Bonnaroo bounced back big this year

By Amanda Cosenza (Cover photo: Jorgensen Photography)

June 16, 2017

While Bonnaroo experienced some of its lowest attendance numbers last year, that didn’t stop the organizers from securing huge headliners in 2017. In an historical performance U2, for only the second time ever in their 41-year history, played on a festival stage Friday night. Seeing a 43% percent increase in attendance (according to Billboard), the band played to just about 65,000 attendees, most of whom weren’t even born when the band first started. Other headliners included the Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Weeknd, Cage the Elephant, Travis Scott, and Major Lazer, just to name a few.

Photo by Morgan G. Harris

With a diverse lineup, Bonnaroo is still a major player on the national festival scene but has deviated from its original format since the Live Nation takeover. The arrival of more EDM and hip-hop fans helped to raise attendance but definitely created a different atmosphere out on the farm. The deletion of the Kalliope stage and the arrival of The Other Stage made for some high energy late night performances by Big Gigantic and Marshmello but ended at 3 a.m., much to the disappointment of fans who previously danced until the sun came up. The lack of surprises, like when Chance the Rapper who wasn’t even on the lineup last year performed multiple times or GRiZ’s secret campsite sets, were also missing this year. That being said, it was still a weekend filled with tasty food, unforgettable performances, and time-honored traditions like high-five Friday.

Chance SuperJam

One of the trademark shows at Bonnaroo every year is the SuperJam. Past years have had some incredible collaborations, the most notable being Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones with Questlove and Ben Harper. The theme this year was “Soul Shakedown” and was hosted by Preservation Hall Jazz Band featuring Chance The Rapper, Jon Batiste, Sam Cohen, George Porter Jr., Lecrae, Margo Price, Tank And The Bangas, Lukas Nelson, Nicole Atkins, Boyfriend, Flint Eastwood. Jon Basiste, Chance the Rapper, and Preservation Hall Jazz Band threw back by performing together a cover of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s “Nuthin But a G Thang.” The set ended with all the other artist joining them on stage to Outkast’s “Hey Ya.”

Press Panels

The press lounge and oasis of shade and cold water not only provided WiFi but also included some exclusive events. On Saturday the all-female trio, Joseph, gave a private performance before a panel discussion featuring Chef Hugh Acheson, Lukas Nelson, Joseph, Nicole Atkins, Sabrina Jalees, and Terra Lopez. The conversation focused on an art installation about cat calling and what it’s like to perform with your siblings. On Sunday there was another panel discussion with Ed Helms, Margo Price, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Tucker, Beathard, Ethan Gruska, and Clemens for Milky Chance. This mostly focused on the Bluegrass SuperJam where Ed Helms would host and play the banjo, and discuss the music variety at Bonnaroo throughout the years noting that the festival would be closing out with both Bluegrass and the Weeknd.

Ed Helms, Margo Price, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Tucker, Beathard, Ethan Gruska, and Clemens for Milky Chance

Sweet Crude

Although this year featured major headliners like U2, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the Weeknd, Bonnaroo still managed to cultivate some impressive lesser known acts. Most notable was Sweet Crude, who performed Sunday on the New Music On Tap Lounge Brewed By Miller Lite. One of the best part of any music festival is the unplanned sets. As my friends and I walked from This Tent to That Tent, we stopped dead in our tracks as soon as we heard this band’s sound. Drawn in by singer Alexis Marceaux’s soulful singing in Louisiana French and the melody of instruments, we quickly found ourselves at the front of the stage dancing to the tribal rhythms and pop hooks.

Roti Rolls

Dancing and walking around the Tennessee heat for 12 hours a requires a lot of water and food. Luckily, the festival had a wide variety of food options. Everything from dumplings to Amish donuts could be a found on the festival grounds. A real standout of the weekend was the Roti roll with braised pork, kimchi and mac ‘n’ cheese. What is a Roti roll? According to Roti Roll’s “it’s “a pillowy pocket of love stuffed with local goodness! AKA a warm, doughy, flaky taco.” It’s flavorful and filling yet light enough to eat during the hot June days

Artwork All Around

Be it an artist brought in to create a mural or an attendee with a can of spray paint, almost every wall of Bonnaroo was covered in artwork. Politically charged statements, crude innuendos, beautiful designs, and inspirational phrases were splashed across all the giant orange walls that wrapped around the festival. This year had especially positive artwork by the illustrator and children’s book author, Dallas Clayton.  

Art by Dallas Clayton

Travis Scott Gets Wild

After getting booked for “inciting a riot” at one of his shows in early May, it’s no secret that Travis Scott’s concerts get a little wild. Armed with sunscreen and lots of water, fans were camped out starting at noon for a chance to get in the pit for the 9:15 p.m. show. They were not disappointed. When the show started, fans were greeted by a giant eagle on stage. Scott had fans jumping the whole time. The energy reached a peak when he ran from the stage, into the crowd, and started jumping a top the sound stage. The greatest part was that the show seemed like it was never going to stop; his set time was over but every time the lights went off they came right back up. Travis Scott was turning down for nobody, not even the Weeknd.

The Weeknd closes out Bonnaroo 2017 

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