Photo by Jason Merritt, courtesy of Bonnaroo.
At Bonnaroo, you can only go hard in the paint for so long before it catches up. Saturday was the day it caught up.
Chiddy Bang is the result of a very talented freestyler rapping over other artists’ better, more famous songs. There wasn’t anything particularly notable about Chiddy Bang’s set Saturday afternoon, except when the hype man/drummer stopped the entire show for a good seven minutes to figure out what the MC wants to rap about (one of those “he can rap about anything, now shout random words” type deals). This group really wasn’t meant for such a large crowd, and nobody in Chiddy Bang really knew what to do with the audience. As such, the set was poorly paced, but reasonably enjoyable.
To escape the heat, I ambled into a sneak preview of an upcoming thriller-comedy starring Jesse Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari (who also gave a Q&A). It may have been the venue, but I didn’t find the movie all that funny.
I saw New York dance-punk lifers !!!, or Chk-Chk-Chk for the orthographically confused. With a massive band including vocalists, synths, horns, guitars, and so much percussion, !!! was a force to be reckoned with. The band was so phenomenally tight, extending most songs into ten-minute disco jams that never got stale. We can namedrop Can, Liquid Liquid and LCD Soundsystem here without feeling too guilty, because !!!’s sound is super informed by two of the above, and came from the same musical impulse as LCD. !!! never really deviated from the script, because it’s a great script.
I caught a little of Man Man‘s set, which I didn’t really understand all that well. The Philadelphia band plays a kind of yelpy experimental soft rock, and it’s all quite tense and really fun.
The Black Keys headlined the massive What Stage on Saturday night, playing to tens of thousands of people, most of whom could not even see the stage. Leaning on its more popular newest album, Brothers, the duo of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney played a short set (a little more than an hour) that capitalized on Auerbach’s range and guitar solos, as well as Carney’s really phenomenal drumming. For a band that was long considered the go-to definition for “underrated” in the Dictionary, Auerbach and Carney are finally getting their due.
The threat of rain reared its head in the interim between Black Keys and Eminem, in which lightning delighted the amped crowd. However, very little fell at all—certainly not the torrential downpours that Bonnaroo is well-known for. This was sad news for some;they were ready to banish the omnipresent dust that we’ve been all uneasily breathing in. But instead of rain, we got the return of Eminem, on his Recovery Tour, fresh and kicking. Playing an equal selection of his newer material (Sober Serious Eminem) and a medley of the hits (Irreverent Psycho Eminem), Shady was welcomed by the massive crowd, grateful to sing along to the songs they knew. A brief moment of confusion was reached when Mathers started shouting out “Wayne, Weezy” and nobody ever came out, but it didn’t really bother anybody. Eminem also played tracks he was featured in, a habit I am usually a little weirded out by. That said, my favorite part of “Forever” was Shady’s vulgar display of talent on his verse, and the remix of “Airplanes” gave him that great “let’s pretend Marshall Mathers never picked up a pen” segment. Mathers himself appeared excited and tense, as usual. Eminem is one of the only examples where really, really, ridiculously successful meets really, really, ridiculously talented. Not really a part of the rap game anymore, Mathers has become his own thing. To lead his bow, fireworks were fired off over the stage, bookending his set with thunder of another sort.
Never trust a 1 a.m. power nap. When you lie down for “just a second,” the next thing you see upon opening your eyes will be sunlight. Despite setting an alarm, reminding my friend to wake me up, and being really excited to go, I missed out on Girl Talk, Gogol Bordello, and a 6 a.m. screening of Raiders Of The Lost Ark because I was really, really tired. But like I said before, you can only go so hard for so long before you run out of steam. And these 20-hour days in the heat, while really fantastic, just add up. Tomorrow will be the last one of these.