Bianca Phillips Takes Bonnaroo

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Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! performing at Bonnaroo. - BIANCA PHILLIPS
  • Bianca Phillips
  • Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! performing at Bonnaroo.
We weren't going to let the biggest music festival in Tennessee slip between our fingers! Long time 'Roo fan Bianca Phillips gives us the details. -Chris Shaw.

Bonnaroo Recap, Thursday and Friday:

The 13th annual Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival is underway in Manchester, Tennessee, and about 80,000 people from all over the world have descended on the rural town to see a bevy of musical acts spanning multiple genres — rock, rap, folk, punk, EDM, etc. 

We got a bit of a late start leaving Memphis on Thursday morning, so we didn’t arrive to Manchester until about 3:30 p.m. After setting up camp, we’d already missed several acts, including the teen thrash metal act, Unlocking the Truth. We’d never heard them, but the premise was intriguing. By the time we ventured into Centeroo, the festival’s main grounds with five large stages and a number of smaller performance tents, we were just in time for indie rockers Glass Animals. But the sound was off, and from our spot just outside their stage at The Other Tent (Stages at Bonnaroo are named This, That, Other, Which, and What), all we could hear was the bass. We wandered around Centeroo, but failed to find anything else that held our attention.

Bonnaroo has taken some flack this year for its weak line-up, and Thursday’s lack of big-name acts made for, perhaps, the worst opening day since the Flyer began covering Bonnaroo six years ago. At least, that’s my opinion anyway. Friday had more on offer though, including a guest appearance by 1980s teen actor Corey Feldman. This is the 30th anniversary of The Goonies, and they were screening the film in the air-conditioned Cinema Tent, where cult classics and newer films are shown all weekend.

Feldman was there for an audience Q&A, and while we missed that, we did arrive just in time for a performance by Feldman’s weird ‘90s band, Corey Feldman and the Angels. The lyrics sounded like they’d been written by a 15-year-old, and Feldman admitted that, in fact, some of the songs were written when he was a kid. He was backed by some scantily clad ladies in angel wings. Next up was anarcho-punk band Against Me! I was most excited to see them perform because lead singer Laura Jane Grace recently transitioned, and she’s become quite the role model for trans teens. The last time I saw them at the Hi-Tone, the band’s lead singer had not yet made her transition and was performing as a man. But at Bonnaroo, Grace seemed to have come into her own. She commanded the stage and brought an amazing amount of energy to my personal favorite Against Me! Song, “I Was a Teenage Anarchist” (It’s my favorite because I, too, was a teenage anarchist).

Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes at Bonnaroo 2015. - BIANCA PHILLIPS
  • Bianca Phillips
  • Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes at Bonnaroo 2015.

The Alabama Shakes rocked it out on Roo’s largest main stage, the What Stage. The roots band’s lead singer Brittany Howard led the band through a powerful set that made me realize that I should really give the band another listen. I’d dismissed them as “just another band that hipsters like.” But I think they may actually be pretty good. Compton-based hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar tore it up late into the night. As he made his entrance, the bass from his speakers literally made my ears vibrate, and I could feel my nose hairs move. Seriously. I’ve never considered wearing ear plugs at these events until Lamar’s energetic set.

The night closed out with glowsticks and LED hula-hoops shimmering all over Centeroo’s grounds as headliner Deadmau5 played his chilled-out style of progressive house music. We expected the set to have a little more energy, but that’s only because, in the past few years, Bonnaroo has boasted a heavy dubstep line-up. Deadmau5’s music is more trance-y and laid back. But that didn’t keep the people from dancing. And once Deadmau5’s hour-and-a-half set was over, the raving festival-goers just kept dancing since the EDM lasted until about 4 a.m. last night with sets from Odesza and STS9. I caught a few minutes of each of those performances and called it a night though since we have to do it all again today. I’ll write about what Saturday had to offer in the next recap.


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