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Best & Worst Moments of Bonnaroo: Day 3


It’s the highest compliment we could pay the legendary shock-metal band. Among the atrocities committed by the mighty monsters of GWAR in the wee hours of the festival’s fourth day: live human dissection by buzz-saw, glorification of crack smoking, incitement to violence via brutal moshing, desecration of a deceased pop idol (Michael Jackson depicted raping an alien infant), and quite possibly treason as Barack Obama was eventually decapitated in effigy. But the encore beat all. After Margaret Cho mock-fellated singer Oderus Urungus to the brand new GWAR tune “Margaret Cho is a Ho” — resulting in a god-awful spray of fluids — the band marched to Bonnaroo’s famous fountain and dyed it blood-red. — CHRIS MARTINS

“This is psychedelic cumbia,” announced Bomba Estereo frontwoman LilianaSaumet matter-of-factly during the Colombian four-piece’s early-afternoon set, but their sound (engineered primarily by bassist/production mastermind Simon Meija) can’t be pegged so simply. Mixing traditional Colombian folk with hip-hop, electro, and hypnotically twangy guitar riffs, Bomba got a grubby side stage bustlingas Saumet, wearing a pink workout top, gold short shorts over black tights, and sparkly silver shoes, played the slinky tomboy, striking goofy action poses, trilling speedy raps, and dropping into a hand-on-hip purr. Her precocious antics spurred the crowd to triple in size after only a half-dozen songs. — CHARLES AARON

Not only is Jack White a journeyman rock prince, now dude can control the weather. “Remember which band brought you the rain,” said the top-hat-wearing Tennessee resident as his quartet kicked off their 6 P.M. set. And rain it did, as if his backwoods bluesman persona had summoned the dark clouds with his two flailing drumsticks. The Dead Weather’s set was a fitting romp of unhinged roadhouse licks, complete with big shiny Gretsch guitars, as she-devil Alison Mosshart tossed herself around in a leopard-print cardigan, tight jeans, and black makeup galore. Conan O’Brien sure approved. He introduced the band, saying, “I love them as people. I love them as artists. Seriously, I would paint their houses for them.” — WILLIAM GOODMAN

After the generousness of Jay-Z’s set (now there is a man appreciative of his fans and backing musicians), it was painful to transition immediately to Dan Deacon, the kind of sinister overlord usually confined to Steven Seagal movies. “Bass players are a dime a dozen,” snarled the Baltimore electro songwriter, halting the first purrs of a promising synth jam to mock the mortified four-stringer who was playing in the wrong key. But Deacon didn’t seem to be kidding in his derision; he paced the overstuffed stage of neon skulls and other unsettling Santorium paraphernalia, leading his primal 14-piece band through offerings from last year’s Bromst with a pursed diva scowl. The selections sounded fantastic, thanks to the eerie dragging keyboards, torrential drums, and, yes, a hungry man’s platter of bass. No man is an island, Danny boy; you’d do well to be as gracious to your band as Jigga is to his. — STACEY ANDERSON

“Let’s talk about some shit,” began the baritone-voiced Reggie Watts to the packed comedy tent. The crowd had come to see Aziz Ansari, but they left converts to Watts’ wry free-associative humor thanks to the phenomenon known the “Fuck Shit Stack.” Twiddling knobs on a looper and an effects processor, Watts laid down the beat for his cult Internet hit vocally, then proceeded to rap a stream of profanity — “shitmotherfuckerasstitscuntcock” — occasionally interrupted by instructions on how to build the titular construct. For the finale, he layered his pitch-shifted voice into a complete choir of women singing the coarse refrain. Naturally, he received a standing ovation. — CM

At exactly 2:11 PM on Saturday at Bonnaroo’s Lunar stage, an undifferentiated mass of sweaty, sun-baked Americans splayed on blanketsand standing dazed in a Tennessee field suddenly became deliriously pogoing soccer fanatics, as Clint Dempsey scored an unlikely tying goal that glanced off blundering English goalie Robert Green, and the air wasfilled with beach balls, flags, shirts, umbrellas, water spraying, horns blowing, and scattered chants of “U.S.A.!” The announcers referredto the “catastrophe,” and the faces of the English hooligans in attendance were a bright pink study in dismay and simmering rage. What could they do? Bailto Norah Jones? Punch the hippie in the oversize pumpkin head? Steal anocarina and bash the emo teens exiting Circa Surive? No option seemed even remotely sufficient to address the catastrophic circumstance. — CA

