Festival update: Bonnaroo
For the ninth year in a row, an expansive farm in Manchester, Tennessee was converted into one of the biggest parties in the United States.
More than 80,000 people swarmed the Bonnaroo grounds to hear music, watch films and listen to the stand-up comedy of wide-ranging performers from all over the globe.
Fans scrounged for shade, showers and watering stations in the 100˚ plus weather, but the heat didn’t prevent the artists from putting on a weekend packed with phenomenal performances.
Day 1 (June 10)
Despite a later start to the day – probably to accommodate the hours-long wait to get into the festival grounds – Thursday night saw its share of memorable shows.
New York band the Postelles took to one of Bonnaroo’s smaller stages and played through songs off their upcoming debut album like “White Night” and “She She”, introducing the crowd to their up-tempo brand of rock & roll.
Swedish band Miike Snow may be known for having their tracks featured on shows like Gossip Girl and remixing songs for Kings of Leon and Vampire Weekend, but they got the crowd moving to fan favourites like “Silvia” and “Animal”, proving that their original work stands on its own.
Neon Indian’s performance was one of the most talked about of the night.
Combining their indie electronica sound with a stage full of “neon Indians” wearing feathers, body paint and nothing else, the girls got as much attention as the music.
Songs like “Deadbeat Summer” and “Should Have Taken Acid With You” were a perfect match for the crowd of sweltering hot and most likely stoned fans.
Australian band the Temper Trap provided one of the highlights of the night with their rendition of “Sweet Disposition” to a crowd of jumping, clapping festival-goers.
Self-described as a “big debaucherous nightmare of a mess” (in a good way), 8-piece Atlanta band the Constellations crammed in to one of the more intimate tents on site and played through a set of their soulful rock tunes.
It can’t be easy for the xx to try to live up to the insane amount of media buzz that’s been surrounding them the past two years, but they gave it their best shot as one of the last bands playing Thursday night.
The crowd seemed overwhelmingly impressed, as the band (clad all in black) powered through songs like “Crystalised” and “Basic Space” from their self-titled album.
Day 2 (June 11)
With a packed schedule, Friday introduced crowds to the biggest challenge of the weekend – the dreaded double booking.
Conan O’Brien’s comedy set was at the same time as Tokyo Police Club, Nas & Damien Marley were on at the same time as the Gossip, while Kid Cudi and B.O.B.’s late night sets overlapped LCD Soundsystem’s.
Whether fans split their time and tried to see both, or sacrificed one act for another, Friday undoubtedly saw some incredible shows.
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes put on an extremely fresh, fun and memorable performance.
Their psychedelic, feel-good music poured out across a myriad of enthusiastic fist-pumpers, as well as mellow hippie folk lying in the grass.
“Home” proved to be absolutely anthemic, carrying on for nearly 6 minutes and getting everyone – even those who had never heard the song before – singing along, while balloons and beach balls bounced through the crowd.
When Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward teamed up and started She & Him, the unlikely pair proved to be the perfect match.
Singles like “In the Sun” and “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?” generated great audience responses, but when the duo closed with a cover of “I Put a Spell on You” a wave of awe overtook the crowd.
Deschanel transformed into a legitimate soul singer and showcased a set of vocals that no one was expecting, closing the set divinely.
Conan O’Brien introduced the legendary Jack Black and Kyle Gass (aka Tenacious D) and the pair did not disappoint.
Bringing their trademark combination of comedy and rock & roll to the main stage with songs like “Wonderboy” and “Tribute,” the crowd simultaneously laughed and rocked out through the entire set.
Kings of Leon have a history with Bonnaroo. They’ve worked their way up from the smaller tents at the festival and were finally billed as headliners this year.
The show relied heavily on hits like “Sex on Fire” and their closer “Use Somebody,” though songs like “Molly’s Chambers” and a cover of the Pixies’ “Where is My Mind?” livened up the set list, ultimately putting on a show that satisfied the tens of thousands of onlookers.
Day 3 (June 12)
With the early afternoon devoted to the England/USA soccer game and mellow songstress Norah Jones, festival goers were ready for another stellar line-up of rock & roll by the time evening rolled around.
English band Mumford and Sons took to the stage and delivered a strong set of their bluegrass-inspired folk rock, which included fan favourites “Little Lion Man” and “White Blank Page”.
Looking genuinely grateful towards and boyishly flattered by the crowd that was clapping, swaying and singing along throughout the whole set, Mumford and Sons put on one of the most authentic and soulful performances of the weekend.
They were even joined on stage by Dave Rawlings Machine for the final two songs – a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Wagon Wheel” and “Roll Away Your Stone”.
The combination of Jack White and Alison Mosshart created an unlikely duo, but one that has proven to work extremely well.
Their band the Dead Weather played on the main stage and ran through a set of new, old, original and covered songs that included “No Horse,” “Hustle and Cuss” and Dylan’s “New Pony.”
Weezer catered to the massive audience and played crowd-pleasers like “Undone (The Sweater Song),” “Say It Ain’t So” and “Beverly Hills,” but the highlight of the set was their covers of MGMT’s “Kids” and Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face.”
Frontman Rivers Cuomo entertained the fans with ridiculous dance moves, lifting up the amps and sporting a long blonde wig for his Gaga song.
Stevie Wonder. Enough said.
In two hours, Jay-Z managed to deliver 29 songs and work up the undoubtedly rowdiest crowd of the night.
Newer tracks like “Run This Town” and “Empire State of Mind” sent the crowd into hysterics, but older ones like “99 Problems,” “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” and “Hard Knock Life” got equally euphoric responses.
He even brought a fan from the crowd onstage and got the thousands of people in the audience to sing “Happy Birthday” to her.
By the end of the 120 minute set, nearly everyone had their diamonds in the air for Hova as he closed out the night with an explosion of lighters, glowsticks and cell phones to the tune of “Young Forever.”
Day 4 (June 13)
For those who were able to fend off the hangovers, sunburns and dehydration, Sunday provided yet another amazing line-up of music, comedy and film.
Japandroids played to a mellower crowd than they’re used to, but with songs like “Heart Sweats” and “Rockers East Vancouver” even the hippie kids got riled up.
Banter between the duo about being Canadian and unable to handle the heat got some laughs, but the water bottles they were throwing into the crowd were received with nothing but gratitude.
Soviet-born, New York City-raised Regina Spektor wowed her fans with a flawless set that included hits like “On the Radio” and “The Calculation,” as well as older tunes like “Samson,” “Apres Moi” and “Poor Little Rich Boy.”
The combination of her innocent appearance and tendency to use profanities made for an endearing performance, while her musicianship really shone as she switched back and forth between piano and guitar.
Parisian darlings Phoenix closed out the Which Stage on Sunday night with style – and hundreds of red and black balloons.
Songs from the band’s latest album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix saturated the setlist, with hits like “1901” and “Lisztomania” transforming the sea of exhausted, foul-smelling attendees into the biggest dance party of the weekend.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Jeff Kravitz
French band Phoenix close out the Which Stage on Sunday night.
Veteran Bonnaroo performers Dave Matthews Band closed out the main stage and the rest of the festival grounds with covers of Neil Young’s “The Needle and the Damage Done” and Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” while festival-goers began to file out in droves, preparing to go home and rest up until next year.