The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival truly comes alive after midnight, and this year is no exception. Friday marked the first full day of concerts on each of the stages for the 14th annual fest, with hot local bands and reggae outfits giving way to Baby Boomer hit-makers and finally to the thump-thump-thump of electronica in the wee hours of Saturday morning.
At the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, there can be little time for sleep.
Live electronica group STS9 kept the crowds up and at ’em until a scheduled 3 am close early Saturday at the That Tent with an instrumental performance that incorporated multiple inspirations, including rock, electronica and funk.
Santa Cruz, California-based STS9, which stands for Sound Tribe Sector 9, features an instrumental style that seemingly can turn a concert tent into a full-on rage dance party within just one song. The group remains a perennial favorite on the music festival circuit, and this year marked their fifth Bonnaroo appearance.
Based on the crowd’s utter enjoyment, it’s no wonder Bonnaroo keeps asking them to return.
— Ross Wilson
Experimental electronic music producer Flying Lotus made a mesmerizing return to Bonnaroo just after midnight early Saturday morning at The Other Tent.
Flying Lotus, whose given name is Steven Ellison, showcased all three aspects of his sound: hip-hop, jazz and electronics. He played tracks from his latest release, the experimental jazz odyssey “You’re Dead,” including “Descent Into Madness,” “Dead Man’s Tetris,” and the Kendrick Lamar collaboration “Never Catch Me.”
While Lamar didn’t make a hoped-for appearance — the hip-hop star had just finished headlining Bonnaroo’s main What Stage — his presence was felt. Flying Lotus played several collaborations between the two artists, including “Wesley’s Theory,” the first track on Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly.” Ellison also devoted at least a third of his 90-minute set to remixing hip-hop tracks, such as Drake’s “Know Yourself,” Madvillian’s “Accordion,” and Schoolboy Q’s “Collard Greens.”
The visuals also mesmerized. Ellison was fixed between screens in both front and creating a silhouette through much of the set. The screens displayed projected visuals of surreal animations and kaleidoscope-like color patterns, virtually hypnotizing the audience.
— John Connor Coulston (@JCCoulston)
Earth, Wind & Fire
Legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Famers and six-time Grammy Award-winning funk-rock band Earth, Wind & Fire gave a reliably outstanding, old-school performance to a massive crowd Friday night at Bonnaroo’s Which Stage.
In a Bonnaroo 2015 lineup that includes headlining acts that skew toward younger audiences — Mumford and Sons, deadmau5 and Kendrick Lamar among them — Earth, Wind & Fire certainly looked like a nostalgia billing coming into the festival. Turns out the veteran band responsible for a multitude of classic 1970s funk hits such as “That’s the Way of the World” had no intention of being shown up by much newer and younger acts, however.
The group wound up attracting a huge crowd of fans both young and old. In fact, bandleader Philip Bailey couldn’t help but joke about the honor of being chosen to play Bonnaroo with such a young crowd.
“For some of y’all, this music was your nursery rhyme,” Bailey joked.
The all-ages audience cheered and jumped to its feet as the band played a set full of Earth, Wind & Fire’s greatest hits, including “Boogie Wonderland,” “Sing a Song” and “Shining Star.”
After nearly half a century, it’s clear Earth, Wind & Fire’s still got the funk.
— Ross Wilson
As the final notes from Earth, Wind & Fire’s set faded from the festival grounds, a new sound took hold at the nearby This Tent early Saturday morning as Clayton Knight and Harrison Mills made their Bonnaroo debut.
Together the Seattle natives are known as Odesza, an electronic music duo that has been making waves in the underground electronic music community since the release of its first album, “Summer’s Gone,” in 2012.
The Western Washington University graduates were scheduled to take the stage at 1 am, which is either late night or early morning for most people. For many Bonnaroovians, it’s merely the twilight to their evening.
As the lights pulsed and the music swelled, festival goers flocked to the This Tent, with one young woman anxious to get closer because she wanted “to feel the bass in her chest.”
A trumpet, tuba and trombone trio pleasantly rounded out the electronic duo’s percussive tones.
Knight and Mills proved to be men of few words on stage, but their energy and passion was irrefutably present throughout their performance. By the end of the set, the crowd was spilling well beyond the confines of the stage’s canopy, Bonnaroovians entwined in strings of glowing light and brandishing Hula Hoops, dancing in earnest.
— Meagan White
Preceding Kendrick Lamar’s headlining set on the What Stage Friday night, Alabama Shakes created yet another splendid and soulful rock n’ roll experience, this from a North Alabama-based band that has gone from nightclubs to Bonnaroo’s biggest stage in just a few years.
Lead singer and guitarist Brittany Howard stepped onto the stage dressed in a vibrant pink silk dress and sporting a short and sassy hairdo. “We are at Bonnaroo, and we would like to share this night with you,” Howard said. “Is that OK?”
The audience roared its approval, of course. Howard’s now-familiar raspy alto voice and expressive face quickly became the focus, on lesser-known songs as well as their breakout hit, “Hold On.”
This was the Athens, Ala.-based Alabama Shakes’ first time performing on the main stage.
“You know. I never thought we’d be here,” Howard said. “I don’t know what to say. I suppose I say, ‘Thank you,’ and we can go from there.”
— Katie Colwell (@nkcolwell)
Opening a big day of music at Bonnaroo’s What Stage Friday, Soja shined like a reggae-powered solar flare.
The Washington, D.C. area-based reggae band took the stage to the sound of powerful brass instrumentation, followed by an arrangement of dubby drum grooves.
Lead singer and guitarist Jacob Hemphill had a positive message to deliver to a crowd of sunshine-splashed Bonnaroovians during the song “I Believe.”
“Everything you say is significant,” Hemphill said. “It will all come back to you.”
In their first performance at Bonnaroo since 2012, Sojo seemed to be having just as much fun as the crowd, if not more so.
— Chance Willie
As one of the most high-profile Nashville-based bands on the 2015 Bonnaroo schedule, Moon Taxi’s early evening performance Friday on the Which Stage arrived with high expectations to meet.
They met them and more so.
Sporting diverse stylistic influences and infectious stage energy, the veteran indie rock quintet attracted and maintained an enthusiastic crowd numbering well into the thousands by the end of the hour-long set. From the sign-thrusting Bonnaroovians in the front row to the blanket-toters in the back, the engaged fans bobbed their heads and danced to the rhythm of Moon Taxi favorites such as “Morocco” and “New Black.”
Audience members also were treated to songs from the band’s upcoming album, which is expected to be released later this year.
— Meagan White (@meaganwhite328)
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