by Molly Smith
Among the 80,000 “Bonaroovians” there is an undeniable sense of unity and good vibes. Over the course of four days I received hundreds of high-fives, the opportunity to dance all day from noon until the sun came up and memories of some of my absolute favorite artists.
Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival takes place on a 700 acre farm in Manchester, Tennessee, which is located between Nashville and the middle of nowhere. Overnight the empty land becomes the vibrant temporary home of thousands of music enthusiasts across the nation. Fans camp out in the southern heat and throughout the day and night they have the chance to explore five large stages, playfully yet confusingly named What Stage, Which Stage, This Tent, That Tent and the Other Tent.
The epic lineup this year caused one of the better problems for a festival to have: a stacked schedule. Every day we had to make critical and compromising decisions about which bands to see since there were many talented acts overlapping at the same times. However, we gave it our best shot and were still able to hit most important shows. It is nearly impossible to narrow down favorites, so below are some examples of awards I have given for several performances.
- BEST multi instrumentalist: Robert Delong. Creativity and independence are what make Delong able to manage the stage all on his own. As a rising name in the electronic scene, he did a thorough job of showcasing the album “Just Movement”.
- BEST artificial hair color: MS MR. With pink hair flying and dance moves unlimited, Lizzy Plapinger of MS MR entertained the crowd with her sassy and dramatic performance, like a morph between Florence Welch and Katy Perry.
- BEST instrumentalists: White Denim. For a jam band, White Denim reaches a wide audience of indie enthusiasts and those who simply appreciate talented musicianship. This group of misfits clearly cares more about the quality of their music than anything else and easily keeps the crowd dancing.
- MOST emotional performance: Neutral Milk Hotel. When the energy in the music was raised, the crowed followed. When the focus was centered, nobody moved an inch. The power that Neutral Milk Hotel has over their audience reveals the amount of reverence they have earned. I cried the whole time. It was awesome.
- BEST sunny day music: Lonely Biscuits. A light hearted mix of hip hop and rock make Lonely Biscuits the perfect early morning, happy vibes band.
- MOST likely to make me lose track of time: Skrillex. If electronic music does its job, the crowd should be so lost in the continuous flow of music that they forget who and where they are. We arrived to What Stage for Skrillex’s performance around 1 a.m. with the intention of leaving halfway through, but before we knew it the sun was up.
- MOST comfortable on stage: Phosphorescent. While the bassist was obviously most comfortable with a cigarette in hand and sunglasses on his face, every member of Phosphorescent looked as though they were simply playing in their living room. Even though the crowd was huge, the relationship they create with their audience was intimate.
- MOST genius – sorry Kanye: Jack White. Jack White is not only a creative mastermind but also gave the best performance of all the headlining acts. His blue and black color scheme was as cool as his dark, inspiration speeches and heavy riffs. Material from the White Stripes, the Raconteurs and Jack White’s solo albums, including the recently released “Lazaretto” was showcased.
- BEST vocals: Lake Street Dive. Rachael Price’s honey voice is what gives Lake Street Dive its flair and jazzy appeal. This performance was filled with soul and some country roots.
- BEST dance music: Capital Cities. Capital Cities builds bridges. They have mastered the radio scene, the indie scene, the pop scene and the dance scene. It was enjoyable to see them clearly having a good time while proudly playing their music.
- BEST main stage performance: Arctic Monkeys. “AM”, arguably one of the best albums of the year, has given Arctic Monkeys a leg up on their live performances, because they are able to show off their grungier side while keeping loyal to their roots. Lead singer Alex Turner has grown immensely as a performer and has mastered the art of working a crowd.
- BEST lights: Little Dragon. Little Dragon is a quirky, creative little bunch, so it is no wonder that their lights show was perfectly bright and unique.
- BEST upcoming band: Parade of Lights. Unexpectedly, Parade of Lights gave one of my favorite performances of the weekend on a small, new artists’ stage. Their high energy will take them far in the industry.
- MOST fun performance: Chromeo. Chromeo’s music is hot and they know it. In fact, they capitalize on their suave style.
- BEST overall performance runner up: Washed Out. There is nothing like seeing a favorite band live, and I felt as though I waited all weekend for Washed Out’s performance. Every song was perfect and moved together like a hazy dream.
- BEST overall performance: Disclosure. By far, the highlight of Bonnaroo was Disclosure. Their visuals are beyond this century and a surprise guest performance from Sam Smith made “Latch” amazing. Overall, it was flawlessly orchestrated and was one of the best shows I have ever seen.
©Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic. With permission of Bonnaroo for Jungle Indie Rock.
