The Top Ten Bonnaroo Moments

Videos by American Songwriter

The Year Of The Buffalo

“Turn it up! Turn it up!” That’s what fans chanted at the beginning of Buffalo Springfield’s set. The sound issues were eventually addressed, and the legendary ’60s band was off to the races, turning a set that was alternately mellow and invigorating. When Stills and Young made their guitars talk to each other on songs like “Bluebird,” it was like being transported back to another era. “We’re Buffalo Springfield” said Neil. “We’re from the past.” The old friends were clearly having fun; off mic, Young joked that they were going to kick Richie Furay out of the band after he almost cut off a Stills guitar solo.

Bonus: the elaborate false ending to “Rockin’ In The Free World,” the air guitarist’s national anthem.

Mumford & Sons’ Feel-Good Finale

Mumford & Sons like to share the stage; last year at Bonnaroo, they brought out David Rawlings and Gillian Welch. This year, for their much-anticipated set, the final song hootenanny was a soulful reading of “Amazing Grace,” featuring members of Old Crow Medicine Show, Apache Relay, dobro great Jerry Douglas and David Mayfield Parade. It was the perfect capper to another successful Stateside gig.

Read the Review: Mumford & Sons Triumph At Bonnaroo

Bootsy Collins Brings The Funk

Bootsy Collins was just one more band on our to-do list — we didn’t expect him to nearly steal the whole festival. After an annoying hour-plus wait that had the crowd chanting “bullshit,” Collins instantly won the fans back in his favor by bringing THA FUNK. Everything was on the one after that. Lead guitarist Blackbyrd McKnight melted minds, while original P-Funk keyboardist Bernie Worrell provided the ballast. A special mid-set run found the band tackling classics by P-Funk, Jimi Hendrix, and Sly and The Family Stone.

Meet Miss Willie Brown

The best way to describe this show is Grace Potter on steroids. The two country vixens and their crack band put on a hell of a barn burner in the On Tap Lounge tent, and anyone who stopped by to listen stood transfixed until the very end. MWB mashed up “House of The Rising Sun” and “Amazing Grace,” played their breakthrough hit “Sick Of Me,” and generally kicked ass with a cowboy boot. Afterwords, they tweeted: “hands down the most special show we ever played…crowd killed…seriously.”

Kick Out The Jams

Less of a specific moment, and more like one big “uber-moment.” Bonnaroo’s bread and butter has always been jam bands, and if you came to get your noodle on, you weren’t disappointed. Spontaneous dance circles broke out, glow sticks were tossed, and instrumentalists let loose more notes per minute than we assumed was humanly possible. And it wasn’t just festival closers Widespread Panic laying it down… every one from Warren Haynes to Galactic to My Morning Jacket to Phosphorescent to The String Cheese Incident to G. Love did what they were supposed to do… f-n’ jam!

Who’s The Man?

Grizzled Allman Bros. Band frontman Gregg Allman turned in one of the Festival’s most enjoyable sets on a sweltering Sunday afternoon. Everything sounded amazing in the open air, especially “Melissa”. It might have been 98 degrees out, but we still got chill bumps.

Iron & Wine: That’s A Wrap

Bonnaroo records mini-sessions with artists each year in a hay-covered trailer. We had the good fortune of attending the Iron & Wine recording session, in which Sam Beam and his band ran through “Woman King” and a couple of new ones in about 15 flawless minutes. A bass harmonica was employed, backup singers sang beautifully and effortlessly, and Beam was on point. When it was all over, we felt like we’d just seen them cut a record.

Muppet Madness

If you break up your four days of music with a little comedy or cinema, you’re bound to have a more well-rounded experience. Those who caught Stuffed And Unstrung got a one-of-a-kind treat — a hilarous and highly raunchy improv puppet theater that has it’s origins in Sesame Street. A product of The Jim Henson Company’s Henson Alternative, Stuffed And Unstrung engages both your inner child and your jaded hipster heart. No LSD needed.

