Some may come to Bonnaroo to relish in the comfort of their musical heroes. Others take advantage of the freedom to wander and embrace the unknown. Anyone who takes the latter approach can certainly attest that there are rewards in adventure. Not to be upstaged by Ziggy Marley on the What Stage, Atlanta's Manchester Orchestra patiently graced the stage at the AT&T Blue Room tent within the main stage plaza. Whether it was the eager and youthful faces singing along up front or the hungry sunburn victims taking a break near the back, one of the festival's smallest venues was rocked by the five piece's earnest songwriting and post-adolescent passion.
With rambling existential lyrics in the vein of Built to Spill and guitar work akin to R.E.M., Manchester Orchestra proved themselves to be enjoyable impresarios with a growing and devoted young fan base, many singing along to essential tracks like "Now That You're Home" and "Alice and Interiors" -- a song about "two Woody Allen movies fighting one another, " according to lead singer Andy Hull.
It wouldn't be Bonnaroo without the classic conflict conundrum -- the one time where too many good shows are on at once. During a block of time slots including an array of options like Franz Ferdinand, Ween, and Ben Harper, choosing the right act as a precursor to The Police's headlining set was crucial. Lucky for many, Spoon's math rock swagger won out. The Austin, Texas outfit didn't waste a minute in That Tent, playing from 6:00 P.M. on the dot to well over their hour and a half set time. Highlights included classics such as "Paper Tiger" and "Fitted Shirt," sing-alongs off of Gimme Fiction, and standout tracks from the forthcoming long-player Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga like set opener "Don't You Evah," "Don't Make Me a Target," and "Black Like Me." The new standoffish song titles make it seem as if Britt Daniel and crew don't want us to do anything invasive at all, but by the looks of their bright performance, they clearly want us to be enjoying ourselves. SAMANTHA PROMISLOFF