‘It’s Gucci’ revs up early Sunday morning crowd to close Bonnaroo Day 3


Photo by Tyler Lamb/MTSU Seigenthaler News Service

MANCHESTER, Tenn. — Day Three of Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival came to a close early Sunday morning with rap served Southern style, capping a long day highlighting rock, Americana and electronica bands established and new.

Rapper’s “Backwards” makes live debut just days after release

Odezsa performs at Bonnaroo’s What Stage June 15 in Manchester, Tenn. (Tyler Lamb/MTSU Seigenthaler News Service)

With psychedelic backgrounds, stage lights and simulated gun sounds, rapper Gucci Mane electrified the throngs at This Tent early Sunday morning.

The artist, known for helping popularize the hip-hop subgenre of trap music during the early 2000s in his native Atlanta, performed songs such as “I Might Be,” “St. Brick Intro” and the brand-new single released just a few days ago, “Backwards,” featuring Meek Mill.

Wearing a red jumpsuit, large chain and sunglasses, Gucci Mane hit the stage ready to fire up his fans, many of whom sang along to the songs and danced into the early morning hours.

For his exit, the rapper kissed his index and middle finger, threw them up to the sky and exclaimed, “It’s Gucci!”

— Megan Cole, MTSU Seigenthaler News Service

The National shows depth on return trip to festival.

Matt Berninger of The National performs at Bonnaroo’s Which Stage June 15 in Manchester, Tenn. (Hayden Goodridge/MTSU Seigenthaler News Service)

The National has changed quite a bit since their last Bonnaroo appearance in 2013. With another two albums under their belt, the group members took Which Stage Saturday night with plenty of new songs to perform — and a massive night crowd to enjoy them.

The group’s presence was centralized with frontman Matt Berninger, whose stage persona wavered between charming raconteur and unraveling neurotic.

Between verses, Berninger curiously waltzed around the stage —studying band members and finding drinks to hold. But in climaxes of emotion on songs, including “Bloodbuzz Ohio” and “Mr. November,” the singer would sink to his knees — his low baritone turning into tormented yelps — and his austere composure would be thrown to the wayside.

While the nine-piece band filled the stage with guitars, keyboards and two different drummers, the most apparent difference in The National’s sound came from their addition of female vocalist Kate Stables.

Stables was featured in multiple songs on the band’s latest record, “I Am Easy to Find,” released in May this year. For the show, she provided elegant verses on songs from the new album—playing off Berninger’s parts with wonderful harmony.

While the Which Stage stood high above the audience, Berninger climbed down into the crowd a couple of times to scream lyrics to “Don’t Swallow the Cap” and “Graceless” with impassioned fans.

Their set on Saturday made it clear that The National has evolved from the bachelor-rock of their early years—maturing both in music and age. Still, the fierce beauty of classic singles such as  “Terrible Love,” which closed off the night, remains in the band’s spirit.

It’s with those songs of younger struggles and heartbreaks that The National—and longtime fans at Bonnaroo—can be reminded of how far they have come.

— Hayden Goodridge, MTSU Seigenthaler News Service

Odesza wows crowd with fireworks, light show

Odesza performs at Bonnaroo’s What Stage June 15 in Manchester, Tenn. (Tyler Lamb/MTSU Seigenthaler News Service)

Electronic music duo Odesza performed Saturday night on the What Stage at Bonnaroo.

Returning to Bonnaroo after four years, electronic music duo Odesza filled the expansive space in front of the festival’s massive What Stage Saturday night in a set that included fireworks shot from behind the stage, a light show, and live music from numerous guest performers.

With the theatrics, pyrotechnics and a mix of DJ, live drum line and horn players, this wasn’t just your typical EDM show as Odesza performed songs such as “Higher Ground” and their Grammy Award-winning “Say My Name.”

Not to mention had fire shooting from the stage during their light show and then pink confetti filled the late-night Bonnaroo sky.

— Megan Cole, MTSU Seigenthaler News Service

My Morning Jacket frontman showcases solo work

Jim James performs at Bonnaroo’s This Tent June 15, 2019 in Manchester, Tenn. (Tiffany Brady/MTSU Seigenthaler News Service

My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James performed in Bonnaroo’s This Tent Saturday night with a full band, showcasing his latest solo album “Uniform Distortions.”

The energetic James wailed on his guitar and belted out songs that included “Just A Fool,” “Throwback,” and “No Secrets,” each from the 2018-released album.

Like My Morning Jacket’s considerable catalog, each song had a distinctly psychedelic, jam-rock undertone, much to the delight of the crowd.

