“It’s been a long time since I seen y’all. We have a lot of catching up to do. We gotta start at the beginning,” Kendrick Lamar introduced his Friday night main stage show at Bonnaroo 2015. He started at the beginning and largely stayed there for his blazing, 75-minute performance, playing only four songs off his March release, To Pimp A Butterfly. “Money Trees,” A$AP Rocky’s “F–king Problem,” “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe,” “maad City,” (which he gave two spins), and “Poetic Justice” all got massive responses from the crowd of about 80,000 fest-goers and equal appreciation from the host and his backing band (those dudes can shred).
Kendrick made mention of his 2012 set at Bonnaroo, which he graded an 8.5, and he repeatedly told the crowd he wanted to make this one a 10. But as the crowd peaked with “King Kunta,” off To Pimp A Butterfly almost 60 minutes in, even a 10 wasn’t enough anymore. “F–k 10 let’s take it up to a 20,” he said. And he did, taking the crowd up with him.
Drake is rap’s festival darling this season, closing both Coachella weekends and headlining Governors Ball in New York City, but Lamar made it clear that he is rap’s biggest rock star, commanding a crowd and a stage that have hosted guitar gods and legends like Elton John and Paul McCartney. (Rock stars were also in attendance: Winston Marshall of Saturday headliner Mumford & Sons, and half the Kings of Leon clan, Jared and Nathan Followill, were front and center.) Lamar left the crowd at 11 p.m. begging for “One More Song!” (But as it goes at festivals, an encore was not to be had.)
There was plenty of other action on the campgrounds Friday.
Against Me almost had their overflowing This Tent crowd headbanging but the temperatures under the tarp were maybe just a touch too high. Still, they clapped, sang, and when appropriate (spoiler: it was often) screamed along, especially to “Losing Touch.”
Kacey Musgraves charmed festival-goers with a set that prominently featured upcoming material (her second full-length, Pageant Material, is due out June 23). And judging by the reaction to lead single, “Biscuits” and track “Family Is Family,” her fans are into it. Bonus points to Musgraves for the best set design of the weekend (so far): the stage was flecked with neon stars and bright pink cacti.
Earth Wind and Fire threw an old-school dance party on the Which Stage, which drew out any adults left in attendance and anybody wanting to get down to some old school funk rather than drink in Deadmau5’s new lights show and heavy beats.
Odesza ended the day’s billed performances with a dance party that had fans climbing up This Tent’s fences and spilling over into the early morning.