Bonnaroo 2015: Thursday Round-Up

Strand Of Oaks
Strand Of Oaks performing Thursday at Bonnaroo’s This Tent. Photo by Michael Stewart.

 

Strand Of Oaks

Strand of Oak’s frontman Tim Showalter didn’t bother trying to hide his toothy grin for one giddy second during a powerful Thursday evening set.

“Where’d you come from? Holy fuck this is unbelievable!” Showalter shouted to the gathering audience midway through the set.

Though he was clearly no stranger to the audience (the band has opened for the likes of Ryan Adams and Jason Isbell), the bearded songwriter seemed genuinely impressed and moved by the This Tent crowd.

Of course, that’s just an outsiders perspective. If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s journalists that try to fake their way through a writeup about a band they’ve never heard of. When our editor Caine O’Rear asked me to cover Strand of Oaks’ set it wasn’t the first time I’d heard the band’s name, but it wasn’t far off.

Some bands treat Bonnaroo like it’s just another gig, and some try to make it a special memory for both the band and the audience. Aside from genuinely thanking the audience between every song, Showalter made it a point to let everyone know how special the set was to him.

“We play a lot of shows and I’m gonna say it right now, this is our favorite. I’m not bullshitting,” Showalter announced before launching into “JM” to close out a genuinely great show.

Temples

On the other side of the coin you have Temples who absolutely didn’t lose their cool once their entire set. Consummate professionals, the well dressed Brits sauntered out in front of the packed out The Other Tent and played the most relaxed set of the night.

The neo-psychedelic four piece, like contemporaries Tame Impala, can’t escape the Beatles comparisons that litter their vocal harmonies, but their innovative guitar parts and interesting tonal choices is what separates them from the 8,000 other bands out there chasing the same sound.

And did I mention their haircuts? They’ve got neat haircuts.

Courtney Barnett

2015 is the year of Courtney Barnett, and I’m okay with that.

As relaxed as Temples looked on stage they didn’t look half as comfortable as Barnett, who has spent the last several months playing to the biggest audiences of her life. Armed with a pre-headlining spot at This Tent and all the hype in the world, Courtney Barnett was prepared to take over Bonnaroo, which is exactly what she did.

It’s no wonder people can’t shut up about Barnett. She manages to take inspiration from semi-obscure alt-rock gods like The Fall and Pavement and combine them with massively relatable lyrics and melodies that defy their sources. Like Nirvana before her, Barnett is able synthesize something fresh, exciting, and most importantly commercially viable, all without betraying her punk ethos.

And punk is the word for it. Though she’s been making her way up the adult contemporary charts, Barnett’s growling vocal embellishments and screaming, dissonant guitar aren’t something you’re gonna hear from the Sheryl Crows of the world.

And unlike many other Thursday acts, people didn’t seem to be there for any particular hit song. Judging by the crowd’s reactions, every song seemed like a hit.

But the real high spot of the show was the somber “Depreseton,” after which Barnett admitted to the crowd that she got lost in the moment. She wasn’t the only one.

Mac Demarco

Mac Demarco is another artist that has enjoyed a lot of sudden success recently, so it was no surprise when it was announced that he would close out Thursday, Bonnaroo’s unofficial
day for up-and-coming bands. What was surprising was how questionable that decision ended up being.

For several reasons Demarco had a hard time keeping the crowd engaged, mostly due to an uneven setlist. As the 25-year-old evolves as a songwriter there’s less and less of a place for the goofy songs of his past among the more mature work he’s producing now.

But as the set progressed Demarco and co. also seemed to progress, and by the end of the set the band was having an infectiously great time on stage. It’s just a shame half the crowd didn’t stick around to see it.