When you arrive in Manchester, Tennessee, you know you’re at Bonnaroo. The heat hits you like a ton of bricks, if those bricks were each tiny little suns. The heat this year was the worst that it’s been in a long time, even with the near constant threat of rain, which fell on Wednesday to make for a muddy Centeroo. But after nine years, we’ve come to expect the mud and the heat. They’re hallmarks of Bonnaroo. And even though some people didn’t expect this year to live up to past years – with the so-called sub par lineup and the increased corporate presence – Bonnaroo once again proved to be a success.
Regardless of the changes that some people cried foul over (losing touch with their roots, exchanging the art of Such n Such with a dance stage, along with the aforementioned corporate presence and lineup), this was still Bonnaroo. It still took hours to get there, it was still unbearably humid, it was still crowded, and it was still an amazing weekend packed with a lot of good music. It’s still a beautiful thing to bring people together from all over the world in the name of music on a farm in the middle of Tennessee. And as I watched everyone around me during Stevie Wonder’s headlining set on Saturday night, I saw people of every different size, shape, age, color, gender and religion singing and dancing in harmony and I thought, This is what it’s all about. That’s the Bonnaroo spirit. No corporate sponsorships can ever take that away.
Thursday, June 10th
The Other Tent, 4:15 p.m.
As hordes of people were still stacked on the highway, Fanfarlo opened The Other Stage, their faces gleaming with excitement as they looked out to an early and eager crowd. The deep and wandering voices told the somber but hopeful stories that make up their debut record with the sweet duet of mandolin and guitar adding to the eastern European folk tone of Simon Balthazar. A lulling trumpet and sweet violin highlighted “Ghosts” intensity. “I’m a Pilot” and “The Walls are Coming Down” using the same to push up the already solid set, and for that matter the start of the weekend. -E.N. May
Photo by E.N. May
The Entrance Band This Tent, 4:30 p.m.
Some of the most psychedelic music of the weekend kicked off This Tent on Thursday with a bang of bass grooves ready to send the just arriving crowd into their search for acid. Paz Lenchantin, however, is no secret. The only real curiosity here is why she (or anyone else really) isn’t singing for this band. Band leader Guy Blakeslee is one hell of a guitar player, and made sure everyone knew it, but when it came time for him to step up to the mic, ears cringed, and to be very Bonnaroo about it, the vibe was compromised. -Bruce Matlock
That Tent, 7:00 p.m.
As the first big draw of the fest, Local Natives‘ Taylor Rice took full advantage of the still fresh energy coming from those lucky enough to be inside. With soaring harmonies and heavy bashing tribal laced rock, the bare bones “Shape Shifter” and set closer “Sun Hands” whipped the crowd into a frenzy with fists in the air screaming along. There’s a lot of power behind a band like this, their set the proof of how being down to earth yet still bad-ass they can be. -E.N. May
That Tent, 8:30 p.m.
According to frontman Alan Palomo, being at Bonnaroo was an incredible experience for Neon Indian. Indeed, just less than a year after their debut album was released, the band was already commanding a large crowd on the opening night of one of the biggest festivals in America. Palomo brought along a full live band, and they tore through tracks from Psychic Chasms. The highlights of the set included closer “Ephemeral Artery” and indie hit “Deadbeat Summer”, during which four topless and painted ladies joined the band onstage, prancing around in Indian headdresses. They ended their set about 20 minutes early, apparently not realizing they had more time, but even with a shortened set they still got the Bonnaroo crowd dancing early, setting a tone for the rest of the weekend. –Carson O’Shoney
Troo Music Lounge, 10:00 p.m.
Armed with just an acoustic guitar and his voice, Frank Turner took the stage at the Troo Music Lounge ready to win over those who had just happened to stumble upon that particular stage. After making a joke about using a beer koozie for the first time (“In England we have this technology called our hands”), the people next to me yelled in a drunken stupor, “Who is this guy anyways? Go back to London!” But by the end of his hour-long set, these same people were clapping and cheering along with the rest of us. Turner’s on-stage banter was consistently entertaining; the man is nothing if not a good storyteller – whether they’re serious songs or hilarious stories. The set featured some new songs, some a Capella songs, and a volunteer from the crowd was pulled on stage to perform a harmonica solo. Near the end of the set, Turner’s guitar broke. But Constellations, the band performing after him, came to the rescue and loaned him an electric guitar. Turner claimed that he was not the best with an electric, but he made it work. He brought a ton of energy to his set, which is something to be said for a solo acoustic performer. –Carson O’Shoney
The Other Tent, 10:15 p.m.
