Bonnaroo 2012 Thursday, June 7th, 2012 review

This was my first Bonnaroo experience. I seriously doubt it will be my last.

Arriving in sweltering heat, with surprising little traffic on the first day of performances. I realized that I’d forgotten to re-stock on sunscreen, so what I’d brought had better last. Nashville was abuzz with thousands of additional out of city/state tourists for the CMA’s, something to do everywhere. Honky Tonk’s spilling out, not a stark contrast to the oasis of Manchester, Tennessee’s grounds where Bonnaroo would be held.

Entering the state and meeting Tennesseans for the first time, you’re shocked. If you’re from Vancouver anyway. These people smile, greet and talk with you – the friendly atmosphere is overwhelming, and that’s only heightened when you get to the almost hippie-esque feel of the fans in attendance. Everybody introduces themselves and is unafraid to talk and interact, rave about music. And if sober enough, they can hold a quite decent conversation.

Your usual summer festival scenario is present as you walk the grounds though, fantastic cleavage, people wearing odd costumes, carrying poles with something atop them so that their friends can find them in crowds, every man that works out walks around shirtless, and a good amount that don’t but couldn’t care less do too. There’s your assortment of topless women, and of course, a range of high and plastered attendees. The thing is though, they’re all there to enjoy themselves and do so with you alongside.

I’m repeating my point extensively, but to gauge people’s level of intimacy and relaxation – I asked a random girl about how a smoothie was that she’d just purchased (an expensive one mind you, based on it’s size) – she not only described it to me, but offered for me to try it. She wasn’t flirting, she genuinely was offering as a gesture.

The main reason everyone gathers is the music. Day one of Bonnaroo had plenty to offer, and although the live streaming didn’t kick off until the second day (neither did the main stages), the performances were well worth sleeping in the dust and enduring sunburns.

Mariachi El Bronx kicked the festival off for me, with a loud boom to begin and profantiy filled crowd interactions “What’s up Bonnaroo motherfuckers!” they played forth an amazing set.

Danny Brown came out with his signature hair and cocky persona. He started the immense growth of people around This Tent, which proceeded to expand as the night went on. The nasal voiced emcee ran through his current catalgoue touching on Greatest Rapper Ever and Head For Free amongst others. He of course quipped on how the audience would be getting “nasty” in the tents later after that song. Truly “shocking” words from Mr. Brown.

The Silent Disco which I’ve noticed at a few festivals now, was extremely popular. For those unaware, a silent disco involves a DJ performance only audible by people wearing headphones in a designated area (the “disco”) and all hearing the same music. The individual can determine the volume and thus enjoy at their own levels. It almost appeared Karaoke-like as you could hear a good portion of the audience singing along to what they were hearing.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. commanded a significant audience over The Other Tent (wearing their signature coloured checkered blazers), competing with Danny Brown but still managing to equal his following. Surprisingly though both stages blasted music, neither overwhelmed the relatively close set ups.

Yelawolf put on a great show, running through Trap Muzik and Radioactive hits. Opening with “Daddy’s Lambo” and finishing with “Let’s Roll,” the Alabaman artist couldn’t help but quip on how his last performance at the festival was quite different to this as he’d signed with Shady Records and was doing considerably better. He performed his “Shady 2.0” freestyle from the BET performance, and spoke frankly with the crowd about the scenario. Yelawolf also relished the fact that while performing “Hard White,” he was able to throw up a bottle of Jack Daniels (whiskey from Bonnaroo’s state) while reciting, “Mad cause I’m in VIP with a fuckin’ Jack bottle!”

The Comedy Theatre was also a very popular attraction, although the performance I caught (a Comedy Central taping apparently) which was meant to feature Key & Peele hosting, didn’t feature them at all. This was one of the main reasons why many showed up. Several comedians took the stage, and a personal highlight was Jon Dore. Dore was a great performer to begin with, really funny stuff, but his performance started to go down hill once he brought someone from the audience on stage – the material was quite lacklustre surrounding that.

As the night continued, we found ourselves unable to stay in one spot, bouncing from stage to stage to take in at least some of several sets. Kendrick Lamar‘s performance was strong, and after Dr. Dre’s endorsements and being showcased properly at Coachella, you can understand how the audience reflected this. “The Recipe” had a great response as did “HiiiPower,” and of course he ran through Section.80’s catalogue. Phantogram were also visually pleasing, although running a little late. SOJA‘s set was so strong that they performed an encore at That Tent. It’s unusual for festival sets on smaller stages to get encores, but the audience got what they wanted.

Of course, Alabama Shakes‘ set was a feast, wrapping the night up for us.

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