Certain things become pretty synonymous with the start of summer, and after 8 years of operation, the 9th Annual Bonnaroo Festival has become a staple of Summer for many. I travelled down to Manchester, TN last Thursday to help cover press and promotion for our artists, hang with some friends, and see some great performances.
I touched down Thursday afternoon and after delays at the airport, traffic on the road, and long lines of guests at the hotel, before setting foot on the festival site towards the early evening. I got to hang out with all The Temper Trap guys on their bus and enjoy the Air Conditioning while we watched the first half of the NBA Finals. Backstage, the guys prepped themselves for the show with deep focus as they felt the energy and enthusiasm of Bonnaroo’s typically young Thursday night crowd. As they set foot on stage, the audience erupted with cheers before the band lit into fiery guitar jams for the intro of their set. For the next 50 minutes, they absolutely owned the crowd who came to dance, cheer, party, and sing along from whatever plot of grass or shoulders they could find to get a glimpse of the band. After the set we were all smiles, feeling the accomplishment and grandeur of what this band has built. It was a great way to kick off the festival, and we celebrated with some late night dancing at the Lunar stage before getting stuck in the mud in guest parking.
Friday came as the only day of the festival we didn’t have artists on site, and I made sure to take full advantage by hanging with some friends and seeing some live music! Nas & Damian Marley murdered the main stage as they launched through their collaborational album Distant Relatives. The National and Tenacious D brought sets that overlapped in time and excellence, warming up a crowd that was already experiencing temperatures in the triple digits. Michael Franti & Spearhead was a set I went into blind, but really enjoyed the energy, crowd, and the music. Kings of Leon played an amazing set, that felt like a victory lap after the year that they have had. The new songs sounded great and I loved the cover of “Where Is My Mind” by the Pixies. The Flaming Lips brought their psychadelic freak show to the masses, complete with confetti, streamers, beach balls, and Wayne Coyne’s giant rolling ball he uses to crowd surf. The Black Keys turned in what was another great set to end my night, before heading back to the hotel and out of the sweltering heat.
Saturday brought the arrival of Glassnote bossman Daniel Glass as well as THE RAY. We watched USA-England match at Emma’s Family Restaurant, a wonderful family establishment whose breakfast buffet is only surpassed by the kind-hearted nature of it’s staff. Naturally, DG grabbed a menu from the owner after we sufficiently freaked out the regular customers with our screaming when the US buried the 1-1 equalizer. The rest of the day was spent hanging with the Mumford & Sons boys, taking them around to do promo and press, while catching a few songs from festival performers like Norah Jones, Jeff Beck, John Fogerty, and Stevie Wonder. Then came Mumford & Sons magical set, one that screamed old-school artistry and community when they brought up Gillian Welch, Dave Rawlings, and part of Old Crow Medicine Show to sing “Wagon Wheel” and “Roll Away Your Stone”. It was a career highlight for all of us, and one that I won’t soon forget. If you haven’t streamed the play list or seen the video yet, you should check it out. The night ended with some lovely dinner in artist catering, hanging out with friends and artists in the press area, and then catching Jay-Z’s epic set with DG and Ben from Mumford & Sons. Everything from the lights, to the set list, to of course the swagger, was so Jay-Z, that it made us forget about the 100 degree heat for 2 hours.
On Sunday, everyone’s favorite Frenchmen rolled into town to one-up last year’s Bonnaroo set, which was the first live date for the US on Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix’s cycle. They were charming and professional, as always, and somehow remained dapper in their long sleeve button up shirts as the other 80,000 of us sweated through what would be the last day of 3-digit temperatures. The Radio Bonnaroo set was particularly beautiful, and we enjoyed a great family vibe as we relaxed on the bus to watch Australia-Germany (shout out to Matt West you ol’ cobber) and dined with the band for lunch. The sun began to come down and Phoenix took the stage to a sea of people that extended beyond sight. Balloons and beach balls bounced in the air, as the crowd danced and crowd surfed to highlights from the bands expansive 4 album catalogue. There were too many magic moments during this show to recount them all, but “Love Like A Sunset” while the sun was actually setting was definitely a highlight. Also up there were the mad antics of frontman Thomas Mars’ who scaled the stage set with his microphone, and ventured out to the middle of the crowd for the closing of “1901”. Drenched with sweat, the band climbed off stage, having conquered yet another Bonnaroo.
Special thanks to Superfly & AC Entertainment, all of our bands, partners, tour managers, crews, press and radio people for being so accommodating and enthused through out the entire weekend. It was a great festival and one that I will forever remember as we continue to grow here at Glassnote.
Highlights: Artist Catering, USA’s 1-1 draw with England, hanging with THE RAY, seeing Mumford & Sons rehearse their set backstage, Manchester’s Wal-Mart Creatures (see: peopleofwalmart.com), Emma’s Family Restaurant’s buffet, Lunar Stage at 4am Thursday, Dinner with Phoenix & Crew, NBA Finals Games, seeing Deck and Christian steal a golf cart during the Rolling Stone shoot.
Lowlights: 100 degree days, summer bodies not quite there yet, porto johns, my rental car getting stuck in mud in festival parking, missing LCD Soundsystem due to miserable heat, sweating for 3 days straight.
-Written by Adam Herzog