From the Saturday ‘Bonnaroo Beacon’: Blast Off
Photo credit: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
“Your spaceship is about to blast off.”
So goes the narration to “Martian Monster,” which the band performed midway through their first of two headlining sets this weekend. Indeed, over 120 minutes, the band took the crowd at the What Stage into the cosmos, pulling no punches and opening with their hard-edged composition “Carini.”
Moving through fan favorites like “Down With Disease,” it became apparent that Phish would play a set entirely of originals, with no covers (save for their version of “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” which many newcomers in the crowd recognized as the theme to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey). They worked through new material like “Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.” and old favorites like “Harry Hood” (with fireworks) and “Tweezer,” which came back around in the encore for a high-energy “Tweezer Reprise” to end the show.
As Phish tore up the What Stage—marking their first Bonnaroo appearance since 2012 and third overall—Hayley Williams of Paramore confirmed many people’s suspicions, performing a secret set with guitarist Taylor York at her curated “Sanctuary of Self Love” at Plaza 2.
With Williams and York playing alt-rock tracks in the campgrounds and Phish offering mind-melding jams on the main stage, the two disparate bands embodied Bonnarro’s ongoing commitment to fostering genres of all stripes.
Even from the opening notes of Friday’s programming, as warm sunshine and blue skies hovered overhead, that musical diversity was on display.
To open the day’s festivities, Tyla Yaweh rocked This Tent with his rock-infused glam rap and British blues duo Ida Mae burned up the Who Stage with tracks off their recently released LP Chasing Lights.
Throughout the afternoon, fans enjoyed the warm weather on the grassy Which Stage, soaking up the sun and tossing footballs and frisbees back and forth.
Over at Snake and Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge, Bonnaroovians took a musical trip down to New Orleans with the Soul Brass Band as LA’s Cherry Glazerr was heating up That Tent.
“Fuck yeah Bonnaroo!” Lead singer Clementine Creevy exclaimed before launching into Cherry Glazerr’s “Distressor” and then fan favorite “Daddy.”
From there, many music lovers took in the good vibes of Nahko & Medicine for the People on Which Stage. “Happy Pride. Happy Father’s Day weekend. Let’s get this party started,” Nahko said to open the show. Afterwards, fans soaked in the group’s socially-conscious songs like “Nyepi and “Aloha Ke Akua.”
For those looking for heavier sounds, Parquet Courts were serving up choice cuts from their acclaimed LP Wide Awaaaaake at This Tent, including “Almost Had To Start A Fight / In And Out Of Patience” and “Freebird II.” On the latter tune, the crowd sang passionately to the closing, anthemic lines, “Free. I feel free like you promised I’d be.”
“13 years ago I was at This Tent,” guitarist Austin Brown said from the stage, looking back at his time as a fan at Bonnaroo. “Look where I am now!”
The celebratory vibe continued an hour later with The Avett Brothers
As the sun hung low in the sky, the Bonnaroo veterans performed a batch of songs from across their career like “Laundry Room,” “True Sadness” and the live debut of their new single “High Steppin’.” At one point, the Americana collective led a sing-along to live favorite “Ain’t No Man” as singer-guitarist Scott Avett jumped into the crowd and joined the swarms of music lovers who danced along.
Afterwards, Bonnaroovians had their choice to check out the indie stylings of Courtney Barnett, the heavy rock of Gojira or the future-funk of festival favorite GRiZ, who gave the audience a taste of what they could expect at his G.O.A.T SuperJam later in the evening.
From there, the masses quickly shuffled from the campgrounds through the newly designed Bonnaroo arch to witness Childish Gambino’s highly anticipated set.
As with many of his performances Gambino (aka Donald Glover) was shirtless, and flexed his vocal chops from his first tune, the emotive “Algorythm.”
“We’re going to do something special… I want you to put your phone down and focus on the moment,” he told fans at the What Stage, and continued on with originals like “The Worst Guys,” “World Star,” “Have Some Love,” “This is America” and a show-stopping finale of “Redbone” complete with fireworks overhead.
At one moment, the rapper took a moment to absorb the magnitude of the sold-out festival. “This is definitely the best crowd we’ve had so far,” he said, later adding, “We are the past, present and future. I love every single one of you guys.”
Fans continued on to enjoy a soul-stirring Solange set and Phish’s triumphant return to the Bonnaroo stage. But it was a matter of time before Bonnaroo transitioned into late-night mode, with Brockhampton at the Which Stage, the aforementioned SuperJam at This Tent, Girl Talk at That Tent, RL Grime at The Other and all kinds of mischief going down at Kalliope.
As of press time, GRiZ and company were paying tribute to legends we’ve lost, like Prince, Bob Marley, Sharon Jones and David Bowie. Most of all they honored Crescent City legend Dr. John, with a version of “Right Place Wrong Time.” Dr. John passed away on June 6 and his 1974 LP Desitively Bonnaroo served as the inspiration for this very festival. (In fact, as Phish closed out the What Stage, the opening bars of Desitively Bonnaroo rang through the festival grounds.) The re-emergence of Dr. John’s music brought Friday night full circle, as Bonnaroo continues to celebrate 18 years of live music, fun, friendship and revelry.