feature: bonnaroo music and arts festival 2015 – recap pt. ii

June 17, 2015

Some days ago, we recapped day one of the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival which was filled with standout rock and roll acts, a U.K based collective, and a little comedy mixed in. In the days that followed, I packed in as many acts and activities as humanly possibly. There were star-studded shows that ran late into the a.m, a chance meeting with a lovely lead vocalist, and I left the festival a fan of acts that I wasn’t formerly particularly fond of. I was in music heaven for four days, and I’m still pinching myself at the caliber acts I was able to catch. Here are just some of the acts I caught on my remaining days at Bonnaroo.

By Andrea Dwyer, AFROPUNK Contributor


Super Jam

The theme for the second annual Super Jam was a “Throwback Dance Party.”Artists the likes of SZA, Rhiannon Giddens, DMC from Run DMC, Chance The Rapper, and Kandace Springs all brought their own flavor to the star-studded event. The jam-fest seemed to be the most talked about event of the festival.  



I had the pleasure of meeting Monica Martin, the lovely lead vocalist of indie rock/folk group Phox. Our meeting was brief, but she made an impression in person as well as on stage. Offering on stage a brief backstory to go along with songs written by the talented singer-songwriter and her accompanying members. Her angelic, melancholic voice soothed and pacified the audience into a mood of somber elation.


 Big Freedia

 “The undisputed ambassador of the energetic” sat down with Red Bull music academy for an intimate chat about all things bounce to the top rated show on Fuse network, Queen of Bounce. The New Orleans-based artist also touched on his gospel roots as well as a gamut of projects coming up which includes a soon to be released album and a book titled God Save The Diva. In true Freedia style, the performer ended the curated talk with a bang—performing two seemingly unplanned songs, which had folks running from afar just to catch a glimpse of the twerk master.


Rhiannon Giddens

We recently interviewed Rhiannon Giddens back in April. The singer-songwriter made the rounds at Bonnaroo— performing an intimate set for press and others alike; chatted on a panel comprised of musicians and actors the likes of Reggie Watts and Robert Trujillo from Metallica; performed a rousing rendition of the Police’s “Roxanne at the SuperJam; as well as a Dolly Parton cover and a Bob Dylan song, which she contributed on the Basement Tapes project.


Reggie Watts

Yet another artist we’ve recently interviewed. During our chat, the multi-talented star told us to “expect the unexpected” at his Bonnaroo performance. The musician-comedian certainly delivered on his promise, bringing down the house with his left of field, stream of consciousness style performance early afternoon at the comedy tent. I found myself wanting to catch his second show; it was that entertaining. 



Now, I tend to be as laid-back as they come. At most concerts, the most I’ll typically do is a slight  head-bob or I may coolly sing along. This was not the case during SBTRKT’s ninety-minute set. There was something about the contagious beats and songs like “Wildfire” and “Pharaohs” had me wildin’ out. That in itself was a show worth watching. 



Ben Harper & Kendrick Lamar

 I’m including the longtime lyricist and the young rap god together because they basically played the same time slot. Thankfully, there was a slight time difference which made it possible to catch segments of each set. Ben Harper offered a set full of his classic melodies. Tracks “Forever,” “Glory and Consequence” and “Steal My Kisses” were among my favorites. I caught most of the Compton rapper’s set from what felt like a football field away. I’d been hearing whispers that the rapper had mostly been playing a festival set dominated by his older stuff — which was true. Hits like “Swimming Pools” and “Poetic Justice” had the crowd going wild, as well as the emphatically empowering “i” and “King Kunta” from his latest album To Pimp A Butterfly.


D’Angelo and The Vanguard

 When I saw that D’Angelo was set to perform at 2 a.m I wondered how I was going to make it after a day packed with activities. Thankfully, the set time changed but he essentially still performed close to 2 a.m. My fatigue went out the door as soon as I was surrounded by the sea of hardcore D’Angelo fans. After all, I did miss his performance at last year’s AFROPUNK festival and I’ve been mourning over it since. As expected the living legend delivered an intimate set full of his evocative soulful sounds.



Flying Lotus

Flying Lotus has been on my radar for some time now, but I have to admit to being somewhat indifferent towards the artist I never connected to his music for whatever reason. I’ll admit my faux pas and move on I’ve now been converted. Through a projection screen, Flying Lotus blessed fans with a mixed bag of attention grabbing funky alien-like beats as well as a few rap anthems that pulled the artist from behind the dividing screen he mostly performed from for most his set. At the end of the show, he brought artists Chance the Rapper and SZA on stage just to show them some love.

Run The Jewels

If you’ve never been to a Run The Jewels (Killer Mike and El-P) show then that should be the next rap act you make time to see. The non-stop high-energy roller coaster is a ride I would repeatedly go on. They’ve been hitting the festival circuit pretty hard as of late and it was evident why they are in such high demand.


I had the chance of catching SZA’s set just inches away from the stage at last year’s Afropunk festival. Dressed in a Cheech and Chong tee and sandals, the artist dazzled with her airy and introspective anthems. Since then, the changes that have occurred are quite obvious. For starters, she’s now sporting an auburn do and secondly, SZA has transcended her former live acts into becoming a true stage performer. She’s now more engaged and entertaining on stage and it was well received. Peep SZA’s new do in the video below. 


Shabazz Palaces

The elusive Seattle rap group descended upon the Manchester farm with a flurry of hits ranging from their early EPs and albums Black Up and Lese Majesty. Palaceer Lazaro entranced the crowd with his flows and intergalactically sized beats.


The Very Best

The duo, although three members performed live, are an eclectic mash up of sounds of the world — blending hip-hip, pop and sounds from Malawi. Their live show was dynamic and I came away knowing I would catch them as soon as they hit the U.S touring circuit again.


Rudimental was the last act I caught late evening Sunday at the festival.  The U.K group put on a wildly entertaining set, where all parties were fully involved. Backup singers took turns belting out popular songs like Emeli Sandé’s collaborated track “Free”  —the empowering anthem sung with the same fervor as a soulful gospel ballad.

Songhoy Blues

I initially wasn’t going to include the band in the compilation due to a scheduling conflict, but we caught snippets of their set while rushing over to catch Phox. What we heard of the foursome from Mali proves that they are worth a listen. 

Alabama Shakes


Photo credit: Richard Martin