Die Antwoord, which was genuinely scary. The dude was essentially yelling obscenities into the microphones while the chick squeaked out a very high-pitched echoing of obscenities. I rarely leave shows because of the actual music… sad to say, this was one of those moments.
Words by Jabes