Previously this year, James embarked on an East Coast tour and is finishing it with a few dates, including Bonnaroo. If Saturday’s set is any indication, rapt My Morning Jacket fans are just as enthusiastic about this incarnation of Jim James.

— Tiffany Brady, MTSU Seigenthaler News Service

The New Respects gain, well, new respect

The New Respects Alexandria Fitzgerald (left) Jasmine Mullen and Alexis Fitzgerald step to the front of Bonnaroo’s Who Stage June 15 in Manchester, Tenn. (Tiffany Brady/MTSU Seigenthaler News Service)

Nashville-based The New Respects took over Bonnaroo’s Who Stage late Saturday afternoon with a rambunctious, rollicking set featuring a unique blend of funk and guitar-powered indie rock.

It’s a family affair, as twin sisters Alexandria and Alexis Fitzgerald play lead and bass guitar, respectively, while older brother Darius Fitzgerald maintains the beat on drums. Cousin Jasmine Mullen sings lead vocals.

The New Respects singer Jasmine Mullen performs at Bonnaroo’s Who Stage June 15 in Manchester, Tenn. (Tiffany Brady/MTSU Seigenthaler News Service)

Each band member had their own microphone, allowing for tight harmonies and bits of rap. Synchronized dance moves added to the feel-good funkiness.

The group draws from a range of musical influences, including modern gospel, Motown, and even Contemporary Christian music. Making their Bonnaroo debut, The New Respects showcased songs such as “Hands Up,” “Coffee in the Morning,” and “Trouble.”

Near the end of the set, a sultry cover of the Beatles “Come Together” kept the crowd dancing in the early evening light.

— Tiffany Brady, MTSU Seigenthaler News Service

That Tent crowd flips over New Zealand rockers

Ruban Nielson of Unknown Mortal Orchestra performs at Bonnaroo’s That Tent June 15 in Manchester, Tenn. (Tiffany Brady/MTSU Seigenthaler News Service)

New Zealand-based alternative-rock band Unknown Mortal Orchestra flipped Bonnaroo’s That Tent upside down Saturday, so to speak — at least when it came to crowd-surfing.

It did not take long for the band’s lead singer-songwriter Ruban Nielson to ditch the comforts of the stage and dive into the crowd while holding his red Fender guitar. The journey was not unrewarded, though, once he was able to down an offered beer on his way back to the stage.

Ruban Nielson of Unknown Mortal Orchestra performs at Bonnaroo’s That Tent June 15 in Manchester, Tenn. (Tiffany Brady/MTSU Seigenthaler News Service)

The chic set featured green plants and modern furniture as Unknown Mortal Orchestra returned to the festival after a four-year absence.

The band played songs from albums including “Multi Love,” “II,” and their newest release, “Sex and Food.” Songs included “Necessary Evil,” “Ministry of Alienation,” “So Good at Being in Trouble,” “Multi Love,” and “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone.”

The set included raging guitar solos, brass instrumentation and synthesizers, living up to the orchestra part of Unknown Mortal Orchestra.

— Tiffany Brady, MTSU Seigenthaler News

Now-sober Ruston Kelly shows off his diversity

Ruston Kelly performs at Bonnaroo’s That Tent June 15, 2019 in Manchester, Tenn. (Caryn Tramel/MTSU Seigenthaler News Service

Up-and-coming Nashville new country singer-songwriter Ruston Kelly made his Bonnaroo debut Saturday afternoon at That Tent, and dedicated fans made him feel at home by singing along with the lyrics to his 2018 single, “Asshole.”

During his performance, Kelly called attention to the date celebrating six months of sobriety, drawing supportive cheers from the crowd. He also told the crowd that he wanted to clarify that just because he’s now sober that it doesn’t mean he can’t put on a great show like other artists.

He then launched into a spirited “Teenage Dirtbag,” the 2000 tune from pop-rockers Wheatus.

Throughout the set, Kelly showed his musical diversity by playing guitar, harmonica and piano, and his band also included steel guitar in the mix. The sounds aptly spotlighted Kelly’s 2018 release, “Dying Star,” which is is an exploration of the human condition with personal insights into his experience with addiction and the aftermath.

In appreciation, the crowd clapped and sang along to the album’s and set closer, “Song of a Highway Daughter.”

