Friday, June 8, 2012
Matt Jordan from Bonnaroo: Early artists kick-start the fun with strong, spot-on shows
Youaintnopicasso’s Matt Jordan is reporting from Bonnaroo Music Festival for KyForward. The popular annual event, a four-day, multi-stage camping festival on 700-acres in Manchester, Tenn., runs through June 10. Tickets are mostly sold-out, so follow it here with Matt.
Bonnaroo’s Thursday lineup doesn’t use the fest’s two biggest stages, What and Which. Many still use it as a travel day, arriving mid-day or even late into the night. Those who skip out on this half-day miss a huge opportunity: less crowds, an earlier night and tons of great up-and-coming groups.
This year I was able to uncharacteristically drag myself into the main Bonnaroo area (called “Centeroo” by attendees) shortly after it opened at noon. Lines were long but moved quickly. Inside I found that they’d once again played up the carnival aspect of any major festival. There are dozens more food trucks and food vendors this year, more (and better) beer, volleyball areas, and the Ferris wheel and Splash-a-Roo water park are back. Even though we’re all here for the music, it’s great that we can cool down with a trip down a giant water slide.
Large, appreciative crowds greeted bands when they took to the stages mid-day. EMA drew a large crowd, full of people eager to get out of the heat and into a great set. Her powerful dance-pop draws easy parallel with the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Karen O. Her show was a great kick-off, but I moved on to Mariachi El Bronx.
These LA punks-turned-mariachi band lived up to my expectations of their live show: skilled musicians doing a spot-on performance in classic mariachi style with the power of a punk show. Well, maybe a slight exaggeration on that last bit; lead singer Matt Caughthran certainly threw himself into the performance wholeheartedly, but he wasn’t exactly jumping into the crowd. It’s impressive that these guys are able to cross genres over so well.
The sun set just in time to make the hip hop portion of the evening a smash success. Danny Brown and Yelawolf made sure the crowd used every remaining bit of energy during their sets. I don’t think there was a single hip-hop fan at Bonnaroo that wasn’t glued to the This Tent for those two hours. Both sets felt like we were witnessing young talent that would be around for a long, long time.
A quick trip over to the Other Tent for White Denim was a great way to transition between the high energy hip hop acts and the forceful guitar rock that would end the night. This Austin group recently expanded into a four-piece, a move which really helped grow their sound. After a drum malfunction early on, the two guitarists and bassist traded licks in an extended jam until the kit was fixed. You’ve got to hand it to any group that can turn a problem into an opportunity like that.
Alabama Shakes closed out the main portion of the night in a big way. They brought all the success of their hit debut album Boys & Girls to Bonnaroo and drew in what might be the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen in a tent. Right off the bat they had fans cheering and singing along to hits like “Hold On.” It feels great to see a good young band getting the attention they deserve.
For more information about the festival, www.bonnaroo.com