As the sun went behind the clouds and the sweltering temperature cooled, Scott Avett put down his banjo and sat at the electric piano to play the Avett Brothers’ heart-stopping ballad “The Perfect Space” at the Which stage early Saturday evening. Gradually, a hush fell and the festival’s oppressively humid, septic-tank stench of bedraggled humanity lifted for a blessed second. “I wanna have friends that I can trust / That love me for the man I’ve become and not the man I was,” sang Scott in a yearning boyish wail. Later, the song’s rock section kicked in, as brother Seth crashed a power chord and started wailing too, but it was that first moment, when the weather broke along with Scott’s voice, that had an almost devotional quality amid the maddening mobs outside. — CARead More From Bonnaroo Day Three On Page 2 >>

John Prine has never really had his Johnny Cash moment, despite the praise of Cash himself and Bob Dylan, plus two late-era Grammys — one in 1991 for The Missing Years with Tom Petty sideman Howie Epstein and another for a 2006 folk album. There’s also the recent Broken Hearts and Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine, a tribute album featuring My Morning Jacket, Conor Oberst, Lambchop, Avett Brothers, and Bon Iver, among others, that’s helping the veteran singer-songwriter make yet another bid to be recognized, if not fully appreciated, by a younger generation. He and his trio of guitar and stand-up bass, decked out in their dark, Sunday-go-to-meeting duds despite the general bog-like atmosphere, nailed a 6:45 P.M. set at the That Tent with all the sly, winking dignity that’s always marked the best of Prine’s work. When he rasped the plainspoken, but slightly loopy “Spanish Pipedream,” about a soldier looking for life lessons from a stripper, it could’ve been, with a few variations, a Bonnaroo mission statement: “Blow up your T.V., throw away your paper / Go to the country, build you a home / Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches / Try and find Jesus on your own.” — CA

A newbie to the cult of Mumford & Sons would be forgiven for thinking that the country-rock quartet were authentic Southern gothics; they opened “Sigh No More” with twangy harmonies and all the wretched emotion of cowboys who’ve smoked down to the filter. “I’m sorry / My heart was never pure,” they keened over string bass, keyboard, and guitar swells. A tightly subdued, simmering delivery of their single “The Cave” carried us further into the deep woods, but then, swiftly as it arrived, the illusion was spoiled by singer Marcus Mumford. “I like how you address the mass, and I’d like to do it, too,” he exclaimed in a thick, irrefutable British accent. “So we’re gonna play y’all a quiet song.” It was “Thistle and Weeds,” a pure rush of bowed strings and burnished hope. Accents ain’t authenticity. — SA

The beloved Los Angeles post-metal band announced its impending split only weeks ago, so it was under a heavy air that ISIS took the This Tent stage. The crowd looked stern, nodding in silent reverence as the fully-maned Aaron Turner roared along with three guitars’ worth of noise. All decayed notes, static beauty and heavy atmosphere, the quintet’s songs bled into one another, creating one long dirge for the nearly departed band. There were no apologies, no goodbyes, and no explanations — no talking at all, actually. Only growls and wails, just as the fans would have it. — CM

The Bogotà, Colombia, band’s name translates to “the Velvety Ones,” and singer Andrea Echeverri proved as much with her ecological entreaties, delivered in halting and impassioned English. “We used to smoke the pipe of peace. We used to do the rain dances. We used to talk to nature,” she said earnestly, before dedicating a myriad of songs to these forgotten endeavors. “We are the rainbow tribe.” Rousing words to the wilting flower children of the Other Tent, who congregated slowly for Aterciopelados’ new-wave Latin pop; the group has been influential in the rock en espanol scene since the early ’90s, and certainly know how to dispatch their iridescent melodies and tropicalia elements to perfect effect: never before has a conga solo seemed so poised to save the world. — SA

Sometimes when it’s skin-blister hot and last night’s lack of sleep is still reaping its brain-clouding revenge, a little comfortable listening is in order. The 31-year-old piano songstress lent a gentle hand at the Which Stage with unhurried roots tunes from her five-piece band, which included drummer Joey Waronker, who plays with Beck and Thom Yorke’s Atoms for Peace. “Young Blood,” off her SPIN-approved album The Fall, was an Americana sway about love on the rocks, while “Sunrise” glided on lite ohhh ohhhhs. Jones rustled her red countrified sun dress on a cover of Johnny Cash’s upbeat rockabilly skiffle “Cry, Cry, Cry,” and breathily pleaded on “It’s Gonna Be,” a smoky groove with slick guitar and keyboard interplay. — WILLIAM GOODMAN


The line to get free, freshly screen-printed tees from Adult Swim stretched far outside the network’s carnie-style section of the festival, but inside of the massive Meatwad hut, there was little to no wait to play the totally badass original arcade game “Robot Unicorn Attack.” — CM

The Garnier free hair-washing salon enticed a coed line that pushed out the door and around the tent (all day). Three days in muggy mud-pits speak to the vanity of many. — SA

At Dan Deacon, a muscular guy doffed the scariest giant bunny head this side of Donnie Darko, and only referred to himself in the third person as “Jortus.” — SA