Bonnaroo Day 3
L. Paul Mann
The weather finally turned bright and sunny on day 3 of Bonnaroo, although passing clouds kept temperates relatively moderate for a June Manchester, Tennessee day. By this Saturday afternoon crowds at the festival swelled from the previous two days. In the early afternoon, many festival novices were beginning to falter from two all night ragers, full of overindulgent behavior. Exhausted festival goers collapsed in the many new shady zones provided by the festival or took advantages of the many ways to stay wet, including the familiar Centeroo fountain. But rising temperatures didn’t stop the majority of festival goers from swarming the stages with the most popular performers. Damon Albarn played his new solo material with a band of talented musicians in front of a large audience on the MainStage in the afternoon sun. His new mellow moody material is unlike his earlier work with Blur or the Gorrilaz, but his characteristic soothing vocals seem to fit the sunny afternoon mood, keeping the audience fairly transfixed during his set. De La Soul spiced things up when he appeared as a special guest to play the song “Feel Good Inc.” Albarn did delve into Gorillaz material during his set, when he was joined by former band member Del the Funky Homosapien onstage for a rendition of their hit song “Clint Eastwood.” The mood was decidedly different over at That tent, where Slightly Stoopid was offering up their own band of California reggae fusion music. Their upbeat sound seemed a perfect fit for a late afternoon performance in the sweltering tent and as their set progressed, music fans began to fill the venue to capacity to participate in a sweaty Reggae dance party. Meanwhile, the Montreal based electronic duo Chromeo played their own unique blend of EDM music on the Outdoor stage, to a very large crowd. The bands trademark chrome instruments reflected the setting sun as the crowd bathed in orange sunlight swayed to the music.
A twilight fell over the main stage the legendary Commodore, himself, Lionel Richie appeared and immediately endeared himself to the large crowd. “Welcome we are going to cover everything”, he first blurted out to the screaming audience. With self deprecating humor and some good history lessons he seemed to make mass personal connections with nearly everyone close enough to see his face. The icon of R7B seemed larger than life in every way. From laughing and chatting with a fan in the front with a giant afro wig, to countless calls to get up and dance, he indeed had an adulate audience gyrating to his every song. After his first two opening songs he again bantered with the crowd. “There are two groups in the audience, make no mistake,” he said, “Some of you were here from the beginning. … The other group, they say these words: my mama, my daddy, my brother, my sister played your records.” He then proceeded to give a history laden set for all the Bonnaroo fans young and old. Richie saved some of his most well known funky dance hits for the end, including the Commodores classic “Brick House” and morphing in and out of Ohio Player’s “Fire”. Richie ended with a sing along anthem that he said “takes no language, no politics, no country” to appreciate: “Hello.” The crowd loved it with cell phones held up as lighters in the now darkened sky. His encore of the classic charity recording “We Are The World” continued the hand holding, feel good spirit in the crowd. Speaking of the crowds spirit it was one of the most friendliest well behaved gatherings overall in the festivals entire history. While many were partying hardy and some were beginning to fall, there were universal smiles across most of the festival grounds with a real meet and greet attitude prevailing. High fiving passing music fans almost became mandatory and sharing was the order of the day for most.
As night fell, a large crowd filled the Other tent for an evening set by former Fugee, Lauryn Hill. Notoriously late for many of her concerts, many fans in the audience worried that she might be a no show when her set ran a half hours late. But it was not her fault this time, as a last minute venue change had moved her to the Other tent requiring an extended set change. But for the dedicated crowd who waited out the technical difficulties, the Hip Hop queen delivered one of her most engaging concerts of her career. Backed by an incredibly powerful and animated band, she proceeded to blow the roof off the tent. Culling songs from “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” and Fugee's classics, interspersed with infusions of rock, reggae and hip hop jam sessions. It was an utterly jaw dropping performance. One can only wonder when this musical genius will finally return to the recording studio.
As midnight approached the second Super Jam was also running about a half hour late, this time due to the sheer volume of microphones that had to be sound checked. It was hard to imagine any jam matching the intensity of the one the night before, led by Derek Trucks. But jam leader Skrillex took the stage, anchored by Big Gigantic’s Dominic Lalli on saxophone, and Jeremy Salken on drums, and joined by a small army of rotating singers and musicians, and proceeded to lead a three plus hour non stop musical melding of historic proportions. Vacillating form his trademark EDM computer generated electronica and electric guitar, Skrillex was at the helm of an unparalleled musical experiment. Rapper De La Soul was only the first of many famous rappers that led the stage chock full of famous musicians from many musical genres. Thundercat and Zedd led the line up of rotating drummers. Founding Umphreys McGee keyboardist Joel Cummins and Grateful Dead's keyboardist Mickey Hart led the line up of rotating keyboardists. It was a night of complete experimentation. The girls from Warpaint led the band in covers of “Pump Up The Band” and Bowies “Let’s Dance”. Rapper ASAP Ferg brought the crowd to a frenzy, with a cover of Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy”. Janelle Monae, with much of her own rock oriented band in tow to supplement the other musicians onstage, played Michael Jackson’s ‘Wanna Be Startin Somethin” and James Brown’s “I Feel Good”. Mystical led a cover of “Shake Ya Ass”. Frank Ocean sang the Bill Withers classic “Use Me”. Sometimes singer and actor Craig Robinson took a turn as lead singer. Mike Einziger, lead guitarist of Incubus took over much of the electric guitar duties. But even his incredible performance was eclipsed when he was joined onstage by legendary Doors guitarist, Robbie Krieger. Later Matt Shultz, the charismatic lead singer of Cage The Elephant came out to lead the group in the Doors classic “Break On Through”. Channeling the spirit of Jim Morrison and dressed in classic sixties rock garb, he crowd surfed, sang in a tranced out feverish wail, and finally collapsed on the floor. Meanwhile Krieger and Skrillex traded lead guitar riffs and created the defining jam band moment of the night. But the show was far from over and the jam took over a decidedly Reggae tone when Junior “Gong” Marley and his entourage took over the the lead. The crowd surged towards the stage as the offspring of Reggae royalty played an intense extended set complete with a Bob Marley cover. The lights went out and it appeared the near three hour jam was over. But then a few minutes later, the lights came back on and the stage was now full to the brim with musicians including Ms. Lauryn Hill, herself, along with much of her amazing band bolstering the already brimming back up jam band. Her near thirty minute set was a fitting end to one of the most diverse musical experiments ever offered up at any music festival. It was certainly another one for the history books. Young EDM fans were just hitting their stride at 330am as the Super jam was wrapping up and were swarming the Outdoor stage for a marathon set by DJ Kaskade. Playing literally to first light his show featured a multimedia extravaganza that had EDM fans dancing in euphoria.