Saturday at Bonnaroo 2015 is in the books and it was another jam packed day of music from artists ranging from Rhiannon Giddens and My Morning Jacket to Slayer and Bassnectar. It’s also the final day for coveted 2015 Late Night sets, so fans were conserving their energy for the all night marathons to come. But before they could get to the Late Night sets, there were plenty of daytime performances vying for their attention.
It’s hard not to call Rhiannon Giddens the hardest working lady at Bonnaroo 2015. By the time her well-attended Which Stage performance began at 4:00 p.m., Giddens had already played a short acoustic set for the press and participated in a press conference alongside the likes of Robert Trujillo, Reggie Watts, and Shakey Graves. After her performance, Giddens was scheduled to make an appearance at the Throwback Superjam at 1:00 a.m. A busy day for sure.
That didn’t stop Giddens from giving fans who attended her afternoon performance her full attention. With her regular band The Carolina Chocolate Drops, fortified with the addition of a drummer and bassist, Giddens’ hour-long set hit upon all of her projects. She led off with “Spanish Mary” from her New Basement Tapes collaboration that included fellow Bonnaroo performers Marcus Mumford and Jim James. The remainder of her set pulled from her T-Bone Burnett produced solo album Tomorrow Is My Turn, some new covers, Gaelic folk songs, and a few Carolina Chocolate Drops tunes including the band’s biggest hit “Hit ‘Em Up Style.”
After Giddens’ set, her fellow 2015 Americana Music Award nominee Sturgill Simpson took to That Tent to deliver a blistering set of non-stop outlaw country with a twist. With huge momentum from his groundbreaking album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, Simpson is this year’s festival road warrior, appearing on the lineups of virtually every major and many regional festivals in 2015. One listen to his set leaves no doubt why he’s a popular festival add. With his old school outlaw sound and his genre bending, often metaphysical lyrics, Sturgill Simpson manages to be deep while still injecting enough raucous twang into his shows to make it feel like a party. He’s also the only country artist who could get away with shifting psychedelic and geometric patterns on the video screen behind him and not seem out of place. Set highlights included his psychedelic tinged “Turtles All the Way Down” and the hard driving “Life of Sin.”
The last performance before daytime slots gave way to headliners and Late Night performances was one of the most anticipated by long time Bonnaroo fans. My Morning Jacket is practically the Bonnaroo house band at this point having started their relationship with Bonnaroo in the festival’s early days and contributing more musical moments to the Bonnaroo legend than any act. With momentum from their critically acclaimed new album The Waterfall and headlining sets at several smaller festivals, My Morning Jacket came into Bonnaroo 2015 riding higher than they ever have but, as has become expected now, the band brought something extra to their two hour Bonnaroo 2015 performance.
Their set ranged widely, pulling heavily from “The Waterfall” but also dipping into hits and album cuts from their entire catalog. As has always been the case with My Morning Jacket, the new songs sound fuller and meatier in a live setting. Highlights included the blistering “Big Decisions” and the almost ethereal “Believe,” which opened the set and gave frontman Jim James his first chance to show off his signature vocal gymnastics.
For fans looking for older material, they got it in abundance. My Morning Jacket classics like “Gideon,” “Dodante” and “Off the Record” were joined by deeper cuts like “Circuital” and “Evil Urges” thanks to My Morning Jacket’s Spontaneous Curation Series, which allows fans to vote on songs to be added to each show’s setlist. By the time fan favorite “One Big Holiday” closed out their set, the audience was in a frenzy.
Saying My Morning Jacket put on a great performance at Bonnaroo is like saying water is wet. It’s just become a known fact by now. While this show isn’t likely to replace their four hour 2008 marathon in the Bonnaroo hall of legends, that isn’t likely to happen again until My Morning Jacket takes the next step in their continuing Bonnaroo evolution with a headlining set.
While the daytime shows may have been over, Saturday at Bonnaroo was far from. Still to come were headliners Mumford & Sons, in addition to sets from Slayer, Bassnectar, D’Angelo, and the Superjam.