The Bonnaroo Music & Arts festival wrapped up the thirteenth episode of its annual summer fest in Manchester, Tenn. with headlining acts Elton John, Jack White and Kanye West.
Taking place June 12-15, the festival that never sleeps had a varied assortment of talent this year with a heavy mix of increasingly popular EDM, along with bluegrass, rock, rap and other genres.
The transition has been building over the past couple of years and this sea change was a popular topic during one of the onsite press conferences.
“To me it’s like there is always so much going on. It really is all about being with your friends and loving music. It always seemed to us like it was a hippy festival, but then once you get here, it’s just music,” Flaming Lips front man Wayne Coyne said.
While things change, one of the constants is the size and scope which Bonnaroo boasts.
During an interview with Bonnaroo veterans Yonder Mountain String Band, Adam Aijala noted the magnitude of the festival is what stands out the most when comparing Bonnaroo to other festivals.
“There is a vast array of different genres of music and different size bands. There are bands that are just starting out who come to Bonnaroo,” he added.
Within the mix on the opening night, Aijala’s decription was definitely evident with groups like Nashville’s The Wild Feathers and Cherub, and also rocker J. Roddy Walston & The Business, which was one of the top rock ‘n’ roll shows you could find on the farm this year.
As Friday opened with Greensky Bluegrass and the Southern soul of St. Paul & The Broken Bones, I found myself not lingering too far from This Tent, which remained commonplace all weekend.
During this day, back-to-back sets of The Wood Brothers, Jake Bugg and Andrew Bird & The Hands of Glory held my attention all afternoon but Ben Howard was also on the checklist as well.
Vampire Weekend was a must-see as it had been six years since they last performed at ‘Roo. Playing a mix of early staples and songs from Modern Vampires of the City, they were a perfect precursor to French rockers Phoenix.
Skipping out on Kanye, Mastodon was about to fire up around the midnight hour as their fan base shouted a few anti-Kanye remarks in the downtime.
As for Saturday, the song remained the same as First Aid Kit, Drive-By Truckers and Phosphorescent all performed at This Tent.
Other acts of note at This Tent on Sunday included City & Colour who provided a stellar set during Sunday evening along with Amos Lee. Given a tough time spot, Lee was on a different plane as he belted out some sweet, soul with a voice that seemed like it reached a new level each song.
The Avett Brothers, five-time Bonnaroo veterans, put on a grand display on the What Stage where they rolled through tunes such as earlier cuts like “The Fall” and “Colorshow” while also taking time to pay reverence to George Jones through their cover of “The Race is On.”
While these are a few highlights of the weekend, there were so many more great acts such as Arctic Monkeys and the ever-impressive funk and dance sounds of Chromeo.
The headliner of the weekend award goes to Jack White who proved to thousands that rock ‘n’ roll will never die as he showcased his guitar prowess to the fold. Opening with “Icky Thump,” White’s band was bringing the heat with multi-instrumentalists to accompany his guitar shredding throughout the set.
Elton John brought the party as well for his first American festival appearance. After this amount of time, one would think he had been in a position such as this before, but Sir Elton was on his A-game performing tracks from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and also brought out fellow piano man Ben Folds.
All in all, Bonnaroo wrapped up nicely, just as it always does.
Photos by Warren Swann, Sleepyhead Photo