The premier night of the 2015 Bonnaroo Music And Arts Festival belonged to creators of the new wave. Temporarily transplanting her hometown of Detroit onto the Manchester, Tennessee stage, Dej Loaf was welcomed by a throng of sweaty, shirtless hipsters with fanfare. Ascending from backstage to “Be Real” (sans Kid Ink), the petite spitter’s set proved to be the opposite of her stature. Commanding the crowd with equal parts charisma and confidence, Dej’s presence led the biggest turn up of the evening.
While noting her healthy number of radio spins, Dej Loaf took command over fan favorite features including her additions to The Game’s “Ryda,” and Omarion’s “Post To Be (Remix).” But it was over her own cuts, such as Sell Sole standouts “We Be On It,” “Easy Love,” and an EDM version of “Me U & Hennessey” that the budding star was most impressive, dominating her set with acappella crooning, assertive delivery and engagement with the nearly insatiable crowd. And no Dej Loaf set is complete without the infectious “Try Me,” a track that has yet to lose its vigor.
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Today’s Fun! Beautiful People. Bonaroo Was Tight! A photo posted by DeJ Loaf (@dejloaf) on
When it came time for Raury to hit the stage, his energy was equally as infectious, but of a totally different sort. Despite the small size of Bonnaroo’s “Who?” stage, the young ATLien knows how to fill a space. With his signature straw hat snug on his kinky head of curls and his shirt cooly unbottoned, Raury’s “peace and love” aura both soothed and energized the dense crowd in front of him.
He ran through select cuts from his Indigo Child catalogue to rouse up all types of feels during the hour-long set. “Times are too serious to make music about nothing,” he said before delving into “Fly,” his song about the turmoil and injustice going on in the world. Hands of all colors raised in the air as his guitar strums began, waving lighters and flashlights in solidarity.
In a church-like “Hey neighbor” moment before “Cigarette Song,” Raury told his crowd of Indigos to turn to one another and share laughs, smiles and warm embraces. They did so happily, the mood of his music transcending into sonic form.
There were some electrifying moments too, particularly the debut of an unreleased song “Odyssey.” He spit clearly and venomously, channelling the lyrical volatility of a young Kendrick Lamar with Eminem-like inflections.
The night ended with a joyful water fight between the stage and the crowd to the tune of “God’s Whisper,” a truly surreal moment to cap off the “feel good, love better” vibes of the night.
Photo Credit: Stacy-Ann Ellis