Lionel Richie •Vampire Weekend •The Avett Brothers •Phoenix Skrillex •Arctic Monkeys •Frank Ocean •The Flaming Lips •Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds •Kaskade Wiz Khalifa •Damon Albarn •Neutral Milk Hotel SuperJam: Skrillex and Friends featuring Big Gigantic with special guests Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, Robby Krieger (of The Doors), Zedd, Mickey Hart, Janelle Monáe, Joel Cummins, Warpaint, Chance the Rapper, Mike Einziger, Ruby Amanfu, High & Mighty Horns, Thundercat, and more SuperJam: Derek Trucks featuring Chaka Khan, Taj Mahal, Eric Krasno, James Gadson, David Hidalgo, Willie Weeks, Nigel Hall, Ryan Zoidis, Eric Bloom and Adam Deitch with special guests Andrew Bird, Susan Tedeschi, Karl Denson, Ben Folds and more The Bluegrass Situation SuperJam hosted by Ed Helms featuring the Lonesome Trio, Dierks Bentley, Sarah Jarosz, Lake Street Dive, The Black Lillies, The Lone Bellow, Robert Ellis, Della Mae, Bryan Sutton, and Dave Johnston of YMSB Disclosure •Cut Copy •The Head and the Heart •Zedd •Ms. Lauryn Hill •Funkiest Dancer •Chromeo Broken Bells •Tedeschi Trucks Band •James Blake •Bobby Womack •Umphrey's McGee •Ice Cube Ben Howard •Slightly Stoopid •Fitz & The Tantrums •Cake •Janelle Monáe •Grouplove •Amos Lee CHVRCHES •Cage the Elephant •Die Antwoord •Craig Robinson & The Nasty Delicious Drive-By Truckers •Andrew Bird & the Hands of Glory •Mastodon •Capital Cities Taran Killam & Friends •Jake Bugg •Chance The Rapper •Dr. Dog •Yonder Mountain String Band Hannibal Buress •John Butler Trio Down n' Dirty Hosted by Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson & Ilana Glazer •Little Dragon •T.J. Miller City and Colour •The Glitch Mob •The Naked and Famous •Phosphorescent •Washed Out Danny Brown •Warpaint •Sam Smith •A$AP Ferg •Darkside •Seasick Steve •Shovels & Rope •Lucero Real Estate •Carolina Chocolate Drops •The Wood Brothers The Master Musicians of Jajouka led by Bachir Attar, with special guests Billy Martin, Marc Ribot, DJ Logic and Shahzad Ismaily Pusha T •Rory Scovel •Meshuggah •Poliça •DakhaBrakha •Goat •ZZ Ward •Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 Blackberry Smoke •MS MR •First Aid Kit •Sasheer Zamata •A Tribe Called Red •Omar Souleyman Brooks Wheelan •The Bouncing Souls •Greensky Bluegrass •Ty Segall •Sarah Jarosz •Vintage Trouble Okkervil River •White Denim •Jonathan Wilson •Seth Herzog •J. Roddy Walston & the Business Robert Delong •Cloud Nothings •Thao & the Get Down Stay Down •Valerie June King Khan & the Shrines •Cherub •BANKS •Emily Heller •Break Science •The Black Lillies The Lone Bellow •Caveman •Big Sam's Funky Nation •Jon Batiste and Stay Human •La Santa Cecilia Classixx •Allah-Las •Cass McCombs •Vance Joy •Haerts •Those Darlins •Deafheaven •Lake Street Dive St. Paul & The Broken Bones •The Wild Feathers •The Preatures •Brad Williams •Ryan Belleville DJ Equal •DJ Logic •Full Service Party •Holden •Jared Dietch •Jonathan Toubin •Le Chev •Quickie Mart Solu Music •Tiki Disco •The Weeks •Catfish and the Bottlemen •Foreign Fields Tim Baker & Adam Hogan of Hey Rosetta! •Ásgeir •Animals As Leaders •Arc Iris •The Black Cadillacs Black Pistol Fire •Blank Range •The Bots •Bronze Radio Return •Bully •Cayucas •Desert Noises Diarrhea Planet •Donald Cumming •The Dunwells •ELEL •Empires •Fly Golden Eagle •The Futures League The Griswolds •High and Mighty Brass Band •Hunter Hunted •James Bay •Jamestown Revival Jennifer Sullivan •Jeremy Messersmith •John & Jacob •Kansas Bible Company •Kevin Devine •Kins Lily & the Parlour Tricks •The Lonely Biscuits •Meghan Tonjes •Monster Truck •The Orwells Parade of Lights •PJ Loughran •Roadkill Ghost Choir •Royal Canoe •Royal Teeth •The Saint Johns Sam Hunt •Skinny Lister •Speedy Ortiz •Streets of Laredo •Syd Arthur •The Unlikely Candidates Wild Child •Willy Mason