It was finally the official opening day (day two for us) for Bonnaroo 2022 on June 16 for the first time in three years. Although the festivities began in the campground two days earlier, the official festival didn’t start until Centeroo threw open its doors shortly after noon. Hot, sweaty temperatures sent many music fans straight to shady areas like trees, the iconic Centeroo water fountain, and the water park complete with white sand beaches. There were many upgrades to the festival site this year, including paved roads, groves of oak trees planted, giant ceiling fans installed at the tent stages, and a small army of misters scattered about the venue. As always, copious amounts of food and beverage were available all across the venue.
There were many new faces in the crowd and onstage on the first day, which gave the festival an exciting fresh contemporary feel. Just after 3 pm, a young Nashville singer garnered an early crowd for a set of new country-tinged tunes in This Tent stage. The grandson of Texas Outlaw Country singer Terry Allen, Calder Allen learned to play the guitar during the pandemic and is preparing to release his debut album produced by Charlie Sexton.
Over at That Tent stage, Nothing band was doling out a much harder rock rhythm. Since the Philadelphia band emerged on the national scene about a decade ago, the lineup around bandleader Dominic Palermo has changed several times. The newest lineup featured a pair of newcomers, with second guitarist Doyle Martin (of Nothing’s Relapse Records labelmates Cloakroom) and bassist Christina Michelle joining singer and lead guitarist Palermo and longtime drummer Kyle Kimball. The band tore through an explosive set, wowing the crowd.
Over at the wholly redesigned Who stage, the Indy music started early with Sawyer, featuring the rock-infused duo of Emma Harvey and Kel Taylor. The venue hosted up-and-coming young Indy bands until midnight each night and then turned into a silent disco until dawn. Sawyer was followed by Nashville-born Bren Joy, who recently moved to Los Angeles. Joy is a great R&B-inspired singer and an insightful lyricist backed by a solid rock band. He had a sweat-drenched crowd swaying to his music as the sun mercifully began to set.
Next, young Tik Tok sensation Jessie Murph brought her fresh new sound to That tent. The 17-year-old played a crowd-pleasing Hip-Hop infused set. The Weather Station brought a different sound to music fans over at That Tent. The group is a Canadian folk music band fronted by charismatic lead singer Tamara Lindeman, formed in 2006.
As evening fell, music fans poured into Centeroo for an array of music. Rumbling rock beats filled That Tent when Blu DeTiger took the stage with her band. The strong rocker is an American singer-songwriter, bass player, record producer, and D.J. based in New York City. Back at This Tent, The Brook and The Bluff played a fascinating set full of melodic harmonies. The Nashville-based band, originally from Alabama, played a well-received show for a growing crowd of music fans.
The Other stage has become the defacto EDM music stage at Bonnaroo. When French EDM artist CloZee took the stage, an army of music fans assembled with all types of costumes, some elaborate and many purposely provocative. Many in the crowd carried an array of clever homemade totems. A massive multimedia show that exploded to life after dark augmented the well-known D.J. Her set was followed by a midnight headline show by the mercurial performer Gryffin.
The San Francisco EDM star wowed the crowd with a choreographed multimedia show engulfing a huge sloped stage. Unlike most EDM DJs, Gryffin is also an accomplished musician, periodically playing a searing electric guitar, keyboards, and percussions, all while mixing electronic tracks. The masterful musician was augmented by a drummer and bass player, which gave the dance music a whole new dimension. The huge late-night crowd danced in a uniform trance all about the stage. Other well-known D.J.s continued the dance beats at The Other stage until sunrise.
Late-night sets continued on the other stages for the fans of more traditional music. That tent featured a late set by Sons of Kemet. The quartet are masters of contemporary jazz. The group featured dual-drummers fronted by tuba and sax virtuosos Theon Cross and Shabaka Hutchings, respectively. Over at This Tent, Griffin Washburn, leader of indie pop-and-rockers Goth Babe, engaged the crowd masterfully. At one point, the singer picked an audience member to launch on a giant blow-up raft shaped like a watermelon slice. The lucky fan crowd surfed on the raft for the remainder of the show.
For many festival-goers, the highlight of Thursday was a set by the rambunctious Andy Frasco and The U.N., playing in the best tradition of Bonnaroo jam music. The audacious singer pranced about engaging the crowd at every turn, from crowd surfing to shoutouts. Many in the colorful band also ran about the stage like madmen while playing extensive blues-drenched jams into the early morning hours. The energy level in the crowd reached a near frenzy pitch when members of one of the hottest new jam bands, Goose, joined the band for a unique and animated jam session. Exhausted festival goers could be seen stumbling about as the sun began to rise on day two of Bonnaroo 2022.