“Black River Killer” opened Blitzen Trapper‘s set, heavy in cuts from their excellent 2008 record, Furr, and their latest, Destroyer the Void. With those new songs still working themselves out, they played a tightly constructed hour and a half that sounded fantastic, but left much to the imagination. Blitzen Trapper’s songs have such potential to be built on for the live experience, giving us a turned up version of their modern country stories. “Furr”, “Lady on the Water”, and “Sleepy Time on the Western Coast” gave the audience a chance to sing along, and from off the first record, “Wild Mountain Nation” took them back to their country roots. They’re barn burners without a doubt. -E.N. May
That Tent, 11:30 p.m.
The award for biggest crowd of the night went to The xx. The mass of people extended far beyond the limits of That Tent. The band came out and pleased fans by opening with “Intro” straight into “Crystalised” – the crowd went nuts when singer Romy Madley Croft sang her first lines. They’ve found a way to recreate the chilly cool of their debut album in a live environment, but don’t really change up the pace too much. That same style that works so well on the album doesn’t translate into anything particularly exciting live. The band sounded good even though the mix at That Tent was a bit off, and fans who were expecting to hear more or less direct replications of their songs were satisfied, but I left wanting a bit more. –Carson O’Shoney
This Tent, 12:00 a.m.
Hip-hop is never on time – but don’t tell that to Bonnaroo attendees. While they still get excited for hip-hop shows (the crowd was chanting “WALE! WALE!” for a while before his set), the Kanye West debacle in ’08 is never far from their collective mind. There was even still “Fuck Kanye” graffiti everywhere around the farm this year. But people also understand that sometimes things get a little off schedule at festivals. So by the time 12:15 a.m. came around and there was still no sign of Wale, the crowd was still on his side and ready for him to come out.
But around the 22-minutes-late mark, the crowd started to turn, booing and throwing middle fingers at the stage. Around this time, Wale’s DJ took quick action and played something, which the crowd took to be as intro music, so they started getting excited again. But as the band awkwardly stood around and the DJ played increasingly more random clips of songs (from Biggie to Nirvana to Drowning Pool), it became painfully obvious that he was just stalling for Wale. He even went so far as to play a new Wale song (saying, “Y’all wanna hear some new Wale?” to which the crowd seemed to reply, “No, we want Wale.”), which seemed all too similar to the Sly Stone fiasco at Coachella.
Wale finally came out around 12:30 p.m. and apologized for being late, explaining that he had overslept his nap. Once he started he really wasn’t bad. The D.C. rapper and his band played songs from his debut Attention Deficit, along with older favorites like “W.A.L.E.D.A.N.C.E.” And while his band sounded good and Wale was on point, for some the damage had already been done. –Carson O’Shoney
Friday, June 11th
Comedy Theatre, 1:00 p.m.
While Conan O’Brien served as What Stage emcee for Friday and Saturday, introducing many of the bands that played the main stage, his only scheduled sets were both in the Bonnaroo Comedy Theatre. The theatre runs on a ticket system, and only holds about a thousand or so people. The demand to see O’Brien was absolutely massive, and the folks at Bonnaroo knew it. But instead of giving him his own set on a main stage, they instead simulcasted his sets so fans could watch at the Lunar Stage or the Cinema Tent. People started lining up to get his tickets at five am on Friday and Saturday, a whole six hours before they started handing them out. The line to watch it in the Cinema Tent was nearly as long, and the crowd at the Lunar Stage was huge as well. I watched from that stage, and the audience participation was just as good there as it seemed to be in the comedy theatre. People were clapping, laughing and responding just like they would if he were actually right in front of them and not on a screen. His set was nothing short of hilarious, lampooning all things Bonnaroo while also dressing up like Eddie Murphy in Raw, inviting friends on stage like Andy Richter and writer Deon Cole, and playing a few songs with his Legally Prohibited Band. Even though most fans couldn’t get in to the theatre to see his show in person, everyone left the simulcast satisfied. –Carson O’Shoney
Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros
The Other Tent, 2:30 p.m.
