Bonnaroo 2012 Recap: Radiohead, D’Angelo, Skrillex & More [Photos/Videos]
Back in June 2002, a moderate amount of jam bands took over 700 acres of pig farm land in Manchester, Tennessee, a remote town about 60 miles southeast of Nashville.
Over the course of the course of three days, the band Widespread Panic played two transformative sets, Trey Anastasio of Phish rocked the crowds and Norah Jones delivered a heartfelt set that helped to establish her in what would ultimately be her breakthrough year.
Even with minimal advertising, the festival sold all of its 70,000 plus tickets in advance, and all ticket buyers were treated to, as Rolling Stone would later call it, one of the top fifty moments in rock and roll.
This festival was named Bonnaroo, and ten years later, it’s not only going strong, but with each passing year it manages to get bigger and better.
Although it started off as a (mostly) jam band festival, this Tennessee titan has evolved. In 2009, the seminal rap group Beastie Boys headlined the festival. In the years that followed, Jay-Z and Eminem did the same.
Yet the fest has not completely abandoned its roots. Bonnaroo has become a smorgasbord of genres, a festival for the hippies and the hipsters. This year’s eleventh festival, which reached its conclusion only a few days ago, was once again filled with extraordinary performances from some of the world’s most superlative artists. Here are some of them.
Bonnaroo differs from other festivals, in that the organizers do not schedule any other performances up against the headliners.
Even if they did, no one would have missed the set from this legendary British alternative outfit.
Returning to the main stage that they conquered back in 2006 (a performance oft noted as one of Bonnaroo’s all-time greats), Thom Yorke and company did not fail to meet the astoundingly high expectations.
If anything, those expectations were exceeded. The gigantic video screens behind them often played unnerving close-ups of Yorke’s eyes, emphasizing the paranoia that comes with a standard Radiohead song.
But the screens also played a state of the art light show, and the while the band played liberally from their most recent album, they found time for classics like “Karma Police” and “Paranoid Android.”
Watch: Radiohead – “Bodysnatchers” – Bonnaroo 2012 (Official Video)
Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Saturday night headliner had as much buzz as the previous night’s. The California veterans made their first festival appearance and did so with the same gusto and manic energy they have been thrilling fans with for over 25 years.
The rhythm section of bass player Flea and drummer Chad Smith showed off their usual flair on classics like “By the Way” and “Give it Away,” but it was new guitar player Josh Klinghoffer that stole the show, shredding with the serious skills that predecessor John Frusciante was famed for.
Watch: Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Look Around” – Bonnaroo 2012 (Official Video)
Bonnaroo has several reasons that it remains an outlier on the festival circuit, chief among them being that whereas other festivals stop playing music typically before midnight, festivalgoers at Roo are dancing to some of the world’s hottest DJs and electronic acts until the sun comes up at seven. This year, Rooers were treated to a set by dubstep giant Skrillex, and his sensational and sensationally loud set had the fest alive with dancing and pleasure.
Many who were not able to crowd under the tent were forced to brave a rare spot of rain at the Manchester farm. For the intoxicating sounds of this young phenom, they were more than happy to abide.
Watch: Skrillex live at Bonnaroo
Questlove and D’Angelo
Over the course of its run, Bonnaroo has cultivated some magical and surprising moments. Few rival what Questlove, the hip-hop maven and drummer for The Roots, was able to accomplish this year. For his late night superjam, a Roo tradition in which performers take the stage and simply jam for hours, Questlove was able to recruit D’Angelo, the neo soul luminary who has not performed in North America since 2000.
The two men heroically took on covers of Jimi Hendrix, Parliament/Funkadelic, Led Zeppelin and even The Beatles, and transformed all of these classic tunes to soulful, thrilling grooves. Welcome back D’Angelo.
Watch: D’Angelo & Questlove Superjam – Bonnaroo 2012 (Official Video)
The Beach Boys
While Bonnaroo organizers are possibly a little more inclined to include more contemporary artists, they are known to recruit veteran performers as well. This year, they were able to snag The Beach Boys, who have recently reunited. It turns out, they haven’t lost any of their melodic magic. Brian Wilson and crew had Rooers singing and hearts melting while they performed standards like “God Only Knows” and “Wouldn’t it be Nice.”
Bonnaroo is a one of a kind experience that every audiophile should come to fully realize at least once. The magic will always be in heavy supply, just like it was this year.
Watch: The Beach Boys live at Bonnaroo 2012
Watch more performances at Bonnaroo’s official Youtube channel.