Bonnaroo 2019 was my first ever trip to the farm and I can absolutely say it was one of my all-time favorite festival experiences.
Whether it is the vastly diverse selection of acts playing the best music in the industry, the unifying energy that constantly wafted through the thin Tennessee air, or the unfailing positivity of all the sharpie messages scribbled on the walls of what seemed to be every bathroom stall, Bonnaroo turned out to be a festival I definitely won’t be missing out on for years to come. (Featured Photo shot by Phill McDonald!)
I was absolutely blown away by the relentless talent commanding each new stage and genre I wandered upon, and found myself scrambling to jot down name after name, after name, after name, into the ever-lengthening list of ‘listen-to-later‘s or ‘don’t forget to mention‘s in my notes.
It just so happened that for several months prior to Roo I had somewhat forgotten about non-electronic music. Fortunately though, acts like Jack Harlow the Kentucky rapper with a wavy flow and ‘please-shush-your-homie-so-I-can-hear-these’ bars and K. Flay the female vocalist with a soul gripping rasp and heart-stirring passion both tremendously re-ignited my love for various other styles of music. I had forgotten how organic instruments feel when they are played live, how a vocal can carry such heavy emotion, and how both allow the audience to experience an entirely unique and intimate moment along with the artist, strengthening the bond between them in the most incredible way. Some of my favorite performances came from Two Feet, who always leaves his heart on the stage and never leaves out those undeniably iconic bass-lines, Gramatik the veteran DJ who delivered a high energy electro soul set alongside a live electric guitarist, and even Ducky, a Californian Dj/Musician who played drums, guitar, and sang in the breaks of some pretty fire bass music in the cutest live set I’e ever seen. (apparently she even dropped an unreleased collab with Rusko?!?!?!) >>https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvk-cYRH28s
Although the artists listed above, as well as several others like Childish Gambino, Cardi B, Juice Wrld, Odesza, and Brockhampton all put on top tier performances, if you’ve ever read even just one of my other articles, you might know I have a SLIGHT obsession with bass music. Fortunately, Bonnaroo saw that I was coming and kindly featured a delightful selection of the most talented bass producers I’ve ever had the opportunity to experience in a live setting. I wish I could write a paragraph for all of them, but it would be difficult to discuss every act in depth. Instead, I’m going to attempt to highlight the artists & performances that really blew the brain juice out of my ears.
Representing the weirdest, wonkiest, wubbiest, and most sonically complex bass arrangements in electronic music, artists like Eprom, Jade Cicada, Shlump, Liquid Stranger, Dorfex Bos, Space Jesus, Huxley Anne, Freddy Todd, and Mersiv all brought everything they had and more when they got behind the decks at the farm. The acts aforementioned threw down some of the most incredible bass music performances I’ve seen to date. I was legitimately floored for pretty much the entirety of each of their sets.
It wasn’t just the DJs that stole my attention though.
My hat goes off to all the visual teams at Roo as well. We are blessed to live in an age of technology where the possibilities of visual art during live sets are relatively limitless; and I was reminded of that blessing the very moment I walked up to the Other stage on the first day. All the acts featured high quality visuals, but I was most blown away by the visual teams for Jade Cicada, Dorfex Bos, Medasin, Liquid Stranger, and Eprom. These DJ’s delivered exceptional performances with their own distinct sounds, and the visual teams effectively managed to not only emphasize those sounds, but also to envelope the audience within each artist’s unique visual atmosphere, working simultaneously with each DJ to deliver each of their own specific theatrical visions.
From his award nominated remix of Portugal. The Man‘s “I Feel it Still“, to his masterfully smooth rendition of DJ Khaled‘s “Wild Thoughts“, or really any of his music in general (if you’ve missed the originals, start w/ his most recent project here: Irene), Grant Nelson aka Medasin has displayed on multiple occasions just how dedicated he’s been to perfecting his craft. I had already known he was an incredibly talented producer just by hearing a couple tunes in the past, but I never got the chance to catch one of his live sets, much less to listen to his more recent music. Turns out Medasin’s mix and production aptitude is far higher than I ever could have imagined. In an effortlessly smooth and blissful performance, his vibes were authentic and beautiful, his basses were robust and encapsulating, and his visuals were on point with a capital P. All of these things suited Medasin’s lush sonic atmospheres exceptionally well.
