Bonnaroo 2013 | Days 3 & 4

Everyone was too in shock of the epic set laid before them by a knighted Beatle, Superjam’s galore, and enough Spicy Pie to feed a small country.

Walk The Moon play a Talking Heads cover set.

Saturday started with the understanding that it would finish with a headliner that was less than ground-breaking, Jack Johnson, but that everything before it and after would be more than enough to make up for it. Early morning sets by breakout band Lord Huron, Death Grips, and Solange got the day started right. Over in the Comedy Tent, Ed Helms mixed his versions of bluegrass and comedy and embraced the spirit of collaboration by bringing out superstars from both worlds. Helms was joined for jokes by David Cross and the cast of Reno 911 and joined for music by The Lumineers and Chris Eldridge from The Punch Brothers. As Helm’s show was winding down, Portugal. The Man got started on the Which Stage, and, in the same spirit embraced the combination of music and comedy, featured Weird Al on accordion. They poured through great live versions of songs from their recently released album, Evil Friends and played hits like “So American.”

Other highlights included a raunchy and raucous set from Matt & Kim, a Euro-dance party hosted by Bjork, and a folksy sing-a-along hosted by the Lumineers, who graciously confessed that this Bonnaroo crowd was the largest they had ever played for. Wesley Schultz, the lead singer for The Lumineers also mentioned that he had attended two previous Bonnaroos, not as a performer, but as a fan. Schultz is another in a long line of people who have come as fans and come back as performers. During “Ho Hey,” the band asked that everyone put away their cell phones and just enjoy the moment.

Saturday’s late night sets culminated in what was possibly the weekend’s biggest schedule cluster [radio edit]. How could anyone be expected to choose between R Kelly, Billy Idol, Weird Al, and what might be the greatest super jam of all time? In The Other Tent, Weird Al Yankovic poured through three decades worth of hilarious classics. He played everything from “Eat It,” to “Amish Paradise,” to “White and Nerdy,” performing as many costume changes as he did songs.

 
 

Those that chose to pass on Weird Al, Billy Idol, R. Kelly, and even headliner Jack Johnson, were first treated to an additional set by The Preservation Hall Jazz Band who worked the Superjam waiting crowd, as well as passersby, into a near frenzy in a warm-up set. The band passed the singing torch from song to song that culminated in Jim James joining the band for the fitting “St. James Infirmary.” James is already worshipped for his past Bonnaroo accolades, but his best moment was yet to come.

As the Superjam kicked off, James, along with John Oates, Preservation Hall, and a bevy of others put together arguably the most epic Rock & Soul jam of all time. The set would see Sly and the Family Stone bassist pump the crowd up with Family Stone songs and stories of the bands appearance at the original Woodstock. Then Brittany Howard of the Alabama Shakes joined in for, essentially, the rest of the night, after the Shakes own memorable set in 2012. The set would touch on everything from John Lennon’s “Instant Karma!” to Prince song “1999.”

R. Kelly made his way over after his own set at the Which Stage to join the jam for two Sam Cooke cover’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” and “Bring It on Home to Me.” As if the night couldn’t get any crazier, Billy Idol decided to stop by for a quick T. Rex cover of “Bang a Gong” and couldn’t seem to leave the stage, not because he was actually doing anything, but who wouldn’t have wanted to be there? No one was ready for it, but with such an awesome rest of the evening ahead, Howard, James, Oates, PHJB, and Idol would eventually wrap up with covers of the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction,” and one more Family Stone sing-a-long of “I Want to Take You Higher.”

The only thing that made the earlier schedule conflicts easier were the great shows that followed. In This Tent Bustle in Your Hedgerow picked up where the Superjam left off, reinterpreting Led Zeppelin songs and featuring guest spots from singers like Brittany Howard of the Alabama Shakes. In The Other Tent, Boys Noize raged on stage and saw a crowd that featured a blow up, bouncy castle. In That Tent, Empire of the Sun took the late-night synth dance-party torch that had been handed down by MGMT and kept the party going. Their weird costumes fit their music perfectly, and their songs were exactly what everyone needed to end an incredible day of music.

