Saturday at Bonnaroo couldn't possibly live up to the standard set by Paul McCartney's marathon set Friday night, but organizers were thrown a particularly gnarly curve ball when Saturday headliners Mumford & Sons abruptly canceled the remaining dates on their U.S. tour after bassist Ted Dwayne had surgery last week to remove a blood clot from his brain.
Fortunately, the Hawaiian folk-rocker Jack Johnson—who played the very first Bonnaroo and headlined here in 2008—was already on site to sit in with labelmates ALO, but mostly just to soak up the atmosphere. Miraculously, Johnson and his band, who hadn't played a legit show in over a year, organzied a two-hour set in less than 48 hours, taking the What Stage last night around 9PM as Bonnaroo's first-ever headlining replacement. Johnson even found time to pen a new song—called, simply, "Bonnaroo"—telling the tale of his last-minute recruitment, along with his longtime love for this festival, which he calls "one of my favorite places in the world." There were a few shaky moments and minor fuckups, but, given the circumstances, it was an impressive feat.
Prior to Johnson, Björk warmed up the mainstage with her high-octane blend of avant-pop and electronica, though the crowd seemed strangely disengaged relative to other festivals where I've seen her perform. Only during some fiery pyrotechnics at the end did the crowd finally seem to wake up.
After, I wandered over to Which Stage just in time to hear The Lumineers play their big hit "Ho Hey," which the whole crowd of 20,000 strong seemed to know by heart. The roots rockers played so softly, they were almost inaudible at times, but the audience seemed to enjoy the mellow vibe at the end of a long, hot day.
After Jack Johnson, I couldn't resist the temptation to check out Billy Idol's set in That Tet, jumping up and down like a giddy teenager to "Dancing With Myself" and "Cradle of Love." Unfortunately, Idol also decided to grace us with some of the new material off his soon-to-be-released new album, which sounded like soft rock gone bad. I heard that he closed with "Rebel Yell" and "White Wedding," but I was long gone by that point.
Far more engaging—and entertaining—was "Weird Al" Yankovic, who has spent the past four decades slaughtering some of pop music's most sacred cows. Interspersing classics like "Eat It" and "Amish Paradise" with video montages and fake interviews with vapid movie stars, Weird Al employed more costume changes than Lady Gaga—who got the treatment herself with "Perform This Way," complete with Weird Al in peacock costume.
Finally, on my way back to my tent, I stopped off at This Tent to see some of the "Rock 'n' Soul Dance Party Superjam" featuring everyone from Jim James to the Alabama Shakes' Brittany Howard turn out classics like "Everyday People" and "A Change is Gonna Come." But, the show stopper was an appearance by Sly and the Family Stone's Larry Graham, who, wearing a white suit and fedora, led the ensemble in "Dance to the Music" and "Hot Fun in the Summer." "I played Woodstock!" Graham reminded the younger members of the audience. "This place is just like Woodstock!" Right on.
More pics on the photo page.