Photo by Tyler Lamb/MTSU Seigenthaler News Service
MANCHESTER, Tenn. — Late-night and early morning belonged to the rappers and EDM DJs as Day One of the 18th annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival concluded in the wee hours early Friday morning.
Chicago rapper Saba enlivens late-night crowd
Up-and-coming Chicago rapper Saba closed off That Tent’s first day at Bonnaroo well past midnight early Friday morning with a set that—despite the hour—was rife with collective energy.
After a brief DJ set to enliven the crowd, Saba took the stage in a bright orange vest and opened with his song “BUSY/SIRENS.”
The track is off his latest record, “Care for Me,” which was released last year to critical acclaim. The set continued with more songs from the record, including “BROKEN GIRLS” and “SMILE.”
While the stage for Saba’s set was just him and his DJ, his energetic personality was enough to excite fans, with frequent call-and-response sections in his songs as well as lively stage antics.
The rapper’s confident onstage demeanor gave no indication to his rookie status as a Bonnaroo act, and the large turnout for his set was proof his first appearance was highly anticipated.
“This is my first time at Bonnaroo, my first time in Tennessee,” Saba told the crowd. “And I want you all to make this feel like a party.”
By the close of the show, those who stuck out the first long day of Bonnaroo to the end were clearly in high spirits. Even Saba recognized the devotion of his late-night fans.
“This is like 1 in the morning,” he said. “Y’all are crazy.”
— Hayden Goodridge, MTSU Seigenthaler News Service
Space Jesus preaches, meditates, delights at Other Stage
The packed late-night/early morning crowd roared as Jasha Tull, better known as Space Jesus, made his way onto the Other Stage at Bonnaroo well past midnight early Friday morning. As the long brown-haired, Brooklyn-based EDM producer got his set going, the constant buzz of the crowd quieted.
Then the bass dropped.
Then everyone lost their minds.
Between the flashing lights, the trippy visuals and the mixture of electronic and hip-hop beats, it was clearly meant to be a definitive, memorable show.
Signs, flags and beach balls flying to and fro punctuated the sea of fans. Upon the star attraction’s entrance, the tone was set by his informing the crowd he was opening with some meditation. He’s named Space Jesus, after all.
After that, it was time to dance.
— Morgan Brantley, MTSU Seigenthaler News Service
The Comet is Coming, jazz arrives at the ‘Zoo
The London jazz-fusion trio The Comet is Coming performed a high-intensity set of cosmic instrumentals at This Tent Thursday at Bonnaroo, giving fans a taste of late-night, futuristic energy.
While jazz music isn’t a main draw for many of the young attendees of Bonnaroo, The Comet is Coming displayed an exciting reinvigoration of the genre, blending traditional instruments such as saxophone with grandiose electronic elements that show a mission to forge new pathways in jazz. By describing their music under the self-proclaimed genre of “apocalyptic space funk,” the group seems to be well down their own path.
The Comet is Coming’s performance was shrouded in mystery, with each member only going by nickname—Dan “Danalogue” Leavers on synths, Max “Betamax” Hallett on drums, and Shabaka “King Shabaka” Hutchings on saxophone. Their transcendent display was a medley of psychedelic soundscapes, heavy drum grooves and unrelenting sax flares.
Coming off of this year’s album “Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery,” the group played a number of cuts from the recently released record, including “Summon the Fire” and “Birth of Creation.” The songs included extended solos from the members as the songs meandered between moments of reflection and ferocity.
Though their set gave little time for talking in the seamless transitions between songs, Leavers expressed his appreciation for the festival.
“We’ve come a long way from London, and let me tell you, it’s been pretty special to land here at Bonnaroo in Tennessee,” Leavers said. “We appreciate your energy.”
— Hayden Goodridge, MTSU Seigenthaler News Service
No need for fan lyric sheets at Bulow show
Emerging pop artist Bulow performed for a densely packed crowd Thursday at Bonnaroo’s Who Stage, the young artist performed songs from her most recent album “Crystalline,” released in April.
