Photos & Words by Stephen Taylor
Saturday at Bonnaroo featured exactly the kind of schedule diversity that the festival has become known for in recent years. Major acts throughout the daytime sets included Nas, Portugal. The Man, Bjork, and Dwight Yoakam. It has been apparent in recent years that Bonnaroo has begun making real efforts to schedule similar acts consecutively on the same stage to reduce foot traffic by festivalgoers. This certainly helps when you are working to save your legs for the kind of late night sets scheduled for Saturday. See below for Saturday highlights.
After only being vaguely familiar with this San Francisco duo, their early Saturday set in That Tent was a pleasant surprise. They are described as “folk-rock” but their set was heavily weighted with newer material that is certainly closer to rock than folk. Singer/guitarist, Adam Stephens, sports a gravelly, Cobain-like snarl (Nirvana’s “Aneurysm” was covered) and drummer, Tyson Vogel, was a commanding presence of the drum-kit.
This Nashville based artist’s recent Merge Records release, Impossible Truth, is one of my favorite records of the year, so I was excited to see him as a late addition to Bonnaroo. Tyler writes striking guitar based compositions that manage to transcend era or genre. His most recent band includes members of other popular Nashville outfits JEFF the Brotherhood (drums) and Natural Child (pedal steel), who beautifully enrich Tyler’s songs. This 50 minute set, which might have been the best music I saw all weekend, was played in the New Music On Tap Lounge, which is a small Miller Lite themed enclave in the vendor area of Centeroo. After a few songs, the small contingent of patrons, who might have just shown up for the beanbags, slowly picked their heads up in awe, which is how I envision many Tyler’s fans are made.
Rock N Soul Superjam
As previously reported, LMB had expectations of greatness for Saturday night’s historic lineup. This group did not disappoint. Things were led off by a precise rendition of Hendrix’s Woodstock performance of the “Star Spangled Banner” by Police Academy star Michael Winslow (“Man of 10,000 Sound Effects”). From there, the group moved through well-rehearsed renditions of songs by The Meters, Curtis Mayfield, Bill Withers, The Band, Rolling Stones, Prince, and Sly and the Family Stone, officially making this unit “The Greatest Wedding Band of All Time”. An early highlight was Mayfield’s, “Move on Up,” which featured alternating verses by Jim James and Bilal and ended with a signature James guitar solo and screaming freak out.
Alabama Shakes singer Brittany Howard performed a moving duet with John Oates of the Sam & Dave classic, “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby.” The funk came in full force when bass legend, Larry Graham, hit the stage about halfway through the set and glided through a series of classic Sly and the Family Stone songs in his signature white suit and hat.
The night’s biggest surprise came when R Kelly made an appearance, following his set on Which Stage, to play two Sam Cooke songs, including a soulful performance of “A Change is Gonna Come.”
In the end, each of the night’s guests, including Billy Idol, returned to the stage for a rendition of Sly and the Family Stone’s “I Want To Take You Higher,” which was a picture-perfect close to this historic collaboration of great artists.
A Change is Gonna Come w/ R Kelly