Bonnaroo 2019 Day Four: Brandi Carlile Slays, Cardi B Rips, Phish’s Epic Set

Brandi Carlile

Brandi Carlile performs a stunning set on What Stage on June 16, 2019 at Bonnaroo, where she recalled first playing years ago in “small room with boxes.” (Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic for Bonnaroo)

Brandi Is The Key
The incandescent Brandi Carlile turned her late afternoon set into a masterclass for songwriting that obscures genres, trailing bits of post-Nashville Rosanne Cash storytelling, Radiohead’s building ambience and Joan Baez’s vocal purity in one of the festival’s most talked about performances. After the Grammy sweep, all eyes are on Carlile whose deep humanity – wishing the crowd “Happy Pride,” dedicated “Mother” to “all the fathers out there” and waving a rainbow flag like a young “Pride (in the Name of Love)” Bono.   
Each year, the mayor of Manchester and the head of Coffee County gives one artist – who best represents the values of the ‘roo – the key to their domains. This year, Carlile was the one, much to the delight of the fans. 
Past key honorees include:  2009 – Merle Haggard;  2010 – Kris Kristofferson; 2011 – Widespread Panic; 2012 – Kenny Rogers; 2013 – Sam Bush & Del McCoury; 2014 – Lionel Richie; 2015 – Jerry Douglas; 2016 – Les Claypool; 2017 – Preservation Hall Jazz Band; 2018 – Old Crow Medicine Show. (Brandi, it should be noted, is the first woman to win the award.)
Brandi Carlile

Brandi Carlile accepts the Key to the City from Manchester Mayor Lonnie Norman at the 2019 Bonnaroo Arts And Music Festival on June 16, 2019. (Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic for Bonnaroo Arts And Music Festival)

Industry Buzz: Lenore Kinder
Paradigm’s Lenore Kinder gave a candid and fascinating talk, if too brief, in the press tent to an audience of music business students from Nashville’s Belmont University.  Kinder, whose clients include Kacey Musgraves as well as  Weyes Blood, Alex Hall, Elise Davis and a resurgent Tanya Tucker, spoke about working for promoter (AEG) for 10 years before making the leap to the agency side which she called a “scary but exciting transition.” She proclaimed that people are “Fucking lying if they say they know what they’re doing” (which came as a huge relief to any sentient beings within earshot); spoke of doing every from booking corporate gigs to picking the colors for admats; mentioned that The Ryman’s Sally Williams is a role model; and discussed the wisdom of having Kacey’s on-sale before the Grammys in order to get a bead of her core audience. The awe-struck college kids swarmed her afterward.

Lemon Twigs

Matt Maltese, Michael D’Addario and Daryl Johns of The Lemon Twigs rock This Tent on June 16, 2019. (Photo: FilmMagic /FilmMagic for Bonnaroo)

Rock & Roll Ravage
Lemon Twigs took This Tent and shredded it with the lean, viciousness that made NYC/London punk such a frenzy. But the band also drew on glam (feathered shoulders, anyone?), garage (Iggy Pop’s nihilism informed the brothers D’Addario’s attack) and stripped down (bits of Artful Dodger, early Black Crowes and even the Faces) studded their wildly melodic pop-leaning bursts of fury. Is there a home for it? Hard to see. But with classic rock still registering, this at times bitchy band (“the nudes we can shoot after,” a photographer was. Informed) could be the foam on topof the next wave rolling in.

Festival IT By The Numbers:
We asked the ‘Roo for production numbers and got a note back from Thomas Porter of Yellow Dog Interactive who’s wired the fest for the interwebs since 2005. He explained that this year they “engineered and deployed a video distribution network for the festival managing all data for points of sale, all data for access control, and 3 live streams.” What that means when quantified:  44,000 feet of ethernet cable, 18,000 feet of fiber optic cable, 1350+ ethernet ends, 700+ devices, 9,756 users on public wifi total, 2.603 staff and artists on at the same time, 1.3 Gb/s average throughput the show, and the last is a doozie: 9.7 Terabytes of data (the entire library of congress print collection is estimated to be 10 Terabytes)”
Mother Tucker
Raucous country icon Tanya Tucker may not be on the average Bonnaroovians’ radar, but take the varnish off voice and hard-living legacy make her more rock &; roll than anyone save Keith Richards. With an album co-produced by Carlile and Shooter Jennings, the pussycat pink haired Tucker – introduced during Carlile’s set as “the most punk rock” — pulled a Johnny Cash/Loretta Lynn and threw down on the hipster side as a way of priming the pumps for While I’m Livin’. Walking onstage with a couple shots of tequila, she brought the shoot-out-the-lights reality of the Outlaws with her. She also held her own, in a raw-boned, full vocal way, with Carlile’s power-pure alto.
Tanya Tucker

