Bonnaroo 2012: A weekend in review
As 80,000 travelers rolled into the 700-acre farm located in Manchester, Tenn., it was clear that the sold-out weekend was going to be nothing less than epic.
Epic music. Epic food. Epic people. And yes, even uncharacteristically epic weather.
The festivities kicked off Thursday afternoon, rather than just at night, with bands like Rollin’ in the Hay, Knoxville’s The Dirty Guv’nahs, Moon Taxi, YelaWolf, and recent sensations, the band Alabama Shakes.
The Shakes took the stage of This Tent at 11:30 opening their set with the ever-appropriate “Goin’ to the Party.” Next, they wasted no time getting to their hit, “Hold On,” which got the whole crowd movin’ and shakin’. The jam-packed tent made it obvious the band would’ve had no problem commanding an area the size of the Which Stage. As the temperature dropped the late night shows continued on, including The Chris Gethard Show in the Comedy Theatre and a sing-along to R. Kelly’s Trapped in the Closet.
As more festival-goers arrived and those shaking off Thursday night’s hangovers emerged from tents and RVs, the party in Centeroo continued. With a stellar line-up throughout the day, British band The Kooks kicked things off at the Which Stage that afternoon. Their upbeat, happy tone had the crowd dancing and singing along to older songs like “She Moves in Her Own Way,” “Sofa Song,” “Shine On,” and “Naïve.” The band also played songs from their latest album, Junk of the Heart, including the title track, “Junk of the Heart (Happy).”
Shortly after The Kooks ended their set, NEEDTOBREATHE took over the Which Stage playing songs from their latest album, The Reckoning. They kicked-off the show with “Oohs and Aahs,” and played crowd favorites like “Keep Your Eyes Open,” “Maybe They’re On to Us,” and “Girl Named Tennessee.” Toward the end of their set, they did a rock-cover of Johnny Cash’s hit, “Folsom Prison Blues.”
As the sun began to set on Friday, festival veterans The Avett Brothers took the What Stage at 5 p.m., opening with “Will You Return.” Playing arguably one of the best shows of the weekend, the show had an intimate feeling to it as thousands of fans sang along to songs like “I and Love and You.” The band even paid tribute to the late Doc Watson.
Atlanta-rapper Ludacris played This Tent to a massive crowd exclaiming he brought two buses up from Atlanta so he could take some ladies home with him. Playing hits like “All Around the World” and “Move B****” Ludacris generated energy throughout the crowd, though those towards the back complained of not being able to hear the show.
Over at The Other Tent, So-Cal Southern Rock group Dawes played to an eager crowd. After playing a tiny tent two years ago that virtually no one attended, this packed show “moved the band,” frontman Taylor Goldsmith said during the show. Playing songs like, “ A Little Bit of Everything,” “How Far We’ve Come,” and generating a huge crowd sing-along with “When My Time Comes.” You could see Goldsmith and his bandmates feeding off the crowd’s energy. Dawes also played the Sonic Stage the following day to the largest crowd the tiny stage has ever seen, and after the crowd chanted for “one more song,” the band returned to play an encore.
Indie pop-rock band Foster the People brought a What-stage sized crowd to the Which, generating loads of energy among the crowd with a massive sing-along of their closing number, “Pumped Up Kicks,” before the night’s main event, Radiohead.
Headliners back in 2006 and a year after their latest studio album, King of Limbs, Thom Yorke and Co. took to the What Stage playing a slew of newer songs. Opening with “Bloom,” the repetitive tone had all 80,000 festival-goers doing their best Thom Yorke dance moves. The stage had incredible lights and several huge screens depicting spellbinding images of the band. The band played older hits such as “Karma Police,” “Paranoid Android” and “Everything in its Right Place.” During their first– yes, first of two– encore Yorke dedicated the band’s 2011 Record Story Day single, “Supercollider,” to Jack White. The band had stopped in at White’s Third Man Records before heading to the festival, and by the sounds of Yorke’s banter, the band may have recorded something while there.
After Radiohead ended, the party continued with another Bonnaroo-veteran band, Umphrey’s McGee, playing a four-hour set in This Tent from 2 a.m. well into the early morning hour of 6 a.m.
Things kicked-off early, or perhaps just continued, Saturday. Bluegrass/Americana band The Devil Makes Three played a relaxing set at the Which Stage. Over at the Sonic Stage, songstress Trixie Whitley wowed the crowd, most of which were waiting for Dawes, with her sultry and powerful voice. The aforementioned Dawes show brought a beyond-packed crowd to the tiny stage just after Whitley ended.
Australian band, Temper Trap, played an afternoon set on the What Stage. Lead singer Dougy Mandagi’s hypnotic voice got the crowd moving during songs like “Love Lost,” “Drum Song” and, of course, their hit from the (500) Days of Summer soundtrack, “Sweet Disposition.”
The bluegrass theme continued over at the Which Stage with the Punch Brothers, who gave an earlier, more intimate performance for press members back in the press compound. Dressed in a suit, lead singer Chris Thile thanked everyone for coming out in the heat. Playing a handful of their own songs, “Watch ‘at Breakdown” and “Alex,” they also played several covers including Radiohead’s “Morning Bell” and The Strokes’ “Reptilia.”
