Having just returned from Bonnaroo — the annual 4-day music festival held in Manchester, Tennessee — I felt it appropriate to give a review that went beyond bashing Kanye and praising all else. So over the next four days, I’m giving an artist-by-artist roundup of the shows I saw while surrounded by an amalgam of good people, better drugs and the best music lineup of the summer. We continue today with Friday — which gave Metallica its first-ever chance at a Bonnaroo headliner spot.
12:30-1:45pm, Which Stage
DBT aren’t afraid to be cheeky, rootsy or downright Southern — all of which became clear during the last 45 minutes of their day-opening Friday set. Different songs started to melt into each other by the end of the show, but they still proved one of the grittiest acts to grace the Which Stage this year.
2:15-3:45pm, Which Stage
I slept through half of this show, but that shouldn’t take away from Umphrey’s jam band abilities. Outside of Robert Randolph on Sunday, Umphrey proved most able to ride the same rhythm for a good twenty minutes without wearing it out — a talent that keeps them playing festivals like Bonnaroo despite very little recorded material.
5:00-6:30pm, What Stage
Jack White is a demigod at festivals like this, and I have to confess that I’d rather hear him with a full band than just with Meg White — despite knowing much more White Stripes material than Raconteurs material. I wasn’t let down: the grimy riff to “Old Enough,” which I walked in on around 5:45, sounded absolutely epic to the 50,000-strong perched out at Bonnaroo’s main stage on Friday. Other classics like “Steady as She Goes” and “Salute Your Solution” were similarly awesome, so much so that I can’t wait to see the Raconteurs play a full set in August at Lollapalooza.
6:30-8:00pm, Which Stage
There’s nothing more fitting than seeing Willie Nelson on a Bonnaroo stage — accompanied, of course, by about 20 band members doing the work of four or five. But Willie’s paper-thin voice atop an already-quiet band proved barely audible, only completely recognizable during bonafide classics like “On the Road Again” and “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys.”
6:30-8:00pm, That Tent
During her rousing set, M.I.A. joked that this was her last show ever. If indeed it was, she went out with a bang –syncopated gun shots, in fact, during her crowd-pleasing “Paper Planes” finale. But it’s not her last show, and we’re better for it: the accomplished activist/artist can really get her fans hyped, going so far as to invite hordes of people on stage to dance alongside her.
7:45-8:45pm, What Stage
Many scoffed at the intial premise of a comedian headlining this year’s Bonnaroo, but don’t forget that Bonnaroo is also a comedy festival. Chris Rock did well enough as a pregame to Metallica, sliding in topical humor about the election amidst his typical white/black, male/female jokes. He also took a well-aimed shot at the oft-stoned Bonnaroo crowd: “You all should be ashamed of yourselves for taking an antidepressant to see a comedian,” he said. “I am an antidepressant!”
9:00-11:30pm, What Stage
I’ve never been much of a Metallica fan, what with their consistently declining quality of output and their embarrassing campaign against Napster around the turn of the millennium. But I’ll be damned if I didn’t enjoy every second of their 150-minute set — despite only recognizing classics like “Enter Sandman,” “One” and “Seek and Destroy.” James Hetfield proved remarkably down to earth during crowd interaction, Lars Ulrich thrashed on drums and even Kirk Hammet earned his recent spot in Rolling Stone as one of the greatest guitarists of the modern era.
My Morning Jacket
12:00-4:00am, Which Stage
By all measures, My Morning Jacket stole the entirety of Bonnaroo in four short hours. I only caught the first three, but that was enough to see classics like “Magheetah,” “Dancefloors,” “Off the Record” and even a set-closing “One Big Holiday” with special guest Kirk Hammet on guitar. (That closed the first of two sets, mind you.) MMJ also threw in funkadelic covers of Erykah Badu (“Tyrone”), James Brown (“Cold Sweat”) and Kool & the Gang (“Get Down On It”) — but what really clinched the set was the midnight rain that played perfectly into their lights show. And most of Evil Urges — the band’s new disc, which dropped the Tuesday of Bonnaroo week — sounded great live, especially first single “I’m Amazed” and the Prince-tastic “Highly Suspicious.”