If there ever was a time to feel the love it was during Edward Sharpe. Off the bat, they started in with the whistles of “Janglin”, frontman Alex Ebert not on stage more than a couple minutes before taking to the crowd wide eyed and full of unabashed positivity. “40 Day Dream” drew him back to the front row one more time giving the mic to the more than willing participants to help out. It was a beautiful set, filled to the brim with the revelry from their gripping debut record. People’s arms outstretched to catch the radiating optimism from Ebert and his companions whose smiles and energy never faded. The hour’s pinnacle came during the love filled story of “Home” with the spoken word section cutely tweaked for the festival. The song, and the set for that matter, was exactly what you look for, not just in a festival, but in an over all experience. -E.N. May
Dr. Dog The Other Tent, 4:00 p.m.
Photo by E.N. May
There’s really only one way to follow the revelry of Edward Sharpe, and Dr. Dog blew up the Other Tent with the guitar escalations of “Stranger” to start. Their sets now are mostly, if not all, based off their past two albums, but given their recorded perfection, the tailored for the stage counter parts went above and beyond. The blow out at the end of “The Old Days” and later the “The Rabbit, The Bat and The Reindeer” sent the band and the audience into a frenzy. The soaring harmonies and last verse of “Jackie Wants a Black Eye” hit the heart hard with a rare stroke of song-writing truth that they make look so easy. Dancing was unavoidable with “Mirror Mirror” as it hooked in quick, and even funkier on the guitar melody with all muscle on the back end. Shows like this solidify them as a quintessential live experience, and as they brought in the high heat of the day, it couldn’t have been any better. -E.N. May
She & Him This Tent, 5:00 p.m.
After hearing bad things about Zooey Deschanel’s stage presence as front woman, I tuned my expectations down a bit for my first time seeing her onstage with M. Ward as She & Him. But when she came on stage, my perceptions immediately changed. From the beginning of the first song, she was jumping, dancing and generally seemed to be having a good time. Her voice sounded spot on, while M. Ward played it cool and understated while also cranking out some great guitar lines. The crowd was huge, it seemed that everyone wanted to catch a glimpse of the main attraction, Deschanel. She didn’t disappoint, and was just as adorable as ever. The set was comprised of material off their two albums, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, before closing things out with a gorgeous cover of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You”. –Carson O’Shoney
Tenacious D What Stage, 6:30 p.m.
Photo by Bruce Matlock
If you were surprised by even the smallest bit of the D’s show, or “didn’t get it” you simply were not meant to be there. For those well aware of the bands rise, the real surprise here was the skill of their supporting cast. Though Jack Black (JB) and Kyle Gass (KG) did their part wonderfully, when it came down to the music, guitarist John Konesky nearly stole the show. Black riled the crowd up using all of his abilities stating that “Kung Fu Panda would be the end of Tenacious D because a Panda is the least metal thing ever,” and informing the crowd that they were potentially the biggest they had ever played to. Seriously Mr. Black, everyone knows panda’s are the most metal animal on the planet, go back to kicking Satan’s ass and leave the panda‘s on screen. -Bruce Matlock
Kings of Leon What Stage, 9:30 p.m.
It’s rare to find a true to rock band that can be bigger than life, yet still genuine in their love of what they do. If there was any doubt that Kings of Leon could be an actual headliner, Friday night’s set squashed it. They’ve worked their way through the festival stages, this year coming full circle for a set that left them, and us, in rock and roll awe. Caleb Followill took celebratory shots while having the self proclaimed night of his life. Walking out to Mozart’s Requiem, you could sense this was a personally monumental show for the band. From the first notes of “Crawl” they floored you, by the solo you were hooked for a night of true to life rock.
Older material was tightened up and blown out with brash guitar workouts like “Charmer”. Going back to their first appearance at the festival, they played the very rare “Tranny” as a kind of homage to the experience and the love it’s shown them over the years. A Pixies cover of “Where is My Mind” surprised as they hit every note, Followill’s worn voice fitting perfectly with the cult favorite doing it more than justice. As promised, four new songs made the set hinting at what could be in the not so distant future. Few bands capture what the modern rock show is so well, and with this set Kings of Leon further solidified themselves as the heirs to the must see arena rock throne. -E.N. May
Daryl Hall & Chromeo The Other Tent, 12:00 a.m.
