This past weekend, WUKY sent us music junkies, Mary Allen and Saraya Brewer, to experience the 4-day Tennessee music & art circus known as Bonnaroo. Here’s a list of who they saw, broken down by day (spoiler alert: while some acts obviously stood out more than others, they weren’t really disappointed by anyone they saw).
Down below the list is what we call... “Top 5 Acts We Didn’t Know We’d Love”...
Who We Saw
Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers
Father John Misty
Of Monsters and Men
Matt & Kim
Empire of the Sun
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
David Byrne & St. Vincent
TOP 5 ACTS WE DIDN'T KNOW WE'D LOVE
1) The National. I have plenty of friends (whose musical taste I trust) who love The National. But despite a certain penchant I harbor for moving and moody lyric-based rock, I hadn’t been particularly engaged by the handful of National songs I’ve listened to in passing over the past 5 or 6 years. I was hoping I would be won over by their live performance at Bonnaroo this year, and I was far from disappointed. The set was mellow but powerful - dark, heavy, beautiful and moving - with highlights including a surprise appearance from St. Vincent for the song “This is the Last Time” and an intrepid leap from lead singer Matt Derninger from his perch on the mega-sized What Stage (the festival’s largest headlining stage) to walk around the crowded pit while singing the last two song’s of the band’s set: fan favorites “Mr. November” and “Terrible Love.” Click here to listen to more of The National on SoundCloud. - Saraya Brewer
2) Holy Ghost! I first discovered this band while researching South By Southwest artists a couple years back; their uptempo electro beats piqued my interest, but I kind of put them on the back burner after not hearing anything about them over the next year or so. Still, at Bonnaroo this past Sunday afternoon, we perched up under a tree outside their stage (The Other Tent) – mostly looking for some shade and a place to bide some time while waiting for Australian psych-pop purveyors Tame Impala, who were the next act slated for that stage – and ended up on our feet, for the next hour, dancing through Holy Ghost!’s entire set. The Brooklyn synth-based duo, whose electro-pop songs bear influences of hip hop and Italian disco, have ties to DFA Records, the label started by James Murphy, founder of their former tour mates LCD Soundsystem; they’ve done remixes for Moby, Cut Copy and Phoenix, collaborated with Michael McDonald, and will soon release their sophomore album, Dynamics, on DFA (release date TBA). Click here to listen to more Holy Ghost! on Soundcloud. - Saraya Brewer
3) Matt and Kim. I did not plan on seeing Brooklyn-based couple/electro-pop duo Matt and Kim at Bonnaroo this year, the same way I skipped out on their performance at Bonnaroo in 2011. Their first hit single “Daylight” was one of my favorite songs several years ago, but I could only handle Matt’s voice for a for a few songs before experiencing the same headache one might receive from listening to the Dirty Projectors. Their set started not long after Four Tet at The Other Tent (not to be confused with This Tent or That Tent) and the crowd nearly doubled in anticipation for Matt and Kim. Since we already had a prime spot in the crowd, we decided to stick around for a song or two. Never did I think we would stay for the entire show. With Kim on the drums and Matt on keys, this duo busted out on stage with more energy than I had seen all weekend. They talked to the crowd in between almost every song, took frequent dance breaks, and Kim even danced on the crowd. I saw more crowd surfing at this show than I did at a Blink-182 reunion concert. Listen to more Matt and Kim on SoundCloud. - Mary Allen
4) Royal Thunder. Following an incredibly fun and danceable set by St. Vincent and David Byrne on Sunday evening, we were pretty sure we were done with the music portion of 2013 Bonnaroo. Heading back to our tent to start putting our belongings back together – so exhausted and content that we weren’t even sure if we’d make it back for the finale (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers) – one more band caught our ear, however, as we walked by the Miller Light “New Music On Tap” lounge, a small stage in the middle of the vending area made more intimate by a small set of bleachers and a mesh shade tent. Slow but heavy bass lines, bellowing female vocals, energetic drum beats, we wordlessly meandered to the tent and found ourselves at the helm of Southern-flavored stoner metal band Royal Thunder, whom neither of us were really familiar with prior. After slowly head-banging our way through the last 20 minutes or so of their set, we high-fived for being able to leave the festival on the note of a killer unexpected set, and headed to the ferris wheel to end the trip on an even higher note. Listen to more Royal Thunder on SoundCloud. - Saraya Brewer
5) Pretty Lights. I wrote Pretty Lights off years ago. There was something about the whole electronic/mash-up boom of artists like Girl Talk and Bassnectar that I automatically categorized Pretty Lights in, and I was not a fan. The idea of a light show in sync with heavy bass drops never appealed to me. I mean, how cool can a light show actually be? Doesn’t everyone get a headache? I had my doubts. Starting just after 1:30 a.m. (and going well past his projected 3:15 a.m. end time), Pretty Lights shattered every judgment I had. The lights were unreal. Every tiny beat was complemented with a crazy light effect and the music was fantastic. It was impossible not to dance, and impossible not to gaze at the light show in awe. Listen to more Pretty Lights on SoundCloud. - Mary Allen
Saraya Brewer works for Smiley Pete Publishing as the manager of the arts, culture and entertainment website tadoo.com. She is a founder and organizer of Boomslang: A Celebration of Sound & Art, which is presented by this station’s sister station, WRFL 88.1 FM. Boomslang celebrates 5 years this September. Mary Allen is a senior at the University of Kentucky, where she studies Arts Administration. She is the director of Boomslang and hopes to continue working in the music industry after graduation.