Published Jun 14, 2014An unusually cloudy day on the farm was a nice surprise on Friday, as thousands flocked to see sets from up-and-comers, as well as Bonnaroo veterans.
Early in the afternoon, Sam Smith took the stage at the Other Tent to chants of his name and launched into a soulful set of songs from his soon-to-be-released debut record. It was his first appearance at an American festival and he remarked that he'd made a bet with his manager that no one would show up, but from the massive crowd singing along to almost every song, you would have never known. "Leave Your Lover" got an excited response from the crowd, but that seemed like nothing compared to their reaction to his excellent cover of fellow performers Arctic Monkeys' "Do I Wanna Know." It was the closing pair of his Disclosure collaboration "Latch" and "Stay With Me," though, that really showcased just how big this guy is going to be.
Immediately following Smith, Detroit rapper Danny Brown flipped the mood at the Other Tent, working the crowd into a frenzy from the second he stepped out with a blue-green mohawk, Guns N'Roses T-shirt and leather pants that somehow managed to not kill him with heatstroke. Fans were flying across the sea of raised hands, as Brown hit the mark with tracks like "Dip," "Handstand" and older staple "I Will."
The highlight of the afternoon, however, was undoubtedly Janelle Monáe. On the festival's headlining What Stage, Monáe was on point from the second she was wheeled out on stage in a straightjacket by her hype man, who would later carry her on his back through the crowd. Her flawless band, clad all in black and white against a swirling monochrome backdrop, were a joy to watch when you could peel your eyes away from Monáe herself. "Electric Lady" and "Tightrope" were easily favourites, though her speech leading into "Cold War" and her rendition of "PrimeTime" were touching moments amidst an otherwise non-stop barrage of energy.
Leading Bonnaroo into the evening, Vampire Weekend played on the What Stage against a gorgeous sunset and the skyline of the few trees on the festival grounds. Kicking off with "Diane Young" and running through the best of their three records with the likes of "Step," "Cousins," "Oxford Comma" and closer "Walcott," Ezra Koenig and company were a delightful start to what would become a strange evening.
Kanye West played Bonnaroo in 2008 and it didn't go over well when he pushed his set back until 4:45 a.m. Six years later, the crowd here still hasn't embraced the rapper's vision or megalomania. Verses from "I Don't Like" and "Mercy" that had received thunderous applause when Pusha T did them the night before went largely unnoticed by the outer periphery of the audience, who seemed more interested in talking about how much they hate Kanye West and waving around "Kanye bait" signs about fish dicks. It was after West's declaration that "I am the number one rock star," though, that onlookers started to audibly boo.
His now infamous Auto-Tune rant was met with laughs by people that soon began to file out of the grounds as West yelled about Bruno Mars and never wanting to play the Superbowl. But when the haters cleared out and he finished his "fuck the press" rambling on "Heartless," hits like "Jesus Walks," "All Falls Down" and "The Good Life" brought the show to a point where it was enjoyable. It's shitty when a crowd dampens a performance as much as this one did — especially since it's hard to believe that they didn't know what to expect given all the hype surrounding the Yeezus tour. It's nice that he got a second chance to prove himself to Bonnaroo, but apparently he's still too polarizing for a crowd that isn't specifically his.