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Wednesday, June 24

Festivals 2015: Bonnaroo Review and Photos - The festival that led the way has come so far in so many ways. And yes we still love that sweet Tennessee sunshine and our Southern Sweet Tea in June!


Lasting memories were once again made for the thousands of music fans from around the world at the 14th annual Bonnaroo Arts and Music Festival. The Farm, as it is most commonly referred to as, was once again transformed into a magical 4 day celebration of music and the arts. From the campgrounds to the main stage and just about anywhere else you looked there were groups of friends making the most of each moment shared throughout the weekend. Music can be enjoyed basically anywhere you look as the festival houses over 8 stages offering up as much variety as any one fan could ask for, lasting from early afternoon till day break. For some people this means picking and choosing which of their favorite artists they will have to miss, but for me it means that no matter what my musical mood for the moment there is likely something to fit it being played on the farm. When music isn’t on your plate there are plenty of solid food and beverage options to take its place, as well as comedy acts, movies, early morning yoga session or just walking around experiencing all that is Bonnaroo. 


From high fives and hugs to cheers and brief dance circles, there was no shortage of excitement and love being spread throughout the line of people patiently making their way into the main festival area. This quickly reminded me of exactly what it was like to be a part of all that is Bonnaroo and with that the weekend was underway. From stage to tent and everywhere in-between there was no shortage of magical performances, but none may have topped Dopapod playing their first ever official set at Bonnaroo. In the words of Rolling Stone magazine for the Jam Band fan they were the “Best Kept Secret” of the festival, although by the looks of the crowd surrounding That Tent, chanting the bands’ name prior to their emergence, the secret was certainly out. This band is not only a local favorite of mine but also the first band I was fortunate to interview and cover on a professional level and one that finally is getting the national recognition they truly deserve. 
The music and the people have always been the main attraction of this festival to me, but I never really did much of anything but go from set to set checking out as much music as I possibly could. This year for the first time I tried to mix it up and not only catch some comedy for the first time, but also finally get to see what the silent disco was all about. First off a huge air conditioned tent is never a bad thing to walk into when it’s summer in Tennessee but add to that comedians such as Jeff Ross, Chris Hardwick and April Richardson and you basically have the perfect way to spend an afternoon. The silent disco was an experience in itself, especially in a setting this large, and it was a great way to let loose with your crew. The music was provided by Quickie Mart and what was supposed to be a quick 15 minutes turned into a 2 hour dance-a-thon leaving me wondering what fun I may have missed at festivals past.  

This year already was shaping up to be more than I could have hoped for and just kept getting better when I woke up somehow well rested Friday morning realizing that there was an entire festival waiting to be experienced. One of the things I truly loved about this year’s festival was the large amount of top acts that impressed even more than I could have hoped for. From acts like My Morning Jacket drawing the crowd in with crushing versions of songs like “Victory Dance” and “One Big Holiday” to the equally moving performance directly following from Mumford and Sons that ended with one of my single favorite moments of the festival as Jim James, among others, came out and covered “With a Little Help from My Friends.”  As if that wasn’t enough of a combo, the Super Jam that directly followed over at The Other Tent delivering just may have been the most fun fueled set of the weekend. With a backing band made up of talent the like of Eric Krasno and John Medeski a revolving cast of festival talent took the stage delivering nonstop 80’s classics. With songs like Biggie’s “Juicy” and Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” to hits like “Psycho Killer” from the Talking Heads. The best part of a festival of this caliber is that this was just the tip of the iceberg with other top acts like Florence & the Machine, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, Gary Clark Jr and Robert Plant all delivering mind numbingly amazing performances.  There was also the first ever DJ Set on the Main Stage performed by Deadmau5 who left me wondering why I hadn’t made it over sooner, as well as the legendary Earth Wind & Fire who all but blew the roof off over at the Which Stage when they brought out festival headliner Kendrick Lamar. Other tent performances that stood out ranged from King Gizzard the Lizard Wizard to an entire afternoon based around blue grass that was personally highlighted by Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn as well as The Bluegrass Situation Super Jam.


Not to be outdone in any way some of the festivals best memories came from the smaller up and coming acts such as Twiddle whose late night Who Stage performance was as good as it gets. From tight energetic jams to the uplifting set ending “When it Rains it Pours” my only complaint would be they didn’t have a longer set. The Who Stage also housed 1000 Horses a country band busting at the seams with talent as well as killer set from Ruble Bucket a band that for me personally never disappoints. There was also the Wild Adriatic who won their way onto The Farm through the Road to Bonnaroo Contest. This was a band I have heard before but not yet had the chance to check out prior to their breakout set at The Miller Light New Music On Tap Lounge. This was hands down one of the most energetically passionate performances of the entire weekend and one that left me with goosebumps running up and down my arms. These guys seemed as if they were at home on the stage and wanted nothing more than to be exactly where they were at that very moment which radiated out into the crowd tenfold. Other acts such as Sol Cat, Kandace Springs, Elle King and Mick Jenkins all  delivered fantastic performances leaving me searching the inter webs to not only find out more about them but to add their music to my ever-growing collection.


A massive music and arts festival based in the heart of Tennessee bringing together fans of live music from around the world and sticking them on a 700 acre farm for 4 days may have sounded like a crazy idea at one point, but 14 years later it has turned into one of the country’s largest and most sought after music festival year after year. When you take all of the music, comedy and dance parties that pop up throughout the Bonnaroo grounds, add to that the thousands of one off campsites, food vendors and late night gatherings, it’s clear to see that there is no incorrect way to do Bonnaroo, there is only your way whatever that may be. Whether it’s non stop music or quality time just hanging with a crew of friends both old and new. 





Words: Chason Heins
Photos: Mike Geller
©Grateful Music LLC