The 2019 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival was one of the most inclusive festivals on the circuit to date. Multiple genres were accounted for from EDM, folk, country, hip hop, and the jam scene. Through multiple sets of Phish, a G.O.A.T. SuperJam led by GRiZ, HeadCount signing up voters, and an incredibly hype Pride Parade, the integration of music, philanthropy, and activism made this year’s ‘Roo one of the most progressive gatherings to date.
Campers arrived early to Great Stage Park and immediately filled up the 650-acre farm in Manchester, Tennessee. By the time Thursday afternoon arrived, The Farm neared 80,000 attendees in the gates. Thursday hosted a variety of artists from Caroline Rose, Magic City Hippies, and the much anticipated Grand Ole Opry. Led by Old Crow Medicine Show, Grand Ole Opry treated attendees to a sub-lineup filled with country artists and guest sit-ins for the 2 hour afternoon set.
Late night on Thursday, Phish fans made their way to the all-white occasion that was the “Kasvot Vaxt Dance Party” led by the one and only DJ Uncle Jesse Lauter in Snake and Jake’s Christmas Club Barn. Complete in his finest whites, Uncle Jesse put on a show sampling house tunes, samples of Page McConnell solos, lyrics, all complete with plenty of the “Faceplant Into Rokk” samples.
Friday held the much anticipated first “power” set of Phish as well as the annual SuperJam. This year was the G.O.A.T. A Celebration of Music Legends SuperJam with GRiZ. GRiZ brought out a wide variety of guests to pay homage to past heroes and keep with the theme of the fest, inclusion. Members of Trey Anastasio Band, Rubblebucket, Nahko, Nth Power, and David Bowie’s Blackstar Band, and more ran through some of the greatest tunes of all time.
On the SuperJam, GRiZ said, “The major point of this thing is to play a bunch of rad music and continue to re-tell stories of the great people who played music in the past.”
The past was well accounted for as GRiZ led musicians through tunes from loved ones lost. Legends such as Dick Dale, Sharon Jones, Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Prince, Queen, Mac Miller, Nipsy Hussle, David Bowie and the recently-departed Dr. John were honored at That Tent. The final song of the SuperJam was a performance of George Michael’s “Freedom! ‘90”, covered with Deva Mahal, MUZZY BEARR, and Chrishira Perrier as the event finally came to a close around 3 a.m.
Saturday morning hosted Bonnaroo’s first Pride Parade that went through the entirety of the festival grounds. Later that day, HeadCount also announced that they were slowly creeping on signing a record amount of voters. Throughout The Farm, employees and attendees alike were commenting on “the most woke” year of Bonnaroo. Another huge philanthropic achievement is the gathering led by the NRDC that promoted climate change and how we can have a part in it.
Musically, the day was led by Post Malone, who took the stage with a full pyrotechnic rig and 80,000 fans, followed by a 1 a.m. set from Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. JRAD made the only spots for Grateful Dead on the lineup well worth it as they moved through “Reuben and Cherise”, “St. Stephen”, “Throwing Stones”, “Playing in the Band”, and more before handing the last number to pianist Marco Benevento. On the Grand Piano they brought on stage, Benevento honored Dr. John on the same stage he was honored the night before. Benevento closed the JRAD set out at 3:30 a.m. with “Such A Night” by the late NOLA psychedelic sage. With Tom Hamilton, Joe Russo, Dave Dreiwitz, and Scott Metzger all turned toward Marco smiling, their friend played an elegant rendition of his late friends and hero’s tune to close out the night.
Joe Russo’s Almost Dead – “Such A Night” [Dr. John cover]
Sunday afternoon into the evening was another day of variety across the board. From The Wood Brothers, Mac DeMarco, and of course Cardi B, the energy was elevating heading into the final night of Phish. As Phans waited in line to try and make it to the Phish pit, Brandi Carlile hosted an hour-long set on The What Stage. During her performance, she kept thanking everyone in the crowd for their support through the years. Before her set was over, Mayor Lonnie Norman of Manchester gave the musician a key to city thanking her for her contributions over the years as she left the stage in tears.
Between the music, activism, and philanthropy, Bonnaroo proved once again to be the most balanced festival on the American circuit, if not the world. By the end of the weekend, HeadCount set a record for signing up voters, the Pride Parade was a success, and Phish crushed it. Thanks to production, management, and of course the musicians for pushing the American music scene further every single year. See you next year on The Farm!
Scroll down for a full gallery from this year’s Bonnaroo, courtesy of photographer Christian Stewart.