Bonnaroo 2018: A 40th Birthday On The Farm
Another year has come and gone for the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival.
The 17th annual edition of the fest took place on the iconic farm in rural Manchester, TN. this past week. It shows no sign of slowing down either according to founder Ashley Capps when asked upon what the 25th Roo would look like, "Gosh, 8 years is a lifetime in music. But I know we'll be here." And no doubt the faithful Bonnaroovians will be "here" too.
A projected 76,000 people, exact attendance not released at time of publishing, made the trek from coast to coast to catch headlining acts such as Michigan's own Eminem, alt-rock faves The Killers and international superstars Muse. The fest boasted well over 100 performers from musical acts to comedians. But as always, it's the carefully crafted immersive experience, that has become Bonnaroo's biggest selling point. And in a time where any artist exclusiveness is lost to big business umbrella contracts, Eminem is headlining 5 US festivals this year, it is that experience that will ensure the events long term success.
It's certainly how I sold three of my friends to attend this years Roo with myself and AJ. (That and I guilt tripped them since I was turning 40 on Saturday of the fest.) The lineup may have lacked the punch of previous years, but it was the experience of the farm that I told people about. The endless high-fives, the smiles, the inclusiveness and, as always, good vibes is what Bonnaroo is all about. It's at least what makes me a "Bonnaroovian" that happens to cover a few other fests a year. Yes, I compare them all to the mother ship. Sorry not sorry.
But don't think Bonnaroo has lost a step when it comes to booking a wide array of acts. From disco king Nile Rogers with Chic to alt-country leader Sturgill Simpson to emerging pop singers like Dua Lipa, you truly get something for everyone. And for any naysayers that thinks the fest has "changed", well, it has. "The one we are not, is resistant to change here at Bonnaroo", founder Capps said. Which is something we should all apply to our life, certainly I should. Change is constant, and good. But call backs to the original days long before Live Nation bought in, or even permanent bathrooms were a thought, still exist if you look.
Old Crow Medicine Show, the original boot stomping, banjo plucking, washboard clacking country band, lamented how they not only played the 1st Bonnaroo but also were one of two acts that simultaneously kicked off the first sets of the first day. Echo's of the farms past could be heard from the stage all weekend as well. Sheryl Crow mentioned how she had taken her son to Bonnaroo but never performed. Paramore's Hayley Williams, hailing from Franklin, TN. took in the crowd, "So Bonnaroo. This is what they've been telling us about all these years. Right down the road." Whether it's very coordinated shtick between numerous acts, it seems pretty genuine coming from my BS meter, much more than the typical "HEY (INSERT CITY)" that most of us are treated to at concerts. "After coming for 10 years we're finally playing! F**king bucket list right here, seriously." said country group Brothers Osbourne upon walking out for their Sunday set on What Stage.
And it's lines such as these that feed the myth of Bonnaroo. St. Paul & The Broken Bones front man Paul Janeway recalled how he volunteered as security at the fest for his ticket years before his band was booked not once, but now twice, to play. "Be nice to those guys. I got peed on during Jay Z."
And be nice is the general theme. Well, officially its "radiate positivity". But you get it. Bonnaroo proves once again as a playground for all. A place to be. A place to let it all hangout. A place to forget the real world for four days. A place to see favorite acts and discover new ones. A place that is an endurance test that leaves you exhausted. A place that somehow despite all the changes keeps calling you back every year.
And just like we always do myself and AJ held our post-Roo recap talk on the couch back home in Flint, Michigan. We run through the best shows we saw, ones we discovered and recall the conversations we had with new friends along the way. And, as it always does, ends with, "So for next year..."
The Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival is held in Manchester, Tennessee. It is produced by A/C Entertainment (owned by Live Nation) and Superfly Presents. The 2019 dates are scheduled to be June 13th - 16th.