Yelawolf, Feist among highlights of Bonnaroo’s first daysWritten by Jason Mack | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival built its reputation as a jam band festival, but a rap-heavy opening day on June 7 continued its gradual expansion into other genres.
Danny Brown kicked off the rap for the day at 7 p.m. with inventive (and inappropriate) lyrics such as relating the creatures in “Avatar” to a specific aspect of the male anatomy. Kendrick Lamar also put on a high-energy show, but it was Yelawolf, the act performing between them on This Tent, that stole the show for the day and possibly the entire festival.
Yelawolf is the fastest rapper I’ve ever heard and kept the crowd moving for the entire set. I planned to leave halfway through to check out White Denim but was still at This Tent at 9:30 p.m. with my hands in the air.
Yelawolf is working on his next album after signing with Shady Records, which is fitting since he’s sure to be the biggest white rapper since Eminem. The show only featured one track off the new album, but it was full of original material thanks to tributes and covers. The Doors, Johnny Cash, Metallica and Outkast were all recognized with Yelawolf rapping over “Riders on the Storm,” “Folsom County Blues,” “Master of Puppets” and “Bombs Over Baghdad,” respectively. He followed with a moment of silence and a medley of nearly every Beasties Boys hit in memory of Adam Yauch. It was the best rap set at Bonnaroo since Jay Z performed in 2010.
I stuck to This Tent to close out the night with Alabama Shakes. The big-voiced southern rock of Alabama Shakes was a stark contrast to the three-straight rap shows, but it was the perfect way to end the day. Brittany Howard has one of the most unique voices around today, almost like Tracy Chapman with the power of Aretha Franklin.
Ludacris kept the rap going on Friday, but day two of the festival was dominated by international acts. Rodrigo y Gabriela was already the most instrumentally gifted act ever to grace the stage at Bonnaroo, but it managed to take it up a notch with the addition of the backing band C.U.B.A. The rapid solos from Rodrigo and insane rhythmic techniques on guitar from Gabriela were always more than impressive. However, adding trumpet, drum, piano and bongo solos to the mix took the show to another level.
Foster the People has grown exponentially in showmanship since becoming a radio sensation with the hit “Pumped Up Kicks.” At Lollapalooza last year, the band performed a straightforward set, playing through their set list in T-shirts and jeans. It was good, but nothing compared to their headlining set on Which Stage on Friday night. Mark Foster rocked an all-white suit and showcased dance moves somewhere between Michael Jackson and Mick Jagger as he shuffled across the stage. The British rockers added plenty of stage presence with a giant inflatable character rocking back and forth while at different times paper planes and confetti were launched into the audience.
Feist represented our neighbors up north as the lead-in to Foster the People. After asking if anyone out there was from Canada, she received an overwhelming response and declared, “We have invaded.” If her set is what a Canadian invasion would bring, then I’m all for it. The harmonizing with Mountain Man, her trio of backing vocalists, was spot-on the entire show. Despite knowing most of her tracks by heart, the set was an entirely original experience. She puts a twist on all of her classics, like performing her hit “Mushaboom” with a slower, more industrial feel. I was also amused that she performed my obscure favorite “So Sorry” while ignoring the crowd favorite “1,2,3,4” from the Apple commercial.
Radiohead seemed to be enjoying themselves while playing more than 30 minutes over their two-hour set time. The band touched on everything from 1985 to today including “Idioteque” and “Paranoid Android.” Radiohead even performed several songs off “King of Limbs” with Portishead’s Clive Deamer drumming with Phil Selway. Mix in a crazy light display behind the band, and the set was about all fans could ask for in a late-night show at Bonnaroo.
Not to be outdone, Umphrey’s McGee kept the crowd up with a double set starting at 2 a.m. in their seventh appearance at Bonnaroo.
The first half of the festival was full of energy and diversity, but there is still plenty to look forward to with Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Beach Boys yet to perform.