Day 1: Father John Misty, Maps & Atlases, Twenty One Pilots & More
Day 2: Paul McCartney, The XX, Animal Collective, Of Monsters And Men, ZZ Top & More
Day 3: Death Grips, Portugal. The Man, Cat Power, Weird Al, Jack Johnson, Nas & More
Day 4: Lee Fields, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, David Byrne & St. Vincent, Tom Petty & More
Saturdays at Bonnaroo act as the penultimate crescendo of over half a week of music. It’s the day where attendees are the most comfortable, be it in suggestive outfits or obscene costumes. Energy levels are multi-peak endeavors, spiking throughout the day as folks attempt to conserve their energy for the legendary Saturday Superjam. A particular high point early on in the day was a particularly aggressive set from Death Grips. And really, what more would you expect from a trio who pit punk with hip hop in a knife fight?
Portugal. The Man treated press to a short set before they took the “Which” Stage, making for a double-whammy of psychedelic rock and acting as a special acoustic treat. Kicking things off at both sets with feel weird jam of the summer Purple Yellow Red And Blue, the Alaskan band was reinforced in harmonies and spot-on in instrumentals. Weird Al genuinely surprised the band as well as fans when he came on stage midway through their set, sitting in on accordion. New tracks from their recently released Evil Friends LP fared fantastically and Portugal. The Man, oozing confidence, closed their set on a high note with their stellar cover of Helter Skelter that meandered into Hey Jude.
Riding high on that same train of swagger was Nas, who stayed high energy for his entire set. Mixing equal amounts Illmatic fervor with the rather chill (for Nas, at least) Life Is Good, the emcee was clearly enjoying himself as he traversed the What Stage. Nas continues to reinvent himself not only in his sets, especially in the festival setting, but his sound.
Chan Marshall has struggled with stage fright for years. Never shy about her insecurities, the talented songstress was visibly nervous when she hit the Which Stage before dusk as Cat Power. Marshall shook with trepidation as she opened with The Greatest off her eponymous breakout LP. Though minor tics made her visceral fears all the more explicit, behind a microphone Marshall was breathtakingly confident, breathing new life into relatively fragile tracks spanning a large portion of her career. To witness an artist at their most human, either absent-mindedly fixing their hair or tensing their hands in the case of Marshall, is to explore performance’s uncanny valley, an area that is almost too close for comfort. Suddenly the intrinsic barrier between talent and attendee has been broken and yet a bond is forged. Marshall’s tenacity and bravery are what endears her to fans and ultimately propels her.
Acting as the evening’s de facto folk act, The Lumineers were decent, yet wholly unremarkable. Their decision to play mega-hit Ho Hey as just their fourth song boded terribly for the rest of their set, acting less as crowd appeasement and more as a desperate attention grab to keep fans engaged. Bonnaroo took a definite risk in placing The Lumineers on such a late spot on one of the main stages but their demographic of mostly teenage girls were still pretty thrilled to see them.
As I’d previously mentioned in Antiquiet’s Day 1 coverage, due to a medical emergency Mumford And Sons not only cancelled three tour dates around Bonnaroo but were forced to cancel their headlining appearance at the festival as well. Jack Johnson, who’d sat in on ALO’s set that same Thursday evening, was tapped to replace the Americana superstars. Johnson is a veteran of Bonnaroo and the move wasn’t necessarily shocking but certainly not well-received. His lengthy set was feel-good and jammy. No surprises there. Sadly there was no supplementary footage of the Curious George movie or bananas on stage so I took the liberty of adding them into my photos.
It was only fitting that an epic fireworks display (courtesy of Adult Swim, of all things) would precede R. Kelly’s set. Sadly or perhaps a blessing in disguise, there was no accompanying water show. R. Kelly didn’t pee on anyone and he certainly didn’t take an underage bride. Probably the most risque thing the crooner did was continue to hold a lit cigar as he sang his way through mega-hits like Ignition (the remix) and I Believe I Can Fly. You best believe some babies were being made that evening, as that is the R. Kelly M.O. Don’t believe me? Look up his song Pregnant.
To go from the egregious inanity that is R. Kelly to the egregious hilarity that is Weird Al was a surprisingly apt way to end the evening. Though the parody superstar never sang Trapped In The Drive-Thru, his performance was an impressive, multi-faceted beast roaring hits and hilarious snippets from Yankovic’s fake interview series. Those visuals made for a fluid performance as Weird Al wormed his way through song-appropriate costume changes and instrument swaps. The believability of his Fat ensemble was uncanny. Though the Superjam may have gotten you more legendary bang for your buck, (shoutout to Brittany Howard for showing the fuck up and rocking a cover of Satisfaction!) Weird Al’s solid performance proved a worthy contender.