The first two days of this year’s Bonnaroo’s Music & Arts Festival [Read our recap of Days 1-2 here] encapsulated an experience most would enjoy at a wide-range music festival. With two days down, the second half still had a few surprises up its sleeve that no one, not even the artists, were expecting.
The infamous heat of Bonnaroo stuck with us Saturday as the fields heated up at sunrise, waking every camper as the air buzzed with excitement and anticipation. SZA kicked off the afternoon with a dreamy set, backed by a live band and even a special appearance from Chance The Rapper! Jamie xx (1/2 of the The xx) followed up as the crowd floated on his ethereal beats. Meshing ambiance with a deep, somewhat tribal house vibe, Jamie xx left all of us happily grooving in his rhythm.
The sun set, and so did SBTRKT. The Other Tent thundered with bass and euhporia as SBTRKT manned the decks and his live band controlled the rest. Pulling out surprises like a cover of Radiohead’s “Weird Fishes” along with festival favorites “Lanterns” and “Wildfire”; we could hardly contain ourselves.
We sprinted from SBTRKT to the Which Stage, which housed the hilarious and exceptional Hip-Hop star, Childish Gambino. With a sea of people, hands hands high, Gambino brought the house down with “I. Crawl”, “Sober”, “IV. Sweatpants”, and even a brand new tune. No matter where you were at in the crowd, Gambino entertained with jokes and even gave fans a few open bars to rap while he held out the mic!
Tycho, performed his first Bonnaroo show at the This Tent and it was everything fans expected and more; his visuals transported us into his own world, backed by the beautiful and melodic music of a full band. Tycho’s ability to capture each sensation the crowd felt then build it into his art and music is truly incredible to watch. There’s no doubt Tycho gave Bonnaroo one hell of a debut show and can hopefully return next year.
Then came SuperJam, the most iconic event of Bonnaroo:
“Superjam is the most highly anticipated Bonnaroo concert tradition and the festival’s signature event. A diverse set of superstar musicians unite for a one-time-only collaborative performance. The Superjam is always a wild show full of surprises where neither the fans nor the artists really know where it’s headed. “
The theme this year was a Throwback 80’s Dance Party, featuring Pretty Lights behind the decks, joined by legends like Reggie Watts, Rob Trujillo (Metallica’s bassist), DMC, and a ton of surprise appearances, like Zac Galifianakis and Jon Hamm who opened the night singing “We Are The World.”
Jurassic 5’s Chali 2na MC’d the entire event, hyping the crowd into chaos as he announced each new artist. This star-studded event included Jack Antonoff of Bleachers pairing with SZU for an amazing rendition of David Bowie and Queen’s “Under Pressure”. DMC took us all for a trip down memory lane, even performing with Cherub on “Walk This Way”. Chance The Rapper had the crowd in an uproar as he covered “Juicy” and one of the biggest hit of the time, Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It.” Once more, Superjam proved to be a once in a lifetime experience worth the entire trip to Bonnaroo.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the festival, Flume closed the night out with a spectacular performance. Even at 2AM, the energy was beyond belief as the That Tent throbbed with love, dancing, and incredible music from this young star. Flume played favorites like his remixes of “You & Me”, “Tennis Court”, and closing out the night with his collaboration with RL Grime, “Tell Me”, to a gang of trap arms going mad.
The night cooled as the third day drew to a close, but it wasn’t long before sunrise hit and campers awoke for the final day of Bonnaroo. A hint of nostalgia as well as excitement filled the grounds as everyone looked forward to Florence and the Machine, MØ, AWOL Nation, and of course Billy Joel. As we got breakfast, we saw people doing yoga at the Solar Stage, others socializing at the Mushroom fountain, and some simply laying in the shade of the Comedy and Cinema tent, smiling and resting with new friends.
With a huge hit “Lean On” with Major Lazer and DJ Snake, MØ was a can’t-miss act. She has always stayed true to the sound and artist she wants to be and for that, I give her props. Needless to say, MØ dominated the stage with some awesome dance moves while also engaging with the crowd constantly, even crowd surfing before she left the stage.
Next was one of my favorite acts, the UK Drum and Bass group, Rudimental! They are four of the most talented musicians around and the show they put on for their first appearance at Bonnaroo was electrifying. They featured tracks off their debut album Home, as well as their upcoming We The Generation, coming out in September, and brought guest artists to the stage like Emile Sande, Ella Eyre. There’s no doubt Rudimental are one of the most exciting acts around – their albums and shows are perfect testament to that. Their ability to improvise and rework their originals into festival favorites is simply humbling to see, so make sure you keep an eye out if they stop in your city this summer.
While he may not be considered EDM, I think it’s notable to mention Billy Joel, who closed out Bonnaroo 2015. I’m no 80’s baby, but it was amazing to see the man who I heard a lot throughout my childhood perform those same songs in front of my very own eyes. Billy Joel is timeless, especially by the way he played with just as much energy and poise as he did thirty years ago. Even though I may have preferred someone like Armin Van Buuren to close out the festival, I enjoyed hearing something outside the dance music realm that brought a great end to such an incredible event. Overall, Bonnaroo proved that festivals that cater to all genres can be just a magical and wonderful as EDM-centric festivals. If you ever get a chance to check out Bonnaroo trust me – you won’t regret it.
Photo: @lj_gregg & @Rob__Berry