A serene sky dotted with fluffy white clouds greeted a massive sold-out crowd that flooded into the Centeroo grounds on the second day of Bonnaroo 2019. Live music began just afternoon while many concertgoers started to enjoy all the festival has to offer. Amenities included waterslides and the iconic Bonnaroo fountain as well as a Ferris wheel and a whole range of activities in the campgrounds.
But as always, the music was the big draw at the festival, and there was plenty to choose from on the second day of the festival. The two main stages opened and together with the smaller ones, offered up a whole host of musical options.
The massive What stage powered up in the mid-afternoon featuring opening band Rival Sons. The blues-infused rock band brought a decidedly California vibe to the stage. First formed in 2009, Rival Sons is an American rock band from Long Beach, California. The group was led by charismatic singer Jay Buchanan and explosive guitarist Scott Holiday. Their classic hard rock sound seemed to channel the ghost of Jim Morrison and The Doors and was a fitting main stage kick off.
Meanwhile, there was a very different musical vibe on the other main stage, the Which Stage. A large crowd gathered to dance to Nahko and Medicine for the People, which is a collective of musicians who play an amalgamation of world music. Frontman Nahko Bear heads the group. The Oregon band played a set infused with dance inspiring tunes. Nahko began with several shout outs. “Happy Pride,” “Happy Father’s Day Weekend,” “Let’s get the party started,” he exclaimed. An appreciative crowd complied en masse.
After the Rival Sons, the What stage featured the Catfish and the Bottlemen, a Welsh Indie rock band, formed in Llandudno in 2007. It was hard to believe that these youthful rockers were veteran performers with over a decade of touring experience. Lead singer and guitarist Ryan Evan "Van" McCann led the hard rocking band through a scorching set in the afternoon sun. Critics have compared the group's music to that of The Kooks and Johnny Marr, but it was clear at Bonnaroo that they had developed their own intense rock sound. A rock-oriented audience seemed to enjoy the set. A young pop-loving crowd gathered at the What stage as the New York-based AJR took over after Nahko. AJR is an American pop band composed of multi-instrumentalist brothers Adam, Jack, and Ryan Met.
AJR is an American pop band composed of multi-instrumentalist brothers Adam, Jack, and Ryan Met. Earlier in the day, the band joined a conference in the press tent attended by young would be musicians and journalists organized by the Bonnaroo school of music. The program is just one of many programs like Notes for Notes that the festival embraces to promote music for young up and coming musicians. The brothers explained how their homemade music came about, being produced in their living room before exploding in popularity on social media. The band had thousands of fans at their Bonnaroo debut offering up, and energetic show full of original happy go lucky pop music.
As the sun began to set on the horizon, painting the clouds in beautiful pastel colors, Bonnaroo veterans the Avett Brothers took the main What stage. The North Carolina Bluegrass rockers have played the festival several times, and their exciting live show seems to evolve into something new every time they tour. The band played tunes from their lengthy catalog including, “Laundry Room” and “True Sadness.” The group also debuted their appropriately named new single “High Steppin” that sent the crowd into a dancing frenzy. Singer-guitarist Scott Avett created a sensation during the popular song “Ain’t No Man” when he dove into the crowd singing and dancing with ecstatic fans.
The first big crowd of EDM fans formed over in front of the Which stage for a well-received set by another Bonnaroo veteran Griz. The young music star is an American DJ and electronic producer from Michigan. He is best known for playing a wailing saxophone along with producing funk, electro-soul, and self-described future-funk in the grand scheme of live EDM music. Griz would later lead the legendary Superjam but entertained a much bigger crowd in his solo set. The personable singer brought his future funk sound with a core jam band for the Ride Waves Tour, named after his latest studio album release. Griz danced and sang wildly during his energy set.