Megan Bulow was named “Breakthrough Artist of the Year” at this year’s Canadian Juno Awards. The artist also was nominated for other categories, including, fan choice award, pop album of the year for her previously released album “Damaged,” and single of the year for “Not a Love Song.”
Bulow captivated the audience with her unique pop sound and smooth voice, as much of the well-versed crowd sang her lyrics back to her. In other portions of the show, she showed she’s also not afraid to occasionally smash the drum symbols.
This diversity translates to Bulow’s life in other ways. The 19-year-old has lived in a variety of places throughout her life, including, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the Netherlands. Her vast range of culture touches people through her music, as evidenced by her enthusiastic Bonnaroo reception.
— Tiffany Brady, MTSU Seigenthaler News Service
All Them Witches makes return Bonnaroo appearance
Nashville-based rock band All Them Witches triumphantly returned to Bonnaroo at This Tent Thursday evening after first busting out of the local independent rock scene with a 2015 appearance at the festival.
Described as many musical genres, from blues rock to neo-psychedelia, the one-time quartet has become a trio since 2015. Its latest album, “ATW,” was released in September 2018.
While its Thursday night Bonnaroo performance mainly included recent songs from such as “Sleeping Through the War” and “ATW”, the band also performed older tunes such as crowd favorite “Charles William” from the 2013 album “Lightning at the Door.” Other songs that got the audience jumping were “Diamond” from the album “ATW” and “Alabaster” from “Sleeping Through the War.”
The performance ended with “Blood and Sand/Milk and Endless Waters” from the album “Dying Surfer Meets His Maker”, which features a Robby Staebler drum solo while vocalist-instrumentalist Charles Michael Parks Jr. balances his guitar on his fingers.
— Caryn Tramel, MTSU Seigenthaler News Service
Country stars transform The Farm to ‘Op-rah-roo’
From the jam-packed That Tent early Thursday evening, artists performed two hours of music, interspersed with a giant LED screen playing clips of classic Grand Ole Opry performances between set changes, as fans danced their way through the Nashville Sound old and new.
Ketch Secor, Old Crow Medicine Show fiddler, singer and effervescent frontman, appropriately nicknamed the set “Op-rah-roo” and donned a straw boater hat as he shared emcee duties with WSM-AM radio personality and Opry announcer Bill Cody.
The eclectic audience listened to short performances by Old Crow Medicine Show, Steve Earle & the Dukes, Morgan Evans, Ashley Monroe, Wendy Moten, Ricky Skaggs, Riders in the Sky, Molly Tuttle and the always electrifying Opry Square Dancers.
After an opening salvo by Old Crow, Cody welcomed Tuttle to the stage. Wearing a rainbow-sequined dress the acclaimed singer-guitarist performed songs such as “Take the Journey.”
Opr-rah-roo made Grand Ole Opry history when longtime Opry member Staggs invited Earle back to the stage to sing “Hillbilly Highway.” It marked their first-ever duet on the song, first co-written and recorded by Earle on his classic “Guitar Town” album and years later recorded by Skaggs on his “Life is a Journey” LP.
Old Crow Medicine Show captured the attention of out-of-towners and Tennesseans alike by beginning their portion of the show by playing the Felice and Boudleaux Bryant-penned classic “Rocky Top” — the Osborne Brothers bluegrass hit and longtime University of Tennessee song — before closing out the Opry show with all the performers crowding the stage on the traditional “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”
In between, in one of the highlights, guest singer-guitarist Charlie Worsham and Secor electrified the crowd by launching into Lil Nas X’s current chart-topper “Old Town Road,” much to the delight of the crowd.
And featuring Secor playing on Opry forefather Roy Acuff’s fiddle, no less.
— Megan Cole, MTSU Seigenthaler News Service