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Saturday started off with a treat for the press members on hand to cover the festival. The Punch Brothers performed a short, intimate set in the press tent. I had never seen the group before, and as far as introductions to a band go, you can’t do much better than having them perform in the middle of the room for you and a couple dozen other people. Their upbeat bluegrass songs were a great start to the day.
Bonnaroo’s third day offered me my first chance to see the goofball hip hop trio Das Racist. It’s apparent to anyone who listens to them that they don’t take themselves too seriously, a trait that went far to make their live show a blast. They bounced around, swapped verses and kept the crowd involved to the very end. It’s amazing how far being an energetic hip hop artist with a good attitude can get you. These guys were a joy to watch.
Puscifer had such an intricate stage set-up that the group took the stage over 20 minutes after their scheduled start time. This project from Tool/A Perfect Circle founder Maynard James Keenan is a lot less serious than his more famous groups. For starters, when they did finally take the stage, all of Puscifer’s members wore airline pilot outfits. Between the first and second song Maynard pushed around a beverage cart and threw airline peanuts into the crowd. It would have been pretty silly if not for the otherwise very solid show. Turns out if you get a lot of talented people in one band, they can afford to goof off in some minor ways and still sound great.
I first cauht Childish Gambino live last year at Bonnaroo 2011. Back then I was surprised how much his online success translated into real world success. He had fans going absolutely insane, singing along to every word. This year I was less surprised at the fervor of his fans and more surprised at how good he’s become at live performances. He’s filled out his band with several new members, adding with that a fuller sound that seemed to give him a lot of confidence. He could have been happy with the level of success he had last year, but it’s clear Gambino’s going to keep improving himself year after year.
Is there a better live band on the planet than the Roots? I truly doubt it. The Philly collective took the stage and paid their respects to recently deceased musicians Adam “MCA” Yauch of the Beastie Boys and Chuck Brown. They then launched into an absolutely perfect cover of the Beastie’s “Paul Revere.” It was one of those rare moments that was both emotionally touching and absolutely exciting. From there the group ran through a great set that had to fulfill both the rock and hip hop lovers in the audience.
When you’re a band with as much success as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, it can be easy to start phoning it in. The temptation to see a show like Bonnaroo as a (giant) paycheck must be enormous. But however large that temptation, I’ve got to give credit to the Peppers for playing like they had to win over the thousands gathered to watch them. Each member certainly got their cardio in, darting around the stage with energy that would shame most younger bands at the fest.
Even if you weren’t a fan of the Chili Peppers going into this show, I have a hard time believing that you wouldn’t come out of it at least a little impressed.
This year we had an extra special event at Bonnaroo, a Super Jam curated by ?uestlove of the Roots. ?uestlove is widely known for his large group of friends and collaborators (Jay Z, Erykah Badu, Prince) so there was no telling who he would recruit for the event. As expected, he brought in a wide range of musicians. He had members of P Funk, The Time, The Roots and special guest D’angelo. The group have worked together on various projects, ?uestlove explained, and love to jam on some of their favorites. They did just that on Saturday night, knocking out great versions of Funkadelic’s “Hit It And Quit It,” Led Zeppelin’s “What Is And What Should Never Be,” and several more.
For most the night ended with Skrillex’s massive performance on the Which stage. His live show consists of him in the cockpit of an intersteller fighter plane with crazy lights and projections. His music isn’t for everyone, but there were enough interested parties to fill up the crowd to a level which I haven’t seen in years and year. So far Skrillex at 2am had a bigger crowd than anyone except the headliners — that’s no small feat at a festival as busy as Bonnaroo.
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