 
Macklemore creates his best British accent/dance party.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis did their best to make up for the crowds initially sleepy Sunday morning with their early afternoon What Stage set. Macklemore (aka Seattle rapper Ben Haggerty) jumped, danced, shouted, and got the crowd doing the same. The independent artists played songs off their monster 2012 release The Heist, and also dove back into their EPs. It was, however, the radio mega hits of “Thrift Shop,” which saw Macklemore call out someone in the crowd wearing a fur coat and getting the coat to the stage for the track, and “Can’t Hold Us,” which featured an appearance by Ray Dalton, that really got the crowd to its peak.

The Sheepdogs is music for people who say, “They don’t make music like Allman Brothers or the Grateful Dead anymore!” The Canadian band seamlessly pulls off southern rock, and even though they have only been around since 2006, they sound like they have been around since 1976. They played a beautiful set to a packed crowd and to a crowd that was well represented by their motherland. The pit was filled with Canadian flags waiving in the breeze. In the Comedy Tent, Bob Saget was telling raunchy jokes, picking on kids in the crowd, and telling behind-the-scenes stories from Full House, all before being joined onstage by former co-star John Stamos.

There have been certain bands that have grown with the festival (such as My Morning Jacket, The Black Keys, and Kings of Leon, among others). The National is one of those bands, from their Thursday show in a packed tent all the way to their main stage debut this year. Lead singer Matt Berninger seemed really humbled by their success and recognition and created a set that was really plugged in and energetic. In addition to bringing out special guest St. Vincent, their set saw Berninger and company jumping into the crowd and interacting with the fans in a special and unique way.

As The National were finishing their set on What Stage, David Byrne (of The Talking Heads) and St. Vincent were beginning their show on Which Stage. Their show was as much a musical and a production as it was a concert. The set list was a mixture of songs from their recent release together, Talking Heads songs, and music from each of their solo albums. As St. Vincent would sing in the forefront, Byrne would direct their army of musicians in the background, at times acting as a musical conductor, and at times leading them in choreographed dances. But no matter who took or shared the lead, each song flowed seamlessly into the other. Highlights included sing-alongs to songs like “Cheerleader” from St. Vincent and Talking Heads song “Burning Down the House” as a light rain cooled off the crowd.

 
 

The immense migration had then begun. All of Centeroo evacuated one last time, for one more performance, one more sing-along with the 60,000 remaining patrons. Who better for such an occasion than one more legend, and previous Bonnaroo headliner Tom Petty. It was a joyous moment after a long, hot weekend when Petty emerged, as well as the rain, to “So You Want to Be a Rock ’n’ Roll Star.” The rain would continue throughout the first five or six songs of the set, but no one seemed to care. This was that glorious moment in the rain when you shouted with everyone else “Oh my, my, Oh hell, yes./ Honey put on that party dress.” Or it was just a nice shower to wash off four days of grime.

After the rain, the hits continued. Petty went to 13 different albums during the 22-song set, including “Rebels,” which Petty noted was one of the few songs he had written specifically about the southern part of the U.S. This was anything other than a regular show/tour for Petty, as he has been hitting songs rarely played. “Tweeter and the Monkey Man,” a Traveling Wilburys song, made an appearance as well as the extremely Bonnaroo-fitting cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil.” By the time many were heading towards the entrance arch to Centeroo for the last time, Petty launched in to “American Girl” to close out the weekend, causing many to stop in their tracks and rock one last time.

You may ask yourself, “Where were the artists that draw in Bonnaroo’s mostly under-30 crowd?” Well, admittedly, this crowd was different than in years past. Everyone seemed kinder, more patient, less aggressive than in years headlined by Eminem, Kings of Leon, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Skrillex, and others All were at peace. Does this mean it was necessarily an older crowd? Maybe. That didn’t generally seem to be the case, though. Everyone was simply in the Bonnaroo spirit. No one complained about the lack of Mumford, or the addition of Jack Johnson. Everyone was too in shock of the epic set laid before them by a knighted Beatle, Superjam’s galore, and enough Spicy Pie to feed a small country (which the festival just so happens to be). Many religions have a holy place of worship that their followers often travel. For an American music lover, this is Bonnaroo. | Matt Wallin & Bruce Matlock

Photos by Bruce Matlock

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