Soft rocker Daryl Hall (of Hall & Oates fame) and electro-pop band Chromeo may seem like an odd pairing, but when Chromeo stopped by to perform with Hall in his web series, Live From Daryl’s House, the results were so good that the folks at Bonnaroo wanted them to come perform together at their festival. It was the first time a pairing from Live at Daryl’s House had performed outside of the series, and the results were the same. Daryl Hall’s smooth voice compliments Chromeo’s electro music perfectly, and vice versa. They sounded great together live, playing off one another like they had been doing it for years. The pair opened with a couple of Hall & Oates songs in one, “Dance on Your Knees/Out of Touch” before a seamless transition into Chromeo’s “Tenderoni”. The large band that accompanied the pair sounded great playing both Hall’s and Chromeo’s numbers, which they switched off every few songs. Hall’s hair was ever-blowing in the wind, and the vibe in the tent was something else. There were smiles all around, and young and old danced together in perfect harmony. –Carson O’Shoney
The Black Keys
That Tent, 12:00 a.m.
Always on time, and ready to make the Tennessee humidity levels raise a few percent due to increased sweat content, the boys from Akron unearthed the same fiery passion found inside all of their early records with fan pleasers, “Girl is on My Mind” and “Stack Shot Billy”. For newer songs going back to 2008s’ Strange Times, the band brought along a touring bassist and keyboardist which does in fact remove some level of the intimate feel the band thrives on live. However, the extras also added an extra dimension to tracks like “Same Old Thing” and help reproduce the catchiest of new tunes such as Gary Glitter-esque “Howlin’ for You”. The band is clearly at their most comfortable, however, as the twosome of Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach. Let’s hope this isn’t a sign of things to come on future records/tours. -Bruce Matlock
The Flaming Lips, ft. Star Death & White Dwarfs
Which Stage, 12:00 a.m.
If there ever was a moment to witness, this was it. Everyone knows that The Lips‘ reputation for extravagant shows precedes them, but nothing came close to the visual and audio mind warp they planned for Bonnaroo. Opening with a short set of Lips classics like “She Don’t Use Jelly”, “W.A.N.D.”, and the newer “Silver Trembling Hands”, it was the standard Lips show, hamster ball, confetti guns and all. After a quick half dozen songs, however, they took a break to set up for the big show: Dark Side of the Moon.
Photo by Daniel McIver
Henry Rollins’ spoken word introduced the driving guitar line of their take on “Speak to Me/Breath”, which launched an out of this world menagerie of light and laser. It was an absolute bombardment of the senses, letting up on “Money”, and hypnotizing on “Us and Them”. The lasers radiated blues, yellows, and purples into the clouds of smoke bellowing from the stage while the giant video screen interjected with pulsating colors and dancing nudes. Steven Dresden Drozd’s often odd wail melted right into the vocal solo “The Great Gig in the Sky” blowing everyone back. After two and a half hours, “Eclipse” brought everything back to Earth as the band disappeared in a cloud of smoke leaving the kaleidoscoping colors to dance in the sky. It was an incredible night to witness, and one only the Flaming Lips could’ve imagined. It was as over the top as the band could possibly be, the experience astounding, and most importantly blew minds. -E.N. May
LCD Soundsystem This Tent, 2:30 a.m.
Over the past few years, LCD Soundsystem have firmly positioned themselves as one of the best live bands on the planet, and Friday night in This Tent proved to be no exception. Having one of the most popular undercard bands on the lineup scheduled for a set from 2:30 a.m. until four in the morning is a bit of a risk, but one that worked out perfectly. There was really no better time for their brand of Talking Heads-esque electro dance punk. The band sounded as tight as ever, and frontman James Murphy was filled with energy. This Tent turned into a huge rave for party starters like “Drunk Girls”, “Pow Pow” and “Yeah”. They blew the roof off the tent with “All My Friends”, for my money one of the best performances of the festival. And while the band’s setlist this tour has not seen many changes, the crowd still loved each and every song they played, especially “Losing My Edge”. The set fell right in line with the long history of great late night sets at Bonnaroo. – Carson O’Shoney
That Tent, 3:00 a.m.
