5 Best Sets of Bonnaroo 2011: Day 3
Bonnaroo continued on Saturday with sets from hip-hop's hottest newcomer Wiz Khalifa and Neil Young and Stephen Stills' reunited '60s band Buffalo Springfield. But there were plenty of other highlights. Here are our Top 5:
EMINEM AT THE WHAT STAGE
It's hard to imagine a performer whose entire aesthetic is less compatible with the communal, peaceful, howdy-neighbor vibeology of Bonnaroo. Still, after Eminem arrived early to the site, there was chatter that he'd get into the festival's collaborative spirit and join other artists onstage. But that never materialized, and when Slim Shady emerged from the wings just after 11:30 PM Saturday, alongside hulking sidekick Mr. Porter, he was not about to entertain any sort of when-in-Manchester attitude adjustment.
Wearing camo cargo shorts and a black hoodie hanging loosely over a promotional t-shirt for his Bad Meets Evil project (with fellow Detroit MC Royce Da 5'9"), Em launched into a ferocious version of the guitar-heavy counterpunch "Won't Back Down" (from last year's Recovery); his eight-piece group bashed away as if they were being paid by the amount of damage they could inflict on their instruments. This aggro approach -- two drummers pounding furiously, two lead guitarists screeching relentlessly -- made sense for the chin-out defiance of "Won't Back Down." Yet almost perversely, the bombast never flagged, restructuring virtually every song as a '70s arena-rock crescendo.
Within that limited format, certain songs benefited more than others: Bad Meets Evil's "Lighters" gave Royce a chance to prove he could hold 70,000-plus rapt with his knotty autobiographical verse (he could - plus a smirk!); and "Like Toy Soldiers," with its litany of Eminem's old rap feuds, actually resounded more like a newly urgent battle hymn. Unfortunately, contrary to rumors, there were no guests appearances (no Lil Wayne or Nicki Minaj); at the end of the day, Bonnaroo be damned, Eminem stalks alone. -- CHARLES AARON
THE LOW ANTHEM AT THE THAT TENT
Dressed like homesteaders and uniformly coated in the ubiquitous Bonnaroo dust, the Low Anthem took the stage looking like apparitions from a bygone era. Indeed there was ghostliness and grit to the quartet's sad, homespun songs, which seemed more the work of Appalachian savants than Rhode Island virtuosos.
Singer Ben Knox Miller wore his hair in a pair of utilitarian braids, sitting at a keyboard marked "This Machine Kills Solipsis" as he led the band through a stark version of the old Rev. Gary Davis blues tune "Sally, Where'd You Get Your Liquor From?" Their own music ran the gamut from gospel stompers to careening calliope to ambient meditations, but every last bit was soulful and bewitching. They huddled up around the microphone for taut beauty "Charlie Darwin," and spread out for the rollicking "Hey, All You Hippies!" They swapped clarinets, singing saws, French horns and strange cymbals, and even invited renowned Kentucky cellist Ben Sollee up to perform on "This God Damn House."
But the stunning set's best moment came about halfway through, on "Home I'll Never Be," when Josie Adams let loose an incredible rasping, twanging wail belied by her general waifishness. By the time the final echo of that outburst faded from the tent, there were glassy eyes all around, and about a half-dozen tales of old spirits by old souls left to go. -- CHRIS MARTINS