The first day of Bonnaroo 2014 is in the books. The first day of Bonnaroo is always smaller in scale than the following three, with the focus on rising stars. Bonnaroo 2014 certainly proved that out with some excellent shows from some of the brightest young talent in rock and roll.
Over in That Tent, we kicked things off with The Allah-Las. These California based garage rock revivalists had the perfect sound for Bonnaroo’s first day. For fans who were ready to pour all their energy into a performance, there were plenty of hook driven songs suitable for dancing. For those taking the marathon approach and conserving some energy for the next three days, The Allah-Las surf-tinged guitar licks offered a good soundtrack to lay back on a blanket and let the good feelings wash over you.
Following The Allah-Las on That Tent was blues rocker ZZ Ward. If anyone doubts that Bonnaroo survey that showed over 50% of their audience to be female, walking around ZZ Ward’s packed set would remove any doubt. While both sexes were heavily represented in the overflow crowd, women made up a distinct majority of the audience. Ward and her band were in fine form for their hour-long show, blasting through recent hits like “Put the Gun Down” and fan favorite “The Last Love Song.” Ward’s vocals, which sound impossibly big on her album, hold up note for note in a live setting. Ward has a stage presence that belies her youth, taking the audience on a roller coaster ride of bluesy ballads and guitar-heavy rockers. It seems hard to believe that Ward can get much more positive press than she’s already gotten over the last year but if she continues to turn in shows like this, she’ll get it and deserve every word.
Over in the Miller New Music On Tap Lounge, Canadian hard rockers Monster Truck were also packing the stage. A band name like Monster Truck doesn’t scream subtlety and there is nothing subtle about the band. From the crunchy guitar licks to the driving drum beat to the over the top vocals and even their impressive facial hair, Monster Truck is all about the bombast. That was just fine for the crowd in the On Tap Lounge, who quickly left the seats to mosh at the front of the stage. At one point in the 50 minute set, vocalist Jon Harvey had to warn fans not to push against the metal barriers in front of the stage, joking that “I don’t think they were made for Monster Truck.” While held on Bonnaroo’s smallest stage, this show is the kind of star making performance that gets bands promoted to the main tent in future years.
The night ended with a parade. Mardi-Gras style parades have always been a staple of Bonnaroo, but they’ve typically kept the location, start time, and any surprise performers a secret until the last moment. This year, they changed things up by announcing two parades before Bonnaroo began. At 11:45 p.m. a group of revelers dressed in every costume imaginable descended on the starting location and began to parade second-line style around Centeroo. Led by The High and Mighty Brass Band and Big Red, the giant VW Bug, the huge crowd danced their way to Bonnaroo’s new Calliope stage.
Friday begins the first full day of Bonnaroo. Marquee acts include the controversial return of rapper Kanye West, festival favorites Umphrey’s McGee and Vampire Weekend, and rising stars like Scottish synthpop duo Chvrches.