Walking into Bonnaroo for the first time is not easily compared to anything else. There’s nothing quite like the sights, sounds, and smells experienced at one of the largest music festivals in the world, hosted in Manchester, TN, just an hour southeast of Nashville. 2014 marks the 13th year for the festival and another very successful one at that. If you’re there for the weekend, it’s a long weekend, but many would agree not long enough. Four days of camping can feel like one endless day or two weeks depending on your schedule and how you choose to survive. Even spending just one day at planet Roo can feel timeless, as mine did on Saturday. It’s almost impossible to see all the artists you want to, but with some careful planning and a good watch, you can pack in a pretty good lineup for yourself. Here was a summary of my day after arriving just before 3pm on Saturday afternoon.
3:30pm – Silent Disco: Grab a pair of over-the-head bluetooth headphones as you walk into the Silent Disco tent and you’re in for a unique and hilarious experience. When the headphones are on, you’re part of the party. When you take them off, it’s pretty funny watching people dancing and hearing random shouts or out of tune singing.
4:00pm – Cake: Most of us have heard the more popular Cake songs; “The Distance,” “Never There,” and “Short Skirt, Long Jacket.” Cake had a late afternoon set as one of the first major acts of the day, and the Which Stage was packed with tens of thousands of Roo fans just getting started. Frontman John McCrea had a fairly intellectual stage presence, bantering, ”This is just entertainment — it’ll get bleak when we go home.” However, he easily won over the crowd when he dedicated “Mustache Man (Wasted)” to “anyone here who has a mustache, and not an ironic mustache or a nostalgic mustache.” He pointed out a guy in the crowd with a “full-on, balls-out mustache,” and the crowd quickly approved with cheers after seeing him on the giant video screen.
5:45pm – Cage the Elephant: With a giant crowd in place from Cake, it seemed to grow for Cage the Elephant. With songs like ”Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked” and “Shake Me Down,” the band celebrated the 10-year anniversary of their first trip to Bonnaroo, when they brought acoustic guitars to the campgrounds and won over a few early fans. Lead singer Matt Shultz ditched a shiny gold jacket soon after the first couple songs and joined the audience by crowd surfing over the barricades, his stage presence akin to the likes of Mick Jagger.
8:45pm – James Blake: It’s important to maintain a good energy level at Bonnaroo, so after dinner and another Red Bull, we were ready for the set I had been most anticipating. We secured an amazing spot between center stage and front of house, for the full stereo experience. Blake’s set was one the best-sounding shows I’ve ever heard. From dirty synths, to groove played live, it felt very natural for a set consisting of mostly artificial sounds. It was awesome to hear the lack of tracks and see that James and his band played most if not all of the parts live. He came across as very sincere and appreciative of the support from the festival and the audience. When asked about collaborators for the next record in an interview with Billboard, Blake hinted that he would continue writing with Bon Iver and “sparatically Kanye [West] if/when he’s around.”
9:15pm – Zedd: Anton Zaslavski has quickly risen as one of the most in-demand electronic producers and DJs of the decade. His set at Broo mirrored what he’s done as a producer and solo artist up until this point in his career. Let’s just say it was BIG.
10:45pm – Jack White: If you’ve seen Jack White perform on late night TV, it’s not even one tenth of what you get on the Main (What) Stage at Bonnaroo. It was loud, and Jack easily won over the primetime audience on Saturday night. We only stayed for a couple songs in order to catch the Supergroup at midnight.
12am – Supergroup: Skrillex and friends featuring Big Gigantic with special guests Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, Robby Krieger (of The Doors), Zedd, Mickey Hart, Janelle Monae, Joel Cummins, Warpaint, Chance the Rapper, High & Mighty Horns, Thundercat, Craig Robinson, and more. The supergroup was an interesting mix of artists, and I couldn’t even keep track of them all. It was madness. For instance, who ever thought they’d see Robby Krieger, Skrillex, and Craig Robinson on the same stage? I’ll give you a second to process that because I’m struggling.
2:45am Kaskade: Ryan Raddon has risen as a top DJ and producer in the progressive house scene over the last decade. It’s wild to see how quickly EDM has grown to headline artist slots at many if not all of the major festivals. It shows how Bonnaroo has grown, but also music fans in general. I think people in our current digital age are relating more to a digital sound than they ever have. Kaskade has had a significant influence in the electronic world and certainly proved it while closing out Saturday night.
Back to Nashville, sleep.
By Steve Harpine | Digital Content Manager | @Steve_MWL | Beat-Play & Music Without Labels, LLC