Festival Review: Friday at Bonnaroo 2016 – Manchester, Tennessee (11.06.16)

Bonnaroo hit its stride on Friday with a jam packed lineup meant to rock, surprise and most importantly distract the tens of thousands in attendance from the sweltering heat.

Thursday marked the beginning of the 15th edition of Bonnaroo, but Friday marks the first day of the Main Stage and when the big bands come out to play. The day was a perfect microcosm of everything Bonnaroo has to offer. From J. Cole to LCD Soundsystem to Tame ImpalaFriday was everything anyone could have wanted.

“Am I dreaming? Is this real?” Misterwives singer Mandy Lee screamed out halfway through her set. Very rarely will you see a band on the main stage of Bonnaroo exude so much humility. It was as if they were too busy being fans of the moment and of all the people attending and forgot to be rock stars. It was incredibly refreshing.

I have seen them several times but this was by far their best show, living up to the moment and playing their hearts out. They managed to get their crowd screaming and dancing despite their mid afternoon set at the hottest point of the day. After seeing this show, you can’t help but love this band and truly root for them.

I first saw CHVRCHES in a small bar in the middle of the United States in 2013. At the time, their album had yet to debut and their rookie charm and inexperience shined bright. The Scottish duo, now a trio, has made perhaps one of the biggest leaps of a band live that I have seen in years. They have evolved to be an act whose sound seems fitting to play arenas and stadiums. From the opening note of “Never Ending Circles”, with singer Lauren Mayberry running on to the stage, CHVRCHES jolted the audience and let them know they weren’t letting them go.

Halsey was the highlight of Friday. She announced herself as someone on the cusp of superstardom. With an outstanding band, incredible stage presence and plenty of pyrotechnics, Halsey put on a show worthy of the main stage. From the opening chord of “Gasoline” all the way to her debut hit “New Americana,” this 20 year old singer commanded the stage and crowd in a way the greatest live singers of today do.

One of the best surprises of the day was Halsey bringing out St. Lucia and covering Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” The choice of this song shows how well rounded the 20 year old who burst on the scene through social media and YouTube really is. She has the potential to be a mega star, and after her performance Friday it is clear this is only the beginning.

There is no other show like an LCD Soundsystem set. With every instrument you can imagine and eight people on stage at a time the band weaves a sound of rock, electronic, spoken word and pure energy. James Murphy might not be the best singer ever to hit the What Stage, but I have never seen anyone sing with as much conviction and belief than him. This is a group of incredible musicians – it is the best way to describe them. Each member brings just as much energy as Murphy to every song and the result is a sound that is as loud and jarring, but seamless.

From the opening song, I was jumping and moving and it never stopped. It was definitely an interesting choice to give them the Friday night headliner spot unopposed, but LCD Soundsystem was as worthy a band to hold the Main Stage as you could find.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS…

Australian artist Jarryd James played his very first Bonnaroo and attracted a rapidly growing crowd. Despite the hottest temperatures of the day, Allen Stone was as groovy and smooth as ever. His incredible vocals ripped through the farm and was a great time.

J. Cole brought the beats, rhymes and a special guest to his first ever Bonnaroo headline set. Chance the Rapper came out to do a song off Coloring Book and it was the loudest pop of the night for Cole’s set. Cole balanced his impressive songbook well and spread a really great message. He was definitely worthy of the hip-hop headliner spot, despite the thin crowd that showed up.

The Chainsmokers played a perfect Bonnaroo EDM show. Mixing their own chart topping singles “Rozes” and “Don’t Let Me Down”, with some of the biggest radio hits today ranging from “Panda” to Twenty One Pilots, the crowd was with them for every single song.

Tame Impala also played early into the morning with the synthetic grooves and hypnotic vocals, providing an absolutely fitting end to a great Friday Bonnaroo night.

Hook up the Bonnaroo livestream throughout this weekend by heading HERE. Stay tuned for more coverage coming through!