Tanya Tucker performs on the What Stage with Brandi Carlile on June 16, 2019. (Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for Bonnaroo)

Get The Heck Out of Centeroo Part Deux
If your aching feet are still functioning on day four, go to the hinterlands (i.e. the campgrounds) for what always seems a rewarding experience. Where in the Woods is an open wooded recreation area with its own stage, food stands, cool shade for a respite from Sunday’s warmer weather (the awesome weather this ‘Roo was said to be about as good as it gets) and funky art installations (check out Mr. T below). There’s also recreation cabins which include day-glo finger painting and arcade games. It’s a wonderful place to refuel after a long day/night of Rooing. A Plaza two excursion, with huge steel sculptures welcoming visitors, is also home to the Sanctuary of Self Love curated this year by Paramore’s Hayley Williams (who also made an appearance at bandmate Zac Farro’s Halfnoise set). The Tennessean described it as “an entire place devoted to how we treat ourselves as a whole being,” which includes yoga, meditation, glitter make-ups and way more.
Mr. T

Pity The Fool! A Mr. T sculpture in Bonnaroo’s Where In The Woods recreation area in the camp grounds.

Seam Poppin’
Beyond the bitches, there’s the stitches – and for power-baller Cardi B, they didn’t hold for her girl-power, party-poppin’ set. Halfway through, the rapper stopped, laughed and announced she’d torn her chevron-striped jewel-encrusted catsuit – and started the workarounds because the show much go on! Finally, after the audience bounced up and down, singing along to “Old Town Road,” her B emerged in a Palms’ robe. In the intense heat, she kept taking one arm out, playing with it like a stripper with a mink stoll before giving up and tying the arms up and around her waist. Battery pack attached to her strapless bra, she brought the pops, squats, twerks and grinds as she prowled the stage like a cross between a glamazon queen and Cher and a more potty-mouthed Dolly Parton. Yassss, b-words, no one drops more MF bombs than Cardi and her toaster, but in the process, she makes the new narcissism feel like the cartoon it ought to be.

Cardi B

Cardi B before the seam tear. (Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for Bonnaroo)

Cardi B
(Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for Bonnaroo)

The show must go on.

Head/Count Breaks Records
Activism and festivals have gone hand in hand since Country Joe McDonald famously sang the “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag” at Woodstock a half-century ago. As American political tensions continue to run high, voter registration non-profit HeadCount broke its all-time festival record for most voters registered, signing up 1,390 new voters at Bonnaroo. “This was unexpected,” a statement from the group read. “We are almost a year and a half out from the 2020 presidential elections, but clearly our peers at Bonnaroo are pumped to be voters.” Fittingly, HeadCount’s previous record was set in 2016 by none other than Bonnaroo.

(Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for Bonnaroo)

Illenium Even Better From the Ferris Wheel
The youth were bonkers for Illenium’s set of glitchy, twitchy, deep rolling digital beats that changed by the millisecond and sometimes morphed into huge pop sing-alongs. This included tracks he’s done with Halsey (“Without Me),” and Gryffin (“Feel Good” feat. Daya) among others. But from the pinnacle of giant Ferris wheel, which is parked next to the Other Stage and where one had spectacular view of the fest, he’s never sounded better. 

Phish: Quintessential Bonnaroo
It is supremely fitting that for Bonnaroo’s comeback year, in which the fest had its first sell-out since 2013 (three years after 2016’s lowest gate haul), Phish performed an epic four-hour festival closing set (after playing a two-hour set on Friday night). The band and Bonnaroo have grown and evolved together with the Trey Anastasio Band performing at the first Bonnaroo and the band or individual members playing nineteen shows over eight more Bonnaroos, according to The marathon set (with a break in the middle) wafted through the Bonnaroo’s waning moments following Cardi B and Mac Demarco’s performances. After an encore of fan favorite “Wilson” and “First Tube,” Anastasio turned his guitar into something resembling a Theramin, raised it fully over his head arms stretched high while it screeched and ending what was a phenomenal year for the festival.
The Backstage Crawfish Boil After Party
As burnt and cripsy as most everyone is in both front and back of house, a sweet crawfish boil and pulled pork after party happens backstage in the artist lounge area following Phish’s last notes. DJ Ryan Brown plays an old school dance set with jams like “Last Night a DJ Saved My Life” that has attendees dancing on tables. Superfly’s founders Kerry Black, Rick Farman, Richard Goodstone and Jonathan Mayers are here as is Ashley Capps of A.C. Entertainment. It’s sweet exhaustion at 1:30 a.m. after a marathon of work and music and so much damn fun as folks slowly peel off with heartfelt hugs and goodbyes and then some slumber before the long trip home.