U2 Makes American Festival Debut and Lorde Shines at 2017 Bonnaroo

As artist after artist took the stage over the weekend, many remarked at the sheer size and enthusiasm unique to this event. Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival truly ranks amongst the greatest of American festivals. The fans are dedicated and the artists don’t fall far behind. This year’s event went off without a hitch, providing the superb atmosphere, soul searching and Tennessee weather each Roo attendee has come to expect.

2017 brought with it not only a stellar lineup but another expansion as well – last year Bonnaroo added some permanent infrastructure like flushable toilets in the main hub. The Other, a dedicated EDM/hip-hop stage, joined the likes of Which, What, That and This. And yes, these stage names tend to add a humorous element to the struggle of figuring out where to go and who to see as you navigate this expansive complex.

Thursday was the official/un-official pre-party which kicked off the weekend. Some fans call off that extra day of work to squeeze in an already extended weekend, others save their sick days for the Monday recovery. Thursday’s lineup leaves you with that choice as big names tend not to appear. That being said, this day was stacked with eager acts looking to break into the top brackets of next year’s main lineup. Retro-romantics The Lemon Twigs, champions of Beatles-era pop sounds dominated That Tent around 10pm, playing tunes like “I Wanna Prove to You” and a new tune, “Why Didn’t You Say That”, setting the tone for their upcoming EP. DMV rapper Innanet James was also preparing fans for his next album, “Keep it Clean”. His high-energy set left folks on the lookout for what’s to come from this young MC. Chicago rock band The Orwells also shed a bit of their soul on stage Thursday during a boisterous set filled with crowd surfing and some light moshing. The band took to Twitter later on in the weekend to controversially claim “@CagetheElephant were the only ones to give 100% at #bonnaroo.”

While Cage would be the highlight of many Bonnnaroovian’s Saturday night, many others destroyed their respective stage time with riotous sets. Car Seat Headrest, indie rockers out of Seattle, settled into a late-afternoon performance in This Tent with one particular highlight. Lead singer Will Toledo light-heartedly explained that a young woman in the front row had been sending them “atrocious” videos of her playing cowbell to one of their songs, though with the caveat that she’s been steadily improving. To the fans amazement, Toledo brought her on stage to add percussion. The crowd fell in love with her instantaneously. Tove Lo helped kick off Friday night with her Swedish electro-pop tracks like “True Disaster” and a live-instrument version of the Flume produced hit “Say It.” She closed her set, as she is want to do, with the sex-ridden “Talking Body”, replete with a bare breasted flash to the crowd. The XX turned the main stage into a low-key dance party with live renditions of favorites from their 2009 debut “XX” – “Crystallized”, “Islands” and “Intro.” The DJ within this English trio, Jamie XX, stole the show when the stage turned into a rainbow and “Loud Places”, a hit from his epically acclaimed 2015 record “In Colour”, began playing. While this tune does feature The XX’s singer Romy, Jamie was the star for these few colorful minutes. Capping off Friday night in historic fashion was U2. It’s hard to believe, but this was U2 first-ever U.S. festival appearance, and they certainly delivered. 1987’s “The Joshua Tree” shined bright as “With or Without You” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” spread across the What Stage’s massive lawn. This, following a “Sunday Bloody Sunday” opener setup fans for a night of nostalgia and the witnessing of one of the most famous bands in history playing right before their eyes.

Come Saturday, fans were primed for a day of rock, folk and soul in the surprisingly moderate Tennessee temperatures. The three sisters known as Joseph, two of which are twins, stunned That Tent with “White Lawn”, a tune filled impeccable harmonization and a boot-stomping pace. Brit-soul singer-songwriter Michael Kiwanuka channeled Marvin Gaye and Bill Withers in This Tent as he slid into tunes from 2012’s “Home Again” and last year’s release “Love and Hate.” These sets leading into Chance the Rapper. As the un-official Mayor of Bonnaroo, Chance maintained excellent stage presence, energy and vocals throughout his headlining set, but he unfathomably decided to take this chance to showcase his religious views. Chance is an unabashed Christian, made clear by his recent album “Coloring Book” and the previous year’s “Surf.” This is quite the contrast to his debut mixtape “10 Days” and his debut album “Acid Rap” which focused on the rebelliousness of youth, an idea fans initially found solace in. “Ultralight Beam”, “Blessings” and “Sunday Candy” were all played Saturday, each with overt Christian tones. The set as a whole felt more gospel than hip-hop which seemed to take fans by surprise, leaving many disappointed. Saturday ended on the highest of notes though, as Cage the Elephant brought Which Stage figuratively crumbling to the ground with an absolutely raucous live set. Fans could even be seen crowd surfing, a rarity in this day-in-age. From here, fans streamed in unison towards the main What Stage to witness the magic that is the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Anthony Kiedis, Flea and the boys played hit after including “Can’t Stop”, “Dani California”, “Scar Tissue”, “Aeroplane” and “Californication.” A couple of covers found their way into these Roo veterans’ set as well – “I Wanna Be Your Dog” from The Stooges and “What is Soul?” by Funkadelic. RHCP’s encore gave fans what they craved in “Give It Away.”

Sunday brought with it the heat, both metaphorically and otherwise. A sweaty crowd gathered for up-in-coming country star Margo Price in the mid-day sun where the local Nashvillian ripped through old-school country inspired songs like “Hurtin’ (On the Bottle). Price also played an ode to one of her singer-songwriter heroes Kris Kristofferson with a rendition of “Me and Bobby McGee.” Germany showed up in the form of folk rockers Milky Chance. They brought along with them their radio smash “Stolen Dance” setting the tone for one of the most sought after performances of the weekend, Lorde. As a twenty-year-old, this New Zealand singer is unfathomably professional and talented. A notion proven by her aplomb during sound issues as her set kicked off. This delay lasted about thirty minutes, pushing back her entire set. “Bonnaroo, they told me about you,” she revealed to the crowd before heading backstage during the disruption. “They told me you’d be an indescribable audience. I can already tell how fucking magical you are.” With the sound issues resolved, she returned to the stage and dropped a “Green Light” teaser into one of her first hits, “Tennis Court.” When the stage finally turned green halfway through her set, fans knew. Lorde played “Green Light” in full as well the hauntingly gorgeous “Liability” from her upcoming LP “Melodrama.” Closing with “Royals”, Lorde expressed her love for Bonnaroo once again.

The weekend ended, ironically, with The Weeknd. The Starboy himself opened with the song by the same name, as a neon laden triangle stage prop raised above the Canadian R&B crooner and the crowd shot to life. His catalogue is continually growing and he made sure fans got a taste of everything. “Party Monster”, “Sidewalks”, “Six Feet Under” and “I Feel It Coming” from last year’s “Starboy”, as well as “Often”, “Can’t Feel My Face” and the set closer “The Hills” from 2015’s “Beauty Behind the Madness” all made appearances. Que fireworks, and that was wrap on Bonnaroo 2017.

Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival took place from June 8-11 in Manchester, TN.