Neat Beet’s Top 5 Bonnaroo 2014 Performances

Bonnaroo is by no-means the first music festival we’ve covered at Neat Beet. We’ve covered Sweetlife Festival, Connecticut’s Fauxchella and more recently, Governor’s Ball. What sets Bonnaroo apart from the others, besides its lengthy history and on-going success is its high profile notoriety on the blog-o-sphere. Within minutes of a performance’s conclusion, judgement reigns supreme and while it oftentimes paints a fairly accurate picture, there are occasions where a reviewer’s words simply don’t match the overall reaction of the crowd. We didn’t want heat exhaustion, the lack of sleep or the plethora of second-hand smoke to affect our reviews. So we headed back to Neat Beet HQ, took a few showers and picked the five sets that still give us goosebumps two weeks later.

  1. Lionel Richie
    Bonnaroo’s “Radiate Positivity” campaign did very well to keep attendees happy, healthy and safe but did little to qualm those who remember 2008’s debacle with Kanye West – and Mr. West himself. The beginning of his two hour set started off as one of the best of the day but was his anti-media rant and absolute blame for Pearl Jam, the crowd and the Bonnaroo organizers that turned everyone off almost immediately. While I am and always will be a die-hard supporter of Kanye’s music and rebellious attitude toward celebrity-ship, it was that Friday that showed me that an inflated ego is still disastrous – even if it has the best of intentions.
    Flash forward to Saturday. The “F**k Kanye” paint has dried and the crowd is optimistically looking forward to Jack White. Lionel Richie is the set on the What Stage preceding him. We overheard many just showing up in the hopes to get a good spot for Jack White. Richie preceded many of his songs with a story, followed by a hilarious (yet, true) patting of his own back. (“When you feel lonely, put on your CD, your tape cassette, your 8-track tape and call on your friend LIONEL RICHIE!”) The 22-song set is one for the history books, with 9 Commodores songs and all of the solo hits your dad used to play on-repeat. The real surprise came at the end of the set. After concluding his set with the upbeat “All Night Long (All Night)” Richie returned to the stage for one song he penned almost 30 years ago: “We Are The World”. It was one of the only times throughout the weekend that lighters were held high and the loudest singing I heard from any crowd on Saturday. Lionel Richie brings his “All Night Long” tour to several large venues throughout the area, including PNC Bank Arts Center and Mohegan Sun Arena.
  2. Ice Cube
    Kanye West’s rant-filled set was met with a mass Exodus of people across The Farm to get a prime spot for Disclosure. I was one of those who caught the beginning of Disclosure but after feeling “gypped” of Bonnaroo hip-hop, I made my way to Ice Cube. The crowd was a very dense combination of 20-somethings who grew up with N.W.A. and those just buying time until Skrillex’s out-of-this-world performance. His performance was everything Kanye’s wasn’t: lively and involving. His set even included “Drop Girl,” a new track he recorded with Redfoo and 2 Chainz.
  3. Real Estate
    While Real Estate’s set didn’t have anything that set it apart from other sets, it just goes to show that band knows how to put on a show. Thursday was a relatively slow day with many of the attendees outside the Centeroo gates, either pitching tents, pre-gaming or anxiously waiting on the highway. Those lucky enough to show up early saw Real Estate’s set sync with the setting sun and a relatively empty tent. They were the perfect open to the festival. Real Estate comes to the Neat Beet-area in October.
  4. The Orwells
    With a folk-rock-ruled daytime line-up, The Orwells playing on the (super) small Miller Lite Lounge was already guaranteed to fill up early. What really brought in the crowd was the chaos that ensued. The Miller Lite Lounge, consisting of wooden Adirondack chairs and cushions protected by a small canopied tent. When the crowd started to spill beyond the canopy’s limit, many resorted to climbing the scaffolding to get a look. While dangerous in itself, it wasn’t until several people climbed the scaffolding and treated the canopy’s tarp as a trampoline that security stepped in. When they couldn’t get the scene organized, they pulled the sound on the band – something only a select few recognized right away (myself included) and the band recognized a few tracks later. The show continued a while later but was eventually ended prematurely again when things got out of hand. Your next chance to see them is at Irving Plaza or Asbury Lanes in October. SKATERS opens both shows.
  5. First Aid Kit
    There’s nothing better than seeing an artist the same week of their new album release. (remember when we saw Conor Oberst?) But nothing prepared us for the band’s first Bonnaroo performance just 5 days after releasing Stay Gold. The set included what you’d expect from the Swedish sister duo: new tracks like “Silver Lining” and “Stay Gold” and the hits from their debut. The group also performed not one but two covers. (“One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below)” and “America” by Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel respectively) Considering playing the earlier part of Saturday, the crowd overfilled This Tent and was one of the most well-received of the weekend. First Aid Kit will proudly play the large Hammerstein Ballroom this October.