The first day at Bonnaroo always feels like a homecoming. It's also a tremendous relief that after all of the waiting and planning things are finally underway. This year there have been some fundamental changes to the layout that seem to have improved the use of space and the flow of traffic. The Other Tent has been replaced by The Other a new stage focusing on electronic and experimental music. This change was an immediate hit. It's placement along a gentle slope and the addition of two gigantic screens have turned the entire front lawn of Centeroo into a meandering dance party. When you wander that way after dark you are greeted by undulating sea of light up toys and moving bodies without the crush of the previous tent environment. This was an excellent change to the festival that appears to have developed exactly as planned. Otherwise most of the change are relatively minor. The wall between. The Who Stage and the What Stage access has been opened which makes The Who a more dynamic space. With the addition of The Other things are a bit more spread out which opens up Centeroo considerably.
Onto the music. Thursday at Roo is great. Many people are still arriving or exhausted from the trip and the festival presents a relatively small but well curated series of shows that evening with the main stage performances reserved for the next three nights. We started the fest with extremely high energy sets from Hippo Campus and July Talk before settling into an excellent run of younger bands like Two Feet, Mt. Joy and Charlotte Cardin. For their part July Talk was one of the standouts of the day. Their powerful blend of indie rock and blues got the crowd rolling. There is something about this group that just clicks live. They clearly love the stage and this crowd was eating it up. Two Feet was a revelation. I've been looking forward to this show for a while. The duo manages to mix rock and electronic elements seamlessly. Really this has been a theme of the festival season so far. We are seeing a cross pollination between the EDM and indie camps in very interesting ways. In the right hands these sounds no longer feel forced together but exist harmoniously. Charlotte Cardin's group operated in much the same vein adding a Post Malone cover to their synth heavy mood experimentation.
I would be remiss if I did not include a note about the weather. This may be the best weather Bonnaroo has ever had with highs in the low 80s and chilly nights. Camping is actually enjoyable rather than something to be endured and not a drop of rain in sight. All the pieces are in place for another epic year.