After ending Friday night with the rocking spectacle of U2, I was ready to start Saturday with something a bit more mellow, and found what I was looking for on the Who Stage with Nashville rockicana artist Reuben Bidez. Leading with his acoustic guitar and soulful voice, Bidez ranged from melancholy to wistful while getting the day started on a perfect note.

You will always find Lukas Nelson and The Promise of Real where the roads of country, Americana, and southern rock meet. Fortunately for me, I was also able to find him at This Tent at Bonnaroo. If you closed your eyes, your ears might have thought they were hearing a different Nelson singing, but it’s clear that Lukas is forging his own path. While many of his songs where lyrically in the realm of classic country themes–drinking, lost love–he sings them over dynamic blues and rock scorchers. With frequent fiery electric guitar solos, Nelson had the crowd jumping. “Everybody is creating the Bonnaroo experience we are living right now,” he mused, getting a supportive roar from tent.

More than just a group with an eye-ncatching name, Rainbow Kitten Surprise is a indie rock band at its core mixed with strong folk influences. Through a set featuring lyrically complex songs such as “Devil Like Me,” encouraging crowd interaction and genuine gratitude for living in the moment of Bonnaroo, RKS had the Which Stage field in the palm of their hand. In sound, presence, and spirit, I drew several comparisons between Rainbow Kitten Surprise and fellow Bonnaroo alums, Kings of Leon. Don’t be Surprised when this band is soon on the top lines of festivals across the country.

It had been a few years since I had been to a Head and the Heart concert, and I was impressed with their transformation from a mellow, harmony-driven folk-forward set to a stage-filling folk rock force.  They could still harness the tender moments–the crowd at the Which Stage rocked in unison to “City of Angles” and everyone nodded along to the bluesier “Rhythm & Blues.”  But with songs like “Shake” and even their classic hit “Down in the Valley,” the sound swelled with added folksy-rock furor enveloping everyone in its path.

While many people flooded What Stage to see “The Mayor of Bonnaroo,” Chance the Rapper, I found myself at the New Music on Tap Lounge with one of the best surprises of the weekend, Cloves. With a set dripping with lyrical sadness, Cloves had my attention as soon as the first haunting note left her lips. It was a special moment as we watched her audience grow as more and more people were drawn in by the pure emotion carried through her powerful voice–discovering these hidden gems is what music festivals are all about.

As music was coming to a close for the night at the New Music On Tap Lounge, I quickly cut across the field to This Tent, where Warpaint was cloaked in an ethereal haze. Heavy doses of psychedelic and dream rock blended with driving bass lines as the band had the crowd in a constant flux between trance like swaying and excited dance.

Cage the Elephant came out strutting, jamming, and straight up thrashing, keeping the packed Which Stage crowd locked in a wall to wall attack on the senses. With the band now calling Nashville home, there was a lot of hometown pride in their set. You could spot many true fans of the band singing every word, whether new material, hits, or deeper cuts. Cage has grown mightily as a band and it shows not just in their music, but in the way they perform. It was a blockbuster show that held the crowd in place, even with the night’s headliner getting ready on the main What Stage.

Once again the setting for a legendary rock show, I found the What Stage field teeming with excitement for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Somehow, I had never been to a Chili Peppers concert in person before and I was happy to find that they hadn’t lost a step compared to the many videos I’ve seen over the last couple of decades. “Dani California,” “Scar Tissue,” and “Californication” turned the What field into a giant singalong. As Flea and Anthony Kiedis jumped and slid around the stage, many in the crowd danced while others just nodded along taking in the spectacle.

Photo Credit: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for Bonnaroo Arts and Music Festival

Photo Credit: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for Bonnaroo Arts and Music Festival

With the Chili Peppers ending, Saturday late-night presented a challenge deciding which way to go for the next show. As it is a Bonnaroo tradition and always a spectacle, I chose the Superjam featuring the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.  Since it was nearly a music festival inside the music festival, look for a separate recap of the fabulous Superjam!

 [This brilliant Bonnaroo coverage was provided by Eo8’s own dynamic duo, George and Sammi Maifair. Stay tuned for more Bonnaroo coverage!]

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