Posted: 12:58 pm Sunday, June 12th, 2016
One tiny severe weather cell just grazing The Farm’s perimeter with light rain but peppering nearby areas with lightning was enough to shut down Bonnaroo for about 90 minutes on Saturday evening. Most sets were shifted back and performed in full by the affected artists, and some acts such as Macklemore and Ryan Lewis picked up exactly where they left off.
“Waiting is the hardest part,” Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder joked as he thanked the crowd for their patience during the weather delay between set opener “Go” and “Save You.” Considering they played”Corduroy” just after, Vedder missed an opportunity to tie in his stage banter with the song’s lyrics (“The waiting drove me mad…”). He made up for it later introducing the title track from their latest record Lightning Bolt. Vedder, always outspoken on sociopolitical issues, weighed in on a couple of topics both local – a Tennessee state representative promising to continue pushing anti-trans bathroom legislation – and national – “Maybe we should just build a wall around him… we’d pay for it!” referring to Donald Trump before the punky, propulsive “Mind Your Manners.” Guitarist
Mike McCready, the star of every Pearl Jam performance I’ve seen, improvised a brilliant extended solo while leaning into the crowd during “Evenflow” before kneeling at his effects rig in front of a fish-eye lens sending a very cool shot to the jumbotron. During the band’s lone extended encore, Vedder asked the crowd to sing “Happy Birthday” to his 12-year-old daughter Olivia with the lighters and lit-up phones taking the place of birthday candles, to be extinguished when Olivia blew. Fireworks exploded almost on beat during as a brilliant cover of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” reached its chorus. And with a final sequence of songs that included “Better Man,” “Black,” “Alive,” and Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World,” Pearl Jam did everything Bonnaroovians hoped for and more.
My day began with the unbridled joy on Ben Bridwell’s face as Band Of Horses juxtoposed Skynyrd-referencing slower jams like set opener “For Annabelle” with the triple-guitar muscle of current single “Casual Party”. I met him briefly earlier in the day and Ben may be the nicest, warmest person at Bonnaroo. No small feat considering The Farm’s “Radiate Positivity” credo. I caught about half their set before the hot, dusty schlep from What Stage to the far side of Centeroo for Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats at This Tent and lucked into catching Two Door Cinema Club wrap up their Which Stage set with the manic, pulsing synthpop jangle of “What You Know” whipped the throng of thousands into a dancing frenzy at sunset.
A Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats performance is more like rock & roll church, where the music is worshiped and Rateliff’s sermons our conduit to the divine. He’s backed by an incredible 6-piece band, expertly capable of delivering The Night Sweats’ mix of blues, funk, soul, and gospel; and among them show-stealing, dancing trumpeter Wesley Watkins. That’s not to say Rateliff doesn’t give his all. So enthusiastic was his pull on the mic stand back towards his face as he prepared to sing a verse of “We’ve Got The Whole Night Left To Lose” that he hit himself in the mouth.
Bonnaroovians looking for a heavy dose of loudness could enjoy what was supposed to be a heavy metal doubleheader of Clutch and Lamb Of God over at The Other Tent. Clutch, though often lumped in with stoner rock, is actually quite difficult to pin down stylistically. Their spin on the genre moonlights in sludge, funk, blues, and psychedelia. The aforementioned weather delay began just prior to a pummeling, relentless set from Richmond extreme metal band Lamb Of God, but much like many of Bonnaroo’s remaining Saturday night performers they would certainly make up for lost time.