Covering a festival like Bonnaroo can be difficult to say the least. Aside from the sheer number of acts one digests over the course of the weekend, myriad factors can affect how a performance goes, from the appropriateness of the music to the festival environment to the audience.
One of the biggest influences on the quality of a set can be the attitude of the crowd. I can safely say that after experiencing the crowds at Bonnaroo, I am a little more encouraged about the state and tastes of the music-devouring public at large. Overall, the audiences were attentive and high energy, willing to dance at the first hint of bass or a soaring guitar line, and extending warm welcomes to anyone making high-quality music. It didn’t matter if this was an artist’s first tour or hundredth, whether they’d been in your brain for years or for seconds.
I was surprised by how overwhelming the reception was on opening night for relatively novice acts MGMT, Vampire Weekend and most curiously to me, the experimental post-rock, Battles. The uproar between songs was headliner-level. I think it’s safe to say that the jam-band, hippie stereotypes from early Bonnaroos have greatly diversified their tastes. Even Metallica, the somewhat controversial, probably most perplexing headliner choice, received a warm welcome.
Honestly, the only negative reception I saw was for Kanye West. And deservedly so, as he pushed his set to 2:45AM and requested all other sets end early before his started, since he was premiering some whiz-bang, glow-in-the-dark live experience. He probably should have remembered he wanted to perform his set in the dark, since he didn’t actually hit the stage until 4:30-ish and the sun was coming up by the time the set was underway.
Other than the crowds, the most positive thing at Bonnraoo was the overall average quality of music being produced. While some sets definitely charged me more than others, everyone I heard was good, if not great, tight and was genuinely enjoying playing their music. For a music geek like me, this is nirvana. With those two general points aside, I will attempt to delve into my musical experiences day by day.
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