Bonnaroo 2019: 20 Best Things We Saw - Rolling Stone
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Bonnaroo 2019: 20 Best Things We Saw

From Kacey Musgraves and Cardi B to Childish Gambino and John Prine

Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN
Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN
Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN
Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN
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Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN

After a few years of diminishing attendance and head-scratching headliners (Billy Joel?), the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival roared back this year, selling out for the first time since 2013. It also returned to its more indie, jammy and electronic roots, with Phish, Odesza and Courtney Barnett all on the bill. Which isn’t to say there weren’t any mainstream, contemporary names that tapped into the zeitgeist: Childish Gambino, Post Malone and Cardi B all performed, along with the festival’s most vocal fan Kacey Musgraves. “I’ve been looking forward to this for so long,” she said at the start of her sundown Saturday performance, “knowing that you guys are going to fucking bring it.” Here’s the 20 best things we saw at Bonnaroo 2019.

Shovels & Rope

FilmMagic for Bonnaroo Arts And

Best Multitaskers: Shovels & Rope

Shovels & Rope haven’t toured as rigorously as they have in the past, since the birth of Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent’s second child together earlier this year. But the duo’s Bonnaroo set at That Tent on Saturday showed no rust. Running through favorites like the Americana Award Song of the Year “Birmingham” and “The Wire,” off their electrifying new album By Blood, the band made a big noise with their minimalist set-up: mainly drums, guitar and keys. But it was the graceful “Carry Me Home” that best captured both the twosome’s innate chemistry and their dazzling musicianship, with Hearst keeping time on drums while simultaneously playing synth and harmonizing with her husband. J.H.

Donna Missal

Michael Hurcomb/Shutterstock

Best Self-Acceptance: Donna Missal

Quickly becoming a fixture on the underground indie scene, Missal and her power rock trio of drums and guitar took over This Tent Thursday afternoon with her stunning operatic vocal talents, a seemingly endless octave range. The soul singer blurs the lines between pop, R&B and rock stylings and preaches a passionate message of self-love and tangible progressive change in society. “Accept the things about you,” Missal told the sea of faces, “because that’s what makes you real and genuine.” G.W.

King Nun

FilmMagic for Bonnaroo Arts And

Best Rock Newcomers: King Nun

“Holy shit, there’s like six people here,” remarked King Nun frontman Theo Polyzoides, surveying the sparse turnout for the London foursome’s Friday-night set on the emerging-artist Who Stage. Faced with an unenviable timeslot opposite R&B heroine Solange and dream-pop luminaries Beach House, the noise-rock upstarts — playing only their third show in the States — didn’t make excuses, conjuring up an energetic racket that sounded like nothing else on the bill, with huge hooks grafted onto filthy guitar work and acerbic vocals. The band’s sense of fun and youthful transgression was contagious, with the charismatic Polyzoides frequently going airborne and guitarist James Upton, bassist Nathan Gane and drummer Caius Stockley-Young smiling their way through the madcap 30-minute set. They still have the feel of a work-in-progress, but for those seeking a second wind as the festival approached its halfway point, King Nun definitely scratched an itch. C.Z.

The Lonely Island

Nick Karp for Rolling Stone

Best Shtick in a Box: The Lonely Island

Former Saturday Night Live star Andy Samberg and his comedic cronies (Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone) brought their 21st-century dick jokes to the Which Stage on Saturday . The late-late-night set was jam-packed with viral hit after viral hit (“Jizz in My Pants,” “Finest Girl [Bin Laden Song],” “I Just Had Sex”). During “Dick in a Box,” Samberg did a duet with a life-size Justin Timberlake puppet (the original collaborator on the tune, with Taccone working the doll). Never once coming across as a parody act of what was initially created as a digital parody, the trio was impressive in its artistic delivery, which seamlessly blends hip-hop, Eighties synth and sugary-sweet pop into memorable gut-busting material. G.W.

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