Small Stage Find: Creature Comfort
Creature Comfort is a noisy, poppy four-piece from Nashville who are reminiscent of Modest Mouse or Death Cab for Cutie but louder than either one. Lead singer Jessey Clark’s lyrics were wry and interesting and stuck out from the noisy power pop, highlighted by lead guitarist Nick Rose’s continually inventive soloing. Dynamic on stage and noisy in all the right ways but backed with a surprising wit, this is definitely a band to keep an eye on. – Bill Foster
Early Afternoon Surprise: The Front Bottoms
The Front Bottoms were a perfect way to kick things into gear on Saturday afternoon. Their whole vibe was the right fit. The music packed a punch, but also they had a sofa on the stage with random dudes hanging out, texting, and crushing Coors Lights. It was pretty chill, but at the same time it was upbeat enough to be a good wake-up set. It was probably the smallest crowd of the day for the What Stage, but man, were they ever rowdy and totally engaged. There was a pretty sizable group of devotees who knew every single word. At the request of the hyped up fans in the pit, before the final song, frontman Brian Sella picked up a Coors Light from the dudes behind him, shotgunned it, and exclaimed, “I feel young!” We all did after that. Cheers, Brian. – Kent Oglesby
Mid-Evening Goodness: Michael Kiwanuka
For veterans of Bonnaroo, the sounds of guitar-heavy music are somewhat fleeting. That’s why it’s important to see artists like Michael Kiwanuka on the lineup. At its soul, Kiwanuka and his incredible band are just that. On occasion, the band takes on a more straightforward rock n’ roll approach, but no matter what style fits the song, they exude a graceful magnetism. It’s what drew people into This Tent in droves and it’s what kept the people dancing from the start. This is the perfect evening festival band, but their sound might translate even better indoors. If they’re anywhere close in the near future, we’ll let you know. – Rusty Odom
Back To The Big Stage: Chance The Rapper
Hip-hop is a genre in which there is a lot of talk about who is the greatest right now, and who is the greatest of all time, and so on. If the metrics for determining who the greatest rapper is have anything to do with the live show, then Chance The Rapper is certainly making a strong case for the greatest in the game right now. Every part of his main stage set was a wow moment. The pyrotechnics elicited “oohs” and “ahhs.” There were blasts of streamers and fog. He went into a four-song segment as a tribute to Kanye West, showing his picture on the screen and covering songs from The Life Of Pablo, which was an incredible move considering Kanye’s checkered history with this festival. If that wasn’t enough, he entered the stage from a dang motor cycle!
More than just a talented lyricist, which he certainly is, Chance is a band leader tasked with keeping the energy level up and making sure every second of the set is entertaining a la James Brown. One of the things that made his show so special was that he also directed the entire audience as though we were part of his choir. It was something truly special, and Lil Chano From 79th was cool enough to make us all a part of it. – Kent Oglesby
The Main Event: Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Not being the biggest Chili Pepper fan in the world, I was unsure what to expect of a band I had somehow never seen before. However, the Chili Peppers won me over from the first note of bassist Flea’s propulsive playing backed by drummer Chad Smith’s muscular groove. Lead singer Anthony Kiedis is still rocking the 1920’s porn ‘stache, still leaping about the stage in a way that should be impossible for a 54-year old man with decades of tough living behind him and still charmingly off-key most of the time. Guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, the baby of the group at 37, was a ball of manic energy, alternating between clean, funky rhythm playing and incredible solo after incredible solo. In fact, the most surprising aspect of this show to me was how much the Pepper’s have in common with the jam bands for which Bonnaroo was founded. A good third of the songs began as improvised, instrumental jams between Flea and Klinghoffer and the band covered the Stooge’s “I Wanna be Your Dog” and Funkadelic’s “What is Soul.” Other than those, the set list was… conventional. The band eschewed everything from their first four albums and surprisingly, “Under the Bridge,” their biggest hit, was written on the set list but was substituted in the moment with – delightfully for me – “Soul to Squeeze,” a popular B-side originally released on the soundtrack for The Coneheads. Drawing heavily from the Frusicante years with a smattering of new material, the band ran through an intimidating array of hits. “By the Way” and “Suck my Kiss” were particular highlights but they also played “By the Way,” “Aeroplane,” “Dani California,” “Scar Tissue,” and “Can’t Stop” before Flea hand stand walked across the stage before the final encore of “Give it Away.” – Bill Foster
Preservation Hall Presents: The Soul Shakedown – A Bonnaroo Superjam
Tired feet and tired legs shuffled into This Tent after a quick regroup from the Chili Peppers’ headlining set. Anyone still on their feet into the AM were rewarded handsomely with one heck of a show by Preservation Hall Jazz Band complete with special guests like Joseph, Margo Price, Jon Batiste, Cherub, Nicole Atkins, and the aforementioned Chance The Rapper. Joseph absolutely belted TLC’s “Waterfalls.” Cherub’s Jason Huber came out for a sped-up, more intense version of “24k Magic” by Bruno Mars. The Superjam ended with Chance the Rapper doing a cover/impression of Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre for a verse of “Gin and Juice,” then closing it out with “Hey Ya” by Outkast. All the guests were great, but the real draw here was the Preservation Hall Jazz Band who really put together a great event. If they’d run the Superjam all night, it looked as though no one in that crowd would’ve slept on Saturday night. – Kent Oglesby
Backup Planet set fire to the Miller Lite Stage early Sunday morning. The Knoxville/Nashville rockers were the first of the weekend (that I heard) to pay tribute to the recent passing of Gregg Allman by performing what might have been the tightest and most entertaining cover of the weekend. With each passing measure of “Whipping Post,” the intensity built until a sun-scorched crowd exploded with a perfect mix of smiles, claps and middle fingers (that’s a good thing in Rock n’ Roll). It’s safe to say that the friends of everyone in attendance are going to get sick of hearing about missing Backup Planet that Sunday afternoon at Bonnaroo. – Rusty Odom