American Songwriter Feels The Love

When we hopped on Deer Tick’s bus, we were pleased to discover dog-eared copies of American Songwriter lying around. You know who else is a big fan? Bon Iver! Elsewhere at the fest, Ryan Bingham told us the story behind “The Weary Kind” (look for the video shortly), Lelia Broussard gave us a hug, and Apache Relay treated us to a private performance of “American Nomad.” Su-weet.

Deer Tick Become Deervana

Speaking of Deer Tick, the indie rockers revived their all-Nirvana-covers alter-ego for Bonnaroo, playing a special unannounced late night set that must have confused a few festival goers. If Nirvana could headline Bonnaroo, it would be an ideal world. Instead, we got the next best thing. Ladies and gentlemen…Deervana!

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. What were your top Bonnaroo moments? Let us know in the comments.


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  1. 1. Getting paid $3 to take a shower
    2. Free coconut water
    3. Sharing Wet Ones wipes with a concerned fellow Bonnarooian
    4. Seeing Ron Jeremy heckled
    5. Arcade Fire show
    6. Blowing smoke in people’s faces
    7. Late night Fried Chicken
    8. Mumford & Sons
    9. Watch bums get thrown out of VIP
    10. Camping under shade

  2. 1. Camping with son, cool neighbors
    2. Mavis Staples
    3. Port O Potties 50 ft away
    4. Justin Townes Earle
    5. Getting misted by hippy chicks
    6. Robert Plant and Band of Joy
    7. Those frozen lemon things
    8. Wanda Jackson
    9. Store 5 minutes out back gate
    10. Everyone was cool

  3. 1. Dancing for 3Hours at Widespread
    2.Being awake for 14hours
    3.Playing drinking games at 7a.m. then quickly drinking six bottles of water.
    4.Being sprayed with water from topless women
    5.Entering centeroo from the What Stage and being greeted with Reggae each morning.
    6. Ben and Jerry’s free ice cream samples
    7. The sun going down each night
    8.The Chinese lanterns
    9.Not having a Phone
    10.Saying goodby to people leaving Bonnaroo. People are so awesome.

  4. 1. Planes raining blue lights during My Morning Jacket
    2. Getting Bruce Hornsby’s new cd for my dad autographed by him and his son
    3. Seeing a 10 second glimpse of Jack White backstage at Karen Elson
    4. Dr. John
    5. Deerhunter
    6. Sallie Ford and The Sound Outside
    7. Anthony B
    8. Buffalo Springfield despite very low sound quality
    9. Robert Plant and the Band of Joy
    10. GIVERS

  5. 1. Living near the Bonnaroo site and meeting people going to a from the event,as well as on-site.
    2. String Cheese Incident
    3. My Morning Jacket
    4. Robert Plant and Band of Joy
    5. Being in a crowd of 85,000 and 84,900 of them are friendly as hell, and the rest just mind their own business.
    6. The Black Keys
    7. Bill Bailey
    8. Hula Hoop and bodypaint ladies
    9. Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band
    10. Knowing that I’ll be there next year

  6. Dennis – it was Buddy Miller who also joined Mavis for “The Weight”.

    1. Grabbing Bootsy Collins’ hand during his crazy trip into the audience.

    2. Waving at Mavis Staples and getting her to wave back.

    3. Robert Plant and the Band of Joy’s delicious slow burn through “Houses of the Holy”.

    4. Ben Sollee popping up everywhere.

    5. Seeing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar twice.

  7. 1. Rev. Peyton’s big damn band
    2. Eating my annual heady pie
    3.Getting my very cool roo tee for $10.00
    4. Dr John and all the guys dancing to him
    5.Re upping my relix & meeting the sweet girl from Brooklyn
    6.Frozen mocha
    7. Seeing so many old hippies!
    8. Painting at my camp and listening to the excitement
    9.Blue glitter in the sky
    10. Goodbye note from Kris with a “K”

  8. 1. The $7 showers…so worth it!
    2. Camping so close to centeroo
    3. Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, an incredible surprise!
    4. Deciding to chance it and walk to the stage at Robert Plant for pictures. It was so easy to get down there past the crowds!
    5. Friendly neighbors who let us borrow a generator when ours went ka-put. Neighbors on our other side were kind enough to let us run an extension cord from their generator for some electricty.
    6. Shade between the trees at Which Stage.
    7. A husband and my friends’ husbands who were kind enough to let us go venture to Bonnaroo without the kids. What a great girls’ adventure!
    8. The beer sellers who would dip my bandana in the ice cold water throughout the day. Thanks to the one guy who even scooped up some ice to roll in my bandana!
    9. Mumford and Sons! I knew I would love them, but WOW!
    10. Great music, great people, great food and drink, and great times!

