The Festival Beat: Know Your Lineup
Ticketing / Entry:
Stages / Sound:
Food / Beverage:
This is the 4th festival we’ve attended this year where Front Gate Tickets has been the outsourced provider of wrist bands; and the 2nd one where they’ve messed up our shipping. This isn’t Bonnaroo’s fault, but a trip to the Coffee County High School to pick up parking passes, only to have them not scan at the gates is not a great way to start the weekend. Luckily Bonnaroo is way more flexible than FGT and they ended up just letting us park. The one saving grace was the cashless option that FGT provides worked just as well on the farm as it did in downtown Atlanta.
As one of our tribe members said “the food is just as good as the music, and that’s not a dig on the artists.” We had dumplings, roti rolls, chicken masala, more dumplings, candied bacon, cinnamon rolls, more dumplings, Amish donuts, teriyaki rice bowls, and some really great dumplings. Everything we ate was awesome; and conveniently near every stage. The brooers tent offered the best craft beer options we’ve had at any festival since last roo. We really enjoyed the crazy mountain amber and the nu-skool IPA.
The big change this year was that “Other Tent” had been remodeled as “Other” and Bonnaroo did not renew their contract with Kalliope. The new stage looked nothing like the rest of Bonnaroo and that’s totally ok us. Towering screens enveloping the decks were a canvas for some awesome visual accompaniments. These couldn’t distract from the real difference though, which was the sound. The new Other’s sound system was calibrated for dance and bass- allowing us to experience DJs sets in a way we haven’t been able to at roo. Ready for the catch? Music stopped at 3:00am. BOOOOOO! As a croo that values sunrise on the farm this was devastating. Whether it was unknown producers or surprise sets from some of the biggest headliners, Kalliope kept the party going and created this child-like sense of freedom to stay up past your best-time and it was sorely missed this year. We’re signing every online petition and filling out every exit survey we can find to try to bring it back.
Pro-Tip: Old School Hip Hop Party in the Christmas Barn, even if you think you’re not an old school hip hop fan.
Two Feet. Scheduled at one of the smaller stages offered by Bonnaroo, this duo presented a mainstage presence and feel, all to an impressively packed crowd for a Thursday evening. The group’s singer and guitarist almost effortlessly matched the sound of his recorded music live, while his DJ laid down groovy bass lines with impeccable timing. The crowd members familiar with Two Feet all sang along and danced, while new fans listened intently to the innovative songs. My group was a little hesitant to go to their set, expecting them to sound nothing like their released music, but they surprised and pleased every single one of us.
Case Bloom. If you’d told us 15 min into this set we’d end up calling it the worst of Thursday, we’d have been so confused. When he took to the decks the energy was high and the transitions were good. The crowd was moving and wondering why this guy wasn’t on The Other where the sound was made for dance music. Then everything fizzeled out abruptly. This set seemed to get bored of itself and basically became a background playlist of today’s hip hop for people who were waiting in line for merch.
Goldfish. The sun was setting on our very first day on the farm when we gathered to see Goldfish. We were expecting something a little hokey- like nerd DJs who happened to get a following at an anime convention somewhere, but damn were we wrong! As a precursor to all the dirty bass we’d hear at The Other that weekend, Goldfish gave us a squeaky-clean dance set. The duo took turns mixing, playing the keyboard, playing the sax, and blowing our minds. We’ve been humming “1 million views” for a week straight now.
Francis and the Lights. If you didn’t know (cause some of us didn’t) you can start to the far left of The What and Which Stages and make your way into the pit so you can be close. This is a whole-day endeavor if you want to be close for a headliner, but for Francis and the Lights we walked right up. Thank god we did! This man played like he had the most to prove. Exploding across the stage and down the cat-walk with dance moves that looked like the bright flashes of music in “If you see her out;” he made the opener feel like he’d just been called back for an encore. His voice was beautiful and never wavered no matter how physical his performance got. While singing “Like a Dream” he hopped off the stage, past us in the pit, past the sound booth, and into the fields of the main stage running around leading a crowd of festival goers behind him like the pied piper. We weren’t even sad when he sang Chance’s lyrics to May I Have this Dance wrapping up the song as a solo instead of a duet. And then- to top what would have already been the best set of the day, the Mayor of Bonnaroo Chance the rapper joined Francis on stage to act out the inverse of the music video, not saying a word, just having this dance with his friend.