Where else can you see an artist with only one commercially released album play until sunrise? Well as B.o.B aka Bobby Ray put it early Saturday morning, “I don’t know what time we are supposed to leave this stage, but we will when the sun comes up.” Featuring fellow Atlanta rapper Playboy Tre (who came off rather preachy and annoying) the set consisted of countless mixtape tracks as well as a rather fancy cover of MGMT’s “Kids”. Highlights for the marathon also included a heavy rendition of “Don’t Let Me Fall” which lifted the dwindling crowd’s spirits higher than should be possible at five am, as well as “Bet I” with its hardcore rap stylings that really just come off comic-like coming from the guy “making wishes out of airplanes.” -Bruce Matlock
Saturday, June 12th
Norah Jones Which Stage, 2:30 p.m.
By the middle of the day on Saturday, the heat index was pushing past the mid-90s. This is not the ideal scenario to see a Norah Jones concert. I would love to see her in a nice air-conditioned theatre on a nice evening after a fancy dinner with fine wine. But in the heat of the Tennessee sun, in the middle of a smelly and sweat-soaked Bonnaroo crowd? That might be the last place I want to see Norah Jones. That’s not a knock against her; her music is just suited to a different time and place. She came out and played a nice set. She proclaimed that it was her first time at Bonnaroo since the very first one, surely the longest time between sets for a repeat act at Roo. She came out and played guitar with her backing band, playing mostly songs from her most recent album, The Fall, along with covers of Johnny Cash, The Kinks, Tom Waits, and Neil Young. Her voice is still a thing of beauty, and the band sounded great, but in the end I just wished I could of experienced it in a better setting. –Carson O’Shoney
Isis This Tent, 3:30 p.m.
Having announced their breakup just a few weeks ago, fans were even more eager to see Isis this time around as it will probably be their last chance. They did not disappoint. Instead of just going through the motions for their last shows, Isis cranked it up and tried to put on a great show for the fans who will undoubtedly miss them. From sweeping, melodic songs to hard, powerful numbers, the band went through all the peaks and valleys that make up their particular brand of hard rock. While they will be missed, all the fans at This Tent seemed grateful to have one last chance to experience their live show. –Carson O’Shoney
The Avett Brothers Which Stage, 4:45 p.m.
With little to no relief from the unbearable sun rolling in, The Avett Brothers brought the worn out crowds back to life. Pulling heavily from I and Love and You, “The Perfect Space”, “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise”, and “January Wedding” stroked the heartstrings, especially when Seth Avett yelled out for life and love on “Laundry Room”. The clouds rolled in, turning on a light rain that was more than welcome while the sweet strums of “Salina” played out. As songwriters they’re simple, but being so personal and genuine in that simplicity allows raw emotion to ride along with them, which altogether gave the festival another perfect mid-day set. -E.N. May
The Dead Weather What Stage, 6:00 p.m.
Jack White has now completed the trifecta. He’s played Bonnaroo with all three of his bands, and he’s put on a fantastic show each time. His show with The Dead Weather on Saturday was no different. Bassist Jack Lawrence and guitarist Dean Fertita kept the energy high and the music on pace, while White proved to be more than competent behind the drums. Alison Mosshart is a force of nature on stage. She’s sexually charged with tons of energy; sprawling all over the stage like it was her own. The crowd was into the whole set, but went especially crazy when White decided to come out from behind the drums and take center stage. Sometimes it was just to sing lead vocals, but the highlight of the set came when he was front and center playing the instrument that made him famous, lead guitar. His extended solo during “Will There Be Enough Water” was a highlight of the entire festival. It’s time like these that you wonder why he ever yields the guitar to anyone else. From 2007’s solo during “Ball & Biscuit” (with the White Stripes) to 2008’s solo during “Blue Veins” (with the Raconteurs) to this weekend, White is the king of epic Bonnaroo guitar solos. –Carson O’Shoney
Weezer Which Stage, 7:00 p.m.
Oh Weezer, why do you like to make it so easy to hate on you? While Mr. Cuomo busied himself by being a “Troublemaker”, the rest of the band performed a rock show. It seemed at times like Cuomo was trying to find any way possible not to perform, everything from ripping apart mics located on the speaker stacks to pulling the wires hanging from the bottom of them. While he was busy being a “destructive badass”, as someone in the crowd so bro-ishly put it, he allowed everyone else in the band play lead-singer on great sing-alongs of “Why Bother?” and “Dope Nose”. Just saying, the band seemed to get along just fine without him. -Bruce Matlock
What Stage, 8:30 p.m.
