Tennessee’s largest music festival wrapped up this past Sunday night with the sounds of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers drifting to a sea of thousands in the field of dreams at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival grounds.
Petty, a Bonnaroo veteran and one of the most formidable players in the music industry, closed the festival with hit after hit while other headlining acts appeared in the form of Paul McCartney and Jack Johnson.
Landing the festival’s biggest name yet, McCartney performed a mix of Beatles, Wings and solo songs for nearly three hours, which featured an epic stage show that included an ever-impressive LED backdrop and synchronized fireworks during “Live and Let Die.” Many critics are already heralding McCartney’s performance as the best ever on the farm.
With McCartney’s billing, it sealed the deal on a six-year process with negotiations that started back in 2007, according to event organizers at an onsite press conference.
While Mumford & Sons were scheduled to play going into the weekend, the health of bass player Ted Dwane was still a concern and the English band decided to cancel. Fortunately for both sides of the table, Jack Johnson was heading to the festival to support friends ALO and was asked to fill the spot.
Johnson agreed even though he hasn’t performed in a year and led the charge on Saturday night with his batch of songs that included a cover of Steve Miller’s “The Joker,” Mumford & Sons’ “The Cave” and “Mudfootball” with the help of Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
The party of all parties appeared on Saturday night with a Superjam that consisted of Jim James, John Oates, Zigaboo Modeliste and Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
Kicking their set off with “Shakey Ground,” the A-list of players rolled through other classic songs like The Band’s “Don’t Do It” and Sly and The Family Stone’s “Thank You (Falettineme Be Mice Elf Agin).”
Through their set, Alabama Shakes frontwoman Brittany Howard joined the all-star ensemble along with R. Kelly and Billy Idol after their late night sets ended.
Thursday was highlighted by sets from Father John Misty, Futurebirds, JD McPherson, Haim and ALO that featured a guest appearance from Jack Johnson.
On Friday, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue kicked off the day with some New Orleans brass, while Jason Isbell ran through cuts off his new album “Southeastern” and Drive-by Truckers gems. Passion Pit and Wilco were also stud performances along with The XX and ZZ Top.
With the addition of Johnson to Saturday night, Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s opening set was moved to the evening as well.
Gov’t Mule, Dwight Yoakam and Portugal the Man claimed afternoon billing and R.Kelly provided a laser spectacle and opened with “Ignition” while sending balloon doves into the night sky during his set.
On Sunday, JEFF the Brotherhood was ready and willing to showcase their Nashville talent in front of a raucous crowd.
Meanwhile, the atmosphere was a lot different at That Tent where Black Prairie, Noah Pikelny and Sam Bush & Del McCoury were churning out bluegrass tunes in the Tennessee sun.
The National brought their game faces and are a band that is very comfortable in their own skin as they kept the crowd moving with new cuts like “I Should Live in Salt” and favorites such as “Apartment Story” and “Bloodbuzz Ohio.”
The music rolled in and out seamlessly and many in retrospect may look it as one of the best ever, simply for the presence of Paul McCartney. While many bands took the stage over the four days, all were top-notch and that is what sets Bonnaroo apart from the rest of the pack.
With 12 years in the book, Bonnaroo has extended its reach to more than just a music festival; it’s a place, community and state of mind for its short annual existence.
It has several initiatives but took a step further this year with its first ever 5K and also extended its yoga classes.
On the green side, the festival takes major steps in its recycling efforts and installed a solar array that supports approximately 20 percent of the festival’s energy needs.
Last year alone, the festival and its patrons were accountable for more than $50 million dollars for the local Manchester and statewide economy. Attendees range from all 50 states and thousands of international visitors who have hotel stays in Manchester, Murfreesboro and Nashville.
In fact, so many attend the yearly festival, Manchester becomes Tennessee’s seventh largest town during the Bonnaroo weekend.
A recent expenditure study shows the average ticket holder spends $86 dollars per day. The bulk of the money spent goes to gasoline at 24 percent and groceries with 21 percent of the expenditures.
With numbers like this and another sellout crowd, it’s a good bet the festival and its magic is here to stay.