Philip’s Top 10 Bonnaroo Moments

Bonnaroo Arch

Before Bonnaroo, I brought you coverage of every single artist on the bill, and pegged my most-anticipated and best bet performers in various categories. During and after Bonnaroo, I brought you a recap of every performer I had the chance to check out (64 performances in total), in my Halftime Report and Saturday and Sunday rundowns.

I guess what I’m saying is, though ‘Roo ended over a week ago, I’m just not quite ready to let go yet (Bonnaroo 2014 rumors post anyone?). To sum things up, ahead one one final headliner review and an interview, both coming throughout the week, I’ve rounded up my Top 10 Moments from the fest. Check them out, and relive a little bit of Bonnaroo ’13 with me, below!


Weird Al Yankovic - Bonnaroo 2013
“Weird Al” Yankovic (via FilmMagic/Bonnaroo)

As I’ve mentioned before, I was a gigantic “Weird Al” fan growing up. I was excited about the funnyman’s set beforehand, but it wasn’t until I actually arrived, and found myself unabashedly singing along with every song, that the wave of nostalgia hit me hard. Yankovic literally bridges the gap between old musical obsessions and new (and I owe him a lot for introducing me to some amazing artists through parody), and seeing the singer perform at midnight at a fest like Bonnaroo was appropriately, well, weird. And awesome. Very, very awesome.


Charli XCX - Bonnaroo 2013
Charli XCX (via Ian Witlen/SPIN)

Before Bonnaroo, I would have considered myself a Charli XCX fan- after, it’s more like fanatic. The young, spunky, British synthpop singer, responsible for Icona Pop’s breakout “I Love It,” worked the stage with equal parts badassery and downright adorable poise and confidence. Opting to perform with a proper band, and flexing her powerful, natural vocals, the singer proved a refreshing contrast to your ordinary, bargain bin, dance pop-co-opting up and comer. Bonus points for her Backstreet Boys cover, despite the fact that she was like 7 in their heyday.


Alanna Royale - Bonnaroo 2013
Alanna Royale (via Jessica Bliss/The Tennesseean)

Though they seemed inexplicably ignored in the fest’s own promotional efforts, Bonnaroo’s club stages boasted some of the most gifted and exciting performers of the entire weekend. Of the bands I caught, standouts included Nashville rhythm & soul badasses Alanna Royale, mathy indie rockers Maps & Atlases, throwback country singer Daniel Romano, wizard rapper LiL iFFy, punk rockers White Lung, party pop group The Mowgli’s, alt-folk sister act von Grey, artsy rap duo Cloney, Nashville folk/country singer Rayland Baxter, and even Paul McCartney’s own son, James McCartney.


Swans - Bonnaroo 2013
Swans (via FilmMagic/Bonnaroo)

For many people, Swans were probably among Bonnaroo’s most-anticipated acts. Those people were clearly in the minority, however, as my joy of witnessing the group’s droning, experimental, noise-rock set was almost eclipsed by my joy of watching the reactions it elicited from the easy to spot, uninitiated faction of the crowd. It’s still a bit unreal to me that Michael Gira and co. are back making music, and the experience of seeing Swans live (and man, was it an experience) was one of the most unforgettable moments of the weekend, bar none. They’re not exactly easy to digest, but to derive such art from chaos, and to conjure such a feeling of satisfaction at reaching a resolution, after a seemingly random and endless build, is a trait few bands possess.


Divine Fits - Bonnaroo 2013
Divine Fits (via FilmMagic/Bonnaroo)

If either Spoon or Wolf Parade, the two projects Divine Fits‘ co-frontmen Britt Daniel and Dan Boeckner are best known for, were on the bill, they would have undoubtedly been on the main stage. As Divine Fits, a relatively new project, they were relegated to a tent stage- an unsurprising decision. What was surprising, however, was just how weak the group’s turnout ended up being. Chalk it up to scheduling conflicts, Sunday fatigue, or ‘Roovians just not getting the memo about the band’s pedigree, but a vast majority of festival-goers missed out on one of the most fun, dynamic, polished, and high-energy sets of the entire weekend. Divine Fits aren’t just a reflection of the sum of their parts- they’re something unique, exciting, and downright amazing all on their own.


Death Grips - Bonnaroo 2013
Death Grips (via FilmMagic/Bonnaroo)

Though Bonnaroo is not a fest historically known for its punk rock pedigree, it has, on occasion, let its punk flag fly. Past performers have included Bad Brains, Rise Against, Dropkick Murphys, Against Me!, and NOFX. The best of this year’s punk offerings included a pretty impressive trio: White LungDeath Grips, and Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls. Canada’s White Lung were the most raw, DIY, straight up punk group at the fest, and gave perhaps the best set of the weekend that nobody watched. Edgy, hip hop-tinged, and downright chaotic, Death Grips brought the spirit and anger of a punk band, without the full-on embodiment of one. Still, they were among my top 5 favorite sets of the year. Frank Turner has long transcended his punk-rooted beginnings, but not its DIY, emotionally charged attitude. The folky singer is one hell of a performer, and a true testament to the value of nonstop touring and building a personal connection with your audience.