To see a legend perform is incredible, to see Stevie Wonder is a religious experience. All weekend Conan O’Brien had been able to keep a sense of humor for the main-stage he was MCing, but for Stevie, he was speechless with a kind of excitement that can only happen when introducing the modern godfather of soul.
With everyone at the festival watching, Wonder walked out with a white keytar tearing into his own introduction. From there it was a night of greatest hits like “Superstitious” and “Higher Ground”, throwing in a talk boxing cover of George Clinton’s “We Want the Funk” that brought down the house. Of all the aging performers, by voice alone Wonder is still in his prime, hitting every note and flourish perfectly. “Grape Vine”, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”, and “Don’t You Worry About a Thing” took us on his 30-year soul train and gave the festival a set that will go down in history. -E.N. May
Photo by Bruce Matlock
Jay-Z What Stage, 11:30 p.m.
Jay-Z’s headlining set on Saturday night was nothing short of huge. The stage setup, the band, the crowd, the songs, Jay-Z himself – everything about it was just bigger than anything else at Bonnaroo this year, with apologies to Stevie Wonder’s fantastic set before his. If the title of best rapper alive was ever in question, he put that to rest at his self-proclaimed second home – Bonnaroo. The crowd got excited even when the 10-minute countdown flashed on screen, and went completely insane when Jigga came on stage. He started the set with “Run This Town”, and after that it was hit after hit after hit. He seemed extremely happy to be there, and to get a shoutout from Stevie Wonder, who said he would be sticking around to experience Jay-Z. He repeatedly said he was having the best week ever, and it showed. He and his band absolutely ripped through cuts from his entire discography barely taking any pause. Jay did stop the show to survey the crowd at one point, pointing out signs, flags, and shirts that people were sporting. He noticed a girl who had on a shirt proclaiming it was her 19th birthday, and Jay had her come on stage, gave her a hug, and led 70 thousand people in singing her happy birthday. I think it’s safe to say no birthday will beat that.
Rumors had swirled throughout the weekend that Beyoncé would show up like she did at Coachella, or that Jack White would come out and they would debut the song the two had worked on at White’s Third Man Records. Alas, neither collaboration happened, but Jay didn’t need them. He handled the crowd by his lonesome, and had people bouncing, waving, tossing up diamonds – doing whatever he commanded. He completely commanded the What Stage in a way that I had never seen any Bonnaroo headliner accomplish. From the opening beat of “Run This Town” to the closing note of “Encore”, Jay-Z dominated Bonnaroo. It was a triumphant tour-de-force performance that should erase any ill will that Kanye West created in the Bonnaroo community. –Carson O’Shoney
The Other Tent, 2:30 a.m.
Photo by E.N. May
Taken deep from the bowls of hell, raised from their frozen tomb in the arctic, the blood soaked metal spectacle that is GWAR took to the Other Tent and annihilated all within reach. There are tips to know when going to a GWAR show, the most important is to not expect to leave clean, and that you won’t to be the same after. From the second pounding “Saddam A Go Go” the blood guns came out and unleashed on the first few rows (including yours truly in the photo pit). A disemboweling saw more gore, and in the end, it looked like a zombie massacre. The show, as part of their 25th anniversary tour, was unrelenting in the ways that literally only they could do. These kinds of theatrics don’t exist anywhere else. The costumes, blood cannons, and side show antics always go over the top, and even if you’re not a metal head, you just have to see it to believe it. -E.N. May
Sunday, June 13th
Calexico Which Stage, 1:15 p.m.
Playing an early Sunday set, the pleasantries of Calexico provided an easy wake up for those sticking around. The steel slides floated along with the trumpets, trading licks with guitars, creating a harmonious blend of southwest folk wisdom with American alt-country.Hailing from Arizona, the band’s set took a political tone, with members using the chance to express themselves on the recent immigration fiasco. -E.N. May
Comedy Theatre, 1:30 p.m.
Coming off of his highest profile gig – hosting the MTV Movie Awards, just last week – the demand to see Aziz Ansari was high. As I waited in line, I saw girls with “AZ-IZ” painted across their face and “RAAAAAAAANDY” painted down their arms. With the obvious exception of Conan, Ansari was the most in-demand comic at Bonnaroo, and his fans were equally eager to see him. After a great opening set by Chelsea Peretti, Ansari walked out to erupting applause. He was immediately taken back by the fact that there was a sign language translator there signing his show, and warned her that there were plenty of dirty things to come, to which he proceeded to mess with her by saying some dirty things he wanted to see signed.
