By Sean Varicalli w/ Luke “Diamond Phillips
It all started with a Super Bowl ad. That’s when many first heard the catchy baroque pop jams of fun. Though their 2009 album Aim & Ignite made a splash with indie mavens, recent single “We Are Young” has dominated the North American charts recently thanks to a prominent placement in a Chevrolet ad during the Big Game. This has helped jumpstart sales of the band’s recent album, Some Nights, which expands their ELO-like sound to accomidate more modern-pop and even hip-hop inspired elements thanks to producer (and Kanye West associate) Jeff Bhasker. All of this recent success is even culminating in a performance at Bonnaroo on June 10th.
Given Bonnaroo’s tendency within recent years to book wide-ranging acts (everything from their mainstay jam bands to funky brass combos, blog-baiting indie, and even underground hip-hop & metal acts,) the question is: Will fun. rise to the challenge and deliver a performance at this year’s festival that cements their status as viable pop contemporaries? Will the Bonnaroo audience be full of bandwagon jumpers who only know them for their recent hit, or will they be embraced by a festival audience whose more familiar with their earlier material? I had the chance to talk to the band’s guitarist Jack Antonoff, “I mean, it’s really like nothing – like no other festival, like no other shows. I think that you kind of have to have been there to understand what it’s like.”
But what you can understand is the actual catalog that fun. has to pick from to fill their 75 minute set at the festival on Sunday. Unfortunately for some, the band simply can’t play “We Are Young” for 75 minutes. That means some deeper cut fun. songs will rise to the top of the set list. With “We Are Young” being the bands biggest commercial hit thus far, you have to imagine that it will be saved to be played towards the end, if not an encore. It has the potential to be a disheartening set for audience members who aren’t familiar with fun.’s 2009 material. Also, factor in the actual time and day that the band will be performing. In my opinion, the toughest time slot of the entire festival. Playing in “that tent” Bonnaroo audience members will be on the last day of the trip of their lives. Having endured not only a variety of different genres and artists, but the hot Manchester sun, little sleep and the pure exhaustion that the festival tolls on you.
With that being said, the Bonnaroo scheduling folks have the utmost faith and trust enlisted in a band that has been riding on the coat tails of one single for nearly five months. It’s their responsibility to obviously entertain a crowd of thousands not only with music but with an experience that will send off campers with a lasting impression and memory of Bonnaroo. No doubt that part of the same responsibility is shared with Phish, who will be closing out the festival on Sunday night, but for the younger, more in tuned festival goers, that pressure will be placed on fun. Jack says that while Janelle Monae will not be performing with the band for “We Are Young” they boys in the band still have a few surprises up their sleeves. But will that be enough for fun. to wow the crowds at Bonnaroo?