While all this action was happening on the two main stages, the other five stages in Centeroo were simultaneously offering up all kinds of great music from EDM to heavy metal. Bonnaroo always seems to throw in a few hardcore metal bands and the year was no exception. Just as the sun set on one of the longest days of the year, Gojira, a French heavy metal band from Bayonne, exploded to life in This tent. Fronted by singer-guitarist Joe Duplantier, the band played a set delighting the headbangers in the Bonnaroo crowd amidst a spectacular multimedia extravaganza. There was also a ton of action in the campgrounds including a surprise set by Hayley Williams of Paramore with her guitarist Taylor York at the “Sanctuary of Self Love,” one of the nine separate plazas each with their own entertainment.
As evening set in hordes of festival-goers, many with their own unique totems poured through the new Bonnaroo arch, that was just recently rebuilt into the main stage area. Perhaps the largest crowd of the festival assembled across the massive field for the much-anticipated concert by Childish Gambino. Donald McKinley Glover Jr., well known as an American actor, comedian, writer, producer, director, musician, and DJ performs music under the stage name of Childish Gambino. The Bonnaroo veteran has played the festival before, but his smash hit “This is America” has propelled him into a headline star on the 2019 festival circuit. The show began with a giant platform rising amidst the massive crowd lighted by huge spotlights. A shirtless figure appeared in full Childish Gambino persona. The platform rose high in the sky above the crowd and then descended, allowing Gambino to bolt through the crowd and onto the main stage where he fronted a rocking band complete with a searing guitar player. The set featured a small army of dancers emerging on and off the stage for different musical numbers much like a Broadway musical. Gambino often bantered with the massive crowd. “We’re going to do something special,” he quipped early on. “I want you to put your phones down and focus on the moment.” Then he launched into a set containing his most well-known songs, including “The Worst Guys,” “Have Some Love” and the big one “This Is America.” He ended the night with a rendition of his first big hit “Redbone” amidst a giant fireworks display.
Surprisingly, a large portion of the massive crowd moved on to the other side of the festival for other performances as headliners Phish prepared to take the stage. But that suited the 50,000, or so that remained behind perfectly, creating lots of extra dancing space across the field. Phishheads were treated to a two-hour set of mostly original material. The first of three sets the band was scheduled to play at the festival was also watched by countless fans on a live internet feed.
Over at That tent, another heavy metal band was making headbangers happy. Deafheaven was founded back in 2010 and brought their Screamo metal to an appreciative late-night crowd at Bonnaroo. Wild-eyed singer George Clarke led the band through an intense ear-piercing set into the early morning hours.
A very different crowd gathered in front of the Which stage for the Hip-Hop Infused set by Brockhampton just after 1 AM. Brockhampton, an American rap collective formed in Texas, in 2015 is currently based in California. The group of multi-racial rappers dazzled the crowd with intricate dance moves and rap-infused harmonies.
For many music fans, the early morning hours were prime party time, and there was a plethora of music left to choose. The traditional Superjam led by Griz began behind schedule at just before 2 am. The multitude of instruments needed for the small army of performers needed to be tested delaying the set. But the musicians made up for it playing an astounding set of cover songs with a small army of rotating singers and musicians until nearly 4 am. Meanwhile, there was a veritable EDM face-off going on in the corner of Centeroo nearest the campground. This tent garnered a large audience of EDM fans for veteran festival act Girl Talk. Gregg Michael Gillis, known by the stage name Girl Talk, is an American disc jockey who specializes in mashups. His performance as always featured massive crowd participation including a portion of the crowd onstage with him. At the same time over on the main EDM stage the Other, another large crowd gathered for a riveting set by R.L.Grime. Henry Alfred Steinway, better known by his current stage name, RL Grime, is an American producer of trap and bass music and he had Bassheads headbanging en masse at his spectacular show.
As the main stages wound down about 4 am, crowds of eager EDM fans descended on the Kalliope stage for the last dance into the dawn, while others danced about in Snake N Jakes Barn or at the silent disco.