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Alright (From the Bonnaroo Beacon)

Rob Slater | June 13, 2015

Relix is currently on site at Bonnaroo creating the official festival newspaper, the Bonnaroo Beacon. For more from the paper, check out the official Bonnaroo Tumblr.

photo by Dean Budnick

In “King Kunta,” the smash hit off of Kendrick Lamar’s latest To Pimp a Butterfly, he sings, “Now I run the game, got the whole world talking.” Well, at least last night he had the whole farm talking as the Compton MC captivated the crowd with 75 minutes of melodic, beautiful, poetic hip hop music.

Kendrick Lamar’s latest will surely land him atop the blogosphere’s album of the year list. He has been hailed as the “John Coltrane of Hip Hop” and accolades like that add intrigue and pressure to the live performance, and on Friday Lamar delivered as he methodically moved the very large and eager crowd through his catalog. In the month of June, with the NBA Finals looming large over Bonnaroo and the rest of the sports world, it was Lamar who proved there is only room for one true King this month.

While Lamar repeatedly nodded to his hardcore fans with old tracks like “Swimming Pools (Drank),” “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” and “good kid, m.A.A.d city,” it was newer tunes towards the end of the set like “King Kunta,” “These Walls” and the closing “Alright” which energized the crowd, proving that it is only a matter of time before Lamar takes his rightful spot on the mainstream music throne. Those who were in attendance last year at Bonnaroo couldn’t help but compare the drastic difference between the polarizing Kanye West set and the more relatable and personable Kendrick Lamar performance.

In a lot of ways, Lamar was a catalyst for the day, as he was one in a long line of musicians and acts yesterday that paved their own way up the Bonnaroo ladder. The popular MC performed here previously on the What Stage to a large crowd, which probably earned him a headlining gig last night. But he is also joined by fellow What Stage performers Dawes and Alabama Shakes, who both played yesterday to substantial crowds after paying their dues on the smaller stages.

To start, Dawes was joined by their newest member, Duane Betts, who hails from prestigious Allman Brothers Band lineage. While Betts didn’t perform on the band’s new album All Your Favorite Bands, he has certainly found a home in the live setting as he meshed perfectly with lead guitarist Taylor Goldsmith on a number of new tunes. Goldsmith made sure to note that it was the band’s first time performing on the What Stage, but that they had played the festival several times before. The very appreciative and energetic Los Angeles rockers (with Goldsmith’s The New Basement Tapes songwriting partner Marcus Mumford rocking out side stage) closed their set with the title track from their latest album. The song reads as a love letter to the audience, as Goldsmith described.

“This song is dedicated to each and every one of you,” the Goldsmith said as he closed the set. The tune fittingly has a lyric that says, “May all your favorite bands stay together.”

photo by Dean Budnick

As for the Shakes, they have been bringing the sweet sounds of the Muscle Shoals to the farm for several years, and this was their time to shine on the What Stage. Armed with their new album Sound & Color, the band tore through new cuts like “Don’t Wanna Fight,” much to the delight of the massive crowd.

While bands like Dawes and Alabama Shakes furthered their Bonnaroo pedigree, the day was still chalk full of young acts who could very well be the next in line as a bevy of groups took to the stages earlier in the day. Of note, British garage rock duo Royal Blood wowed the crowd with their unique, downright abrasive and overpowering brand of rock and roll.

“I really can’t wrap my head around how many people came to see us,” frontman Mike Kerr said as he ditched his sunglasses to get a good view of the crowd. “Is everyone sufficiently sweaty?” He asked as the massive Which Stage crowd roared along to tunes from their self-titled record such as lead single “Figure It Out,” “Little Monster” and others. Those waiting in the hot sun didn’t seem to mind as the over-exited Royal Blood fans tossed water and other assorted liquids into the air, possibly cooling off those around them. That was the scene it was for their hour long, standout set. For the duo, it can only go up from here as they will support Foo Fighters this summer on their massive stadium tour.

Also hitting the stage early in the day was Australian psych-pop act King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, building on what notable Aussie psych rockers Tame Impala have established. It’s easy to watch that outfit and see them going onto bigger and better things at Bonnaroo. The same can go for Moon Taxi, who hit the Which Stage armed with a couple of new tunes but plenty of crowd favorites as the Bonnaroo vets continue their climb up the bill. This year, they delivered, closing with a cover of Rage Against the Machine’s “Wake Up” that electrified their very devoted following.

Elsewhere on the farm fans could see new and old faces to Bonnaroo as Guster returned for the first time in eleven years (Adam Gardner joked that the festival had promised to book them every eleven years, and they worked up a new cover of “Come On Eileen” for the occasion), while dream pop duo Sylvan Esso played to a large crowd at The Other Tent. Ben Folds teamed with YMusic, delivering tunes from their collaborative effort and Atmosphere shouted out Eazy-E during their sets.

Late night performances found Deadmau5 captivating a fervid crowd from the What Stage while across the site, Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood reunited for a show that spanned their collaborative career. Earth Wind & Fire brought out Lamar and Chance The Rapper, while STS9 welcomed Maureen Murphy for a cover of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” and “Click Lang Echo.”In addition, Odesza expanded beyond a duo with the addition of a horn section.

All in all, Friday at Bonnaroo was as core to the spirit of the festival as it gets, as those acts who have been percolating over the years finally got their chance in the spotlight. Thankfully, for all in attendance, they proved more than up to the task, leaving everyone radiating positivity and feeling “Alright.”