Friday at Bonnaroo marked the opening of the main stages, but also an explosion of alternative music on the festival grounds, followed up by a smorgasbord of hip hop, dub step and classic rock jamming.
The opening of the main What Stage was heralded by Greensky Bluegrass, who were well received by those starting to collect already for the headliners. Mid afternoon, those still nearby What Stage were rocked by Umphrey's McGee and a raucous set by Janelle Monae, who brought a tightly choreographed and energetic performance to life.
Friday evening led to the indie music loving crowds rushing between The Head & The Heart and Phoenix on Which Stage, and Vampire Weekend on What Stage. Vampire Weekend managed to warm up a crowd who at first glance seemed mostly there for Kanye, getting most everyone on their feet and dancing along, with more than a few "I didn't know this was their song!" remarks uttered. The band, dressed in fun casual looks, played right through sundown, with a beautiful sunset as their backdrop. Phoenix, who answered Vampire Weekend's twee sunset show with a lush moonrise over the stage, packed out every possible space around the Which Stage and delivered an enigmatic performance that may have been one of the best of Friday, even complete with Thomas Mars throwing himself into the audience and surfing the crowd all the way to the back. Meanwhile, The Naked and Famous and CHVRCHES proved that great bands aren't limited to the main stages, both playing exceptionally enthusiastic sets to those who made their way over to The Other Tent for something a little different.
The Sonic Stage featured a different format, with some of Thursday's best acts returning to do more intimate shows, as well as signings. Jonathan Wilson followed his set with a Q&A session about life on the road, where he quipped about how people stumble by and sometimes seem surprised to see a band still using guitars, and discussed playing with Robbie Robertson. ZZ Ward followed him, with a special acoustic set making way after some brief technical difficulties. Ward proved quite popular, packing the small Sonic Village area and keeping them around until the end.
In the New Music On Tap Lounge, Royal Teeth opened the day by getting everyone clapping and dancing along to their delightful melodies. Later in the afternoon, The Orwells rocked the tiny venue with their bigger than life antics and energetic vibe. The New Music On Tap Lounge was closed out late in the night by Diarrhea Planet, who many stopped by to see on their way to one of the late night dance parties.
Of course, lest we forget, Kanye West closed out the What Stage on Friday with his headlining slot. His previous visit to Bonnaroo was notable only for how terrible it was, so lots of expectations (or perhaps a lack thereof) were placed on Kanye's return. To most in attendance it seemed he let down even what little was expected of him, stopping between each song to rant and rave about things which had little meanie to his audience. In typical Kanye fashion, he even managed to cut his set short.
Those who stayed up late and suffered through Kanye went on to party along with Ice Cube and Skrillex on the Which stage, while the metalheads rocked out to bands Mastodon, Deafheaven and Meshuggah in This Tent, and more folks danced to Disclosure and Die Antwoord in The Other Tent. In That Tent, the Derek Trucks-led Superjam wailed on, which featured the assortment of Chaka Kahn, Taj Mahal, Willie Weeks and even Ben Folds all teaming up for a glorious ensemble.
Bonnaroo isn't limited to music - the hordes descended on Comedy Theatre for the first of Craig Robinson's two stand up sets. Robinson later appeared in the Cinema Tent, introducing a screening of This Is The End. The Solar Stage also had some action, featuring morning yoga, acoustic performances and interviews, and evening DJ sets.