The first day of Bonnaroo 2015 is in the books. The micro-community of millennial hippies has descended on the good ol’ farm in Manchester, TN and spirits are high. There’s still three full days of music to come before Billy Joel sends off the crowd with “Piano Man,” and Thursday has done its job — tease a weekend’s worth of madness to come.
Bonnaroo’s opening night never has a true headliner. As the crowd shuffles in, an abridged schedule flaunts a slew of upstarts vying for attention, and per usual, a few big winners emerged on the opening night. Tove Lo doesn’t have the booming voice or personality cult of an A-lister, but she turned a debut album with a couple of radio hits into what could be a career milestone performance. Glass Animals and Dej Loaf also flashed brilliance. For all this and more, check out Billboard’s on-site recap of Thursday’s happenings:
5:31 PM: Billboard’s Chris Payne and Dominick Grillo take deep breaths and step out from the RV campground onto the Bonnaroo turf. It’s time to take in the farm in its early Thursday innocence: the garbage cans are empty, the fountains have yet to be bathed in, and, god willing, no one has vomited yet. These are simple times and they will not last long.
5:45 PM: Within seconds of Brooklyn metal trio Unlocking the Truth stepping onstage, the placid crowd in front upfront becomes a rambunctious mosh pit. Concertgoers inside are either gleefully bracing themselves against the impact of flying bodies, or hurriedly trying to find a way to slink to the outer ring of the musical riot.
6:15 PM: The members of Unlocking the Truth may not have reached their mid-teens, but they control the crowd with the ability of seasoned veterans. Singer Malcolm Brickhouse keeps concertgoers moving with something akin to a festival gym session: sit down, jump up, carry crowd surfers to the front, form two lines, and then smash into each other.
6:30 PM: With the set wrapped up, Brickhouse takes his own advice and dives into the audience; the eager crowd carries him well into the pit before sending him back to the front and into the waiting hands of the stage’s bouncers.
6:47 PM: Over at That Tent, Dej Loaf’s DJ is firing up the crowd for the Detroit rapper, who has yet to appear. A little bit of ILoveMakonnen’s “Tuesday” and K Camp’s “Cut Her Off,” and the sea of people is turnt enough for Dej to grace it with her presence.
6:58 PM: “You know you got a lotta shit on the radio right now,” Dej Loaf’s DJ prods. The MC jumps into her song “Try Me.”
7:01 PM: For the first time at Bonnaroo 2015, we spot a white person wearing a Native American headdress, over on the front left side of Dej Loaf’s crowd. The universe cries a little.
7:29 PM: Ryn Weaver is working her alt-pop to the the Other Tent’s stage. She introduces “The Fool”: “I have a record coming out on the 16th and this is the title track.” The crowd is unresponsive at first, but Ryn gets a bunch of hands in the air by the time the breakdown beat comes in.
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8:07 PM: Ask and ye shall receive: as rising hip-hop artist Raury and performs his SBTRKT collaboration track ‘Higher,” plumes of marijuana smoke can be seen billowing from throughout the crowd.
8:17 PM: “Times are too serious right now to make songs about nothing,” declares Raury before launching into his response to Ferguson, “Fly.”
8:18 PM: The opening of Iceage‘s set is plagued by a couple false starts. The Danish punk quartet cut opener “On My Fingers” about a minute in, with frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt halting matters on a curt, “Something is wrong.” A few minutes later, they request over and over for the lights are dimmed. Finally though, the mood is set, and it looks like they’re onto something.
8:24 PM: Iceage breaks from its sludgy hardcore assault and livens the near-sundown crowd with its jaunty outlier-of-a-cowpunk jam, “The Lord’s Favorite.” For the first time, their crowd’s tension translates into kinetic energy and a mosh pit erupts. On and off, it the push-pit remains throughout the livelier moments of Iceage’s set.
8:53 PM: By the end of its This Tent set, Iceage has the crowd in the palm of its frigid post-punk hands. And they had to work for it — the Bonnaroo barricades forced an awkward barrier between the stone cold, swaggering Rønnenfelt and a crowd he normally would have gotten up close and personal with. Their last song slays and there’s two minutes left in Iceage’s time, but that’s not going to cut it. “I guess this is goodbye,” Rønnenfelt proclaims, with a dagger of a mic drop.
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10:15 PM: Glass Animals singer Dave Bayley has a career in dancing ready for him if he ever decides this whole music thing won’t work out. The frontman spends the entirety of the concert enthusiastically grooving on stage, the audience following his lead and appropriately rocking their bodies to the funky, electro-pop tunes.
10:25 PM: Okay, so there is one piece of kryptonite that does get Bayley to slow down some of his dancing: Kanye West. Bayley enters the crowd to perform 808s & Heartbreak’s “Love Lockdown” and nearly refrains from busting a move for the entirety of the song.
10:52 PM: Tove Lo’s crowd is absolutely sprawling, extending well beyond the confines of the That Tent stage and into the surrounding concession areas. An audience like this feels like a potential career milestone for the Swedish singer, so of course she’s going to milk “Talking Body” for all its worth. An a cappella intro with the crowd! A full blown sing along when the radio-tested chorus hits! And in the bridge, she strips down to a leotard and does a little strip-tease that ends with a flash of her breasts. Do you need to be told how this went over?
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11:12 PM: Tove Lo prefaces her song “Like ‘Em Young”: “This one’s a little politically incorrect.” After all, it features lyrics like, “Hey girl why you judging me when your guy’s turning 53?” and goes there enough to drop the loaded “age is just a number” line. She’s not leaving much to the imagination tonight.
11:14 PM: Amid ferocious guitar solos that find Aussie indie rocker Courtney Barnett headbanging her way around the stage, the singer-songwriter performs “Pedestrian at Best,” the biggest banger off her debut album.
11:39 PM: Tove Lo’s set has been over for ten minutes, but That Tent already has a nice little crowd hankering for a good spot for Jungle’s set. Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” comes on the system speakers and a sing-along commences.
11:49 PM: Courtney Barnett says goodbye to This Tent: “Up next is Mac DeMarco. He’s sexy!”
12:05 AM: One of the biggest crowd sing-along’s of the day isn’t inspired by any artist performing, but by a recording of “All Star,” Smash Mouth’s massive hit from 1999, which plays prior to English soul-funk outfit Jungle taking the stage.
12:55 AM: At the sound of the distinctive horns from “Busy Earnin’,” the ‘Rooers who, exhausted, found solace on the ground, leap to their feet en masse.
1:20 AM: Canadian singer-songwriter Mac DeMarco is well-known for his affinity for irreverently covering rock and roll classics. Thursday night’s encore performance sees him put his own spin on Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.”