The Top Ten Bonnaroo Moments

Written by June 13th, 2011 at 4:40 pm

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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