Japandroids - This Tent
By: John Mabery
Vancouver’s Japandroids didn’t play to as many people as the Dave Matthews Band or Jay-Z at Bonnaroo but their set was just as epic. They certainly rocked harder than those aforementioned artists, which should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the band. Singer/guitarist Brian King promised from the beginning that even though the heat was clearly getting to him and singer/drummer David Prowse, they were going to play as many songs as possible, even if it killed them.
Fortunately for mankind, the Japandroids didn’t die, and they still delivered one of the weekend’s strongest performances. Performing at the rather casual timeslot of 12:30 on Sunday afternoon, King expressed his surprise that more than five people had turned out to see them. In fact, there were several hundred people there, most of them consciously. It didn’t seem necessary to inform the crowd of the words to “Crazy/Forever” – though King did anyway – as most bellowed the lyrics right along with him.
King and Prowse came to the stage without a set list in mind, opting instead to make it up as they went along, which added to the informal nature of the show. It also gave them the opportunity to cram as many songs into their brief set as possible; a logical path given how brutal the heat was becoming. Songs from last year’s Post-Nothing (2009) were heavily featured, including crowd-pleasers such as “Rockers East Vancouver,” “Wet Hair,” and “Sovereignty,” as well as a raucous rendition of “Darkness on the Edge of Gastown” from No Singles (2010).
In closing with “Young Hearts Spark Fire,” it was evident that though the merciless heat was particularly merciless to the two Canadians, King and Prowse were overwhelmed with the support they had received from the crowd, some of which showed up three hours in advance to see them play. Luckily for everyone who turned out, the Japandroids braved the elements and an unfortunate timeslot and gave the kind of performance that would have been worthy of the entire Bonnaroo admission.
The xx - That Tent
By: John Mabery
When attending a festival the magnitude of Bonnaroo, one hopes that the first performance they catch will set the tone for the weekend to come. For this reviewer, The xx put on the kind of show that set the bar so high that, over the course of the next three days, few bands were able to top them. With several thousand nestled into That Tent, the anticipation was at a fever pitch; it was hard to imagine anyone leaving disappointed.
As has always been the case with Bonnaroo, the late night shows are the best platform for an up-and-coming band to make their name. The xx – more or less in the Thursday headliner spot – took the stage promptly at 11:30. The lights faded as the band launched into the darkly brilliant “Intro” to set the tone, the audience clapping along. The crowd was definitely behind the London-based trio for the entire set, erupting into cheers when the guys kicked off “VCR” and into dance during the final tense moments of “Night Time,” which concluded with bassist Oliver Sim pounding away on a couple of symbols with a pair of mallets.
Beat maker Jamie Smith’s pulsating rhythms underscored the interplay between guitarist Romy Madley Croft and Sim, who did more than share vocal duties. The pair remained locked in a seemingly private dialogue throughout the set, paying little mind to the entranced audience at their feet. Croft and Sim offered the same kind of beautiful, hushed vocals as heard on the album. It became increasingly evident as the set wound down that this has as much to do with their humility as it does with their brilliantly crafted sound.
It was half past midnight when The xx finished their set, the kind of set that rejuvenated an exhausted crowd, the kind that one wished could last into the wee hours of the morning. Despite the fact it couldn’t, this was the kind of performance bound to create a lasting memory that will go down in Bonnaroo lore, certainly one that the weary Thursday night crowd will not soon forget.