U2. Maybe this would have been better if they weren’t playing Joshua Tree straight through. Not that the album isn’t amazing, it just doesn’t provide the energy we’re looking for from a headliner set at 11pm. Maybe this would have been better if we were deeper in the crowd, reading about it online it sounds like plenty of people enjoyed this set, but they weren’t anywhere near us. The crowd swayed along to the energetic singles U2 started with. But, ironically, by “Running to Stand Still” everyone was standing still. Because time on the farm is so precious we left Bono and his fans at The What stage and enjoyed a nice walk through Center-Roo instead.
Great Good Fine Ok. On the tiniest stages, we found the craziest of sets. Great Good Fine Ok is pop act that is akin to Two Door Cinema Club or Walk the Moon. They create their stage presence by looking like very big personalities but acting like there’s nothing to see here. The lead singer wore a jacket of velvet with patches of sequins that we expect he made himself. The keyboardist who was simultaneously playing the keytar and using the neck to hit keys on his actual keyboard carried songs that balanced a fresh feeling and a glorious 80s throw-back. Turns out these guys have worked with St Lucia and the Chainsmokers. We expect we’ll be seeing them again soon.
Chance the Rapper. Imagine loving a festival so much that you’ve been 4 years in a row. Now imagine you get to headline that festival. All weekend people were celebrating long deserved success of the Mayor of Bonnaroo rocking out to “No Problem” at their campsites, The Other, Snake and Jake’s, The Silent Disco, everywhere! If we weren’t having so much fun, we may have cried during this set. The gospel choir and band made it a praise session where even the non-religious were rejoicing. Chance’s banter with the crowd was so natural, “awkward” he joked as he himself had forgotten to sing the outro to “Same Drugs.” We felt like we were just hanging out with him. We felt like we were watching our friend’s dreams come true. We were losing our voices because music is all we’ve got, so we might as well give it all we got.
DJ Mel. We were oddly excited about this guy. In doing our homework we listened to DJ Mel tracks and sets that were straight up aggressive German techno. How different this set was going to be from the rest of the EDM this weekend… and then it wasn’t different at all. DJ Mel did not play anything authentic to his own sound. He played to the crowd, so he ended up sounding just like everyone else. This isn’t to say DJ Mel did a bad job, he is just bad at Bonnaroo.
The Fest Beat tribe apologizes for not catching the set of anyone they hadn’t seen before on Saturday. Did you find something good? Tell us about it at firstname.lastname@example.org
Crystal Castles. Who would have guess this set would be so metal? Who would have guessed we’d ever use the word metal as an adjective lol. Seriously though, Crystal Castles were insanely good, haunting and hard as the sun was setting on the final day of Bonnaroo. The lead singer’s mic was turned down so that you couldn’t understand the lyrics any better than you can on the albums, featuring her voice as an instrument not a focal point. They blended their sound that has evolved with their most recent album in a way that felt very true to themselves. They left us trying to make comparisons. We came up with things like “Crystal Castles is like if drum and bass were rock” or “Crystal Castles is like if hard rock were electronica.” The fact though, is that Crystal Castles is not like anything.
Dua Lipa. She started off strong with a pop song about how hot she is and then told us she’d been in London earlier that day. We couldn’t believe that based on her energy, clearly Dua Lipa is immune to jet lag. She had everyone in the crowd dancing and participating in minutes. We didn’t even miss Garrix when the string section of her band carried the synth in “Scared to be Lonely.” Her voice sounded better in person than it does on her tracks, it was insane. Our plan was to leave early but she sucked us in and we ended up staying the full set.