From June 8-11, about 80,000 people gathered together for a weekend of music, art, & collective good times on a 700 acre farm where the beloved festival known as Bonnaroo takes place.
Bonnaroo’s 16th annual festival took place this past weekend. The experience of a festival of this magnitude is unlike anything else. The music, the people, the food, the art, and the utterly beautiful atmosphere make for one hell of a weekend. Let’s take a look at what happened & who performed each day.
The first day of Bonnaroo traditionally consists of bands that are smaller scale, which is nothing to fret about. The music is still wonderful, and makes for a great opportunity to discover new material. You can also get a good place to stand for those bands. The music didn’t start until around 4pm, so people had plenty of time to walk around and get to know their surroundings beforehand. Notably, bands & artists such as Hippo Campus, The Orwells, Twiddle, and Herobust took different stages across the Farm at different points.
Hippo Campus was the very first band that I saw perform on the Farm this year. Most of their set consisted of material from their debut LP Landmark. Their energy was live, and they definitely knew how to keep the crowd on its toes with the mixing and mashing of moods from their songs. However, the set was dwindled down a bit due to the unclear sound at points on stage. Technical difficulties? Who knows.
Herobust, a eccentric dubstep artist performed that night too. One of Bonnaroo’s most unique and magnificent parts is, in fact, those late night raves. The festival made it even better this year after building a humongous new stage where DJs & rappers play called “The Other”. The stage replaced the old one called “The Other Tent”. Herobust took the stage at 11:30pm & played for about an hour. The Atlanta-based producer helped kick off the first night of ‘Roo with a bang. His insane, next level bass drops and methodically messy visuals stood out. He was also very interactive with the crowd, which is essential during sets if you’re a producer. He was definitely a sleeper performance from this weekend.
Friday at Bonnaroo, otherwise known as “high five Friday”. One of Roo’s mottos is “radiate positivity”, and people on the farm spread it by giving anyone and everyone they see a high five. What’s crazy about Roo is that once the first act you want to see starts, you could be out there for the rest of the night (being tired and your feet hurting are part of it, in case you didn’t know). My schedule on Friday consisted of artists playing back-to-back from 4:45pm all the way to 3:30am.
The first act was Francis & the Lights, an alternative Pop-R&B artist who I had never listened to prior to Roo. He has notably collaborated with Bon Iver, Kanye West, & Chance the Rapper, and even made a guest appearance at Chance’s set on Saturday. I thought he emulated Bon Iver quite a bit in his music. Francis was very calm and collected on stage, and knew how to serenade a crowd. At one point he actually left the entire stage and started just frolicking through the grounds, where people began to join him. Francis was a free spirit during his performance, and I thought that set him apart from other performers.
U2 played a two hour set on the What Stage starting at 11pm, playing the Joshua Tree album from front to back, then adding a few more tracks to the set. Bono & company blew people away with flawless videography on screen of landscapes, and even did a tribute to women, and military vets throughout their set. That accompanied their stellar performance. I can safely say that U2 was a performance unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my life. They were nothing short of patriotic, mind-blowing, and demonstrated some good ole’ rock n roll.
Big Gigantic closed out Friday night at Bonnaroo with a set from 2:15-3:30 am. Despite how late it was, the duo attracted a gigantic crowd (pun not intended). It was their first performance at the festival, and they made it special. They opened with hit song ‘Good Times Roll’, produced by them along with GRiZ, who performed at Roo last year. They were very interactive with the crowd throughout, making sure people were still awake. One thing notable about the duo is that they are not just producers, they play a plethora of instruments. Saxophone and keyboards were used heavily during the performance, which enhanced their mind-boggling bass drops. Big Gigantic was without a doubt a highlight of the weekend.
