Posted Jun 12th, 2015 (4:24 pm) by Staff
Image by Derek Duoba

I’m covered in a layer of sludge as I approach the neon gates to Centeroo, the central area of Bonnaroo that is home to the stages and vendors that make the annual Tennessee music festival a national favorite. This combination of dust, sweat and sunscreen that coats all Bonnaroovians as we stand in the direct sunlight is almost unbearable, and the line of music lovers shares a collective sigh of relief as a rare breeze blows across the fairgrounds. I’m beginning to wonder if I would rather hang out in one of the campground hammocks, hugging a frozen water bottle, for the rest of the evening instead of running from stage to stage in the sweltering heat but as I finally pass through security and enter the inner city of Centeroo I am overwhelmed with a child-like awe.

After taking a moment to gaze upon the kaleidoscope light show of a ferris wheel located next to That Tent (not to be confused with This Tent or The Other Tent) I make a bee-line to my first act of the night, pop princess Ryn Weaver. I elbow my way into the center of the crowd right as Ryn takes the stage and it quickly becomes clear that even my best maneuverings will not get me as close as I’d like to be to enjoy the show. So I settle for a position behind a tall, but not the tallest, group of glitter covered dudes and give in to the music. I am immediately dazzled by Ryn Weaver’s amazing voice and energetic stage persona. She is a hair-flipping, hip-shaking queen who hits every pitch perfectly, effortlessly infusing each lyric with genuine emotion. As unbelievable as it seems, she sounds better live than on any of her recordings. She sings hits from her debut album The Fool (set to drop on the 16th), including “The Fool” and “Promises,” as well as a short, heartfelt performance dedicated to her grandfather. An ASL interpreter rocks out at the front of the stage throughout and the white girls go wild as Ryn finishes the set with her popular single, “Octahate.”

Next up is Glass Animals, and at this point I’ve realized that my press-specific wristband has special powers; mainly the ability to get me back stage. The psych-rock group, Temples, is finishing up as a kind bouncer in a pink t-shirt grants me access to the press area and the crowd grows as the Glass Animals setup is thrown together at astonishing speed. Fans cling to the front rails, refusing to give up their spots to newcomers. The audience woo’s periodically, but no “woo” compares to the “woo” that resonates throughout the fairground as Glass Animals finally takes the stage. The set begins and I am immersed in smooth, sexy grooves. Lead singer Dave Bayley has a ton of energy and definitely knows how to work the crowd. Beach balls and balloons bounce across the crowd as Glass Animals performs “Psylla.” Throughout the next few songs, Bayley and bass player Edmund Irwin-Singer take turns rocking the tambourine. The crowd loves it. Maybe the jangly instrument is making a comeback.

I have to ditch the act early in order to rush over to the Who Stage to catch Rubblebucket. It’s small in comparison to the What and Which stages and provides an intimate atmosphere to enjoy the colorful and flamboyant indie-dance band. Dedicated fans press as close to the stage as they can, some donning painted undercuts in the style of Rubblebucket frontwoman Annakalmia Traver’s colorful hairdo. As the show begins, it’s easy to see why Rubblebucket has cultivated such a devoted fan base. Traver continuously interacts with her audience, shouting commands like “Everybody shake it out!” and “Can you guys jump up and down for me?” The crowd obeys and Traver remarks on the beauty of the moment before she picks up her saxophone and jams out. The performance is unpolished, unapologetic and organic and has the vibe of an impromptu show for friends. I’m easily having the most fun bouncing around with this crowd and while I’d like to stay for the remainder of the set I’ve got to run if I have any hopes of catching Tove Lo. Traver shouts into the mic “Are we feeling silly?” as I depart and judging by the audience’s reaction, they are indeed feeling quite silly.

I am not mentally prepared for the massive crowd that has gathered for Tove Lo and it feels like I’ll never get to the press area as I bob and weave through the sweaty bodies. I am seriously struggling to understand why anyone would think it’s a good idea to lay down within this hoard of drunk and drugged out festies and I do my best to avoid stepping on anyone’s head but I definitely feel a couple fingers under my sandals as I rush towards the stage. Tove Lo’s set is so populated that they are turning away journalist and photographers when I finally make it to the press pit. Luckily, I manage to secure myself a satisfactory position to the side of the stage. Tove Lo gives an endearing performance, like a young girl performing in front of her bedroom mirror, and the audience lovingly reflects her songs back to her, word for word. Indeed, the whole set seems incredibly PG until Tove Lo begins to tease the crowd by playfully slipping her iridescent tank straps off of her shoulders. The audience roars in encouragement and then BAM! Tove Lo shocks us all with a quick flash of her breasts and the crowd explodes in screams of delight. I am overwhelmed with joy to see Tove Lo bring the #FreeTheNipple campaign to life amidst delicious electo-pop tunes and for the first time tonight I stop being a journalist and dance my little heart out.

Feeling rejuvenated and empowered, I make my way to the last act on my list of must-sees for the night, the DJ, producer and musician Gramatik. As expected, the fusion of dubstep, hip-hop, jazz and blues is unlike any other musical act at Bonnaroo. Electric guitar and saxophone modified with effects pedals shred live over Gramatik’s filthy beats and make it absolutely impossible to stand still. It’s easily my favorite performance thus far and I can’t help but wish that everyone I love could be here with me to enjoy the amazing level of musicianship on stage. Just when I think it can’t get any better, Gramatik surprises the crowd with a cover of Prince’s “Kiss.” It’s this moment that I decide on the first band t-shirt I want to splurge on this weekend.

Eventually, Day 1 at Bonnaroo begins to wind down and my tired and filthy feet carry me back to my campsite. Images of LED hoops and laser light shows are burned into my retinas and I can still feel the collective energy of 100,000 ecstatic music fans in my veins. Yet I have no problem falling into a deep slumber as soon as my head hits the pillow. Good thing, too, because my schedule for tomorrow is even crazier and I’m going to need all the rest I can to endure another day of running from stage to stage in the hot Tennessee sun.

Words by Addie Provost
Photos by Derek Duoba

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