And so it continued, with a crisp slice-of-pie sky and an urgent push for fun by all the Bonnaroo brethren. After draining a few delicious bottles of water and chowing down on a couple breakfast burritos, we were ready to roll into Centeroo for the ultimate show down of sound.
It started off with The Soul Rebels in the vast field at What Stage, the holy brass masters hailing from New Orleans, who, after leading an impromptu Thursday night parade, took our hearts and welcomed us into funkville right out of the gate. It was great to see the second-line inducing brass rollers wreck shop on Bonnaroo’s main stage, proving to the audience that the Crescent City is beaming with ultra-sultry soul. Starting the day off in proper funk form, the band’s organic rush of songs swept the crowd into a dancing, cheering parade that would continue on into the evening and late into the night (Also of note, very few people can make a button-up and tie with cargo shorts look fucking awesome, but be assured, The Soul Rebels can rock it any way they want).
Onward the day went, and artists continued to spin the threads of sound through our ears, sewing and sewing the great and glorious blanket of Bonnaroo commotion. Acts such as The Kooks, tUnE-yArDs, and The Avett Brothers, among many others, all carried the day with their groovy glistening sets, setting us free into the night.
Then things started getting thick and heavy with emotion as Rodrigo y Gabriela and C.U.B.A. dominated our minds at What Stage with whirlwind phantasmagoria guitar licks, surrounded by the rhythmic pool of horns and percussion. This heady Mexicana tour de force was something to behold, and as we reveled with the band in a fury of joy, the curtain of day closed and night was upon us.
THE HEADLINER: RADIOHEAD
Into the depths of the crowd we dug while roadies and tech bro’s climbed wavy ladders and scattered around on the What Stage in quick preparation for the reason for the season, Radiohead. I don’t like to use the word “epic” very often, but when I say this show was epic, I mean it was fucking EPOC. Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood and the rest of the alien-geniuses of Radiohead (including a dual drummer combo for the fresh and tasty King of Limbs tracks) picked us up by our brains and sent us hurdling through the visceral mystics, drenching our ears with one of the greatest live performances of all time. Lasting about two-and-a-half hours and replete with two lengthy encores, the set was a luscious production of light and sound, and even though the schedule allotted the band two hours, at one point Thom told us not to worry about the bass beats forming some other distant stage – we took heed to his advice and continued to run amuck within the climbing walls of our expanding minds, soaked with everything from “15 Step” to the pounding “There, There”, and finally ending with the live monster that always is “Paranoid Android.” Ultimately, the set was the most liberating experience of my twenty-five years, and Radiohead proved, yet again, that they own the musical world. So thank you, gents, for that.
RADIOHEAD FULL SET VIDEO
As if things weren’t weird and wild enough, the night crept on and on with The Word blowing down the house over at The Other Tent, slicing through the heavy thick of darkness with Robert Randolph’s sickly shredding, accompanied by the likes of John Medeski and The North Mississippi Allstars. Later on the same stage a New Orleans-bred party commenced, as Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk double-bass attack took the crowd to the next level with twisting, turning, righteous funkadelics, suggesting that it was due time to surrender our sanity. And the crowd did, along with every crowd in Centeroo, whether at Flying Lotus, Major Lazer, Black Star, or many other performances striking the chords of jolly mania. To end the night, Umphrey’s McGee sounded off with a two-set masterpiece of psychedelics, including a heady rendition of select tracks from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.
To say the least, Friday at Bonnaroo 2012 was incredible, and I’m pretty sure that my soul is going to be wandering around on the What Stage grounds for a long time to come. And as time tends to go, now it’s Saturday, and Charles Bradley (EDITOR NOTE: see photo below from Bradley on Saturday) is about to rock my face off. So, good day to all, and happy Bonnaroo!
**A special thanks to Billy Morgan, Stephen Lovett & Stephen Taylor for sending these photos all day and night from the farm.