Another summer, another June, another great festival of music, arts, and debauchery. As always, Bonnaroo proves to be one of my favorite weekends of the year, as well as a one of my favorite music festivals in the country. And what to do now? Compile a list of course. Of course, when compiling this list, problems arise. Mainly because I was the only member of LxL to attend Roo this year, and as one man, I cannot make it to every show. No matter how badly I would like to have seen Tears for Fears, scheduling conflicts are real conflicts. So the following is a list of my favorites acts out of all the ones in which I was able to attend. Let me know if any of you saw something better:
10. Billy Joel
Forever an entertainer. No matter how old this man gets, and no matter how much he looks like Pat Johnson (our friend’s dad), he will forever have that spark of a 23-year-old boy from the Bronx. Having a song like “Piano Man” for +80,000 people to scream back to you has to be one helluva feeling too.
9. Sylvan Esso
Sylvan Esso may be a newer entity, but the members are no rookies when it comes to performing. That much is evident in their live show. Commanding a midday crowd at Bonnaroo can prove chalenging for some, but it was near impossible for everyone at the “Other Tent” to not be captivated by Amelia’s smooth vocals, and Nick’s even smoother/feet moving beats.
I half expected for this show to be a pretty chill afternoon, hang in the back and listen from the ground type of show. Sure, Spoon’s music is fun, but I didn’t expect it to make me want to mosh. Commanded by the powerful (sometimes screaming) vocals of Britt Daniel, he and the rest of his thrashing, instrument cladding silverware were out to make everyone in the crowd sweat, and not from the TN humidity.
Speaking of exceeding expectations, MØ was someone who I had been into recently, but merely thought she would come out to sing her Danish-style pop with a DJ spinning some back tracks. Not the case. Full band, and a furious lead woman, she provided hit after hit with more energy than most acts from the weekend. She sounded pristine, so pristine in fact that she was able to even pull off dark and edgy cover of the Spice Girls’ “Say You’ll Be There” without a hitch.
6. My Morning Jacket
We are no strangers to gushing over MMJ here at LxL, but it is impossible to not include them in this list. They are still arguably one of the best live acts out there. Despite only playing 2 hours (yea ONLY, for them that is short) they still put together a decent set. Not too Waterfall heavy, and packed with a lot of fun.
5. Courtney Barnett
Courtney’s grunge-pop style translates incredibly well into her live performance. She has a lot of hearty blues embedded into her music that really comes alive in this setting. She was an incredibly spunky treat to see live, and a perfect way to close down the opening night of the festival.
4. Alabama Shakes
If you have yet to see these soulful, classic crooners please do so. Brittany Howard leaves no crowd member unpleased. She is one of the most powerful leads in music if you ask me, and puts every once of herself into her vocals. The new album is also built for live performance, so if you have doubts on it, they will be washed away when you see them live.
3. Kendrick Lamar
A few years ago, we saw Kendrick playing in a tent, using his iPod to play the music for the back beats from his mix tapes. This year, he has a full band on the main stage. Had I not seen him perform almost an identical set a year prior at Pitchfork’s Music Festical, this would certainly be number one on my list. But I am a biased idiot, and wanted to see more from Butterfly, of which he only played three songs from. Lack of Butterfly aside, still an incredible show, lead by one of the better artists of current times, and backed by an incredible band.
2. Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Ruban Nielson continues to surprise me, not only by pumping out an incredible new album himself, but by pulling it off better live than he does in the studio. Minor sound problems aside, this was one of my favorite shows of the weekend, varying from slow, melodic, and troubling love songs, to tunes that you cannot help but dance your ass off too. I am hoping UMO will finally catch on this year, and be thrust into the upper echelon of music acts where they belong.
1. Run the Jewels
Again, some bias’ come into play here, but I cannot deny that thrashing to these jewel runners with three of my best friends was the highlight of my weekend. Killer Mike and El-P perform the hell out of their material with a commanding, yet endearing presence. They thank and love on the crowd after each song, but not without also boasting to be the “greatest f**kin rap group of all time”. Some would not disagree with that statement, I am sure, after seeing them live.
The “just missed our list” list:
Todd – Freddie Gibbs and Madlib
For Freddie Gibbs’ birthday he wanted to do two things: perform for his fans, and get incredibly wasted. He did both of those things, simultaneously, and it could not have turned out better. After nearly finishing a 2/3rds of a bottle of Patron, and a few blunts, this dude could still spit some serious venom. Also, watching Madlib play off of Freddie was weirdly similar to watching jazz musicians play off of each other. If I may; think of Williams/Carter playing off of Davis/Hancock/Shorter, only with a lot more naked chicks floating around the crowd. Yes, you may say it is a bit bold of me to compare Freddie Gibbs and Madlib to arguably the greatest jazz quintet of all time, but I ask you: were you there?