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From The Bonnaroo Beacon: “We’re Going To Be Friends”

John Patrick Gatta | June 15, 2014

Photo by Dean Budnick

On some fundamental level, the idea that animates the Bonnaroo Music Festival is connection. Whether flying thousands of miles or driving a few dozen, folks make their pilgrimage to The Farm with the hope of connecting with artists, with audience members and with each other. The beauty of Bonnaroo is that the common ground for this connection is quite broad in scope.

Saturday at Bonnaroo is where you could find soul royalty Bobby Womack, the anthemic punk of the Bouncing Souls, powerhouse rock ‘n’ roll by Drive-By Truckers and Cage the Elephant who mentioned that the members attended their first Bonnaroo 10years ago, slacker funk from Cake who covered Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” joyous pop from GROUPLOVE, soul-enriching blues from Tedeschi Trucks Band and a host of EDM artists including Kaskade, The Glitch Mob, Zedd and the smooth dance sounds of Chromeo.

When headliner Jack White paused during his version of The White Stripes “We’re Going To Be Friends” and commended the audience for singing along and thereby honoring many of his musical forefathers, it only served to reinforce the notion of connection.

The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne, who watched White’s show from the side of the stage and later echoed similar sentiments during his performance, told the Beacon that during the band’s first Bonnaroo performance in 2003 he made a discovery.

“We had misinterpreted—that thing in your mind where you think these people like this sort of music then we should be this sort of way. But once we played here I didn’t think that was true. This idea that people will align their friends with the type of music that they listen to is just ridiculous. Music is like food. If you like it and it’s good to you and if the next person doesn’t like, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t like it. It should be the most free, the most un-opinionated, the most un-judged thing about you. Everybody has a reason why they like the music that they like, and I thought that we should have already evolved past that as people, as musicians, as artists. Being at Bonnaroo, I felt like an idiot. Bonnaroo helped us see that for real, people just accepting it.

“We’re lucky that the more we know about Bonnaroo, the more we can schedule having more fun. Some years, the way things work out we literally pull in and play and then back up and leave. But the fun in Bonnaroo is not just playing, the fun is being here and being around it. So we were lucky yesterday we got to get in and spend the night here, hang around and be with our friends and see bands and talk to groups and get drunk and stuff. That’s one of the luxuries of being successful and having some say over what happens in your life.”

Since that debut show, the Flaming Lips returned to the farm in 2007 and 2010. During their midnight performance, the band, once again, created their own mind-bending, eye-popping universe with a set that incorporated a mix of psychedelic workouts and crowd favorites including “Race for the Prize,” “She Don’t Use Jelly,” “Silver Trembling Hands,” “The W.A.N.D.” and an encore of “Do You Realize” and cover of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”

While the Lips played at the Which Stage, a SuperJam with Skrillex and Friends featuring Big Gigantic took place at This Tent. Special guests included Mickey Hart collaborating on “Fire on the Mountain,” Craig Robinson (his fellow Office mate Ed Hems will perform tomorrow at the Bluegrass SuperJam) showing up after finishing his midnight set to sing a cover of Bill Withers’ “Use Me,” Ms. Lauryn Hill lending her vocals to some Fugees songs, and Damien “Jr Gong” Marley paying tribute to his father (in the early morning hours of Father’s Day). Other participants included Robby Krieger, Janelle Monáe, Umphrey’s McGee’s Joel Cummins and Warpaint.

Earlier in the evening, Lionel Richie caught the wave of love for his timeless hits. Bringing his “All Hits, All Night Long” tour to Bonnaroo, he played many of his biggest solo numbers including “Hello,” “Dancing on the Ceiling, “Say You Say Me,” “Lady” and, of course, “All Night.” He also performed “I’m Easy” and “Brick House” from his days in the Commodores. The set ended with sing-along to his charity single, “We Are the World.”

Bathed in blue lights, Jack White followed him on the What Stage and attacked his set on several fronts with an energetic stage presence and a setlist culled from his two solo albums, his work with the Raconteurs his days in the White Stripes. Over the course of his dynamic performance he also took time to marvel at a paper lantern, decry the music press and above all else, emphasize his own connection with the audience members and his fellow performers including Nick Cave and the Arctic Monkeys.

It’s the embracing of all the possibilities in the music world -- the fun, the loud, the soft, the hook-filled and even the normal -- that makes up Bonnaroo what it is. On Saturday it was just another ordinarily special day.