Bonnaroo 2014: Day 1 in Photos

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Bonnaroo 2014: Day 1 in Photos

Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival kicked off in Manchester, Tenn., on Thursday, and with music going almost around-the-clock and comedy, art installations and campground partying filling in the gaps, there’s plenty to report. Check out some highlights from Thursday’s shorter first day and the full day on Friday (including a Kanye rant, no less!), and view images from the festival in the gallery by clicking above. Stay tuned for more coverage from the farm.


The Preatures
We kicked off Bonnaroo 2014 by righting a wrong. The Preatures were on our hit-list at CMJ this past October, but we weren’t able to make it see them; this time around, we made sure to catch the Australian quintet and see what their live show is all about. As it turns out, it’s about frontwoman Isabella Manfredi, whose commanding stage presence livened up early tracks like “Take a Card” as well as favorites like “Is This How You Feel.” —Bonnie Stiernberg

Some bands are meant to be listened to in the sun. That’s why Bonnaroo was the perfect setting to take in the Allah-Las—some late-afternoon rays, a cold beer and the California group’s excellent surf rock are all you really need. They played almost all of their 2012 self-titled debut as well as a few new tracks off of the upcoming Worship the Sun, including the recently debuted “501-415” and one of our favorites of 2014 so far, “Every Girl.” —Bonnie Stiernberg

“We’re from New York City. I would like to be from here,” frontman Matthew Iwanusa called out. “But only if all you guys were here with me.” It was that kind of closeness between the audience and the band, and as they drove through older tracks like “Shut You Down” and, of course, favorites like “In The City,” but it wasn’t all familiar old tracks. “This one’s new, bay-bays,” Iwanusa would yell, and everyone went wild like it was already their latest favorite. It was a great, big set for a band that will continue to play a few smaller stages over the weekend. —Dacey Orr

The Weeks
The Sonic Stage is generally reserved for intimate daytime acoustic sets from artists who volunteer to play in addition to their sets on bigger stages, and having Southern-infused rockers The Weeks play after the sun went down held the same closeness to the crowd but an energy that was dialed way up: I never expected to catch anybody crowd-surfing at this particular stage, but the crowd was enormous and their reaction was even bigger. Barreling through hits like “Brother In the Night,” some of the audience members got a little more aggressive: one guy made not one but two running jumps over the barricade and onto the stage, grasping a bewildered (but surprisingly very cool) Cyle Barnes as he sang. Security finally got it together when two girls followed suit, kicking them off the stage in time for a sing-along performance of “Buttons” that I won’t soon forget. —Dacey Orr

White Denim
The last time we saw White Denim, at day one of Shaky Knees, their set was kind of a wash. Not so this time—the band was at the top of its game, launching a blues-rock dance party with their midnight set. —Bonnie Stiernberg

Ty Segall
So here’s how to have a good time at a festival: First, make sure Ty Segall is on the bill, preferably late at night. Then go see him. Segall and his band (including Mikal Cronin on bass) delivered exactly the kind of set you’d want to see at 1 a.m. on the first night of Bonnaroo, road-testing a healthy dose of new material (what else would you expect from a guy who’s put out at least one album a year since 2008?) and kicking off the weekend right. —Bonnie Stiernberg


St. Paul and the Broken Bones
We’ve been lucky enough to see St. Paul and the Broken Bones three times since March, and each time has been better than the last. This one was particularly special: frontman Paul Janeway recalled working security at Bonnaroo years ago (where he got heat rash and got peed on during Jay-Z’s set) and revealed that since then, playing Bonnaroo has been a big dream of his. At one point, he paused to take in the adoring crowd (that sounds like hyperbole, but they were truly eating up every note—when Janeway first opened his mouth and unleashed his first note, the guy next to me fist-pumped and yelled “yessssssss” like he had just won the Super Bowl) and looked like he was close to tears. But after declaring “enough of that mushy stuff,” he brought the tempo back up for tracks like “Call Me” and a roaring cover of Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness.” —Bonnie Stiernberg