Adding to the mix of hip-hop and rappers at Bonnaroo, Donald Glover’s rapper alter ego, Childish Gambino, brought a big crowd to the Which Stage in the early evening hours. The Roots played to an eager crowd at the What Stage, setting the tone for the evening to come.
As fans patiently waited for Red Hot Chili Peppers to take the main stage, Carrie the Dancing Merengue Dog produced “oohs” and “awws” from the crowd as the adorable golden entertained close to 80,000 fans.
Once RHCP took the stage, fans could hardly contain their excitement and the band did not disappoint. A shirtless-as-usual Anthony Kiedis and Flea bounded onto the stage as the band opened “Monarchy of Roses” from their latest album, I’m With You. The band wasted no time getting to big sing-along hits playing “Can’t Stop,” “Dani California,” and “Scar Tissue” all in a row as the crowd jumped around singing virtually every word. Playing a big portion of their set from I’m With You, the band also covered Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground,” and talked about Radiohead’s set the previous night.
The band seemed to breathe energy into the crowd to keep the momentum going for the late night shows. ?uestlove from The Roots hosted the Superjam at This Tent bringing on stage his band mates, legendary bassist Pino Paladino, The Time guitarist Jesse Johnson and vocalist D’Angelo, who was performing for the in the States for the first time in 12 years. The Superjam included a slew of old-school hits from legends like Jimi Hendrix, The Time, and Sly the Family Stone.
Rain began to fall in the early morning hours of the last day, bringing cloudy skies, cooler temperatures, and mud– but fortunately Mother Nature held off for most of the day’s shows.
Soul-rock guitarist Gary Clark Jr. started things off at the What Stage with an early set, and his bluesy-rock riffs commanded passers-by to stop and listen.
Back in the press tent, Ben Folds was gushing over country music legend Kenny Rogers, even attempting to take a picture of himself with the legend while Rogers was answering questions. Rogers also surprised many members attending the press conference by saying he plays golf regularly with rocker Alice Cooper, joking they talk “mostly about snakes.”
Ben Folds, who was performing with the Ben Folds Five trio for the first time in a decade, said he and the band had been in the studio working on a new Ben Folds Five album and should be done with recording within a week.
As the cluster of incredible shows, yet incredibly bad timing began, City and Colour played The Other Tent, while at the same time legendary pop-rock group The Beach Boys were playing the What Stage. City and Colour vocalist Dallas Green played a laid-back set, which included his best-known hit “The Girl.”
As nostalgia washed over thousands of fans during songs like “Surfin’ Safari,” “Don’t Worry Baby” and “Good Vibrations,” The Beach Boys made everyone forget about the cloudy and unseasonably-cool day.
As The Beach Boys wrapped up their set, fans rushed over to the Which Stage to see Ben Folds Five in action once again. The trio played older hits like the beautifully melodic “Selfless, Cold and Composed,” along with “Brick,” “Army” and “Song for the Dumped.” At one point during the set, Ben stopped the music to set up his camera and asked the crowd to “politely flip him off,” a Bonnaroo tradition for the singer.
Back at the What Stage, Grammy Award-winner Justin Vernon took the stage with his band Bon Iver. His melodic music and soft voice fit the dreary weather, as many listeners swayed along to the music and others laid on the ground, taking in the music and maybe catching a few Z’s. Walking onstage to huge applause from the crowd, Vernon wasted no time getting started as he opened with “Perth” from his latest album Bon Iver, Bon Iver. About halfway through the set he played his hit “Skinny Love,” generating a big crowd sing-along.
As Bon Iver was ending, The Civil Wars, The Shins, Young the Giant and Fun. were all beginning within 15 minutes of each other, causing a dilemma for fans trying to decide where to head next.
The Shins, playing Which Stage, brought another What Stage-size crowd to the Which. Playing old, beloved songs like “Kissing the Lipless,” “Caring is Creepy,” “Australia,” and the song the made famous by indie hit film “Garden State,” “New Slang.” They also played songs from their latest album, Port of Morrow, that included “Simple Song,” “Bait and Switch,” “It’s Only Life” and “September.”
Scattered across the festival grounds, The Civil Wars, Young the Giant and fun. all played their hits, peppering in their other songs. In The Other Tent, The Civil Wars joked they were officially a trio as a very-pregnant Joy Williams still belted out haunting songs like “Barton Hollow” and “Poison and Wine.” Indie-rock band Young the Giant played their hit “Cough Syrup” at This Tent, while fun. got the crowd in That Tent to sing-along to the wildly-popular “We Are Young.”
The night and weekend came to an end with super jam band, Phish. They played some of their greatest hits, alongside various covers that spanned over 26 songs and four hours of live tunes. The group played songs of theirs such as “Down With Disease,” “Possum,” “Free,” “Shafty” and “Show of Life.” Phish also included covers of Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler,” in which the band invited the country crooner out to sing with them. TV on the Radio’s “Golden Age,” Velvet Underground’s “Rock & Roll,” and the farm-fitting “Rocky Top” by Lynn Anderson, were also performed in a style all Phish’s own.
With a light rain sprinkling the crowd the show came to a close with a reprise of “Tweezer,” as thousands of fans walked out under the glow of the Bonnaroo sign for one last time in 2012.