Wu-Tang Clan - Bonnaroo 2013
Wu-Tang Clan (via C. Taylor Crothers/Bonnaroo)

Hip hop has been a pretty prevalent part of Bonnaroo’s DNA in recent years, but never has its presence been quite as strong as it was this time around. Between an intense and incredible performance from headliners Wu-Tang Clan, an understated exercise in old school MCing from Killer Mike, a main stage graduation affirmation from Kendrick Lamar, an east coast superstar performance from Nas, and an absolutely no-fucks-given exhibition in hip hop indulgence from Action Bronson, it’s safe to say that the bar for Bonnaroo hip hop going forward has been unreasonably raised. Additional highlights included a DJ set from DJ Jazzy Jeff, the club stage debuts of wizard rapper LiL iFFy and masked duo Cloney, and larger-than-life radio rap sets from A$AP Rocky and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Confirming Bonnaroo’s commitment to hip hop, the inaugural hip hop superjam served as more or less a second Wu-Tang set, featuring ScHoolboy Q, Solange, and more!

3. R. KELLY’S INTRO [Saturday]

R. Kelly - Bonnaroo 2013
R. Kelly (via Ian Witlen/SPIN)

R. Kelly‘s set, or at least what I caught of it, was great. And I mean that unironically. Despite his scandal, ridiculousness, and seeming lack of self-awareness, at his core, Kelly is a fundamentally talented R&B singer and a gifted performer. That’s not why you go to an R. Kelly show, however- it’s all about the spectacle. I heard rumors that the singer would be entering above the stage on a crane and, thankfully, they proved true. After about 30 seconds of “Ignition (Remix)” (a ballsy move to open with your biggest hit), Kelly spent a solid 5 minutes getting down (literally), while the band tried to keep the momentum going, to mixed results. Shortly thereafter, the singer launched into his butt-of-the-joke sing-speak stage banter, asking repeatedly for a towel to wipe his face. I only caught maybe 30 minutes of his performance, but I’m pretty sure he blew through every hit, save for “I Believe I Can Fly,” in near succession. The only thing that could have made R. Kelly’s set even more entertaining would have been an all “Trapped in the Closet” performance, but hey, there’s always next year.


JEFF the Brotherhood - Bonaroo 2013
JEFF the Brotherhood (via FilmMagic/Bonnaroo)

Though this was technically my second Bonnaroo as a Nashville resident, I had literally moved to town days before the fest last year, making this my first ‘Roo where I actually had a clue about the Nashville scene. And Nashville turned up hard this year. Between local rising stars JEFF the Brotherhood, our pals Alanna Royale, fellow Road to Bonnaroo winners Ri¢hie and Ranch Ghost, club stage acts William TylerRayland BaxterJohnnyswim, BeanJonny FritzSIMOStaying for the Weekend and Chris Stapleton, the soulful Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, and country artists Kacey Musgraves and Jason Isbell, Nashville didn’t just have a stronghold on artists- it helped fundamentally lay the framework for the tone of the entire fest. Even John Oates, who showed up for an epic Jim James’ curated superjam, splits his time in Music City. Standout Nashville performances came from JEFF, Alanna, Rayland Baxter, and Kacey Musgraves, who all but stole the show with her captivating, more-than-meets the eye country pop kickoff set on the the fest’s final day.


Paul McCartney - Bonnaroo 2013
Paul McCartney (via Jeff Kravitz/Film Magic/Bonnaroo)

Unsurprisingly, the highlight of my entire Bonnaroo, weekend, month of June, 2013, decade, and, probably, life, was Paul McCartney. The Beatles have long been my favorite band of all time, and I’m a bit ashamed it took me so long to finally see Macca. The legendary performer, even at 70 (and having since turned 71), was beyond incredible. In stark contrast with Tom Petty, McCartney pandered to the crowd, stacking his nearly 3-hour set (which included 3 encores) full of Beatles favorites, including a few that hadn’t been played live until recently, and greatest hits from Wings and his solo career. Paul isn’t just a great performer by legacy or nostalgia, he’s a legitimate powerhouse. He could have played just the new stuff (though I’m glad he didn’t) and still outperformed nearly every other act on the bill by sheer charisma, showmanship, and technical prowess alone. McCartney’s band, who have been with the singer for quite some time, often get overshadowed, but are equally instrumental in contributing to the grandiosity of the singer’s live show. There are very few 3-hour performances that I could imagine watching again immediately, but McCartney could have played for 10 hours and I still would have left wanting more. The only negative of the entire performance, perhaps, was that it took place so early in the festival, leaving every following performance feeling a bit lesser than.

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  1. Pingback: Brett Dennen w/ Kyle Andrews, Alanna Royale, and John & Jacob | Tin Roof | Tonight in Nashville | No Country For New Nashville

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