I was there. I saw LCD Soundsystem play in 2016 at Bonnaroo only 5 years after they broke up. I was there when LCD Soundsystem played the best set I’ve heard in a long time, where they closed with “All My Friends” and changed the lyrics to “Losing My Edge,” making it personal and unique. I was there when fireworks exploded overhead at just the right moment and everyone was dancing, wanting the moment never to end. I was there, when the supposed end was not the end. Swallowing my bitterness because of it, I had the time of my life.
I also saw Waxahatchee, who performs in various ways. Sometimes she plays solo and other times with just a bassist. This time, she came with a full band. Having the band allowed her to flesh out more complex material from her previous two records and lighten her solemn music to fit the overly-positive festival vibe. It was an interesting contrast- having fun in the sun outside while being immersed in songs about regret and heartbreak.
Hundred Waters’ performance was different from what I expected as well. At the first few Hundred Waters shows I ever attended the band was almost guarded and within themselves. However, at this year’s Bonnaroo the lead singer, Nicole Miglis, was engaging with the crowd and getting everyone into the music. Their music has similarly progressed over the years. Their early sound blended folk and electronic, but their latest album favors a more electronic sound.
Just after midnight on Friday, Purity Ring played in a tent that was small compared to the main stage, but their sound was monumental. The beat-driven duo’s synthesizers were set up on futuristic pillars that lit up in sync with the music, and festival-goers participated in the light show with glow sticks and other luminescent gadgets.
Strategically planning your next move is important at large festivals since often artists’ sets overlap. Tame Impala’s set began across the grounds before Purity Ring ended. I ventured over to hear most of it, but missed the beginning. They played psychedelic indie rock until 3 a.m., but no one seemed at all concerned with the time.
On Saturday, I was eager to start early in the festival grounds- despite my long Friday night- in order to hear the elegant voice of Natalie Prass’s. Her self-titled debut album, one of my most-loved records of 2015, employs the Spacebomb Records house band, but at the festival she performed a stripped down version of her songs, using only the essential elements of a live band: guitars and drums.
Kurt Vile & The Violators’ music has been stuck in my head ever since Bonnaroo ended. I’ll walk around accidentally singing “Pretty Pimpin’” audibly and even embarrassingly depending on who’s around. This music was made for summer relaxing, or as Vile puts it, “tak[ing] a chillax, man and forget[ting] about it.”
Father John Misty finished out my weekend on Sunday. Of all the performers I’ve seen in recent years, Father John Misty takes the cake when it comes to treating live music not only as a concert but also an actual performance. He is truly a master of his craft and was in full force. In his Misty person, he bantered in-between songs and demanded that the crowd “shut up.” Fittingly, he sang how his girl “gets down more often than a blow-up doll” while an inflatable doll served as the beach ball being passed from random person to random person.