Until Next Year, Bonnaroo!
I spent 114 days sharing each artist on the original Bonnaroo 2022 lineup as part of an Artist of the Day series before the festival. My love for sharing new tunes fueled this project as music has changed the course of my life for the better. The magic that I’ve found among the harmonic collision of instruments and voices is something I want others to experience. This passion of mine got me invited to work as media at this year’s Bonnaroo, which was an experience that truly blew me away. I even got to bring along one of the best photographers I know, Stephanie Heath, who shoots for Smiling Eyes Media when she’s not working with me at The Festival Voice. We sought to really capture what it was like to be at this year’s Bonnaroo as many have complained behind keyboards about the low attendance and lacking lineup among other grievances.
We stayed in the wilds of general camping with some friends to live the full Bonnaroo experience. Personally, I believe you could spend an entire weekend in the campgrounds and still not see everything in the campgrounds. This includes fan-driven activities and ones curated by the festival. Case in point, we ended up camping next to Daniel Shapiro who set up a Tiny Van stage next to our campsite and had artists from Nashville come through for intimate acoustic performances all weekend. This was a treat to have a secret stage nestled right next to our campsite. When we weren’t vibing to these sets, we were exploring the different plazas and areas in the campgrounds, which became an easy task as Wednesday was stacked with campground shenanigans since Centeroo didn’t officially open until Thursday. We first hit up the Galactic Giddy Up to see flipturn, who would later sign a record deal while at Bonnaroo, kick off the festival. Later in the day, we checked out the Little Cinema: Secret Show! at the House of Yes where we saw an immersive showing of the 1968 cartoon Yellow Submarine featuring tidbits of audience participation and the zestiness that only New York thespians can muster. Then to close out the night there were DJ sets by VNSSA and NGHTMRE at Where in the Woods until 3 AM. Surprisingly, this was the earliest we went to bed during the festival. Later in the weekend, we did get around to some more campground exploring including seeing Therapy Gecko at the Zen Zone and a quick walk by the Jesus Tent. Therapy Gecko did a goofy group therapy session with one of the random audience guests being a zookeeper who was at ground zero for the Harambe incident. The Jesus Tent was stacked with free ice, refreshments, and festival survival items donated by local churches for those Bonnaroovians in need. I can honestly say this was just a fraction of what happened in the campgrounds. For example, going through Facebook post-festival I saw that near the House of Yes someone got a $25 helicopter ride above Bonnaroo. And there were plenty of sets in the plazas that we missed.
When Centeroo opened on Thursday, Stephanie and I watched as a mob of eager attendees stormed the gates under the famous Bonnaroo arch. Everyone wore smiles while slapping hands to welcome the first Bonnaroo in three years. Apparently, people just couldn’t wait another day for High-Five Friday! We followed the crowd into the gate to catch one of the first sets of the weekend, Kenny Mason. Being from Atlanta, we had to support the hometown hero that made it onto the lineup. From there we ventured forth to get lost in the music, hitting up various shows including The Dip, Blu DeTiger, Adam Melchor, Sons of Kemet who played one of their last shows as a band, CloZee, and Goth Babe. Big shoutout to Goth Babe for throwing a wild party and for having one of his high school buds crowd surf on a watermelon inflatable. My biggest regret for the day was missing Andy Frasco playing with special guest goose, but we had to conserve our energy for the days to come as we planned to see the sunrise on both Saturday and Sunday.
Friday was a beautiful day as the weather turned down the heat, but with this gift came a brief windstorm that shook the campgrounds. We were on our way to the beer exchange and waiting in line at the Jamtrak transit station with some cool folks from Arkansas when suddenly the storm shut down all activities on the Farm. In true Bonnaroo spirit, we collectively decided to throw our own beer exchange at our campsite and invited anyone we saw. It turned the disappointment into a real rager before the wind came through and tested our might. We hunkered down under our canopies and watched as numerous folks around us had canopies and tents sacrificed to the storm. As soon as the weather cleared, everyone emerged from piles of wreckage to continue the weekend party with folks taking care of each other by sharing replacements for broken canopies and tents. That’s the magic of camping festivals, especially Bonnaroo, as generally, folks look out for one another.
