MANCHESTER, Tennessee — The 11th annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival kicked off Thursday with a characteristically diverse mix of artists representing funk, blues, hip-hop, reggae, electronic, indie rock and even mariachi.
The rootsy Alabama Shakes, who broke earlier this year, nabbed a closing spot on opening night, grooving through “Hang Loose” and their first single, “Hold On.” Frontwoman Brittany Howard had the crowd feeling her pain as she wailed “Rise to the Sun.”
Kendrick Lamar brought his West Coast gangsta rap to the dirty South. And while he clearly had many fans in the crowd — spitting along to “P & P” and “A.D.H.D.” — he took time to address a vocal hater in the front row. “He’s telling us that I’m not the best rapper alive today,” Lamar announced. “Can I prove it to him?” He responded with the frantic “Look Out for Detox.” Earlier in the night, the stage was handled by rappers Danny Brown and Shady Records signee Yelawolf.
SOJA’s devotees were treated to “Here I Am,” “Everything Changes” and a bit of advice from singer Jacob Hemphill, who urged his audience of reggae lovers to check out Bad Brains, hard-core punk pioneers who also delved into reggae. Bad Brains are scheduled for their first Bonnaroo appearance on Saturday afternoon.
Just after sunset, Moon Taxi lit up That Tent with jazzy keyboard and bass solos. Also Thursday, Big Gigantic managed to seamlessly blend Jay-Z’s “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” Aloe Blacc’s “I Need a Dollar,” electro and high-speed drum and bass — all while featuring live saxophone. Mimosa gave a shout-out to fellow Bonnaroo performer Ludacris, mixing the rapper’s “What’s Your Fantasy” into a set that also included DJ Darude’s decade-old trance classic “Sandstorm.”
Over four days, nights and early mornings, Bonnaroo will bring fans more than 150 bands and nearly two dozen comedians. Friday (June 8) features Radiohead, Foster the People, Feist, and Mos Def and Talib Kweli as Black Star. The 2012 lineup also includes Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Beach Boys, Phish, Skrillex, Alice Cooper, Fun. and Bon Iver.
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