Photo by Gregory French / MTSU Seigenthaler News Service
MANCHESTER, Tenn. — With concert times delayed more than an hour by storm warnings Saturday night, Bonnaroo crowds roared back to the venues with seemingly even more enthusiasm than usual, as hip-hop, heavy metal and the annual SuperJam packed houses into the wee hours of the morning.
SuperJam pays tribute to Tennessee
SuperJam, the set every year during which artists join forces to cover various songs in a late-night jam session, is revered — a pivotal aspect of Bonnaroo and its jam band roots.
But the loose, improvised jam sessions have been put on the back burner for what some have described as “glorified karaoke,” with random artists popping in for a planned song and leaving within minutes. When this year’s SuperJam, billed as a tribute to Tennessee, started out in the This Tent early Sunday morning, things were looking like we would be getting back to those rich, jamming roots.
The leader of the SuperJam, the experimental jazz bandleader Kamasi Washington, was joined by an talented backing band of instrumentalists and vocalists, which included Destiny’s Child’s Michelle Williams and members of The Internet and Vulfpeck, among others.
They started out with tributes to Earth, Wind & Fire’s Maurice White and B.B. King, the latter of which featured modern soul artist Allen Stone and his band. This one-two punch was a promising start, featuring funky jams and solos by everyone on stage.
After that we saw Thursday night standout Lizzo sing a cover of Chattanooga native Usher’s “U Don’t Have to Call.” It was fun, energetic and got the crowd moving with the music, and it looked like it was going to be a stellar SuperJam.
Then the proceedings hit some rough patches.
Following Lizzo was Third Eye Blind’s Stephan Jenkins, who performed a forced, awkward rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” While it’s unavoidable to play country when paying tribute to Tennessee, the country selections fell flat, including a later cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” with Oh Wonder that was very middle-of- the-road, with a vocal take that just couldn’t carry the power of Parton’s original track.
The night also featured tributes to Isaac Hayes, Aretha Franklin and Bobby Bland, with guest performers Chicano Batman, Givers and Nathaniel Rateliff, respectively. While Washington and company performed brilliantly and made even the most boring cover sound instrumentally interesting, they just couldn’t save a lot of the selections. Most notably, a late, bland cover of Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA” caused a lot groans from the crowd.
Fortunately, things ended on a high note, with Lizzo returning for a roaring cover of the Tina Turner-performed hit “I Can’t Stand the Rain” that also included parts of Missy Elliott’s “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly),” which samples the original track. That was quickly followed by R&B star Miguel taking over the stage for a funky cover Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack,” which took the last bit of energy out of the crowd goers who stuck around until 3 a.m. to finish things out.
— John Connor Coulston, MTSU Seigenthaler News Service, Twitter:@jccoulston3
Big Grams make for big late-night energy
While the concert may have started after 2 a.m. Sunday, fans were anything but drowsy once Big Grams hit Bonnaroo’s That Tent stage.
“I heard y’all wanted to party ‘til 6 in the morning,” said frontman Big Boi. “Is that true? Is it time to turn it up?”
Indeed, it was.
Big Grams is the formation of hip-hop artist Big Boi — one half of the world-renowned hip-hop duo OutKast — and indie-electronic duo Phantogram, consisting of Sara Barthel and Josh Carter. Having collaborated on a few songs for Big Boi’s last album “Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors,” Phantogram suggested that maybe they should form a band together.
“Remember when I asked you to make a band with us?” Barthel asked Big Boi in front of the crowd. “I told you it would be (expletive) awesome.”
While the pairing may seem strange to some, the audience couldn’t get enough.
Performing songs from their self-titled debut album such as “Lights On” and “Run For Your Life,” it’s no wonder they decided to unite their talents as one. A natural rapport between artists was shared on stage, which brought out the best in the audience. Even with Big Boi performing OutKast staples “Ms. Jackson” and “The Way You Move,” Barthel gracefully interjected with some of Phantogram’s own work, bringing a new energy to classic songs.
“I’ve been to plenty festivals, and I have to say, this is the loudest,” Big Boi proclaimed. “There is only one Bonnaroo.”
— Evan Brown, MTSU Seigenthaler News Service
Miguel’s set soars with Chance the Rapper
Miguel delivered an electric performance around midnight Sunday at the That Tent to a crowd eager to head into the last day of Bonnaroo with their spirits still surging, even with their bodies wearing down.
After the passing of a brief storm that led Centeroo to be shut down and campers told to return to their vehicles for just over an hour, both performers and attendees were looking for ways to crank the energy back.
“I want everybody to get on the wave with me,” Miguel said. “And if this is a wave, we’re about to crash right now.”
Gracefully gliding alongside stage while belting out soaring vocals with absolute ease, Miguel made the audience feel as if they were not attending an ordinary R&B show. While songs such as “Sure Thing,” “How Many Drinks” and “Coffee” were warmly embraced by the crowd, it was when Miguel decided to take a break from his own material that the show went up a notch.