In a set that was easily placed somewhere in the top 10 sets I’ve ever seen, Skyler Golden aka Jade Cicada delivered a brilliantly cohesive sonic/visual production that left my jaw on the floor too many times to count. Although the Denver native is perhaps one of the most talented experimental producers I’ve had the chance to witness live, it wasn’t just his sound design that resonated with me, but the complete artistic experience that he displayed during his given time slot. As artists, and as human beings, we are all vastly unique. The artists that completely immerse their audience into what exactly makes them unique will always have my full support. Jade Cicada’s performance at Bonnaroo was absolutely top-tier because he did precisely that. At any moment during his set I felt like I could just sprout wings and fly away. The talented engineer’s sound design creates a unique physical atmosphere and is quite incomparable to any other artist I’ve seen. The only way I know to describe his sound is to say that he quite literally made me feel like a Cicada. bzzzzz bzzzzzzz
Wakaan figure-head and one of freeform bass’ most respected pioneers, Swedish-born bass innovator Martin Stääf, aka Liquid Stranger delivered the heaviest and most strange performance I’ve seen from the madman to date. His extraterrestrial low end wizardry paired well with his visual team’s wonderfully strange & liquid LED/light accompaniment, and like always, he had a handful of unreleased tunes to keep the crowd strapped in for the duration of his space-ship tirade.
Eprom‘s presence at Bonnaroo proved to me emphatically how next level his production ability really is. Between his involvement in the B3B with Shlump and Space Jesus as well as an impressive solo set, I was very surely reminded of Eprom’s transcendence in the sphere of underground bass music. Featuring a slew of unbelievably complex sounds, innovative musical arrangements, and unpredictable bass contortions, Eprom conducted an experience unlike any other. The phrase “sophisticated distortion” comes to mind in attempt to describe the bass connoisseur’s unique brand as a whole. His artistic vision tucks an abrasive collision of dubstep and grime under clean hip-hop inspired beats and dissonant atmospheres. His art was very professionally actualized in the form of beautifully distorted statues and inhuman sonic/visual textures. It is without a hint of hesitation that I suggest you catch a set of his as soon as you get a chance. Make sure to bring an open mind because there’s no telling where this unbelievably talented experimentalist will take you!
Space Jesus, Shlump, Freddy Todd, to name a few! It was with great surprise that Wakaan was so properly represented this year at the farm. Witnessing an insane amount of experimental bass productions, I was absolutely loving every second any of the immensely talented Wakaan artists had their go behind a set of decks at Roo. Just to put the icing on the cake, among a variety of awesome tracks, Space Jesus dropped tunes from two of my personal favorite artists, Charlesthefirst and Tiedye Ky. At the Kalliope after hours, completely unaware that I would have another chance at seeing one of Wakaan’s most brilliant new acts, Freddy Todd, I found myself sitting under a tree as the sun peaked it’s head above the horizon listening with complete and utter amazement. The retro-miami-wook played out a handful of the tracks from his new LP “Wreckulous” for a wide-eyed audience that stood, sat, and danced in perplexed amazement. Freddy Todd represents one of my absolute favorite things about electronic music. Complete and utter sonic pandemonium in the form of music!
A wide variety of all of the best musicians from every genre you could think of, indoor bathrooms near the stages, beautiful people, beautiful visuals, a cornucopia of delicious eats, good vibes out the wazoo…. what else could you possibly want in a festival? How about something to do when the main stages are closed and you and your squad aren’t nearly done shenaniganing? Fret not, Bonnaroo has you covered. New to Roo this year were several different areas with endless things to do with you and all of your weirdo night owl buddies. Not only was the Kalliope stage a highlight of late night Roo, but they also added this mystical place called “Where in the Woods”. I could try to explain it but that would ruin the m y s t e r y, so you’ll just have see for yourself!
Really though, I highly recommend assembling your festival homies and making a trip over to Manchester, Tennessee for a long weekend that you wont forget, even when you are old and wrinkly!