From the Sunday ‘Bonnaroo Beacon’: Sunflowers and Butterflies

John Patrick Gatta on June 16, 2019
From the Sunday ‘Bonnaroo Beacon’: Sunflowers and Butterflies

Photo credit: Jeff Kravitz FilmMagic

Whether it’s interacting with your new neighbors at campsites or high-fiving festivarians in Centeroo, Bonnaroo has always been an inviting community. That includes embracing new artists from multiple musical genres with Saturday’s lineup bouncing from rock to rap to country, folk and electronic dance.

With a setlist of hits and enough charisma to fill the What Stage Post Malone revived the thousands who dealt with sweltering heat all day long. He performed his debut single, “White Iverson” as well as his latest hit, “Sunflower.” While introducing the latter song Malone said, “This is my grandparents’ favorite song because there’s no cuss words in it.”

He also added another dimension to his multi-hyphenate description—singer, songwriter, rapper and producer—when he played an acoustic guitar on “Stay.”

Jim James (photo by Maureen Lauer-Gatta)

With a nod to Bonnaroo’s past and present, the midnight shows featured the comedic music of The Lonely Island on White Stage, Singer/songwriter Clairo and rapper Gucci Mane at This Tent and Joe Russo’s Almost Dead knocking out that group’s interpretations of the Grateful Dead catalog at That Tent.

At the same time Bonnaroo has been a place for reunions of attendees and artists who return to the Farm.

Playing bigger stages and with a setlist of hits, Saturday found a number of artists triumphantly returning to Bonnaroo.

Kacey Musgraves (Photo by Dean Budnick)

Among those who “graduated” to new levels since their initial appearance were Kacey Musgraves who came back as multiple Grammy and CMA award winner. Performing on the Which Stage she played a self-assured set that included “Butterflies” and “Slow Burn.”

She didn’t have to say this to gain the adoration of the crowd but Musgraves offered undying love to the festival. “I’m not lying at all when I say that Bonnaroo is my absolute fucking favorite place to play. I’ve been looking forward to this for so long, know that you guys are gonna fucking bring it.”

Hozier returned four years after his Bonnaroo debut with a powerful set. Backed by a six-piece band and visuals that ranged from flames to a political message of taking on the establishment during “Nina Cried Power,” Hozier proved his worthiness to be on the What Stage this time around.

On a day that featured Bonnaroo’s first Pride Parade, it was significant match to have Hozier’s anti-homophobia anthem “Take Me to Church” performed. He was also joined by Americana star and Nashville artist Brandi Carlile on “Work Song.”

John Prine (Photo by Dean Budnick)

Later, Carlile joined folk legend John Prine at That Tent on “Summer’s End.” He also duetted with Kelsey Waldon on “In Spite of Ourselves.” The mischievously witty Prine introduced that number by saying, “This is for anybody thinking of getting married. Remember it’s easier to get rid of a tattoo.”

The National (Photo by Dean Budnick)

The National played a triumphant set of moody hypnotic material that favored the band’s latest album, “I Am Easy to Find,” including opening number “You Had Your Soul With You” with guest vocalist Kate Stables of This Is the Kit, “Oblivions,” “Hey Rosey” as well as earlier tracks, “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” and “Don’t Swallow the Cap.”

Other returning artists who have shown artistic and commercial growth included the infectiously joyous Rubblebucket on Which Stage where the Brooklyn act performed “Donna,” “Lemonade” “Annihilation” and released dozens of balloons into the crowd during “Came Out of a Lady.”

The Record Company (Photo by Dean Budnick)

The Record Company played that On Tap Lounge several years ago, and based on its ferocious live set and song such as “Make It Happen,” “Rita Mae” and “Off the Ground” moved on to Saturday’s spot on the What Stage.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra (Photo by John Patrick Gatta)

Both Hippo Campus and Unknown Mortal Orchestra showed that indie rock lives on with the former displaying a poppier approach while UMO provided a cleansing musical bath for the sizzling masses. The That Tent set included Ruban Nielson going offstage during “From the Sun” and continuing to solo while walking through the crowd. 

All told, it was a bright and beautiful day, overflowing with the many delights that the Farm can offer.  And there’s still more to come…