Of all the unfortunate scheduling at this year’s Bonnaroo (Sleigh Bells and The Walkmen simultaneously, Beirut and the Strokes and Explosions in the Sky and Robert Plant simultenously), I’m kind of upset that they missed the opportunity for the showdown of the decade, or, at least, the Chillwave Era: Best Coast vs. Wavves, who both played the fest yesterday.
Wavves was one of the day’s first acts, and after seven hours of setting up in the record Tennessee heat, he could have been anyone playing anything and people would have lost their shit. There were far more chants of “Bonnaroo!” than there were of “Wavves!,” but Wavves’ particular brand of surf-y, scuzzy pop-punk was the perfect sound to pump up a tent of people reared on Blink 182. At one point Williams had to tell the audience to pick up those audience members who had fallen as a result of moshing. Although from where I was standing all I could see was some light shoving. (And also a topless girl!)
If Wavves presented Bonnaroo with the abstract idea of fun–i.e. “these are things that you could do if you wanted to enjoy yourself”–The Knux actually delivered on it. The alt-hip-hop group spent at least 20 percent of their set asking their audience, with varying degrees of irony and self-awareness, to “make some noise!” and “raise your hands in the air!,” which later mutated into “make some fucking noise or I’ll cut your throats!” People were more than happy to oblige; the light shoving became friendly hip-gyrating, while The Knux worked overtime to give its audience a good show.
And then, the Drums. There is a reason that the Brooklyn band is on Island Records and playing to 3,000 captive Bonnaroonians, and not on Captured Tracks and playing to 26 disaffected Mercury Lounge patrons: their frontman, Jonathan Pierce, is an actual frontman, not a guy who looks like he’s been forcibly removed from his bedroom to play a show against his will. A lot of people have called Pierce’s semi-ironic grandstanding idiotic, but that’s only in the context of your average indie rock show. Here at Bonnaroo, the Drums seemed right at home.
Which is sort of surprising, given that their one and only album is comprised mostly of spazzy, low-key surf jams. The Drums admirably beefed things up, and not just in the usual “play the sounds louder and we’ll seem like we’re an electrifying live act” way. Ballads like “Down by the Water” became grand anthems, and spazzy indie pop songs like “Best Friend” became occasions to flail around wildly.