Murs

Rolled out of Columbus at 7 a.m. Thursday in a two-car caravan with roommates Matt, Keenan and Roger. Seven hours later, we arrived in rainy Manchester, Tenn., but many delays kept us from getting settled in for many more hours. After long waits to pick up my wristband and get into the campground, my Bonnaroo experience began in earnest Thursday night around 7.

Murs

Rolled out of Columbus at 7 a.m. Thursday in a two-car caravan with roommates Matt, Keenan and Roger. Seven hours later, we arrived in rainy Manchester, Tenn., but many delays kept us from getting settled in for many more hours. After long waits to pick up my wristband and get into the campground, my Bonnaroo experience began in earnest Thursday night around 7.

We wandered by batting cages and a Ferris wheel. At the Solar Stage, people were doing yoga to the Flaming Lips’ “Do You Realize??” Most intriguing was the Silent Disco, where a throng of festival-goers strapped on headphones and moved to a beat only they and their fellow dancers could hear. Watching these people quietly grinding made for a few minutes of amusement before diving into the evening’s live music options.

White Rabbits

Keenan wanted to catch Delta Spirit, but their plane was late, so we watched White Rabbits for a couple songs before moving on. Rabbits killed in Columbus, but you gotta try out something new at these fests, right? For me, that was Murs, a rapper I’d read a lot about but never really explored.

Murs

To say I’m glad I gave him a try would be an understatement. I don’t know if anybody could have kicked off my fest better than this Los Angelean MC with chiseled chest, bizarre, bulky dreads and none of the stereotypical tough-guy pretenses. He was like the friendly party animal who sneaks you into a big bash, grabs you a drink and introduces you to the first five beautiful women he sees. Dude kept things fun throughout, but he also came hard from the start, leaping and twisting around the stage, dreadlocks twisting, boasts mounting. His between-songs banter was as smart as his lyrics, which made everyman stuff sound more relatable than mundane. And he appealed to hippies and hipsters alike by bursting into Sublime’s “Santeria” mid-song and later rapping over the beat from “Int’l Players Anthem.” Good start.

Hockey

It’s a good thing Hockey wasn’t my first band of the night. I don’t have anything positive to say about this Portland group, which reminds me of all the worst parts of the early 1990s, from ugly flannels over tanktops to New Kids on the Block. If you’re going to be all style, no substance, at least BE STYLISH, right? After taking a few photos during the first song, I was off to shoot Portugal, the Man. That band’s cutesy prog slog also didn’t slay me, so I moved on to The Knux, whose turntables-meets-guitars take on hip-hop was a fine antidote to the mediocrity, even as it paled in comparison to Murs’ tour de force.

Chairlift

Next up for me was Chairlift, who delivered the most surprising set of the night. After initially enjoying the band’s album, I had grown skeptical of songs that came across humorless and self-important without delivering the musical goods to back it up. Their New Age-y take on indie rock was a bit too Enya for my tastes. As the first chords began to ease out of the keyboard, I was thinking, “OK, Chairlift, when your dramatic keyboard swells sound like ‘Sensual Seduction’ without the irony, that’s a problem.” But then it turned out they actually were doing a cover of “Sensual Seduction,” revealing a playful streak that doesn’t come across on their record. The surprises kept coming. Foremost among them: During “Planet Health,” Solange Knowles (WTF?) came out to sing the “Stop, drop and roll” part. Later, the songs with live drums — and especially the one with the nasty wood block solo — showed this band can be more than just indie muzak. As I tweeted last night: I’m still not in love with them, but we can be friends.

Passion Pit

General consensus seemed to be that the most anticipated act of Thursday was Passion Pit, the Boston-based dance rock combo known best for its singer’s relentless falsetto. I dug the band when they played The Summit back in January, but the more I listen to the Chunk of Change EP and debut full-length Manners, the more I grow weary of the vocals. That held true during last night’s set, when I had the epiphany that these guys would make a killer instrumental indie dance act. They’d wipe the floor with Ratatat. As it stands, though, they’ve got Michael Angelakos, and even though he looked a little awkward leading thousands of fans in an overhead hand clap, it seems like his ill-advised bleats aren’t going away anytime soon. People were grooving like crazy in the mud.

Delta Spirit was tacked on for a late Thursday closing set, but half a song was enough for me to mark them off as inessential listening and head back to camp for the one good night’s sleep of this weekend. Friday and Saturday offer music until 4 a.m., and it’s a lot more enticing than Delta Spirit’s able-but-anonymous roots pop.