Miguel brought out Chance the Rapper, who has been gracing his talent on The Farm over the weekend with impromptu appearances in other artists’ shows, to aid him in performing the Biggie Smalls classic “Juicy,” much to the delight of the crowd.
“That,” Miguel said, “was magic.”
Closing the set with “Adorn,” his most popular record, Miguel brought the audience to the crest of the wave they had ridden throughout the show, as nearly everyone in the audience belted alongside one another with outstretched arms. While Miguel left the stage after the song, the energy did not.
— Evan Brown, MTSU Seigenthaler News Service
Sam Hunt triumphs in ‘Roo return
As one of the first post-thunderstorm warning acts to hit the stages of Bonnaroo Saturday night, surging pop country act Sam Hunt’s delayed concert start at the This Tent was even more anticipated.
Hunt is just two years removed from a Bonnaroo debut on one of the festival’s smallest stages. Now the former MTSU quarterback Hunt’s popularity has skyrocketed, propelled by Keith Urban’s hit version of Hunt’s co-write “Cop Car” and his own string of country radio-friendly hits that seamlessly weave rap, hip-hop and R&B into a country base.
“Everybody calls that variable in my music like hip-hop, but that’s not it as all,” Hunt insisted at a news conference early in the day, when asked about his talk-singing style. “Growing up, I was turned on to other styles of music, and that naturally seeped into my being and my music.”
His charismatic stage presence may have caused the males the Bonnaroo crowd to hold their girlfriends a little tighter as the Georgia heartthrob swaggered onto the stage and opened with his hit “Leave the Night On.”
From that moment fans remained utterly captivated, with many singing along with the words to Hunt’s hits “Ex to See,” “Raised On It” and “I Met a Girl.”
With the advantage of extra stage time, Hunt took a moment to swap out guitars, turn the stage lights to a coffee-shop blue, and play a few country classics in memory of the late Merle Haggard and other country legends who he said “paved the road” for artists like him.
The crowd then was brought to a roar once again with the party favorites “Cop Car,” the Thomas Rhett hit “T-Shirt,”and Luke Bryan’s recent smash “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day.”
Then Hunt brought the house down with “House Party,” accompanied by blasting smoke machines and ending with orange and white confetti shot out over the frenzied fans.
— Amanda Freuler, MTSU Seigenthaler News Service, Twitter: @AmandaFreuler
Haim set includes Prince homage
Festivals such as Bonnaroo can serve as an opportunity for artists to prove their ability to keep up with music’s big boys — or, rather, big girls, in the case of Los Angeles pop-rock outfit — and Taylor Swift pals and past tour mates — Haim.
Danielle, Este and Alana Haim delivered an energetic performance Saturday night at the Which Stage, fitting for three sisters whose last name is the Hebrew term for “life.”
The young women kicked off the set with “If I Could Change Your Mind,” greeting fans with a barrage of lively pop rock. The band’s set relied heavily on cuts from the 2013 debut album “Days Are Gone,” including the wobbly, percussive “My Song 5” and the bouncy, guitar-driven “The Wire.”
Despite the group’s limited catalog, the sounds of each song were distinct from one another. Haim was met with mass applause when the sisters covered Prince’s “I Could Die 4 U.” Farther into the song, the sisters danced back and forth in perfect synchronization while continuing to play their instruments.
Between call-and-response sessions with the audience and a fair amount of onstage joking, the sisters toasted to the crowd for its participation. The band ended their set by bringing the audience back to where it all started and played their hit “Falling” from their first album.
— Evan Dunne, MTSU Seigenthaler News Service, Twitter: @RippedDanger
Lamb of God make metal magic
While many acts at Bonnaroo promise to turn the festival on its head with performances guaranteed to be different from typical sets on The Farm, Lamb of God is one act that can truly deliver on that promise.
With their slot at The Other Tent postponed due to inclement weather, the heavy metal five-piece returned to an already packed crowd that rushed through the crowded gates.
Lead singer Randy Blythe took a moment after opening with the head-thrashing “Walk with Me in Hell” to point out that their show would indeed be different from the “hippie festival” acts the fans had been seeing. The crowd roared in agreement, chanting the band’s name with fists raised high.
The front man then slung his dreads from his face and expressed how thrilled the band was to play at the festival for the first time. He said there was no better place to end their seven-week tour than at Bonnaroo.
After an 11-song performance, the band stepped offstage only to be met with another chanting of their name. They returned and performed “Vigil” while saying it would be their final song, but instead went on to also play the hits “Laid to Rest” and “Redneck.”
During their final song, Blythe demanded a massive circle pit be formed to “create the largest mosh pit Bonnaroo has ever seen.” While it’s hard to say if it was the biggest, the sheer amount of swirling, churning bodies running full speed in a huge circle was a sight to behold.
— Tanner Dedmon, MTSU Seigenthaler News Service, Twitter: @TannerDedmon
Band of Horses thrive outdoors
Fresh off the release of their latest LP, “Why Are You OK,” Band of Horses mixed new tracks and old hits during their early evening set Saturday at Bonnaroo’s What Stage.
