Photos and Article by: Sam Carbine
This, That, Other, Who, Which, What. Ferris Buller, Ace Ventura, Mr. Miyagi, Zoolander, Chewbacca. Why would any of these ever have anything in common? Leave it to Bonnaroo to bring it all together. The stages and camping grounds of Bonnaroo have become epic over the years. From nights that turn into days and days that turn into nights, if you haven’t been to Bonnaroo you haven’t been to a music festival. Making it through the first weekend in June with little more than a tent and the best of your friends around you gives everyone that has braved this journey a sense of valor and an instant membership into a family one won’t forget for life.
High fives, the not so secret handshake, greet you at the entrance instantly conveying energy into the over 65,000 attendees. But this is just the beginning. There is an overwhelming sense of community that is cast upon everyone as you begin assembling your campsite. Maybe it’s the realization that you will be living feet away from people you have never meet. Maybe because you know it’s going to be a journey of the body and mind. Or maybe for one simple reason. Music.
This to me is what makes Bonnaroo so special. It doesn’t matter what artist you came to see or what type of music fills your soul. It doesn’t matter how you made it or where you’re from. What you are wearing or how you will get home. It is an instant connection and mutual respect with your newly acquainted family that you can’t find anywhere else.
The Thursday afternoon sun slipped in and out of the clouds making for the ideal environment to slide into the groove. Whether it was the Georgia ‘Road to Roo’ winners Walden, the grungy rock of the The Orwells, or the bass dropping Ookay, it was the perfect night to start off an epic weekend on the farm.
While many flocked to see U2 play their first headlining set at a US festival in over 40 years, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and The Weeknd, many were just as excited about the new stage addition to Bonnaroo this year, ‘The Other’. Taking the place of the former and legendary Kalliope, The Other made its Bonnaroo debut this year dedicated to EDM with Borgore, Marshmello, and NGHTMRE rounding out the slew of artist scratching digital vinyl.
As we rolled into Friday morning, the sun continued it’s dance behind the sun keeping temperatures in the mid 80’s making for the perfect combination for the first full day of bands. A big highlight of Friday afternoon was an amazing, energy packed set from the Canadian biased Strumbellas followed by the Cold War Kids, Tove Lo and Getter all before the sun had fully set. All of this the lead up to a magical night thanks to performances from U2, Major Lazer, and finally Big Gigantic not closing their set until 3:20 am.
With Saturday morning comes the beginning of the aches and pains of walking from stage to stage, back to your campsite, and jumping up and down for hours to your favorite bands. It is at this point you realize that this is a journey of your mind, body, and soul and not just an ordinary music festival. Leading off the day, Nashville based Coin gave a well needed jolt of energy into everyone. Like a doctor zapping a patient bringing them back from the dead. Anyone who caught their set was now ready to push through the weekend. The Front Bottoms, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, Chance the Rapper, Cage the Elephant, and Waker were just a few of the bands that followed leading up to a much anticipated set from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I was very interested as to how the band would adapted to new lead guitarist Josh Klinghoffer. The twist on style gave the band a dynamic that I was not expecting and enjoyed thoroughly. Injecting a bluesy under tone to the riffs that made for a mind blowing set.
After winding down the night with Flume, Umphrey’s McGee, and Marshmello, Sunday was now upon us. A slight feeling of depression hits you are you realizes your time on the farm is almost over but as you walk under the iconic Bonnaroo arch for the last day that feeling turns into a sense of pride that you have just experienced and survived one of the greatest music festivals of all time.
Many on Sunday find a spot under some of the massive trees scattered throughout center Roo, lay back, and relax to the music. Other still, with a little of gas left in the tank, continue their trek from stage to stage catching the likes of Cam, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Margo Price, and Royal Blood. As the day draws on and closer to the official final set by The Weeknd. Flatbush Zombies, Borgore, and Lorde all left everything out on the stage and in the souls of those lucky to make it to the sets.
Bonnaroo always means something different to everyone but one thing is for sure. It is a experience that never leaves you. From the music, to the people, to the food. There is something magical about this festival that that truly set it apart and one that every die hard music fan should attend.