Bonnaroo Part II: Electric Boogaloo
Chapter 1: Saturday Morning
After three and a half hours of sleep, we woke up to the lovely sound of people chatting and cars driving on the road adjacent to our tent. Saturday would be definitely be our most exciting and energetic day, and it didn’t even start until 1:45 in the afternoon.
With that, we ate breakfast, hung around, and decided that it probably wouldn’t be a horrible idea to take a $7 shower. We got in line and spoke to the dudes behind us and prepared for the hour-long wait to take the legendary Bonnaroo $7 shower. And after a day spent literally walking around in clouds of dirt and dust, it felt ridiculously good. If you go to Bonnaroo, definitely take a shower. You never know how much dirt is collecting on your skin until you see it all wash off beneath you.
At around noon-ish or so, my dad and I headed into Centeroo to catch legendary punk act Bad Brains perform at That Tent, which would be followed immediately by Celtic-punk band Flogging Molly in the same tent.
Chapter 2: Bad Brains and Flogging Molly
Of the many legendary acts at this year’s Bonnaroo (Beach Boys, Alice Cooper, Danzig, Kenny Rogers) the one that I was excited about the most was Bad Brains. I have been listening to them for quite a while, and to finally be able to catch their brand of punk/reggae/metal is something that I absolutely was excited for.
Bad Brains certainly delivered. Lead singer H.R. isn’t as enthusiastic and energetic as he used to be and it seems as though he’s aged 15 years since 2006, but the crowd enjoyed it nonetheless.
Another impressive thing about Bad Brains is how they got away with shredding guitar solos, something that usually isn’t found in punk music. And guitarist Dr. Know still plays them incredibly well. Needless to say, I was stunned by how tight Bad Brains sound, even though they aren’t as young as they used to be.
Unfortunatley, H.R.’s microphone wasn’t loud enough so I couldn’t hear a word he said when he went to talk to the crowd. And if anyone at Bonnaroo had something interesting to say, it was H.R.
Bad Brains played a set that relied pretty heavily on their seminal 1982 debut Bad Brains, which was released 30 years ago. They played quite a few songs from that record including Sailin On, Attitude, Banned in D.C., and the encore performance of Pay to Cum. I was a bit disappointed that Big Takeover wasn’t a part of the setlist, but I survived.
After Bad Brains, the stage was being set up for Flogging Molly. And when they came on, the crowd went nuts. Flogging Molly played a great set with a combination of songs old and new, and they even through in a juiced up cover of Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A Changin’ which was a pleasant surprise.
Flogging Molly was a lot of fun. They put on a fantastic show. “Is it too early to start drinking?” asked singer Dave King. According to the inebriated crowd, it wasn’t. He also gave the one-finger salute (as did most of the audience) to the gentleman holding the Scottish flag.
Flogging Molly played an impressive setlist, featuring songs such as The Likes of You Again, Whistles the Wind, Drunken Lullabies, Saints & Sinners, Requiem For a Dying Song, and the set-closing smash hit Seven Deadly Sins.
Chapter 3: OK, It’s Childish Gambino
One of my favorite rappers to make it big within the last few years is definitely Childish Gambino. His rapid-fire delivery of arrogant jokes and insults should make him annoying, but some how he still comes off as an amazingly likable person. If you have any sort of taste in television, then you know him from NBC’s hidden gem Community, which many Gambino fans love. But he’s just as great on record as he is on screen, and I was thrilled to finally be able to catch him live, considering he’s playing literally every major festival this year.
One of the great things about Gambino live is that he plays his songs with a full band behind him. It really does give the songs more of a genuine feeling, like they’re actually being played, not just getting a dude with a laptop to play the backing tracks.
At around 6:15 or so, the opening vocal track of Outside played over the loudspeakers, thus kicking off a phenomenal 80 minutes of nonstop Gambino. Donald Glover graced the stage with his ominous yet cheerful presence and was greeted by thousands of adoring fans, possibly more than he’s ever seen at a festival. Outside was followed by the second song on his debut album Camp, Fire Fly. Then he played two tracks from his Culdesac mixtape: So Fly and Do Ya Like.
So far, I was having a great time. I was ready to see what Gambino would do next. Apparently the technicians were experiencing difficulties with the screen, so Gambino did the only logical thing: jump into a freestyle. Normally, I listen to a freestyle and think “Pff…that was totally planned.” But this time, it felt like he genuinely had nothing to do but freestyle and he came up with it on the spot. And he is pretty good at it. I’ve always had respect for rappers who can freestyle on a whim and with such confidence.
By the time he was done, everything was fixed and worked properly, so he jumped into Rolling in the Deep (remix) which was followed by one of his biggest hits Freaks and Geeks. And the show just got better and better. Childish Gambino is an amazing performer, and he even threw in a couple new tracks from his upcoming mixtape, including Tell Me, during which he invited Heems from Das Racist to perform with him.
If there is any rapper you catch in the future, let it be Childish Gambino. He is just amazing. And I find it crazy that he seems like he is egotistical, but he is still likable. Someone who Kanye wishes he could be. But yes. See Childish Gambino at some point. He slays.
