2014 marked the 13th anniversary for the Bonnaroo Music and Arts festival in Manchester, TN. With nearly 100,000 attendees and fans from all over the world, it’s best to assume that this festival is really something amazing. I finally got to the festival around 4:30 in the afternoon on Thursday, just in time for Robert DeLong to take the stage at “The Other Tent”. As one of my most anticipated acts, he put on an incredible show. Obviously after closing with “Global Concepts” I was literally jumping up and down and ready for the long and packed weekend. Next on the list was Cass McCombs, who also put on a great show. I sat for this one, but that was only because Thursday night meant Real Estate, Cherub, The Weeks, Omar Souleyman, White Denim, and Ty Segall. One thing worth noting is that on Thursday, the big stages are not open. So that means almost 100,000 people divided up into 3 tents. Expectedly, things got crowded very quickly, especially at “That Tent.” As soon as the Real Estate show ended, everyone pushed forward and went crazy because Cherub was up next. Being from Nashville and having the reputation of being a party band, “That Tent” was packed and my movements felt like I was completely at the mercy of the crowd. Again, this show was amazing and proved to actually be one of my highlights from the entire weekend. The Weeks put on an excellent show at the Sonic Stage, which typically only brings about 20-50 fans. I then ran back to That Tent to catch Omar Souleyman and White Denim and I must say that both shows were fun, energetic and left me wishing that they had played even longer. I ended Thursday with Ty Segall, a true icon of modern rock. Naturally, it was the perfect ending to the first night at Bonnaroo.
Day two started around mid-day with St. Paul and The Broken Bones at The Other Tent. One common theme that I found at this festival was how emotional so many of the artists were to finally be playing at Bonnaroo. Paul Janeway, the lead singer of St. Paul and the Broken Bones, even shed a tear after playing “Broken Bones and Pocket Change.” I stuck around The Other Tent because next up was the emerging talent, Sam Smith. What an incredible voice. And on top of his original works, he also managed to cover Artic Monkeys’ “Do I Wanna Know?” After that, I then saw a few songs by Jake Bugg, but was quickly dragged away after my brother heard a song by a band from Ukraine known as Dakhabrakha. That show was not only surprisingly good, but it was actually amazing. After stopping by Silent Disco, The Naked and The Famous, Andrew Bird and The Hands of Glory, Vampire Weekend, and Phoenix, I waited on the Rail at The Other Tent for nearly two hours for what would prove to be an incredible, loud, bass-drive, head-pounding show by Disclosure. And after thirty minutes of a spectacular spectacle by Skrillex, I was ready to call it a night.
Day three started once again at The Other Tent who’s “All You’re Waiting For” will absolutely make you dance wherever you are. I then wandered over to This Tent to hear one of my absolute all-time favorites, First Aid Kit. And as I expected, those Swedish Folk singers were absolutely amazing. Being sisters, their vocal harmonies were very powerful and legitimately gave me goose bumps. I then went to see a number of other shows including Cage the Elephant, Damon Albarn, Cayucas, Chromeo, Cut Copy, and James Blake. And honestly, none of the shows were less than amazing. The big headliner of Saturday was the genius himself, Jack White. After absolutely shredding and putting on one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, including a six song encore, I quickly hurried over to That Tent to hear Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Shortly after a stop at Frank Ocean, I decided to call it a night, and prepare for my last day of the festival.
Day four was a bittersweet day because there were so many incredible shows again to see, but it brought the sadness of being done with the festival. The first show of the day was a combination of Vance Joy and Lake Street Dive. After going back and forth between both venues, I decided to head over to the Sonic Stage for a short set by the Icelandic, Asgeir. After that was a decision to head over to What Stage in order to get a good spot for Yonder Mountain String Band, and a really great spot for the Arctic Monkeys. Fortunately, I was able to work my way to the very front of the crowd for Arctic Monkeys and I can honestly say that that show was remarkable. It feels that with every album, Alex Turner carries a different persona. Currently he is stuck in the smug rock star phase, and that was absolutely prevalent during this show. One of my favorite things about the Arctic Monkeys is that despite all the other lights and graphics during most of the shows at the festival, Arctic Monkeys is a straight forward and in your face rock band who relied on their music to amaze us rather than their lights and flashiness. After arctic monkeys was a quick stop at Shovels & Rope, and then onto Syd Arthur. Syd Arthur played a short set, but was excellent in their jazzy psychedelic way. After that I went to Which Stage to hear a bit of Broken Bells and then headed back to What Stage in order to hear The Avett Brothers, who put on a seriously great show as well. To finish out the night, I stopped by Ed Helms’ Blue Grass Situation and Wild Child before finally going back, yet again, to What Stage for the legendary Elton John. The iconic Englishman put on the perfect ending to what was an absolutely amazing festival, closing with “crocodile rock”. Bonnaroo was truly an incredible experience that will take forever to get here and is gone in an instant. All we can do at this point is remember how great every moment was and start looking forward to next year’s Bonnaroo!
– Ben Fly | KXUA DJ & Contributing Blogger