Sunday morning at Bonnaroo always brings a conflict of emotions–it’s when you realize that there is only one more day on The Farm and the real world is waiting on the other side. However, that feeling is quickly pushed aside by the realization that there are still hours of music to be heard, and this year, I was particularly impressed by the Sunday lineup that awaited.
I don’t usually go all-in for press conferences, but when I heard that a couple of the stalwarts of the modern Americana music scene–Margo Price and Aaron Lee Tasjan–were going to be on a panel discussion, I was present with an hour to spare. Sunday night was to feature the Bluegrass Situation Superjam hosted by movie star and impressive bluegrass artist in his own right, Ed Helms, who was also part of the panel. The topics varied from the Superjam itself, to social media and its potential pitfalls, to the authenticity that is part of the lifeblood of Americana music.
Getting out to start a new day of music, I stopped off at the Which Stage to check out country artist Cam. Going in, I questioned her fit within the lineup at Bonnaroo as Top 40 Country is not that common on The Farm. What I found, though, was an artist with a quality vocal twang who was pulling out all of the stops to put on a memorable show. Her set ended with her hit song “Burning House” which seems to speak across genres as the entire area around Which Stage belted out the lyrics.
At the New Music On Tap Lounge, the Swedish trio Baskery quickly added several new fans to the fold. With a distinctive alternative rock-busking sound the trio played several of their original works-including one in their native Swedish and threw in a cover of “Old Man” by one of Bonnaroo’s favorites, Neil Young.
I then had to make the most painful decision of the weekend–Margo Price or Aaron Lee Tasjan. I should have been grateful that the Bonnaroo schedule was surprisingly conflict-free compared to other festival experiences, but I’m greedy. I wanted to see both. Finally deciding on Aaron Lee (sorry Margo, I still love your music), I headed to That Tent. For his first ever Bonnaroo performance, ALT was pulling out all the stops. What other Americana show features a double drum set in the backing band? You can always count on Aaron Lee to dress to impress and for a musical tour de force. If I had to pick one thing that sets him apart in the music scene, it would be his lyrical wordplay which shined through in his Bonnaroo set, one which included his newer, more country leaning songs, “Memphis Rain” and “Little Movies,” but he made sure to include several of his more scorching offerings. About midway through “The Dangerous Kind” he entered a shredding trance with his fellow stellar guitarist, Brian Wright.
On the What Stage, the grungy rock n’ roll vibes were flowing courtesy of Royal Blood. Mosh pits are a rare sight at Bonnaroo and that much energy on a Sunday is even rarer. However, the English rockers had whipped the flowing crowd into a frenzy with their psychedelic version of blues rock. Featuring an intense set list, fans up front thrashed to rockers like “Little Monster,” “Come on Over,” and “Figure it Out,” while the rest of the field bobbed their heads in the beating sun that was almost as hot as the guitar licks coming from the stage.
Needing to catch my breath, I made my way back to That Tent for the more mellow, but just as addictive sounds of Mandolin Orange. Featuring a heavy dose of mandolin (well, of course), accompanied by fiddle and tender harmonies, Mandolin Orange’s Bonnaroo set walked closer to the bluegrass side of Americana. Ranging from slow and sentimental to fiery picking, the toe-tapping set was perfect for a lazy and hazy Sunday afternoon.
The folk influenced alternative rockers, Milky Chance, put together a set list of songs that had people dancing, bouncing beach balls, playing with bubble wands, and just having a good time. Going in, I was sure that everyone must know their hit song “Stolen Dance,” which was proven true by the field-wide singalong that broke out at What Stage.
Ella Vos has taken the Spotify charts by storm so I had to check out her set at the Who Stage. Basking in the evening sunlight, Vos put together a remarkable set of electropop songs that were focused on calling attention to issues close to her heart, including motherhood and sexism. Her set included her hit “White Noise,” where she proved that the silvery voice we hear on her recordings is even better in person.
It was with great anticipation and a touch of sadness that it was finally time for the Blue Grass Situation Superjam. The 2017 edition of the Bluegrass Situation boasted a dazzling lineup featuring Ed Helms. It also meant that these were truly my last moments on the Farm until 2018. Even with an all-star lineup already revealed, there were still surprises in store. Check out our separate recap of the 2017 Bluegrass Situation coming soon!
[This brilliant Bonnaroo coverage was provided by Eo8’s own dynamic duo, George and Sammi Maifair.]