Throughout the set, Ansari would repeat a dirty line if he missed it being signed the first time around, and sometimes the signs were just as funny as the joke themselves. And the jokes were definitely funny. With a set of all new material, he covered a wide range of topics from 50 Cent learning what a grapefruit is to his little cousin Harris having sex with a Cinnabon. After his 45 minute set, he came out and did another 15 minutes of RAAAAAAAANDY, his overly gross but totally hilarious character from Funny People. He completely killed and everyone in the tent left with a smile on their face while quoting their favorite lines, which is exactly what should be happening after any good comedy show. –Carson O’Shoney
What Stage, 4:00 p.m.
Starting out right with back to back Creedence, John Fogerty delivered a perfect late afternoon set, dusting off all his classics. He’s another in the line of legends that can still perform like the 70’s never ended, way past his prescribed prime. With the words already well ingrained, “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” and “Down in the Corner” were perfect for a mid-day sing along. Working through some solo material, Fogerty closed the set with more CCR memories, delivering flawless work on the still fantastic “Fortunate Son”. Creedence may not be around anymore, but it doesn’t mean the music is anywhere close to disappearing. -E.N. May
Which Stage, 5:00 p.m.
Ween’s brand of ADD genre-hopping can grate on some people, but their throngs of hardcore devoted fans think otherwise. Love them or hate them, they usually put on a fantastically fun live show. Their last show at Bonnaroo, a two hour plus romp on Saturday afternoon in This Tent in 2007, was a classic – which made the expectations high for this year’s show. This time around however, their time was cut to an hour and a half and they were put on the Which Stage, a much less intimate environment as far as Bonnaroo stages go. They weren’t bad; “Voodoo Lady” still stands out as one of the best live songs around, but there wasn’t much to distinguish it from any other normal Ween set. The setlist was lacking, and the energy wasn’t as high as the last go round. All in all, it wasn’t a bad show, but compared to their last Bonnaroo show, it was a let down. –Carson O’Shoney
Which Stage, 7:15 p.m.
As the unofficial festival closer for many, Phoenix came out to see a seemingly endless sprawl of people. Having played just last year in the smallest of the tents, this was a huge moment for the latest of the indie bands to blow up. They knew why they were there too, and excitedly gave fans what they came for, opening with “Lisztomania” and running through the bulk of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. “Fences” laid down a strong electro pop rock groove that was as smooth as it could ever be. This was a special moment for the band, and they showed it with the energy shooting through “Consolation Prize”, and the grand finale we all saw coming. With heat lightning lighting up the rising thunderhead above, “1901” exploded over the field. The grinding yet sweet synths gave the festival one last chance to move with frenzied excitement. Seeing this, and feeling the moment, Phoenix took the song a few minutes longer, giving one more reprise of that infectious hook. This was their best moment, and they seized it with everything they had. Let’s hope they get off the road soon and start writing again, though. -E.N. May
Dave Matthews Band
What Stage, 9:00 p.m.
The last band to play Bonnaroo is a fairly special honor to bestow upon any band. Those brave enough to withstand four long days of 110+ heat index and still be able to withstand the mass of un-showered Zach Galifinakis impersonators want to sit back in the grass, relax, and cool off before heading down Shakedown Street for the last time.
This honor is always bestowed upon the jammiest in the land; Phish last year, Widespread Panic numerous times, you get the idea. Dave Matthews and his band of ridiculously capable artists jammed for two and a half hours on what could have been the most musically tense set off the weekend. Certainly there were light moments, but darker songs such as “Lying in the Hands of God” and “Timebomb” sounded perfectly fitting as lightning crashed in the background.
Though the thunder was long gone, the band closing out with their version of “All Along the Watchtower” seemed perfectly fitting. Those wandering in the crowd suddenly came to a realization that life is actually anything but a joke, and after the musical wonderland that is Bonnaroo, it was approaching on the horizon all too quickly. -Bruce Matlock
Photography by Michael Hurcomb, Bruce Matlock, E.N. May, and Daniel McIver.