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Posted Jun 13th, 2015 (3:06 pm) by Staff
Image by Derek Duoba

By the second day of Bonnaroo, I've started to assimilate the map in my hands with the map in my head. Stages, fountains, and graffiti as well as certain trees have become vital landmarks and I no longer feel lost in the sea of strange sights and sounds. This is a very important development as I've got nine bands to see within the next six hours and being able to navigate quickly from This Tent to What Stage and back again is vital.

First up is the punk rock group Against Me!. When frontwoman Laura Jane Grace takes the stage, she is welcomed warmly by an audience of adoring and supporting friends. It's the most affection I've ever seen from a bunch of punk kids, even if most of them proceeded to enjoy the show standing still with their arms crossed. They start with the 2010 classic, "I Was A Teenage Anarchist," and the chemistry between the band members is undeniable. At some point, I accidentally end up in the mosh pit and commit myself to having a head-banging good time. Some brain cells are definitely lost during "True Trans Soul Rebel" but it's totally worth it to tap into LJG's frantic energy.

Next, I head towards something completely different, Glasgow producer and DJ Rustie. As I arrive, Rustie already has the crowd enthusiastically clapping out the four on the floor dance beat of "Up Down." The song builds and the tension rises but at the exact moment that the drop is meant to kick in, Rustie accidentally turns the sound off and the whole crowd holds their breath through a few moments of unresolved and slightly awkward silence. But, like a professional, Rustie gets the show back on track and with a "Bonnaroo! Clap your hands!" all is forgiven. By the time he started spinning his remix of Jack U's "Where Are U Now," the technical difficulty was completely forgotten.

The quirky and awesome indie pop duo Sylvan Esso is next up and nothing could possibly prepare me for how much I was going to love this set. Singer Amelia Meath is an absolute queen on stage, busting out sweet dance moves left and right while strutting across the stage on pink, sparkly, platform, hi-top basketball sneakers. As the set progresses, the crowd grows and grows and I hear more than one attendee make a comment about how funny and awesome Amelia is to see live. This point can not be exaggerated enough. Amelia and producer Nick Sanborn are having the time of their lives and the spark between them is infectious. Before performing "Moon Rise," Amelia gives the audience a bit of advice. "I do this thing where I seduce myself in the mirror. It's really awesome. You should all try it," and then she shows us how it's done. The crowd eats it up and everyone sings along when the lyric "I woke up like this," comes around.

Feeling light as air and slightly more in love with myself than before thanks to Sylvan Esso's awesome set, I walk across the fairgrounds to see Atmosphere. The Minnesotan hip-hop group is a harsh contrast to Sylvan Esso's feel-good vibes. Rapper, Slug, lets us know right off the bat that they "want to be your new shitty friends," and while I appreciate the honesty I can't get down with being referred to repeatedly as an "ugly motherf*cker." An audience member close to me begins to throw up in the grass and I make the decision to head towards greener pastures.

The first artist I have the pleasure of seeing at Bonnaroo's biggest stage, the What Stage, is the millennial rap star Kendrick Lamar. Before he even takes the stage, a sea of glowing smart phones rise into the air like a bunch of lighters at Woodstock. The set begins with "Money Trees" and it seems like everyone in this crowd knows the lyrics except for me, but it's exciting to be immersed in a choir of enthusiastic fans. Lamar's fusion of hip hop and rock has us all pumped up and I'm surprised that he feels the need to request that we cheer louder before each song. Even odder, as we sink into "B*tch Don't Kill My Vibe," a single chinese lantern rises up into the night sky.

My favorite hip hop act of the night goes to Run the Jewels. When the duo takes the stage, Killer Mike shouts "We're Run the Jewels and we came to f*ck things up!" and the crowd erupts. Swinging gold chains and jewels around in classic hip-hop tradition, Killer Mike and El-P deliver an unforgettable rap performance, despite the fact that the former has his arm in a sling. The set really begins to kick in when they perform "Blockbuster Night Part 1" and it becomes clear that RTJ is at their absolute best in a live setting.

The sound of several thousand pairs of feet trudging through empty water bottles and crushed solo cups fills the air as I and many others rush back to the What Stage to see Deadmau5. There are a handful of homemade mouse helmets sprinkled throughout the massive crowd and some are lucky enough to appear on the big screen for a brief moment. A giant metal sphere structure is in the middle of the stage and Deadmau5 performs from within the geometric frame. After a gradually evolving and lengthy intro, the Canadian producer's famous progressive-house music kicks in and spurs the audience into motion. The mass of bouncing bodies moves in ripples and waves like water. Everyone begins throwing glowsticks around as "You There?" rings through the fairgrounds.

Flying Lotus and Odezsa are performing at the same time but fortunately I am able to catch a portion of each of their sets. Odesza performs more like a group of engineers than musicians (not that I'm surprised) and their set is void of any surprises. I find myself more entertained by the crowd thats gathered, which seems to be mostly young'ns on acid with LED flow toys. Flying Lotus treats the crowd by bringing Chance the Rapper onstage for "Ready Err Not," and when he tries to end his set the audience adamantly demands an encore. Gracious as always, FlyLo plays for another 20-30 minutes and I can't possibly be more pleased.

With a satisfied and sleepy grin on my face, I autopilot my way back to the campsite thinking about how the toll my body is taking this weekend is directly proportionate to the pleasure my musical spirit is receiving. Two days down and two more to go.

Words by Addie Provost
Photos by Derek Duoba

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