Friday kicked off with an acoustic set by Dr. Dog — a good start to any day. O&B favorites Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros put on a standout performance that had the entire crowd singing and foot-stomping along to “Home.” Unfortunately, their set was unusually short — clocking in at just over half an hour.
The award for Set of the Weekend would have to go to The National, whose set included such sights as singer Matt Berninger downing a bottle of wine, destroying three mic stands, and jumping into the crowd with the mic cord wrapped around his neck.
As the sun set on Friday, a naked woman danced on the jumbotron, lay down on her back, and proceeded to give birth to Wayne Coyne in his trademark bubble. So began the epic set by the incomparable Flaming Lips. The first hour of their set consisted solely of their own songs, including their rarely performed ’90s hit, “She Don’t Use Jelly.” After a brief intermission, the band started into The Dark Side of the Moon, but by then I was itching to get my groove on to LCD Soundsystem.
James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem sure know how to funk up a crowd. They played favorites like “All My Friends,” “Drunk Girls,” and “Tribulations,” and adroitly worked the Nu-Rave crowd into a sweaty frenzy. At one point, someone decided to disrobe and streak across the stage, eliciting cheers from the crowd and a confused look from Mr. Murphy. Later, the crowd broke out the glowsticks and started tossing them at the band, prompting Murphy to sarcastically remark, “We love it when you throw things at us!” This proved to be a mistake — the combination of heat, alcohol, and other abused substances had blocked the crowd’s ability to understand sarcasm, and the projectiles kept on coming. But by the set-closer, “NY I Love You,” the band’s frustration had subsided, and Friday ended on a positive note.
Saturday — which may have been the hottest day in the history of planet Earth — began with the enchanting Norah Jones. She performed a beautiful set in the mid-day heat while everyone else hunted for shade. Luckily — and just in time for Weezer — a brief shower rolled in and cooled off the masses. The flagging band rocked out to classics like “Buddy Holly” and “The Sweater Song.” With a string of forgettable albums and only a couple of actually good ones, it’s hard not to be lukewarm about present-day Weezer, but I have to admit that they still put on a good show. Even coming from a band whose indie cred was worn out years ago, anything from The Blue Album or Pinkerton is always welcome to most people’s ears.
As the sun went down, Stevie Wonder kicked off what would be five of the most memorable hours of music that Bonnaroo has ever produced. Mr. Wonder rocked out on a Roland AX-synth shoulder synthesizer, piano, and even a harmonica. All the classics were there: “Uptight,” “Superstition,” and even “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” and John Lennon’s “Give Peace A Chance.” The crowd was completely enthralled and showed their love for the legendary musician song after song.
After Stevie’s set, over 60,000 people stayed put to watch another legend take the stage. The self-described “best rapper alive,” Jay-Z proved his worth to the diverse audience. Who else could make a crowd full of hippies lose their shit for two hours, singing along to “Hard Knock Life” and other classics? Jay-Z’s set was flawless, sure to go down as one of the best performances in Bonnaroo history, and opened the floodgates for future hip hop acts to play the festival. It was one of those things where you just had to be there to understand the energy.
Check out the third and final installment of our Bonnaroo recap here.