Posted Jun 14th, 2015 (4:27 pm) by Staff
Image by Derek Duoba

The grass that was once green and inviting is now sun bleached and the texture of hay. Like Charlie Brown’s friend Pig Pen, all Bonnaroovians are followed by a cloud of dust, kicked up by their own feet as they trudge through the campgrounds. Some pay for a shower. Others shamelessly shampoo themselves at the water fountains. A dedicated few wear the dust and sweat like a badge of honor. I mentally run through the list of artists I’m planning on seeing today as I reluctantly fork over ten dollars for an ice-cold rinse and seven frigid minutes later I am purified, renewed and ready for another filthy day of music.

My hair is still dripping when Sza starts bouncing around on stage with her band, which is predominantly made up of women except for the drummer. As she performs “Hijack” I am surprised at how well she can sing while hopping and spinning about like she is. Chance the Rapper joins her on stage and they press up against each other sensually while duetting “Child’s Play.” She finishes the set with a new song, which she sings beautifully, a cappella.

On my way to Hozier’s set, an older man with fairy wings douses me with iridescent glitter. I subsequently end up spreading this glitter like an infection as I make my way through the crowd to get a good view of the performance. The steel guitar twangs and the back up singers ooh and ahh beautifully throughout “Like Real People Do.” The girls closest to the stage watch unblinkingly, their mouths slightly agape, as Hozier croons from behind a pair of Ray Bans. When the cellist takes a solo in “Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene,” the whole crowd cheers

I can see Jamie XX rummaging through a box of vinyls on the big screen as I follow the sound of his steadybeat grooves to The Other Tent. The bass is so loud that I can feel it in my chest even outside the boundaries of the large tent and the crowd bobs their heads in unison as he smoothly transitions from one song to the next.

Silliness ensues partway through Belle and Sebastian’s feel good set when, at Stuart Murdoch’s request, celebrity and comedian Jon Hamm joins the band on stage to throw gummi bears into Murdoch’s open mouth. While Belle and Sebastian’s music seems mellow in comparison to much of what I’ve heard thus far at Bonnaroo, this moment of spontaneity makes the audience come alive in a way that no other act has been able to accomplish.

Back at The Other Tent, SBTRKT is spinning about wildly between synthesizers, sequencers and drum pads like a mad scientist in a tribal mask. Out of all the electronic producers that have performed this weekend, he is the most exciting to watch because he literally never stops moving. In addition, the vocalist who sings Sampha’s parts in “Hold On,” and a few other tracks, absolutely kills it with his seductive vocals and magnetic presence.

The crowd that has gathered for Childish Gambino spills out into the streets of Centeroo, indicating that the Bonnaroo team may have underestimated his popularity and would’ve been better off booking him for one of the bigger stages. Gambino does not disappoint the overflowing crowd. His voice flows effortlessly through complex rap verses and delicate falsetto melodies and he seems to have a never-ending supply of energy. Ever the comedian, Gambino jokes with the audience by asking “Are you as high as I am?!” and the crowd roars in confirmation.

Against my will, I am swept up in the sea of bodies headed towards the What Stage for Mumford and Sons. The crowd becomes more and more impenetrable as groups of strangers begin to band together to defend territories, booing anyone who tries to slip through their herd. However, this aggression doesn’t last long. Once Mumford and Sons takes the stage, the prevailing friendliness of Bonnaroo returns and the entire crowd sings “I Will Wait” in unison.

As the festival stretches into the wee hours, electronic music takes over the night with performances by Tycho, Bassnectar and Flume. While Tycho’s set is undeniably solid, the producer doesn’t have much in the way of chemistry with his audience or the other musicians on stage.

Bassnectar, in comparison, knows exactly how to work the mob gathered in his honor. A conversation of sorts begins to take shape as the audience learns to respond as a single entity by throwing thousands of glow sticks into the air with each bass drop. When he starts spinning a heavy new remix of Purity Ring’s “Flood on the Floor,” everyone collectively loses their minds.

Flume also succeeds in giving the audience exactly what they want by playing favorites such as “Sleepless,” back to back with new remixes and original tracks.

Around 3am, the dust begins to settle as festival-goers gradually make their way back to their campsites to surrender to one last sleepless night on the farm. As I reflect on the variety of experiences I’ve had here at Bonnaroo, it’s hard to believe that it’s only been three days.

Words by Addie Provost
Photos by Derek Duoba

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