Setlist: Outside, Fire Fly, So Fly, Do Ya Like, Freestyle, Rolling in the Deep (remix), Freaks and Geeks, Difference/I’m On It, I Be On That, All the Shine, L.E.S., Letter Home, Heartbeat, You See Me, Bonfire, Sunrise, Rack City (remix), We Ain’t Them, Make Amends (with Steve G. Lover), Freaks and Geeks (alternate version with Steve G. Lover), Unnecessary (with Steve G. Lover), Tell Me (with Heems), Lights Turned On
Chapter 4: Dispatch
One of my favorite discoveries of the last year is Dispatch. Yeah I know it’s stereotypical white people music, but they are talented musicians and write catchy songs. So shut up.
Dispatch played the same stage that Gambino played, so we didn’t have to do much moving after Gambino ended. Although I was a bit sad that we wouldn’t be able to catch the whole thing. We wanted a good spot for Red Hot Chili Peppers, so we would have to leave Dispatch 30 minutes early. Regardless, they were a great live band.
The three-piece came on at about 8:30 and kicked things off with Time Served which lead right into the one-two punch of Here We Go and Open Up, both of which I’m glad I got to hear.
Dispatch also broke into songs like Bang Bang, Two Coins, and Melon Bend as well as their most recent song (from their upcoming album Circles Around the Sun) Not Messin‘. Overall, they are a very fun band to watch, at the very least to see all their fans sing every word to every song. Seriously. Every word.
After they finished Melon Bend, we headed out to try and get a good spot for RHCP, a band I’d been listening to for over 10 years.
Chapter 5: They’re Red Hot!
Background info: My dad saw Red Hot Chili Peppers at Lollapalooza 1992, the same year that Pearl Jam, Ice Cube, and Soundgarden played. 20 years later, he takes his son to see Red Hot Chili Peppers. Now back to the story.
Red Hot Chili Peppers are a band that I’ve wanted to see for a long time. And even though they are no longer with John Frusciante, they still sound great and have insane amounts of energy and stage presence.
Chili Peppers kicked things off with a sloppy performance of Monarchy of Roses which didn’t really connect with the audience. I was a little worried that the whole performance would be like this, but they picked it up with Can’t Stop which was followed by their other hits Dani California and Scar Tissue. They went back to their new album I’m With You to play another recent single Look Around. It all sorta went downhilll from their until a little later when it all picked up again.
They went into Throw Away Your Television followed by Charlie, The Adventures of Raindance Maggie, and Right On Time. The energy level wasn’t really high and no one was really familiar with these lesser known songs from their albums. But it all picked up with a surprising performance of If You Have to Ask from their 1991 magnum opus Blood Sugar Sex Magik. After a semi-decent performance of Factory of Faith, they went into a four-song attack of hits: Under the Bridge, Higher Ground, Californication, and the set-closing By the Way.
After a few minutes they came back onstage with a drum/percussion jam that led right into Suck My Kiss followed by Ethiopia and then followed by Give It Away. Afterwards they did a jam that vaguely resembled a song (according to www.setlist.fm it was called Never Is a Long Time) and they left the stage, with a reminder from Flea to support all live music, no matter what genre.
Red Hot Chili Peppers played a pretty great set despite a few setbacks. They’re a fun band to catch and one of those bands where even if you hate them you know all the words to their songs.
Setlist: Monarchy of Roses, Can’t Stop, Dani California, Scar Tissue, Look Around, Throw Away Your Television, Charlie, The Adventures of Raindance Maggie, Right on Time, If You Have to Ask, Factory of Faith, Under the Bridge, Higher Ground, Californication, By the Way ENCORE: Chad & Mauro Jam, Suck My Kiss, Ethiopia, Give It Away, Final Jam (Never Is A Long Time)
Chapter 6: My… Name… Is…. Skrillex
One of the most notorious villains of the dubstep genre is Skrillex. Without a doubt. Everyone either loves him or hates him, and even many fans of dubstep hate him. Why? To be honest, I have no clue whatsoever. Perhaps because he took a genre that was underground and turned it into something popular? I don’t know. But I was ready to end my Saturday night with a late night rager.
We finally made it into the pit (it wasn’t as crowded as I expected) and at about 1:30 AM a 3 minute countdown appeared on the screen which was right behind the space ship DJ deck that Skrillex had used for the past year or so.
At the end of the countdown, the long-haired big-glasses-wearing vodka-drinker appeared and dropped the bass for the hungry ravers below.
As glowsticks rained from the sky and basses were graciously dropped, the crowd lost their collective minds for the reigning king of brostep. He threw in some of his popular songs like Bangarang, Cinema, First of the Year (Equinox), and the show-closing Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites. He even threw in a remix of Sabotage by the Beastie Boys (probably his tribute to MCA) as well as a remix of Bassnectar’s Upside Down and a mashup of Sweet Shop by Doctor P and Bass Cannon by Flux Pavilion. Yeah, I know my stuff.
The crowd was obviously ready for the ruffneck bass, and Skrillex was more than happy to deliver. If you enjoy dubstep and you’re not a snobby douche about it, Skrillex is definitely a show you want to catch.
After Skrillex’s show ended, the sprinkling that washed off the dirty crowd throughout the show turned into pouring rain that lasted well into the morning. All in all, a great show, a great day, and I was ready for a relaxing Sunday to end a perfect weekend.
Click here to read part 1 of Jakob’s Bonnaroo Experience