Features /// Best of Bonnaroo

unnamed“You never know what can happen when you don’t have something better to do,” said Jack White to his large audience Saturday night at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival. He was recounting a story about when a friend in Detroit called him up to help write a song that, as it so happened, ended up being a little diddy called, “Steady as She Goes” by The Raconteurs. White said that he agreed because he simply did not have ‘something better to do.’

Apparently tens of thousands of people did not have something better to do than spend four sweaty, dusty, dirty days at the farm in Manchester which resulted in a long, whirlwind weekend of magical music. I myself have been to many a music festival, but this was my first Bonnaroo experience and I must say, I was entirely blown away. Mostly because even though we departed the farm in the wee hours every night, I woke up with enthusiasm to return to the dehydrated, exhausted state of being in the name of love for music. Now that I’ve had a couple days to regroup and reflect, here are some of my favorite moments from the music marathon of Bonnaroo 2014.

Support the Locals:: Being that the fest takes place not far from Nashville, it was refreshing to see a lot of familiar locals on the bill and have decent size crowds to boot. Thursday kicked off the weekend with Bully, The Wild Feathers, Foreign Fields, and The Weeks..and that was just day one! Word on the farm is that a talent scout for Conan was perusing new acts to feature on the popular show, so fingers crossed he/she favorites one of our own.

Champagne Showers:: The Nashville electro-pop duo, Cherub, started a party Thursday night to a slammed crowd, all bursting with energy and not worried about depleting their supply the first night. The boys begin a tour in the fall called “Champagne Showers” which is quite appropriate considering at the end of their set they popped champagne to their hit ‘Doses & Mimosas’…ruining some camera equipment…but hey–champagne! I also overheard a girl ask her friend, “So doses means like, cocaine, right?”

unnamed-1Riot in the Tap Lounge:: “I have soft dicks bigger than this stage,” vocalist Mario Cuomo lamented with a laugh before the start of The Orwells riotous set at the tiny New Music Tap Lounge. The tent was overtaken about 5 minutes into their set with kids climbing the light rail and nearly knocking over a speaker before the one security guy jumped in to hold it up. I ended up behind the stage with a photographer who surely got some great shots of the boys rocking out in what was a true highlight and beacon of hope that the kids still care about real rock ‘n’ roll. Did I mention these guys are teenagers?!

“Where the Press at?!”:: It should come as no surprise that Kanye West is on this list–love him or hate him, he sure can draw attention and curiosity to even the most skeptical festival goer. Even the troupe who carried around a megaphone shouting “Fuck Kanye!” hours before the hip hop star took the stage didn’t hinder the amount of people who gathered early and eager to the main stage Friday night. Although West went on his rant of an explanation about his controversial 2008 appearance at Bonnaroo calling out the press, he delivered several positive messages in between his two hour satisfying setlist. “If you’re a fan of me, you’re a fan of your motherfuckin’ self. You can go out and do anything.” Still on the conceited side of things, but it IS Kanye.

Perfect Setlist:: Jack White, on the other hand, kept the ego in check and ranting to a minimum with only one comment calling out Rolling Stone as a tabloid. Longtime White fans were in for a treat because the setlist catered to Stripes, Raconteurs, and Dead Weather fans alike while entertaining with new songs from Lazarretto and previous album Blunderbuss. His large onstage band was made up of different characters including a striking raven-haired beauty who I’m pretty sure played three different instruments. He performed for two and half hours, calling out songs, musing about aliens, and being more than engaging with the audience. Closing out with ‘Seven Nation Army’ a little before 1 AM was just the icing on cake.

Arctic Dream:: This is not necessarily a thoughtful review of the Arctic Monkeys set Saturday afternoon, (which was ahh-mazing by the way–the new album AM is my favorite to date), but what happened after the Brits left the stage. Somewhere between trying to find means of hydration and the difference between the What and Which stage, there he was. Standing in all of his cigarette smoke and glory was Alex Turner, lead singer of Arctic Monkeys and personal crush since 17. I usually try to keep fangirl moments under wraps, but my friend encouraged and insisted that I would regret not approaching him. I only embarrassed myself slightly trying to contain my enthusiasm, and Alex was kind enough to oblige taking a photo with me and gave a charming “Thanks, Love” before departing.

Royal Affair:: You would think come Sunday night the lot of Bonnaroo would be complete zombies–which now that I think of it, many did seem to have that crazy look in the eye–but everyone proved to have a pulse when Sir Elton John paraded onstage in the craziest, glittery sequin suit adorned with flames. Aside from looking utterly fabulous, the king played all of Yellow Brick Road and then some to a crowd that was enamored from start to finish. It was a special experience for John as well, who said that Bonnaroo was his first American music festival and he was enjoying it quite nicely. I must admit, hearing “Tiny Dancer” live was something else, and when I closed my eyes I time traveled to another era that I wished to linger in a bit longer. But just like that, it was over. On the long trudge off the farm and back to reality, lanterns floated in the sky and a ridiculous white limo drove past that sparkled almost as much as Elton John’s suit. I was certainly glad that I didn’t have something better to do than Bonnaroo last weekend.

– Kimberly B. 

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Kimberly Baugh is a writer from Chicago with an old rock-n-roll soul. She can usually be found in her favorite leather motorcycle jacket perusing Nashville’s many beloved music venues, record shops and coffee joints. When she’s not busy getting acclimated to her new digs or playing shopgirl at Third Man Records, she’s indulging in fashion blogs and magazines with her extremely photogenic cat, Wolfie.

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