Dr. Dog
There’s always a midday set on the Which Stage that gives fest-goers a chance to chill and recharge, but still gives the die-hards in the pit a chance to get rowdy. Dr. Dog was this band on Friday, sitting back and jamming through the older hits and meeting visible excitement from fans on recent material like “Broken Heart.” —Dacey Orr

The Orwells
I didn’t really know what The Orwells were all about when I went into this set, but I found out real quick. Barricades were being pushed their limits by an untamable crowd as the young band played their rowdy, kids were climbing the barricades, people were crowd-surfing on bean bags. Oh, yeah. There were bean bags. Because this set, oddly, took place in the cafe-like lounge stage on the site, a place I wouldn’t have expected to slot a band with this kind of intense, rowdy following. I’m not sure if the set ended or the band broke the speaker system to hell, but either way: you can bet these guys are worth checking out at a venue that can handle them. —Dacey Orr

Janelle Monae
Stage presence is something that can’t be taught, and nowhere is that more evident than at a Janelle Monae show. Monae’s just got it, and whatever “it” is, it’s clearly something she was born with, something she can flip on and instantly deliver a phenomenal performance. The Electric Lady worked the crowd with favorites like “Q.U.E.E.N.,” “Electric Lady,” “Tightrope,” “Cold War” and “Primetime,” all while laying on the theatrics and even darting through the crowd at one point. But all that stuff only works when you’ve got the voice to back it up, and Monae absolutely does. —Bonnie Stiernberg

Neutral Milk Hotel
The best crowd of Friday had to have been the one that turned up to see Jeff Mangum and company. As soon as he heard the opening notes to “Two-Headed Boy,” one fan near me screamed “I’ve been waiting SO MANY YEARS for this” and buried his face in his hands. Another diehard tried to scale the fence, like four times. The excitement was palpable (and contagious), and it came to a head for the undeniable “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea,” which transformed the crowd into one giant, gleeful sing-along. —Bonnie Stiernberg

I showed up to CHVRCHES a little bit late, and the crowd wasn’t of the young fangirl variety I’d expected. It wasn’t a huge, crowded crowd either, and between the charming, intelligent banter and the absolute anthem of “Mother We Share” closing out the set, CHVRCHES’ first Bonnaroo seemed to go off rather smoothly. —Dacey Orr

Kanye West
You probably remember Kanye West’s disastrous 2008 Bonnaroo set, where he took the stage six hours late and wound up performing his Glow in the Dark tour in the light of dawn. But it’s OK if you don’t; Kanye does. No one remembers Kanye West’s 2008 Bonnaroo more than Kanye West, and it was clear that he viewed his Friday night headlining set this year as his shot at redemption in front of 90,000 people (a number that started to dwindle pretty rapidly…I’ve never seen so many people bail in the middle of a headliner at a festival before). Like with anything Kanye West does, there were moments of brilliance (a stunning “New Slaves,” opener “Black Skinheads,” “Runaway”) and moments of confounding egotism. He paused “Stronger” to declare himself “THE NUMBER-ONE MOTHERFUCKING ROCK STAR ON THE PLANET,” and elsewhere in the set he spent 10 minutes comparing himself to Walt Disney, Beethoven and Howard Hughes and lamenting the fact that he’ll “never play the Super Bowl.” (Bruno Mars got dragged into it in an especially weird moment—I don’t think there’s anyone out there who’d consider Mars to be in the same league as West, so to shit on him like that seemed rather unnecessary.) Bonnaroo and the press who reported the 2008 debacle also caught a lot of heat, with Kanye screaming “WHERE THE PRESS AT?” in a way that’d probably be genuinely scary if there weren’t 30 feet and a barricade in between us. It was all compelling in a way that only Kanye West can be, but when he left the stage briefly after “Bound 2,” most of the crowd followed suit, and when he returned to a much smaller fanfare than he likely expected, he announced “this will be the last song,” closed with “Blood on the Leaves” and then got outta there 15 minutes early. The phrase “shut up and play the hits” seems a little harsh here, but no “Gold Digger”? No “Hey Mama”? No “I Am A God”? Maybe we could have done with one less 15-minute rant to squeeze these in. —Bonnie Stiernberg