Bonnaroo 2015, Day Two: Royal Blood, Alabama Shakes + More
The 2015 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival began in earnest yesterday (June 12) as the two main stages opened up to help welcome in around 80,000 people to their grounds. The schedule of the day showcased the festival's continued commitment toward eclecticism with an interesting day at each tent. For example, at the This Tent you could have started the day with the howls, growls and yelps of Tanya Tagaq, onto pop legends Tears For Fears, closing with rebel rap duo Run the Jewels.
For every zig, there was a zag; such is the curatorial approach when booking the musical buffet that is Bonnaroo, but there definitely seems to be a method behind the madness. That trademark is one of the major things that keeps people coming back year after year.
Scorching Sun and Rock & Roll
With the marquee hip hop/electronic acts to come toward sundown, Friday -- during the day -- belonged to rock of all kinds from all over the world. Aussie psych outfit King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard kicked things off with their steady, concentric constructions, with a squalling harmonica hanging above the fray.
All of that would have earned you a nap in the shade, but pop-psych band Unknown Mortal Orchestra were not to be missed during their happy hour set. They've continued to open up in the live arena, deviating from more than what's on record, without losing the beautiful hooks and harmonies at the heart of each song.
Shake to the Top
If you're reading a lot of these Bonnaroo recaps across the internet -- and thank you for reading this one -- you'll definitely encounter a lot of people attempting to describe what happened when Alabama Shakes returned to the Farm following their 2012 debut. Frontwoman and all-around force of nature Brittany Howard stalked out from backstage looking like a boxer walking toward a title fight. When she reached the microphone, wearing a fabulous dress that Prince might be proud of, the singer/guitarist looked out at the massive What Stage crowd, awed for a moment, then got straight to business. That business, of course, is blowing people away with her indomitable voice, guitar work and stage presence.
"I never thought we would get here," Howard said as she looked over the sea of people like a queen at her coronation. "I hope to get to know you all a little better tonight."
Simply put, there's no one out there who can do what Howard does night in and out. She's been proving that for years, but now with the big stages and backup singers, she's been given the platform to share her incredible talents.
I Remember Him Before He Was Popular
One of the stories that fans have been tracking ever since Kendrick Lamar started playing shows following the release of the excellent To Pimp a Butterfly is the lack of very many, if any, songs from that album in his live setlist. We don't think we've ever run into such a situation where fans were as disappointed on a mass scale over an artist not playing more new songs.
That said, Lamar's cache of hits is deep enough to justify its own major slot on a festival bill, but Bonnaroo veterans were quick to point out that the setlist wasn't all that different from when he played the same stage during the day in 2013. Last time, it was Lamar and a DJ, this time it was the Compton poet backed by a band and all the light and sound trappings of a headliner.
Lamar has noted that he feels like he still needs to explain To Pimp a Butterfly; what he may not realize, though, is people are more than ready to hear him out. After running through every hit on his debut LP, Lamar seemingly agonized over the prospect of having to fill the time allotted without delving into new material. He did relent toward the end, dropping "I" and "King Kunta" which both, arguably, got the biggest reaction out of the crowd.