Saturday, June 9th, the third day of Bonnaroo 2018 dawned warm and sunny. As the morning sunshine transformed into sweltering afternoon concertgoers flocked to shady spots and the Centeroo fountain to cool down any way they could. The hottest day of the festival was also the most crowded, with cars full of new festival goers pouring in all day long. Despite two days of nonstop partying many in the crowd were still in an eager and festive mood and most of the entertainment venues began to fill up by the afternoon.
There were so many activities to choose from including music on five main stages and three smaller ones. There were no less than four other dance music venues and then, of course, all sorts of entertainment in the nine plazas out in the campgrounds. In the heat of the afternoon sun, tree-lined areas became some of the most popular areas to light. Many other festival goers just stayed wet anyway they could to cope with the 90-degree peak temperatures. The biggest surprise of the afternoon was a much-rumored unannounced performance by Chance The Rapper. Since his debut, late night performance in 2014, the much-adored Hip Hop star has appeared at ever Bonnaroo since, mostly as an announced pop up guest performer. This year was no exception, with a mid-afternoon appearance during the set by fellow Chicagoan Knox Fortune. The duo performed the hit “All Night” much to the delight of the audience. His arrival sparked an entire day of rumpus that he may appear again. He was spotted all around the festival for the rest of the day but opted to be a fan instead of a performer. Perhaps the only downer on Saturday was the cancellation of the late-night set by Texas group Brockhampton. The cancellation, the only one at this year’s festival, led to a rumor that Chance would take over the late-night slot. Despite repeated denials by the stage manager, hundreds of oblivious fans waited in vain for hours for the non-existent set.
Many other hip-hop fans were hoping that Chance would join headliner, Mr. Slim Shady himself, Eminem. That, sadly also did not happen, but there were a few minor surprise guests for Eminem's set, including Skylar Gray and a succinct appearance by Royce da 5’ 9’.’ It was the veteran rappers second appearance at Bonnaroo. The setlist was much the same as his 2011 headline set but somehow didn’t have quite the same energy. It was obvious that the revered hip-hop star was the biggest draw of this year's festival, with a massive crowd forming in front of the main stage. The show was a multimedia extravaganza, including loud explosions that rattled some in the crowd in this modern age of gun terror. A full band and a small orchestra kept the live music fresh and original. But the mystique of the performance wasn’t the same as the 2011 show. That appearance was a rare one for the rapper at a festival. But, this year Eminem has appeared or will appear at multiple festivals with pretty much the same 29 song set list. It was amazing that he could get through so many songs in an hour and forty-five minutes. Just like his Coachella performance in April, the rapper appeared covered in a hoodie during the set which seemed to insulate him from the crowd a bit. He also looked like he was enjoying himself much less than his smiley set back in 2011. Unlike the much-publicized set at Coachella and an appearance the week before at the Governors Ball in New York, he was not joined by 50 cents and the legendary Dr. Dre. While droves of music fans stood mesmerized by the performance that included a firework show, it just felt a bit hollow and reinforced the idea that Bonnaroo is no longer defined by its headline acts.
The music as a whole on Day 3 was phenomenal, and just as in the previous days the majority of the crowd seemed to be grasping the spirit of Bonnaroo. The music truly spanned multiple genres and generations. From the main stage appearance by 16-year-old Billie Eilish to the third appearance by civil rights icon and R&B master vocalist Mavis Staples. The main stage also saw sets by the young Los Angeles pop group Lany, as well as a brilliant afternoon dance, crazed set by musical genius Nile Rodgers and Chic. Rodgers educated the young audience first with his infectious disco hits and then the unprecedented string of hits he wrote for some of the world’s biggest pop stars, right up to today's EDM stars Daft Punk. The entire crowd was dancing furiously by the end of the set.
The local country music scene was well represented by the animated Nashville band, Old Crow Medicine Show. The group appeared at the very first Bonnaroo in 2002 and is considered a significant torchbearer of the traditional Nashville sound. Drummer and Hip-Hop singer, Anderson Paak brought his own high energy set to the main stage with his impressive group of musicians, The Free Nationals. The Other stage offered up 12 hours of sets by some of the most well-known names in EDM, including Kaskade and The Glitch Mob. Many young EDM fans never left this area and danced furiously during each of the eight performances.
Santa Barbara’s Rebelution brought one of the only Reggae sets to the festival, much to the delight of a large crowd of Reggae music fans gathered for their evening set. Columbian American R&B singer Kali Uchis turned in an afternoon set steamy in every way possible. It was so hot the sensual performer had fans to cool her onstage. Much to the delight of the crowd, the fans kept blowing her short skirt into the air. The excited crowd was literally drenched with sweat in the tight confines of the tented venue in the searing midday sun. Although the Friday Superjam was technically the only set to last more than two hours, The Folktronica band Bon Iver actually performed for two and a half hours over two sets. Both sets drew a massive crowd in the cooling late night temperatures. The first, before Eminem's set, featured five trombonists joining the band. The hour-long concert included old and new songs from the band's extensive library. The second set after Eminem drew an even bigger crowd, and the hour and the forty-five-minute show was a perfect late night break from the more intense music offered out throughout the day. Justin Vernon, who appeared at the Superjam the night before in a duet with Sylvan Esso’s Amelia Meath, held his own mini jam during the set. He invited both members of Sylvan Esso, members of Francis and The Lights and Spank Rock to jam with the band. Parkland survivor Aalayah Eastmond appeared onstage to give a brief speech to encourage gun control. There was a bit of irony that the address came after the controversial explosions in the Eminem perforce interpreted by some as gunshots.
For those still looking to dance furiously, there were late night sets by EDM star DJ Kaskade and the Livetronica sounds of the experimental rock group STS9. For those with the energy to keep going DJ’s counted playing at the Kalliope, The Christmas Barn, and The Silent Disco until dawn. It was another fantastic day of entertainment at Bonnaroo defined more by the unique experience than the actual performances, with a lot of smiling but exhausted festival goers heading to their tents in high spirits.