It feels trivial to be talking about a music festival the morning after last night’s horrific massacre in Orlando, the deadliest mass shooting in American history. How do we even begin to spend time recapping sets when all we want to do is weep for the victims of such senseless hatred and scream about gun control?
In many ways, though, being at a place like Bonnaroo when such a maddening tragedy occurs is a much-needed reminder that not everything in the world is scary and vile, that there are plenty of people who radiate love and positivity, who are passionate about filling their lives with beauty and creativity and sharing it so that others can do the same.
So here are some of the highlights from day 3 at Bonnaroo, something to (hopefully) distract you from the horrors of last night by shedding light on some of the good ones, the people who forge a community based on a shared love.
Festival crowds can be hit-or-miss. Watching artists playing in front of a group of people who may be unfamiliar with their music and not necessarily there to see them can either be a disaster or a truly beautiful thing, depending on the quality of the set. And with Anderson East’s afternoon set on Saturday at the This Tent, it was fortunately the latter. Comments like “whoa, this guy’s awesome!” and “wow, I’m glad we decided to check this out” were being tossed around near me in the crowd in between seemingly every song. We at Paste have been fans of East for a long time now, but seeing his contagious live energy in full display took our appreciation to a new level. Despite the 100-degree midday heat, East absolutely tore through favorites like “Find ‘Em, Fool ‘Em and Forget ‘Em,” “Devil in Me” and “Satisfy Me;” his contribution to the Dave Cobb-produced Southern Family, “Learning;” and covers of “Rebel Rebel,” “Stay With Me” and “Knock on Wood.” It was obvious that East and his band were truly enjoying themselves, with the Muscle Shoals-influenced singer spending much of his set dancing, grinning and encouraging his horn section to take extra solos.
The That Tent lineup
While Bonnaroo’s Saturday musical slate was considerably weaker than Friday’s epic round-up, That Tent’s stage consistently shined the brightest throughout the day. Richmond, Virginia belle Natalie Prass kicked off the day with whimsical stage banter and a delectable cover of Anita Baker’s “Caught Up In The Rapture.” The guitars on Beach Fossils’ set started way too loud, but by the third song, That Tent made adjustments and Beach Fossils’ hazy Brooklyn sound rang clean.
The sleeper set of the day came courtesy of The Claypool Lennon Delirium. With a sonic palette not far removed from Sean Lennon & Charlotte Kemp Muhl’s The Ghost of A Saber Tooth Tiger project and Claypool as tight as tight as ever on the bass, the group’s first ever live set was a pleasurable hang and an apt confluence of talent.
Later in the evening, Chance The Rapper joined Miguel on stage as the pair covered Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy,” just before Miguel totally crushed “Quickie” and the That Tent vibe stayed high into Big Grams’ closing set. As tired and predictable as Big Grams’ sets have become (ie: See em once and then move along), the group—which feels as though they were put together for the sole purpose of playing “party-down” festival sets—had the largest crowd-to-stage ratio of the day and the That Tent’s sound and accompanying late night party spilled over well beyond the overhang.—Adrian Spinelli
There were rumors going around on Saturday evening that Justin Timberlake might turn up for Chris Stapleton’s set; that didn’t happen, and it didn’t need to happen. Stapleton can more than hold his own, and his set was one of the highlights of Saturday, with the country artist and his talented band delivering favorites from Traveller, including the title track and a killer rendition of “Tennessee Whiskey,” and a stunning version of “You Are My Sunshine” for which his wife Morgane took the lead and wowed those not yet in the know about her excellent vocal chops.
When Eddie Vedder took a few moments during Pearl Jam’s headlining set to make a few political statements (about Donald Trump and Rep. Susan Lynn, who proposed Tennessee’s hateful bathroom bill), the tragedy at a gay nightclub in Orlando had yet to unfold, and none of us could have anticipated just how relevant his comments would be today, but he made a point—directed at Lynn—that I keep coming back to: “Susan there’s a timeline right? This is the present. You’re [the crowd] all in the present. I can see you’re in present. I am in the present. This is past. And that’s the future is this way. You don’t want to preclude us from getting into the future. I want you to be on the right side of the future. Because this generation, this generation, and the ones to come they’re more tolerant, they’re more understanding, they’re more empathetic of others. And Susan, you can either be part of history or you can be history. These people want you to make the right decision, am I correct?”