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Bonnaroo 2013 Day 4 Recap: David Byrne and St. Vincent Get Theatrical, the National Captivate the Masses + More

David Byrne St. Vincent Bonnaroo 2013
Jason Merritt, Getty Images

It seemed to end just as quickly as it began, but that’s just the whirlwind nature of the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival and its seemingly endless schedule of talent. As tents were deconstructed and glow-in-the-dark paint washed off, fest goers were treated to one last musical frolic under the oppressive Tennessee sun. Here’s how Bonnaroo capped off its 2013 iteration.

Fire & Rain: Mention Bonnaroo, and most people think happy hippies and flowery counter-culture fun. Every now and again, though, the festival throws an eclectic curveball that scares the tie-dye shirt off of you. Such was the case when Michael Gira loaded up Swans at the This Tent for a nightmarish, ear-splitting descent into drone-rock hell. Oddly enough, the set qualifies as one of the more psychedelic of the weekend, as Gira’s indecipherable vocal blasts shot off with extrapolated effects.

Class of 2013: Bonnaroo is famous for cultivating relationships with artists who graduate from tents to stages over a matter of years. After last taking the Which Stage, the National stepped up the What Stage and played to more than 80,000 fans, putting their arena-headliner status to an outdoor test. With a full range of musicians at their disposal, the complex instrumental power of the National came to life as singer Matt Berninger’s switched from tender to frenzied and back again.

Although his lyrics are largely angry and bitter, Berninger had no problem shedding the veil in between songs. In response to a waving flag flown in the pit area, he joked, “Hello Canada! Wait why are you trying to confuse me? We’re not from Canada. That’s Arcade Fire you’re thinking of.”

Free & Untamed: Since the release of last year’s stellar ‘Lonerism,’ Aussie psych exports Tame Impala have enjoyed a victory lap of sorts, playing sold-out concerts all over the world. So expectations hit a fever pitch on Sunday as the band made their first Bonnaroo performance one to remember. Walking out to a packed out The Other Tent, Tame Impala worked through extended jams and fills as Kevin Parker’s high-toned croon and wail served as the only calming influence amid the propulsive fury.

“This one’s for Buzz Lightyear and Nicholas Cage,” Parker said, looking out at two of the dominant signs in the audience before ripping into the heavy ‘Elephant.’

Well, We Know Where We’re Going: One of the big questions of the weekend was what would happen when David Byrne & St. Vincent closed the Which Stage on Sunday. Crowd-sourced polls showed that many didn’t know who St. Vincent is, and other fans were simply more inclined to join the fracas over at the Other Tent, where rapper A$AP Rocky was due to perform. As it turns out, Byrne and the newly blonde Annie Clark brought one of the more dynamic and theatrical performances of the weekend. Backed only by a brass band, each song from the pair’s collaborative effort — as well as some from their individual catalogs — was given its own choreographed movements appropriate for the thematic elements of the song. After an arresting and haunting take of St. Vincent’s ‘The Party,’ the duo left everyone smiling and begging for more with the Talking Heads classic ‘Road To Nowhere.’ As Byrne and Clark marched off the stage with the horns, a palpable sense of fulfillment mixed with the final night sky of Bonnaroo 2013.

See Our 2013 Music Festival Guide

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