Rolling Stone’s ‘Bonnaroo 2019: 20 Best Things We Saw’ Includes All Them Witches and Shovels & Rope
Best Classic Rock of the Future: All Them Witches
This Tent performances from a pair of Bonnaroo first-timers (Australia’s Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, England’s The Comet Is Coming) — and news of Canada’s sole NBA team the Toronto Raptors closing out their first-ever NBA title — lent an international flavor to Thursday night’s proceedings. But a band from just up the road — doomy, bluesy Nashville combo All Them Witches, making their second appearance and first since 2015 — set the tone, working ready-to-party festivalgoers into a trance with their world-class heavy psych. Feel and repetition are Witches’ pillars; sprawling, semi-improvised jam-outs like the King Crimson-esque showstopper “Fishbelly 86 Onions” (off last year’s Dave Cobb-produced ATW) showcased drummer Robby Staebler’s intuitive, versatile playing, giving six-stringer Ben McLeod and bassist-vocalist Charles Michael Parks Jr. ample space to get deep in a zone and explore the sonic extremities. But they didn’t forget to entertain either, with Parks managing the physics-defying feat of balancing his bass on his fingers during the set’s finale. C.Z.
Best Multitaskers: Shovels & Rope
Shovels & Rope haven’t toured as rigorously as they have in the past, since the birth of Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent’s second child together earlier this year. But the duo’s Bonnaroo set at That Tent on Saturday showed no rust. Running through favorites like the Americana Award Song of the Year “Birmingham” and “The Wire,” off their electrifying new album By Blood, the band made a big noise with their minimalist set-up: mainly drums, guitar and keys. But it was the graceful “Carry Me Home” that best captured both the twosome’s innate chemistry and their dazzling musicianship, with Hearst keeping time on drums while simultaneously playing synth and harmonizing with her husband. J.H.