Alabama Shakes

Bonnaroo wraps up one more for the record books

Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival wrapped up another year in the books this past weekend as it hosted acts such as Billy Joel, My Morning Jacket, Mumford & Sons, Alabama Shakes and many more over the course of four days in Manchester, Tenn.

While it was the fourteenth installment for this writer, there is no doubt the festival has changed since its earliest incarnations. The festival has shifted from the jam band scene to rock, rap and EDM acts which hold down late night spots. With change, also has arrived acquisition as Live Nation recently purchased a controlling portion of the festival. While many may not know what that entails for years to come, it is evident there is a sea change of some sorts and that progression is what the festival had in mind in the earliest of days.

There aren’t too many festivals that rival the magnitude of Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival and at the end of the day, you would be hard-pressed not to find a music act that you didn’t like or enjoy no matter the lineup. For Bonnaroo enthusiasts, the lineup is something many look forward to seeing each year as they carve out their wish lists and ideal scenarios. At first glance six months ago, the lineup may not have had the impact of those of years past, but after it was soaked in more there were several heavy-hitters that were on the bill.

On Thursday night, groups such as Houndmouth, Strand of Oaks, The Growlers, Dopapod, Courtney Barnett and more graced the farm in what is traditionally a night for the up and coming acts to strut their musical prowess.

Friday night is when the festival starts to heat up as it can provide several choices for attendees but our top shows for the day were Alabama Shakes, Ben Harper and Dawes. The latter was a touch choice as Nashville’s Moon Taxi was scheduled for the same time. But both Dawes and Alabama Shakes are in top form these days, all the while releasing albums this year that will no doubt be on many “best of” lists at year’s end respectively.

Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals helped lay the groundwork in the early days and it has been several years since this outfit was on a ‘Roo stage. Playing from a catalog that stretches well back to the 1990’s, their set was composed of cuts like “Steal My Kisses,” “Masterpiece” and “Diamonds on the Inside” and also coincided with Kendrick Lamar on What Stage. Late night sets belonged to Deadmau5, Odesza, STS9 and Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood.

Saturday comprised a nice mix of talent that blurred genres from bluegrass, folk, rock and more as Trampled by Turtles, Rhiannon Giddens, Gregory Alan Isakov, Bahamas, Sturgill Simpson and more held down afternoon sets. But the night belonged to Bonnaroo veterans My Morning Jacket and the headliner Mumford & Sons who were on the bill a couple years ago but had to cancel due to an illness of a band member. With many fans having mixed emotions about their latest album, Wilder Mind, it was evident as the Marucus Mumford and the band rolled through their set and brought a plethora of special guests which included Jim James, Taylor Goldsmith, Danny Clinch and more on stage for their take on “With A Little Help From My Friends.”

As the event came to a close on Sunday, it was Americana heavy with Pokey LaFarge, Shakey Graves, Brandi Carlile and of course The Bluegrass Situation themed stage which hosted Hurray for the Riff Raff, Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn, Jerry Douglas, Punch Brothers and its own Superjam.

With another round in the record books, Bonnaroo will be what you want it to be. There’s enough music to go around for days and nights and there will always be something to surprise you such as a guest appearance from Jon Hamm and Zach Galifianakis or the ability to sit in the iron throne from HBO’s Game of Thrones series which is absolutely cool in its own regard. It’s an escape for a few days and it will always be what you make it as expectations will always change with an event to this scale. In the end, it’s simply about music and a good time.

Bonnaroo Photos 2015

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