Bonnaroo 2014: Under-Booked and Spread Thin (But It Still Rocked)

Bonnaroo 2014: Under-Booked and Spread Thin (But It Still Rocked)

Wesley MurchisonFriday,27 June 2014

The Snap:

Bonnaroo, the annual music festival that caters to all possible tastes be it country, rap, rock or jam-band, concluded its thirteenth exhibition with a successful drawing of an estimated 90,000 plus attendees, a little shy of the record breaking 100,000 sales of Bonnaroo 2012. This year’s Bonnaroo brought together contemporary chart toppers like Jack White, Kanye West and Vampire Weekend with legends like Elton John and Lionel Richie.

The Download:

The interesting diversity of various music genres under one canopy makes for a surreal atmosphere that prevents any one culture from dominating. But if one reported on all the indie rock performances as a singular event what would that say about the state of indie rock?

The musicians that didn’t play at Bonnaroo says as much as the performances of those who did attend. The more notable, that is to say mainstream, acts dominating indie rock today were missing in action. Top on that list would have to be Arcade Fire. Since having released four albums to critical acclaim, the Canadian band is fast becoming iconic, though of an obfuscated sort. The other excluded, or uninterested, acts not in attendance at the motley of music, comedy and odd entertainment would have to include The Killers, The Strokes and The Skins. For those indie rockers that did make the cut, or accepted the invitation, were of a more middling representation of the established, new and obscure.

The show began early with a Thursday night double header over-lap with Real Estate starting at 7:30 at That Tent. The Cloud Nothings began playing at 8:30 over yonder at This Tent before Real Estate could conclude their performance. The youthful Cloud Nothings gets props from Stereogum as the ninth best Bonnaroo act of 2014, and Pitchfork’s Paul Thompson reported “they were as good as I’ve ever seen them, unspooling … to a wildly receptive audience.”

But whatever can be said about Cloud Nothings’ and Real Estates’s performances doesn’t seem to compare to the YouTube testimony of J. Roddy Walston & The Business’s killing it, with a performance at the This Tent around 11:30.

The indie rock fan had a lot of time to recuperate Friday before the first act went on at 5:20. Over at the awkwardly named “New Music Tap Lounge,” The Orwells got the high school house party treatment from devoted and new fans alike. One had to leave early to catch the Empires over at the Café Where around 6:30 before moving along to catch Vampire Weekend at What Stage at 7:30.

The controversial love-em-or-hate-em Vampire Weekend didn’t quite prove their live act chops to Pitchfork’s Paul Thompson. He claimed their set was “bookish,” but American Songwriter’s Jeff Terich countered that hearing their “radio-friendly jams being preformed at sunset before a Bonnaroo audience of thousands made their catalog feel within licking distance of legendary.”

Friday ended with appearances by Neutral Milk Hotel over at This Tent and Phoenix playing at Which Stage.

Saturday was a low-key affair with Desert Noises capturing most of indie rock attention with garage rock revivalist Jack White getting an honorary indie mention. White’s headline performance was packed, but YouTube reports it was worth it to hear all that banter.

Arctic Monkeys’ Sunday performance at What Stage apparently stole the indie show. Stereogum listed them as the fifth best act at Bonnaroo 2014, sandwiched between Dr. Dog and Janelle Monae. It’s hard to discern what bands did best at Bonnaroo 2014 after the fact, but it is also possible that eye witness accounts aren’t entirely bias free. Maybe readers ought to decided for themselves by way of a smart phone recorded video:

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Hat Tips:

Bonnaroo, YouTube, Pitchfork, American Songwriter, Stereogum, WBIR, Urban Milwaukee Dial, Image Credit: Flickr

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