Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival Day One (A Gallery + Recap)

Rob Moderelli on June 14, 2024
Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival Day One (A Gallery + Recap)

Photo Credit: Charles Reagan

Thursday, June 13 marked the triumphant return of Manchester, Tenn.’s Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, a certified summer institution annually visited by some of the biggest names in music across an eclectic array of genres. Under the unrelenting sun and Tennessee heat, the festival’s day one kick-off set a resoundingly positive tone for the weekend, complete with awe-inspiring performances, onstage surprises and plenty of moving moments. Among a great many highlights, it was Pretty Lights that stole the show as the festival’s first-ever Thursday night headliner.

Bonnaroo made its enduring love for the jam community clear with a set from Eggy early in its day one program; in its run in the This Tent, the rising jam stars delivered a rousing rendition of “Laurel,” the country-inflected toe-tapping second preview single from the group’s forthcoming studio album Waiting Game, set to arrive on September 6. The band returned after the sun had gone down for a late-night set in the Galactic Giddy-Up from Outeroo, the “festival within a festival” that keeps Bonnaroo’s thrills rolling on until sunrise. Jam-friendly indie punks Geese also appealed to the festival’s roots in the scene with its bold fusions of diverse rock influences, exemplified by a debut cover of Green Day’s “American Idiot.”

Say She She took the stage in the early afternoon, treating the crowd to its hard-funking, upbeat psychedelic soul led by the vocal trio of Piya Malik, Sabrina Mileo Cunningham and Nya Gazelle Brown and complimented by the Angelino funk ensemble Orgone. After its set–which featured a thoroughly honed cover of Talking Heads’ “Slippery People”–the trio sat for press conference with high-concept heavy metal brutalists GWAR, who would go on to drench their crowd in “blood” with a theatrical “beheading” that closed out the This Tent. In the Q&A, when an audience member asked GWAR how they could best get blood out of clothes, the ladies interjected to say that they’d know better than the rock monsters.

At sunset, Medium Build assumed the spotlight in the That Tent and dished out alt-Americana favorites like “In My Room,” “Crying Over You” and “Gimme Back My Soul.” In between songs, Nicholas Carpenter was just as vulnerable with the crowd, opening up on just how much the opportunity to perform at Bonnaroo meant to him. “I came to my first Bonnaroo—fuck, I’m gonna cry—12 years ago…” the artist divulged, detailing how his brother used to attend the event and would introduce him to formative influences like My Morning Jacket and Radiohead over the phone. At his set’s apex, the artist continued the catharsis with a group scream.

Carpenter also took a moment to praise rapidly rising synth-pop superstar Chappell Roan, whose upcoming Sunday set was moved to a larger stage after public outcry. At a Raleigh, N.C. show last night, Roan reportedly, per Stereogum, reflected on the shift, as well as her widely acclaimed Gov Ball performance, sharing, “I think that my career is going really fast and it’s really hard to keep up… It’s just, there’s a lot… Thank you for understanding. This is all I’ve ever wanted. It’s just heavy sometimes, I think.”

Finally, at 8:30 p.m., Pretty Lights touched down on the What Stage for two sets that marked Bonnaroo’s first-ever Thursday headliner. The festival-trained improvisatory electronica innovator, who previously gave thrilling performances at Bonnaroo in 2009, 2011 and 2013, exceeded towering expectations with a carefully tailored set; the centerpiece of Derek Vincent Smith’s staging was a brand new song that prominently sampled Willie Nelson’s “Blue Skies,” which he created “just for tonight.” The artist kept the energy high with other fan favorites like “Hot Like Sauce,” “Understand Me Now,” “Wake Up,” “Modular Jam” and his vaunted remix of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” which dropped as one final salute to the sweltering Tennessee setting.

See the sights from Thursday in the gallery below, courtesy of photographers Nathan Zucker, Josh Brasted, Ismael Quintanilla III, Pooneh Ghana, Leone Julitte, Roger Ho, Taylor Regulski and Charles Reagan. Bonnaroo continues today and through the weekend, concluding on Sunday, June 16. For tickets and more information on the festival, visit

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