At this point in the Bonnaroo experience, everyone collectively is pretty darn tired. The sun beaming down into people’s tents in the early morning can cause lack of sleep for fellow Bonnaroovians. Not to mention the consistent walking and dancing can wear you out, but that doesn’t diminish the experience one bit. In fact, drenching yourself in the Centeroo fountain will definitely act as a good wake up call. Saturday might have had the biggest names performing out of any night. Performances from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Cage the Elephant, Chance the Rapper, Marshmello, and Flume all took place that night in close intervals.
Chance started the evening with a fantastic, firework filled set that opened with Coloring Book banger “Mixtape”. Chance played a very good mix of his third mixtape, Acid Rap, Surf, and he even played his own version of Kanye West’s “Waves”, which was accompanied by visuals of the two of them performing/collaborating together. He also played “Father Stretch My Hands”, and his verse of “Ultralight Beam”, which was a true God dream. Chance is an avid Bonnaroo attendee, “I’ve been coming here for the past 4 years,” he said on stage. It was evident that this was a special performance to Chance, we hope he keeps coming back to Bonnaroo. He also brought along the original Social Experiment group that made Surf with him to perform, including Donnie Trumpet, who handles much of the horn instrumentals in Chance’s music.
My favorite set from the entire weekend occurred on this night as well. Shockingly enough, it wasn’t RHCP, or Marshmello, but Flume. The Aussie producer isn’t someone I regularly listen to, however I do enjoy his music. My expectations were fairly high, considering that I’ve never truly experienced a bad performance from a producer. Plain and simple, he blew it out of the water. His beautiful techniques mixing different sub genres of electronic music into his set was nothing short of entertaining. A lack of visuals was made up by stage presence and a flawless light show. Flume had props that resembled the album cover of Skin on stage that were trippy and elegant.
The final day of Bonnaroo, and it always feels like it comes and goes so quickly. Despite the inevitable “Bonnablues”, there’s still a full day of music and memories to be made left. It was also the hottest day of the weekend, with high humidity getting into the low 90s. That didn’t stop people from making the most of the last day on the Farm. Performances by Tank & The Bangas, Royal Blood, Umphrey’s Mcgee, Skepta, Flatbush Zombies, Lorde, Travis Scott, & the Weeknd all took place on the day.
Tank & The Bangas, a soul-funk based group out of New Orleans was the first performance of the day. They took the stage at This Tent at 12:45 pm and played for about an hour. They were one of the goofiest groups I’ve ever seen perform, and I mean that in the best way. The three lead singers all danced onto the stage after a brief jam session between the band members. The three of them danced like no one was watching on stage while singing background and primary vocals throughout the performance. They were exceptionally entertaining, so entertaining that I forgot how tired I was and how scorching hot it was outside that afternoon.
The New York trio known as Flatbush Zombies are one of rap’s most psychedelic and distinctive groups around currently. The three of them took the stage at 7:15 pm, and the smell of weed loomed over the entire area. Their beats are groovy and the hooks on their tracks are captivating. For a special Bonnaroo performance, they even performed unreleased material. They didn’t say when or if it was coming out, but it was great. When they performed ‘New Phone, Who Dis?’
But my favorite performance on Sunday by far belonged to Travis Scott. Known for his wild performances, he certainly didn’t go against that label. He showed up to his set 15 minutes late, causing the crowd to become antsy and start chants of “Tra-vis, Tra-vis”. The sound of a screeching bird signified the start of his set. He was simply all over the place when performing. His gigantic bird that accompanies him on stage is named Jack, he climbed to the top of him to perform a few songs.
He also charged through the barricade to the filming tent and climbed up to the top, then proceeded to play ‘pick up the phone’. Scott was by far the most rowdy set of the entire weekend, possibly the most rowdy concert I’ve ever attended. “This is the most fun I’ve ever had at a festival,” he exclaimed to the crowd towards the end of his set. His passion for performing and his music is evident during his performances. Highly recommend seeing him if you have the chance.
Bonnaroo never fails to make everyone experience even a hint of euphoria. It’s one of the most beloved, yet under-appreciated festivals in the world. Thank you for a beautiful, unforgettable weekend, Bonnaroo.