For the sixth consecutive year, the
Flyer has sent me to cover the four-day Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee. This is a recap of Saturday's line-up. For a recap of the festival's previous days, click here.
I wasn't terribly impressed with the daytime line-up on Saturday this year, so we'd planned to stay cool from the high-90 degree Tennessee heat at the shaded campsite. But just before bed on Friday night, one of our campsite neighbors informed us that Jason Mraz had been added to Saturday's daytime line-up as a surprise guest. He was playing a 2 p.m. show at That Tent (one of the three smaller performance tents, as opposed to the two main stages).
Now, I'm not a huge Jason Mraz fan, but I do love surprises. So I couldn't resist showing up for a sort of secret show. And I have no regrets about coming out into the heat to catch a few songs. Mraz came out in a tee that said "We're All a Little Gay" and then he opened the show by pretending to lead the crowd into a vinyasa yoga flow. I'd actually just come from a yoga class on the Solar Stage, so this really hit home. We didn't stick around for all of the acoustic soul-rocker's set, but we did catch his breakout hit "You and I Both." Even though Mraz's folk-rap style isn't really my thing, it's very Bonnaroo. And when in Rome ...
We retreated back to our campsite to rest up for Saturday night's line-up, which was definitely the strongest line-up of the weekend — back to back shows by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Ellie Goulding, and Pearl Jam.
Seattle-based hip-hop artists Macklemore & Ryan Lewis took the What Stage (the main stage) at 8 p.m. It was the duo's second 'Roo performance. They first performed here in 2013. Macklemore opened with "Light Tunnels," a catchy rap about Macklemore's experience (and his uneasiness with success) at the 2014 Grammys. From there, he donned a fur coat (in 90-plus degree heat, mind you) and performed his break-out song "Thrift Shop." Unfortunately, only five songs in — just after he wrapped up his pro-same-sex marriage anthem "Same Love" — a unexpected "weather event" forced Macklemore & Ryan Lewis to postpone the rest of their show.
Lightening had been streaking across the sky for most of his set, and apparently, Bonnaroo's organizers ordered all the acts to stop performing until the storm passed. Fest-goers were asked to retreat back to their campsites and sit in their cars until notified.
We left Centeroo (the main festival area) and headed back to the campsite. I was super-bummed because I knew I'd miss the rest of Macklemore's set since Ellie Goulding was scheduled to overlap his. The "storm," by the way, never materialized. Just sprinkles and a little lightening. While we waited it out, we played beer pong with our campsite neighbors.
Once the park reopened, British folktronica artist Ellie Goulding took the Which Stage. Her soft voice was barely audible over the hundreds of voices in the crowd singing along with songs from both her newest album Delirium
(2015) and her older albums, Halcyon
(2012) and Lights
(2010). She ended her energetic (yet strangely quiet) set with "Love Me Like You Do," the song she recorded for the Fifty Shades of Grey
The night's big headliner was '90s Seattle grunge gods Pearl Jam. And they put on what was, perhaps, one of the best shows I've seen at Bonnaroo in my six years covering the fest. I'd half-expected frontman Eddie Vedder to play a bunch of newer songs just to be a dick, but the band played mostly older hits, like "Even Flow," "Daughter," and "Better Man." They also played a rocking cover of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" and ended the night with a cover of Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World." At one point, Vedder called his 12-year-old daughter Olivia onstage. It was her birthday, so he asked the audience to light up their phones and hold them high like so many birthday candles. Olivia made a wish and blew toward the audience, as if she was blowing out birthday candles, and everyone put their phones down in unison. It was one of those magical moments that will go down in Bonnaroo history.
Pearl Jam's set ended with 'Roo's annual Saturday night fireworks show, and then I retired to the campsite. By then, it was at least 2 p.m., since the so-called "weather event" had pushed all the performances back by about an hour.
I've been shooting bands and crowd scenes throughout the weekend, so I'll be posting a slideshow on the Flyer