There's little incentive for a festival to make up for disappointment. Once you're on the festival grounds, nobody's getting a refund, and one bad day can be chalked up to an anomaly. And the bands that do play are there to play their sets. They may not even know what's going on if they're entirely focused on their jams. When I chatted with Charli XCX at last year's Bonnaroo, she had no idea that Paul McCartney was headlining the festival (#smh). So, if the stars had aligned properly in a world where properly
is an evil malevolence, Saturday's Bonnaroo festivities could have turned into a repeat of Friday's Kanye clusterfuck
or the Molly-fueled douchebaggery
that is ruining the festival. But, there is a kind and caring God, and his name is Jack White.
Even if you've never grown to Jack White's increasingly eclectic and blues/country tinged solo output (which I'm still slightly on the fence about), there was no denying that the artist's two-and-a-half-hour headlining set was one for the ages. Blistering, sexually charged, non-stop blues rock tore through the What Stage and never let up. He started out the set with a new spin on "Icky Thump" and the Willy Wonka of Rock and Roll grabbed the audience by the throat from there on out. The set may not have reached the magic heights of Paul McCartney and Tom Petty last year (just from a lack of stand-out singles from his two solo records), but anyone with ears could probably listen to Jack White play guitar all night long if you're willing to regularly pick your jaw up off the floor. Elton John, the gauntlet has been thrown down. Beat this.
But, guess what readers? That wasn't yesterday's best set. It wasn't even close to being yesterday's best set. Canadian electro-funk bad-asses Chromeo are the heir to Daft Punk and Prince's throne...just give it six months to a year; they're on the cusp of being mega-stars. Strutting across the Which Stage like he was ready to tear the roof off Madison Square Garden, guitarist Davi Macklovitch has superstar presence and charisma, and as the band tore through their ever-growing discography, they turned the Which Stage into the best dance party on the Farm. Whether it was their searing opener "Night by Night" to their penultimate tune, "Jealousy (I Ain't With It)," there's absolutely no excuse for why this Canadian duo isn't a bigger deal in the states, but after word of mouth from their set last night, they're about to shoot off into the atmosphere.
And every act last night managed to at least come close to matching the energy of Jack White and Chromeo. Grouplove bounded around the stage like a punk band that had access to a 90s rave worth of uppers. And, a ravenous crowd consumed their high-octane synthpop, and during the beginning of the set, frontman Christian Zucconi leaped into the teeming crowd. There was a moment where it seemed like the crowd wasn't going to let him come back. Grouplove are easy to dismiss as shallow synthpop, but see them live. They'll win you over. They won me over.
And although I didn't smoke enough pot in the 90s to be a convert to the cult of Cake (although, in fairness, I was never older than 10 in the 90s so I didn't smoke any pot), Cake's laid-back hippie vibes were the perfect fit for an early Saturday set, and as they bounced around 20 years of beloved singles, all the midnight tokers in the crowd were swaying to their positive vibes.
And a lot of women may have babies coming nine months from now after the smooth soulful crooning of Frank Ocean. If you loved channel ORANGE
half as much as I did, make sure to catch him live as soon as you can. His voice is a haunting instrument in person. Throw in a chill, trippy set from Australian indietronica/dance punk act Cut Copy, and you had plenty of alternatives to the more in-your-face rock bands or EDM acts that continue to take up more space on every festival's line-up.
But, the biggest surprise of the day was the manic and terrifyingly frenetic energy of Berlin garage punk/psychedelic soul rockers King Khan and the Shrines. There's a good chance you've never heard of this band. I never had until my editor told me to shoot them. You're wrong for not knowing them. I was wrong for not knowing them. Start knowing them. Chromeo and Jack White may have put on better sets, but nobody matched the bordering on schizophrenic energy of King Khan's costumed antics. In an age where too many ultra-serious rock bands don't know how to have fun and enjoy themselves on stage, it was clear that King Khan and the Shrines love performing together and they made a crowd who had no idea who they were love them as well.
King Khan and the Shrines
We've got Elton John, Broken Bells, Little Dragon, the Lone Bellow and more tonight to close out this year's Bonnaroo. And let's pray to R'hollor and sacrifice Wildlings to the White Walkers so that we close on as high a note as Saturday. I don't want to be making "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" jokes tomorrow.