Concert Review: The Tunes of Bonnaroo!
This year’s Bonnaroo Music and Art’s Festival saw talent booking reportedly return to the hands of promoter and Bonnaroo founders AC Entertainment, with rumors that Mr. Ashley Capps himself was working to make the lineup the best in years for the widest range of attendees. We feel that this year’s lineup did that better than the past several years, but do not just take us at our word; we will let the numbers speak for themselves.
Variety is the Spice of Life
Thanks to Davis Mendoza Darusman over on the Bonnaroo subreddit, we have an excellent breakdown of artists by genre. Taking that and breaking it in to percentages, we can see just how much variety was in the lineup this year. It breaks down like this:
- Indie & pop: 13.89%
- Metal/Alt Rock: 7.41%
- Hip Hop: 12.04%
- Soul, Synth, & Indie Pop: 8.33%
- Jam, Jazz, & Blues: 9.26%
- Electronic & Indietronica: 12.96%
- House, Dubstep, & Bass: 14.81%
- Country, Folk, and Americana: 12.04
- Other: 9.26%
While many older fans may find themselves upset that EDM and its various sub-genres find themselves taking up about 27.77% of the bill, many should find themselves thrilled to see the return of Metal at Bonnaroo, and I think the biggest shocker is the thriving Indie and Pop curation taking over the second-highest percentage spot! Also, with other genres such as Jam and Americana on the upswing, many fans can find themselves satiated by this lineup, especially since Bonnaroo’s addition of The Other, a stage where the vast majority of the electronic artists find themselves relegated to. Not to mention that these percentages don’t cover things like the Who Stage, which plays host to a number of artists from various genres that are on the rise. (Pro tip: if you want to see some of the bands that will be big in five years, drop by this stage so you can say you saw them before they made it.)
Weekend Musical Highlights
With music as varied as the list above, it was impossible to catch every show. Some of the highlights for the weekend from each genre include Catfish and the Bottlemen, All Them Witches, Childish Gambino, Bishop Briggs, the GRiZ Superjam, Sunsquabi, Whipped Cream, and John Prine. All of these bands exude amazing amounts of talent in their respective place and genres, with each show able to merit a concert review all unto itself. Acts such as Gambino can be almost described more as performance art than an actual concert, while Bishop Briggs can move crowds with songs so relatable it sometimes hurts and makes one laugh simultaneously. Whipped Cream has this hypnotic quality to her DJ sets that just makes the crowd move in the most primal ways, while John Prine croons and picks his guitar in such a way as to sway to the human soul itself. Meanwhile, acts such as Catfish and the Bottlemen and All Them Witches simply speak to the pure enjoyment of music and a dedication to their craft that is unsurpassed.
The Superjam at Bonnaroo
As for that Superjam, I do not even know where to begin. Some of the most talented musicians doing it today coming together to celebrate some of the greatest songs the world over. Each and everyone was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will never happen again, and with GRiZ at the helm, the whole event was marvelously orchestrated. If any of these bands come anywhere near your local venues, jump on tickets as quick as you can. Finally, I cannot stress enough the importance of Phish on this lineup. Whether you are a jam fan or not, they are a large part of why this year’s festival was such a success. With their huge following of Phans, two sets, and an otherwise fairly diverse bill, this band set the stage to sell out the festival for the first time in years. While they may not have been the only reason for this, they were definitely a driving force, with many fans sold on tickets by them alone.
Up and Coming, Coming Up!
As we mentioned, Bonnaroo’s Who Stage is the place to be if you want to see some of the bands that will be big names in three to five years. Some of the best of the weekend coming from that stage were Liily, Sego, Friday Pilots Club, and Jared & The Mill. Liily, a four-piece from LA, is an indie rock/punk band for a new generation. With a big emphasis on punching guitar riffs and fast-paced shows, these guys are set to blow the world’s head off in the next few years. Hailing from Utah, Sego is also a four-piece, but with a sound much more akin to Gorillaz, with a certain resonant quality that just screams Billboard fame. Finally, Jared & The Mill invoke the qualities of Americana with lyrics akin to Counting Crows, and background banjos and harmonizing vocals that can mesmerize.
If there is one area Bonnaroo needs to get its act together in regards to the music of the festival, it is its sound quality. Fans have been disappointed for many years by the seeming lack of sound upgrades that the farm has — or hasn’t — made. While pure volume may not be an option with sound ordinances and other legal factors, clarity is an area where the festival juggernaut could definitely afford to spend some dollars. Many fans report sound distortions depending on the type of music coming from certain stages; while volume can be inconsistent at best, with secondary stages appearing louder than the main stage at times. Overall, a festival that happens just outside of the music city still has far too many mixing issues. The festival needs to invest in upgrading its system as well as bringing out the best of the best sound engineers to make sure that every act has the best sound quality possible.