Bonnaroo Friday Highlights: LCD Soundsystem, Purity Ring Deliver All-Night Dance Party
The 15th anniversary celebration of the Bonnaroo music festival has kicked off in strong form, with 80,000 revelers packing in for stellar performances from Friday headliner LCD Soundsystem, Purity Ring, Kamasi Washington, Tame Impala, Daughter and more, as well as a tremendously good locally-sourced BonnaRoots dinner put on by Oxfam, and a surprise late-night set from comedy psychonaut Ari Shaffir.
Camping: First things first. Beg, lie, do whatever you have to do to get into Guest Camping next year. The atmosphere couldn’t be more different from the main campground, feeling more like a Yosemite getaway as you’re shaded and shielded from the unmerciful heat by the surrounding pines.
I had falsely believed, after seeing Purity Ring at Sasquatch, that singer Megan James may have been lip-synching. This was not the case then, nor was it Friday night as the duo possessed the Other Tent with an ethereal electro-majesty that was highly challenging to walk away from. Meandering through chains of light, Megan captivated with an elfin-ecstasy energy as partner Corin Roddick played his pulsing rhythms on lighted crystal pods resembling futuristic lamps.
Tame Impala are equal parts sigh-psych heroes and immensely frustrating weirdos. Frontman Kevin Parker didn’t wear a scarf, a first in all my times seeing them. But they made up for it by delivering an intensely psychedelic performance, including fan favorites “Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind,” “The Less I Know The Better” and “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards,” among others. Up close, it’s a great time. From a distance, Tame Impala live sounds as if an unlistenable batch of wheezers are being slowly crushed to death. Either way, they ended a full half-hour early, and that’s deep sacrilege to the Bonnaroo masses, who tune their late-night schedules to the playtimes of each band. For shame.
We only caught a bit of M83, but the crowd was fully enchanted within three songs. Cue hysteria during electro-pop anthem “Midnight City,” which alone is worth sticking through the set.
Hotly anticipated Bonnaroo headliners for Friday, it seemed as if LCD Soundsystem could do no wrong. Dancing his way onto the stage and appearing to generally enjoy the hell out of himself, James Murphy led his merrymakers through a headlining performance to a surprisingly loose crowd for the crown performance of the night.
As Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament looked on, undoubtedly weighing up the headliner competition (they’re topping Saturday’s bill), the band tore out a frantic and wildly received version of “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House,” and drowned us in synths during “I Can Change”. LCD kept fans on their toes with a vault through the surrealism of “Losing My Edge,” dishing up the party goods with “Dance Yrself Clean”.
This guy seems a bit confused about his attire. Maybe not. Perhaps he’s looking for the most unique sunburn of ‘Roo. Good luck, dude.
Oxfam’s annual BonnaRoots dinner was a delectable delight with an entirely locally-sourced menu. We chatted with Oxfam creative alliances manager Bob Ferguson and his team as we enjoyed a robust four-course experience ranging from wild mixed greens to Benton’s aged ham, parmesan grits, Benton’s pulled pork and some of the best pies you’ve ever tasted. The Coffee County Cream Pie should be outlawed, it’s too delicious to exist.
Listen to Recommendations: A tent neighbor recommended London imports Daughter, who at first struck me as a bit too tame for the blasting heat of the early day. I took my shots and proceeded to make my way for the exit, until I heard singer Elena Tonra deliver the line “By tomorrow we’ll be lost amongst the leaves, in a wind that chills the skeletons of trees,” from the song “Tomorrow”. I stopped in my tracks, and not because the crowd was all but panting with emotional connectivity in the moment. It struck me like a tuning fork. I stuck around for the rest of the set as a result, a new discovery logged on the fields of ‘Roo, yet again.
Somehow we were conscious enough at 2:30 in the morning to heed the whispers of a secret comedy performance from Ari Shaffir and friends in the Chistmas Barn. We laughed our high-as-hell asses off and, sometime before dawn, headed out into the neon-soaked night and made our way to delirious unconsciousness.
On to Pearl Jam for Saturday!
All photos: Johnny Firecloud