Local Current Blog

Bonnaroo 2015 highlights, from local to legendary

Slug of Atmosphere. Photo by Nate Ryan/MPR.

A graduation beyond the curfewed chaos of Lollapalooza and a more realistic option than the faraway oasis of Coachella, Bonnaroo is the perfect option for the Minnesotan looking to get the full festival experience—from hanging loose with Alabama Shakes to camping in close quarters with tens of thousands of strangers. Held annually the second weekend of June about an hour south of Nashville on a farm in Manchester, Tenn., Bonnaroo continues to make headlines year after year by boasting once-in-a-lifetime experiences and performances. It’s the only place in the world where you can see Earth, Wind, and Fire bring headliner Kendrick Lamar onstage to freestyle with Chance the Rapper while also seeing Jon Hamm feed gummy bears to Belle & Sebastian in the same weekend.

Besides its eclectic lineup, Bonnaroo also prides itself on its friendly, welcoming atmosphere, and it doesn’t take much observation to see the parallels between “Minnesota Nice” and Bonnaroo’s mantra of “Radiate Positivity.” This could have been the push behind some of Minnesota’s biggest musical acts traveling to the Farm. Both Atmosphere and Trampled by Turtles found warm welcomes on the biggest two stages, with Slug and Ant taking over the Which Stage, playing a heavily-attended show, and Trampled by Turtles championing their hometown of Duluth on the What Stage, only hours before Hozier, My Morning Jacket, and headliner Mumford & Sons graced the same stage. Music did not just occur on the big stages, however: the many stages, big and small, allowed for a constant stream of music to soundtrack the festival all weekend long, and allowed even small bands like local act Wailing Loons a chance to play for the over 80,000 people in attendance.

Besides the Minnesota music, many other local favorites won new fans with sets all weekend long. Rock the Garden performer Courtney Barnett played late Thursday night, showcasing her lyrical ability in a heavy, grunge-esque performance, while earlier Glass Animals, fresh off a sold-out show at First Avenue, attracted one of the first huge crowds of the weekend and inspired a millennial singalong of their song “Gooey.”

Friday saw huge crowds for Atmosphere and Alabama Shakes, while the excitement for Kendrick Lamar’s headlining set crackled through the massive crowd like electricity. The second half of his set saw the live concert debut for ode to self-love “i” and “These Walls,” fan favorites off the critically-acclaimed To Pimp a Butterfly. The moment Kendrick finished his set, many rap fans hurried over to the other side of the festival in order to catch a riotous performance from Run the Jewels and to watch Kendrick and Thom Yorke collaborator Flying Lotus.

On the second to last day of Bonnaroo, many braved the absolutely scorching late-afternoon heat and even managed to dance to Trampled by Turtle’s banjo melodies. Directly after, many music fans were faced with the dilemma of having to choose whether to catch Hozier, the War on Drugs, or the xx member Jamie xx’s electronic set. Rock the Garden headliners Belle & Sebastian managed to inspire some dancing, playing songs off their recent more rhythm-focused album, Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance. As the sun finally set, rocking sets could be found across the festival, from My Morning Jacket, Gary Clark Jr., and Mumford and Sons, who closed their headlining set by bringing some of their friends, including members of the War on Drugs, My Morning Jacket, Dawes, and actor Ed Helms, onstage to perform a cover of the classic Beatles’ song “With a Little Help from My Friends.”

The music continued well into the early hours of the morning, with a rare live performance from D’Angelo and the Vanguard, who performed songs off the recent classic Black Messiah, including set opener “Ain’t That Easy” and the funky “Sugah Daddy.” Not a far walk away from the tent D’Angelo performed in, Bonnaroo’s annual, unique Superjam rocked almost until sunrise. The year’s Superjam was billed as an ’80s and ’90s throwback dance party, with Bleachers frontman and fun. guitarist Jack Antonoff covering Talking Heads and Bruce Springsteen, D.M.C. of ’80s giants Run-D.M.C. performing a few of his biggest hits, and Chance the Rapper ending the set with a singalong to Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It.”

On the very last day, last year’s Rock the Garden headliners, Spoon, delivered a rollicking performance of hits new and old and treated the audience to a new song, “Satellites”; then closed with their recent cover of the Cramps’ “TV Set.” Florence and the Machine graced the big stage next, with the glorious frontwoman showing off her newly-earned dexterity after breaking her leg at Coachella. She ran out into the audience many times, while a pink-duct-tape warning of “Please Be Careful” met her at the sides of the stage. Lucky Led Zeppelin fans had the chance to catch Robert Plant right before the Piano Man himself, Billy Joel, closed out the festival, opening his first set up with “My Life” and performing “Uptown Girl” during the encore.

Bonnaroo 2015 offered a plethora of options for a fan of any type of music, from bluegrass to hip-hop to metal (if you were lucky enough to catch Slayer’s set)—and if Minnesotans could bare the Tennessee heat, a good time was almost guaranteed. On Saturday night, as the sun began to go down and bathed the festival grounds in a golden light, Atmosphere brought out crowd-favorite “Sunshine,” allowing a crowd of tens of thousands to sing along to an anthem of seeing the bright side of life. This small moment really summarizes best what Bonnaroo is about: the positive power of bringing together music and people for a few days to bake out in the warm June sun.

Hannah Marie Hron is going to be a junior at Hamline University this upcoming fall, and she’s hoping to continue a career in music journalism. She got a really bad sunburn at Bonnaroo, and her favorite performance was Kendrick Lamar’s.