The rest of Friday we stacked with music. Southern Avenue kicked off the day followed by Tai Verdes, Briston Maroney, Dayglow, Tove Lo, The Regrettes, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Japanese Breakfast, The War On Drugs, J. Worra, The Chicks, Lord Huron, J. Cole, King Gizzard, Disclosure, goose, LP Giobbi, and Lane 8 closing out the night with a legendary sunrise set. One vendor I spoke with said her childhood dreams came true seeing The Chicks in concert which was a beautiful moment to share with someone, and I will say they definitely blew my mind with how polished their performance was after decades of performing. I got to see a wide range of artists on the stacked Friday lineup, but I’m sure there were plenty of magic moments that were missed such as Illenium having Teddy Swims come out for his closing song. And I have no clue what kind of vibes were popping off in the campgrounds and plazas but I’m sure the party animals out there threw down! I mean, there was an Air2Earth set by Porter Robinson at Where in the Woods that night and pockets of dance parties scattered around.
Then came Saturday, another ridiculously stacked day for music. I think I’ve emphasized my point that there was tons of music to see, so I want to highlight some favorite moments from Saturday. Femi Kuti & The Positive Force was a wild time! The Roochute, a giant parachute the likes of which you haven’t seen since elementary school, made an appearance to compliment the Afrobeat vibes. Following this amazing act was Ashe, an up-and-coming pop star that I have been giddy over since hearing her single “Moral of the Story.” I saw a woman walking by stop and stay for the rest of her set. I asked her afterward if she knew Ashe and she said she hadn’t but was instantly a fan after hearing her voice. That shared moment of vibing over music is making me tear up writing about it. When I was waiting for the SuperJam, which had a special appearance by Carly Rae Jepsen, I struck up a conversation with these young lads from Wyoming who drove 26 hours to be at their first Bonnaroo. I asked them why they made the journey and they said it was because of what they had heard about the festival and how stacked the lineup was this year. Pretty crazy that people drove that far for a lineup that supposedly wasn’t good (queue sarcasm).
Then later in the night when I saw Billy Strings basically open for Tool I cried y’all. It was at that moment I finally settled down enough to appreciate that my writing, literally tossing word salads for months, got me to Bonnaroo to see two of the best shows on the planet. I 100% recommend that you see Billy Strings live and Tool if you can as Tool doesn’t tour that often. But little did I know that the night was still young as Stephanie and I stumbled over to see Marc Rebillet put on what would become a legendary Bonnaroo show. Marc, aka Loop Daddy to his savage fanbase, started his set in the middle of the crowd before taking all his gear to the stage while sporting a lovely pair of underwear. By the time he got to the stage, the crowd was going BANANAS! Everyone got to see the artist that got them through the pandemic as Marc did live streams on Sundays to keep folks entertained while stuck at home. Marc asked his fans for some garments and received a lovely bathrobe, hat, and even a bra to complete his evening wear. And then the show started, with Marc doing his improv magic and eventually finding his way back into the crowd to surf above his fans with a bottle of champagne. I think people will be talking about this set for years and years to come. Following this insane set, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong threw down and had goose come through while Chris Lake went hard on the last sunrise set of the weekend.
And somehow, without any warning, it was Sunday, the last day of Bonnaroo. But no tears were shed as there was much partying to be had. Flipturn started off the day with their second set of the weekend and Sierra Ferrell came right after, bringing her genre-bending folk magic to the Farm. She was the first Artist of the Day post I did this year because of her storied past and journey to become a signed musician. I actually got to meet her at a press conference on Sunday and y’all she has such a good heart. Then came one of the wackiest daily lineups I have ever seen at any festival I have been to (Bonnaroo was my 36th). The rest of Sunday had Bas, Fletcher, Lettuce, Tash Sultana, Of The Trees, G Jones, Nathaniel Rateliff, Puscifer, MGK, Herbie Hancock, and the witch known as Stevie Nicks. And Jauz came through to close out the night with a raging DJ set at Where in the Woods.
When Monday morning finally came, my body was the sorest it’s been in a long while but my soul felt reborn. It had been three years and a lifetime of pandemic grief since the last Bonnaroo. I thrive and live for music, and I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one as other Bonnaroovians on Monday morning seemed to have a similar happy-sad look about them. It was very bittersweet to leave the Farm, but that only means that we can officially start planning for Bonnaroo 2023. I’m planning to be back with the Artist of the Day series and hope to see you back on the Farm! Until next year, take care of those around you and try to add some magic to the world. Oh, and drink plenty of water and warm up those high fives!
Check out the photos Stephanie took!!!
Click here to view the Bonnaroo 2022 gallery