  9. 1. JB Interview/Performance on the Solar Stage
    2. My Morning Jacket
    3. Dr. John & the Original Meters and Alan Tousaint late night
    4. String Cheese Incident madness
    5. Late night fried chicken/beer/fireworks courtesy of Brooklyn Bowl
    6. RKF, Jr.’s intro and Q&A in the Cinema Tent for The Last Mountain
    7. Skydivers and led lights after MMJ
    8. Arcade Fire
    9. Paint a Pair to Save a Pair courtesy of DRUM Strong
    10. Ben Sollee here there and everywhere

  10. New to Bonnaroo…Shahidah Omar. Awesome! What an amazing talent! Beautiful, Sexy, and Singing style was very impressive. To pull off Alternative Rock, Pop with Opera…Whew! She was explosive. So much so that she got a shout of encore from the audience at the “On The Tap” stage on Sunday June 12th.

    Shahidah Omar is one to look for. She’s waaaay cool!

  11. 1) Victor Wooten’s solo during “Sinister Minister”
    2) Girl Talk saying “COME WITH ME, BONNAROO!” about a dozen times during his set
    3) Fried Oreos
    4) Arcade Fire
    5) Being in the pit for Wiz Khalifa
    6) Not having anything I smuggled in confiscated by security
    7) Free Ben & Jerry’s
    8) Using the toilet in my Uncle’s RV
    9) Having one of those misting fan things
    10) Running in to three friends I haven’t seen in years

  12. 1) Camping with my two sons close as can be to Centaroo.
    2) Civil Twilight, what rock n’ roll is all about!
    3) Grace Potter and the Nocturnals – awesome job!
    4) Buffalo Springfield – keep on rocking in the free world!
    5) Skydivers at night with glitter trail behind.
    6) Telling the Sheriff’s they were bullshitting me about being sheriff’s – ’til they showed me their badge.
    7) Funnel cloud throwing people’s clothes into the air.
    8) Old Crowe Medicine Show and Mumford & Sons.
    9) Robert Plant doing Ramble On!
    10) Eminem’s encore – Lose Yourself!

  13. 1)kindnesses from strangers
    2)lovely evening breezes
    3)the fact that everyone there is the same – one body
    4) beautiful horses for the mounted patrol
    5) safety personnel rather than security personnel
    6) no violence
    7)the incredible energy of so many joyful people
    8)restorative yoga at the Solar Stage
    9)soulful African drumming and dancing
    10)help getting my car jump started on Sunday

  14. 1. Girl Talk
    2. Pretty lights playing until 5:30 in the morning
    3. Bassnectar and molly
    4. Eminem’s encore
    5. Blue glitter in the sky (which I’m about 100% sure was for Primus and not My Morning Jacket)
    6. Robert Plant
    7. Creepy guy hunched over furiously brushing teeth and giving every one the “evil eye” in the middle of everyone on the walk to centeroo.
    8. Portugal the Man
    9. Free showers with extremely cold well water
    10. Almost everyone going to see Sleigh Bells on Thursday

    2. Seeing several Ben Sollee perfomances and meeting him
    3. Head and the Heart-surprisingly spectacular, I had no idea.
    4. FINALLY being in the shade after staking out a spot that “would be in the shade eventually”
    5. Actually needing a blanket in the tent at night
    6. Florence and the Machine-that crowd was LEGIT
    7. The end of the Friday Ben Sollee show when everyone was given a marigold-nice creation of unity
    8. The surprising cleanliness of the centeroo port-o pots on Friday
    9. FREE ice cream
    10. River City Extension-great discovery

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Bonnaroo: Day 4 In Photos