On a day that was only mildly hot by past Bonnaroo standards, the festival once again proved that it’s full of surprises. Early in the day, soul singer Andra Day rounded out her set by inviting saxophone giant Kamasi Washington to blow on her own showstopper “City Burns”. A few hours later, and just a couple of days after What Stage newcomers CHVRCHES released a revamped version of “Bury It” featuring Hayley Williams (Paramore), Williams showed up in Manchester to add vocals to the triumphant tune. In fact, females dominated the airspace around Centeroo for much of the day. Amanda Shires helped cool off an appreciative audience with her tasteful, well-honed brand of country-ish pop, and young hit-maker Halsey held sway over a sizeable Which Stage crowd that sung along to every word of “New Americana”, “Hold Me Down” and the like as night fell over the farm. Halsey would later join The Chainsmokers during their late night set, completing a day full of unexpected collaboration.
Not far from where Halsey hypnotized her followers with her words and the hottest plaid outfit ever conceived, hip-hop reigned supreme. Chance The Rapper joined J. Cole on the main stage and Long Beach rapper Vince Staples brought his youthful energy and unique delivery to This Tent. Minimalist beats and woozy, barely-there melodies mixed with his evocative, intense rhymes on crowd-pleasing, often Latin-tinged bangers like “Norf Norf”, “Jump Off The Roof”, and “Senorita”. Staples commanded the stage on his own, managing to exert a ton of energy and mostly keep pace with his own convoluted lyrics. Staples’ style is very street, but there’s still a touch of his old Odd Future crew in his lyrical sensibility and his stage show, which featured often nonsensical images like Bruce Springsteen’s The River album cover.
A clear sky and rapidly cooling temperatures greeted an evening of brightly colored, dance-driven rock across Bonnaroo’s biggest stages. M83 proved their mettle with a lush and tightly constructed set, though they might have been over-billed with such a prime spot on the second largest stage at the festival. Still, they’ve got a huge sound, and the ubiquitous electro-pop anthem “Midnight City” certainly got a reaction out of everyone within earshot. Attendees were already lining up for Tame Impala’s late night set on the same stage, and upon witnessing the show, one couldn’t help but be reminded of the many Flaming Lips late-night blowouts at Bonnaroo. Confetti flew during the show-starting “Let It Happen”, and the band was bathed in a constant wash of psychedelic colors and backdrops as they worked through “Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind”, “Why Won’t They Talk To Me”, “The Less I Know The Better” and “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”, among others.
Headliners LCD Soundsystem ultimately ruled the night, kicking off their chaotic, relentless set at 11 PM sharp – the actual second that M83 ended, LCD began. This band revels in noise, taking every opportunity to cut their irresistible, hook-laden dance tunes with vigorous sonic manipulation. The normally midtempo “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” was juiced up to the point of frenzy, “I Can Change” rained waterfalls of joyous synths on the crowd, and “You Wanted A Hit” bored into the center of the Bonnaroo brain with its wry, self-referential lyrics and demonically catchy music. The crowd has rarely been so thin at a headlining set on the farm, and many questioned LCD’s headlining status upon release of the lineup. But James Murphy and his clever band proved them all wrong with a mix of dance-focused but cerebral songs like “Losing My Edge”, with its surreal, self-doubting outer monologue, and “Dance Yrself Clean”, which is a study in the balance of melancholy and jubilation. Anyone who skipped this set missed one of the finest, friendliest, easily navigable evenings in What Stage history.