— Caryn Tramel, MTSU Seigenthaler News Service

Rubblebucket excites crowd with quirky, colorful set

Kalmia Traver of Rubblebucket performs at Bonnaroo’s Which Stage June 15 in Manchester, Tenn. (Tyler Lamb/MTSU Seigenthaler News Service)

Rubblebucket’s enthusiastically received Saturday afternoon set at Bonnaroo’s Which Stage featured a variety of dancing and an equal amount of hypnotic melodies.

Originally from Brooklyn, the American art-pop/indie-band also added videos to the mix as they featured songs from throughout their more than decade-long career.

Kalmia Traver of Rubblebucket performs at Bonnaroo’s Which Stage June 15 in Manchester, Tenn. (Tyler Lamb/MTSU Seigenthaler News Service)

Rubblebucket self-released their first album, “Rose’s Dream.” For their Bonnaroo performance, main singer and saxophonist Kalmia Traver wore a pink rose on a headband larger than her head.

She also sported hair dyed greenish-yellow, a neon green short-sleeved turtleneck, and black-and-white striped pants.

Meanwhile, trumpet player, band co-founder and Kalmia’s erstwhile romantic partner, Alex Toth, added synchronized dancing and stiff movements that aligned with the beat of each song.

Rubblebucket featured several tunes from its most recent album, “Survival Sounds.” Traver is a survivor of ovarian cancer, which she has said has influenced much of the production of the album.

As a colorfully packed finale, the band released gigantic balloons shaped like an octopus into the crowd, Traver blasting the audience with a water gun to close the set.

— Megan Cole, MTSU Seigenthaler News Service

Brit rapper Little Simz packs a big sound

Little Simz performs at Bonnaroo’s This Tent June 15 in Manchester, Tenn. (Hayden Goodridge/MTSU Seigenthaler News Service)1

“This is my first time ever coming to this part of the world,” proclaimed English rapper Simbi “Little Simz” Ajikawo to an ecstatic This Tent Saturday afternoon at Bonnaroo. “Can I take you to North London real quick?”

With an electric swagger and thick London accent, Simz dished out her rapid-fire verses while fronting her three-piece backing band. With live drums and bass, their grimy jazz-rap production packed a punch underneath Simz’s already aggressive flow.

Simz’s Bonnaroo performance came in the wake of the release of her 2019 record, “Grey Area,” which has garnered widespread acclaim from fans and critics alike. Cuts from the record, including “Boss” and “Venom,” stood out as highlights of the set, with a raw, uncompromising power surging from the group.

Between the heavy-hitters, however, were tracks of mellow introspection such as “God Bless Mary.” Simz prefaced the track with a story of her childhood neighbor, who never complained when the young, aspiring rapper played loud music through the night. The song was both an apology and praise for this woman, who inadvertently allowed Simz’s music to take off.

“If it wasn’t for her,” Simz said, “I probably wouldn’t be on this stage right now.”

After a handful of musical glimpses into Simz’s personal triumphs as a female rapper, the set closed with the single “Offence”— a boastful track with line after line of exalted spirit. By the final hook of the track, it seemed that Simz captured her entire persona in one line:

“I said it with my chest, and I don’t care who I offend.”

— Hayden Goodridge, MTSU Seigenthaler News Service

SNL-spawned comedic group The Lonely Island rocks Bonnaroo

The Lonely Island performs at Bonnaroo’s Which Stage June 16 in Manchester, Tenn. (Photos by Zach Wright/MTSU)

The Lonely Island is one Bonnaroo act that many festivalgoers were anticipating for months.

Thousands of fans gathered at the Which Stage in the early hours of Sunday morning to witness the comedy group/band trio that’s known for its politically incorrect humor.

The group, which includes Akiva Schaffer, Andy Samberg and Jorma Taccone, opened with a crowd favorite, “We’re Back.”

Friends since junior high school in Berkeley, California, the trio began working as makers of short films after college, which led to a writing gig on “Saturday Night Live.” The success there and in other television and film projects led them to combine their music with their writing to create The Lonely Island.

The energy from the Bonnaroo crowd was electric and matched by the trio of friends onstage, who were obviously enjoying their Bonnaroo gig.

“I love music — don’t you guys love music?” one of the trio asked, trying to hype up the crowd even more. (It was unclear which of the three said because of the constant costume changes.

The California-based band has been around since 2001, and it was clear its fan base has remained loyal through the years. The crowd seemed to know every word of the nearly two dozen songs in the set, and the audience was nearly as loud as the artists onstage.

The Lonely Island has a release out now: “The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience” and is on tour in support of the album this summer, with stops in Washington, D.C., New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, Detroit and Minneapolis.

— Morgan Brantley, MTSU Seigenthaler News Service

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