The final day of Manchester, Tennessee's Bonnaroo festival didn't disappoint, with crowd-pleasing sets by indie-rock supergroup Divine Fits, alt-rock darlings the National, thrift-shopping/tag-popping hip-hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and many more. Less crowd-pleasing? The rainy weather, which probably had a lot of festival-goers wishing they hadn't squandered the last of their pocket money at the henna-tattoo and body-painting booths. D'oh!
But fans weren't going to let anything rain on their rock 'n' roll parade. Good times were still had by all, and listed below are the highlights of a literally thunderous Bonnaroo day four.
It Became Apparent That Kendrick Lamar is Really, Really Popular
I know what you're thinking. Something along the lines of, "Well, DUH." But at Bonnaroo 2012, the rising Compton rapper was playing in a tent. Now, only a year later, he was on the main stage, freestyling for thousands of screaming fans who hung on his every improvised word. "Does anyone wanna get f***ed up with me after the show?" Kendrick asked, rhetorically, as basically everyone in the audience raised their hands. Good thing he had a bigger dressing room this year.
It Became Apparent That Tame Impala Are Also Really, Really Popular
They may not be at a Kendrick-level yet, but judging from the reaction these neo-psychedelic Aussies received in the spilling-over Other Tent, they won't be playing tents for very much longer. With their Nuggety nods to Hendrix and Floyd, their set of psychotropic grooves was immaculately time-capsuled retro-rock that somehow also sounded incredibly current, the perfect bridge between Bonnaroo's hippies and hipsters. And when they played "Elephant," a song that pretty much anyone who owns a TV set must know by now (it's in a Blackberry commercial that seems to be airing on a constant loop these days), the audience absolutely exploded. See you on the main stage next year, boys.
Swans Blew Minds, Eardrums (Mostly Eardrums)
Speaking of things that exploded, let's talk about my poor ear canals for a moment. Recently reunited prog/goth/art-rock noisemongers Swans' set in This Tent was possibly the loudest concert of Bonnaroo 2013, or maybe in Bonnaroo's entire 12-year history. Seriously, they made My Bloody Valentine's body of work sound like one of those Rockabye Baby compilations. I doubt there is any sort of earplug on the market that could've provided any sort of protection from Swans' acute-tinnitus-inducing blast of noise...but let me tell you, the basic foam plugs I purchased at Bonnaroo's general store did NOT do the trick. Michael Gira and company's din could be heard all the way over on the other side of the field, drowning out the set by the decidedly jollier Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros…and it could probably be heard from outer space, too. You know how writing something in all caps makes it seem like you're shouting? Well, it was like all of Swans' songs were written in all caps. THEY WERE REALLY LOUD. It was all so intense, and actually rather awesome, at first...but then it became just too much, and one by one, spectators fled the tent before permanent tinnitus set in. (Warning: Turn the volume down on your computer/device before you play the clip below.)
American Idols Enjoyed the Idyll
It's a good thing Swans weren't playing the same time that "American Idol" Season 10 finalist and Americana rocker Paul McDonald guested with New Orleans indie band the Revivalists on the all-acoustic Solar Stage. If that'd been the case, no one would have heard a note of their cover of the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody," and that would have been a shame. Another "Idol" alum seen on the Bonnaroo scene? Recent runner-up and Nashville regular Kree Harrison, who attended the early-afternoon set by her longtime friend Kacey Musgraves — though she refrained from hopping onstage to join the fun.
David Byrne and St. Vincent Were the Heads of the Bonnaroo Class
The Which Stage concert by venerable Talking Heads/world music pioneer David Byrne and alt-rock chanteuse Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent), who released the collaborative album Love This Giant last year, was so beguilingly, quirkily charming, I'm smiling just typing this. Their adorkable synchronized choreography was compulsively GIFable; their processional Dixieland backing band brought a brassy party vibe to the 'Roo farm; and the two just really seemed to adore each other. But it was especially exciting when they dipped into the Talking Heads' catalog to perform classics like "This Must Be the Place," "Wild Wild Life" (with each of the many band members taking a turn at the mic, just like the colorful characters in the song's 1986 music video), and "Road to Nowhere." But was the line they sang in the Heads' "Burning Down the House" — "we're in for nasty weather" — a bit too prophetic? Possibly...
Tom Petty Reigned Over a Rainy Sunday
Fresh from their New York and Los Angeles residencies at temperature-controlled, intimate indoor clubs, Tom and his esteemed Heartbreakers were back in their element — and in the elements — on Bonnaroo's main stage, rocking out for tens of thousands of adoring fans as Bonnaroo weekend came to a stormy end. How adoring were those fans? Well, when torrential rains starting hammering down on the muddy farm in the middle of only Tom's second song, they didn't flee for cover. Instead, they developed a we're-in-this-together mentality and earnestly sang in the free-fallin' rain to, fittingly, "I Won't Back Down" and "Free Fallin'." It was actually pretty epic. While I was hoping that one of Tom's sunshine-themed songs (like "Into the Great Wide Open," which he didn't play, or "Runnin' Down a Dream," which he eventually did) would appease the rain gods, perhaps the rain was just tears from the rock gods above, weeping with joy over the fact that the Heartbreakers were playing a 19-song, two-hour-plus set filled with classics like "Woman in Love," "Listen to Her Heart," "Rebels," "Refugee," "Don't Come Around Here No More," and "You Wreck Me." And the skies cleared in time for Tom's final encore — and the final song of Bonnaroo 2013 — "American Girl." Bliss.
Could there've been a more fitting end to this all-American fest? I say no. But regardless of who is headlining next year, this American girl, raised on promises, is officially promising to return to Bonnaroo in 2014.
Watch the rebroadcast of Yahoo! Music's Bonnaroo livestream in the player below:
For more Bonnaroo reportage, check out Yahoo! Music's 2013 Summer Music Guide.
- Arts & Entertainment