The powerhouse group began their set with three tracks from the new release, including crowd favorite “Solemn Oath.” The Sub Pop-signed band performed to a large and diverse crowd, appealing to indie and Southern music fans alike with their polished brand of rock.
Ben Bridwell led the group valiantly with his prominent vocals. Not their first round on The Farm, these festival-performing veterans are at ease performing in front of sprawling outdoor crowds.
Band of Horses hit its stride performing hits “No One’s Gonna Love You,” “The Funeral” and “Is There A Ghost,” ending with the melancholy summer anthem “Fourth of July.”
— Olivia Ladd, MTSU Seigenthaler News Service, Twitter: @LivStaton
Two Door Cinema Club chill crowd
UK-based band, Two Door Cinema Club, brought their own British invasion to Bonnaroo Saturday with a repertoire of mellow rock jams that left fans swaying and sweating.
The Two Door Cinema Club trio of Alex Trimble, Kev Baird and Sam Halliday endured the sweltering Tennessee late afternoon on the Which Stage, yet the crowd seemed immediately cooled by the tranquility of white lights and a slow, beckoning crescendo that welcomed the band on stage.
Before Two Door Cinema Club lead man Alex Trimble even sang a note, one fan called the set “majestic.”
After forming in 2009, the British band attracted fans in the UK and across the pond with their self-described Alteronica genre that fuses breezy guitar riffs driven by genuine, heartfelt lyrics. The band’s name was taken from Halliday’s mispronunciation of the name of a movie theater back home, the Tudor Cinema.
Bonnaroo fans were immediately gripped by the smooth performance of the group’s opener, “Sleep Alone” from their recent album, “Beacon,” which featured Trimble’s unyielding vocals.
The show continued with changeups between songs everyone could methodically nod their heads in beat with, such as “Next Year,” and songs that required all-out head banging, such as their hit “Undercover Martyn,” as guitarist Halliday furiously attacked a solo.
Adding to the relaxed vibes, Trimble admitted: “We haven’t been doing much lately, because we took a little break.” Fans bellowed with approval after he completed his thought: “But we made a new record that will be out at the end of the year.”
The band played cuts from the upcoming album, shaking the crowd with Baird’s thumping base infused with static electric sounds. The band then rocked out “Something Good Can Work” before wrapping up the set with their hit “What You Know.”
— Amanda Freuler, MTSU Seigenthaler News Service, Twitter: @AmandaFreuler
The Internet worked well on this day
The daylight hours of Bonnaroo 2016 have been filled with many a pop band, cooing out smooth jams for easy listening. The Internet, one of the first bands to perform on Saturday afternoon, was no different.
This year marks their first appearance on The Farm, and also the first show for recent high school graduate and guitarist Steve Lacy. But if the young musician felt nervous or out of place, he nor the rest of the band showed any anxiety.
A trip-hop band formed by Odd Future members Syd tha Kyd and Matt Martians, The Internet was born from a hip-hop collective that achieved some healthy success, and lead vocalist Kyd took those good vibes and ran with them.
The band’s name may be considered by some to be an odd choice, but it’s fitting. After all, Kyd and Martians did meet on MySpace, a social media generation ago. The young producers committed to making records that meant something, and their third album, Ego Death, was particularly meant as a comment on Information Age-based narcissism.
Aside from one breakup song that got the crowd on their feet, The Internet’s Bonnaroo set blended old and new offerings. Syd’s sensual and soothing voice entranced the crowd and acted as a musical balm on many a sunburned and cranky Bonnaroovian.
While their This Tent performance attracted a smaller crowd than other groups, it was obvious those in attendance were longtime supporters. More mainstream hits like “Girl” prompted fierce applause, but it was the lesser-known jams that really got the crowd motivated.
“Thank you guys for making our first time special,” said Kyd as the luscious guitar riffs came to a close. And with that, The Internet was off.
— Sara Snoddy, MTSU Seigenthaler News Service, Twitter: @sara_snoddy
Grace Potter shows festival vet’s chops
Grace Potter felt right at home on the What Stage, the festival’s largest stage, on Saturday afternoon.
Even in the sweltering summer heat, Potter delivered a powerful, high-energy performance. The rockstar opened up with “Hot to the Touch,” a tune laced with sexual energy.
Potter owned the stage, emanating confidence as she belted out her songs, wowing fans with her vocal range.
“You look (expletive) beautiful,” Potter said. “This is a sexual crowd of people here — I see a lot of skin, and I like it.”
Potter’s infectious energy encouraged the crowd to dance beneath the Tennessee sunshine throughout her whole set.
Said Potter at an afternoon news conference: “I grew up in the festival scene.” It shows.
— Brinley Hineman, MTSU Seigenthaler News Service, Twitter: @_briiindle
To see our full archive of Bonnaroo coverage, click here.
To contact Lifestyles Editor Olivia Ladd email firstname.lastname@example.org.