MANCHESTER, Tennessee — The 11th annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival rocked fans with Radiohead, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Phish and about 150 other artists — including indie rock, hip-hop, jazz, bluegrass, African, folk, reggae, electronic and metal — over the course of four sleepless days and nights, Thursday to Sunday.
When Phish closed out the weekend Sunday night, wrapping up 15 minutes before their scheduled midnight end time — very uncharacteristic for Phish or for Bonnaroo — even diehard Phish heads, rain dripping down their faces, seemed relieved that they could finally turn off the adrenaline that kept them going for 96 hours.
If you were there, you get it. If not, well, where the heck were you?
If the festival’s many accolades — named as one of Rolling Stone magazine’s “50 Moments That Changed Rock & Roll,” “Festival of the Decade” by Consequence of Sound and among the 10 Best Festivals by GQ — isn’t enough to get you to the farm, maybe these 11 moments will inspire some FOMO for next year:
#11. Ill Communication
Of the many tributes to the Beastie Boys over the weekend, one of the best was when Skrillex mixed “Sabotage” into his high-octane set. The Roots also jammed out the Boys’ “Paul Revere.”
#10. Mac Miller Slimes Bonnaroo
Mac Miller decided Bonnaroo was the perfect place for his first live performance of “On a Roll,” the initial track released from Pink Slime, his collaboration EP with Pharrell.
#9. Flea Feels the Love
During the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ scorching Saturday night set , bassist Flea clearly caught Bonnaroo fever, gushing, “I feel peace and love and kindness everywhere I walk around here.” He praised the weekend’s earlier performances from St. Vincent, Dumpstaphunk, Santigold and the Roots, calling Radiohead’s Friday night set “so f—ing beautiful.” As if his bass playing isn’t impressive enough, he deftly made his way across the stage in a handstand.
#8. Alice Cooper Shocks With — Gasp! — Pop!
Fittingly, the most-stunning moment of the weekend came from legendary shock rocker Alice Cooper. A crowd of confused metalheads weren’t sure how to react when Cooper ended his set with an homage to Lady Gaga, owning her freak anthem “Born This Way.”
While any Bonnaroovian will tell you that figuring out ways to better your festival is an ongoing project, as experience informs improvements year after year, it only takes a weekend or two to learn the three basics of Bonnaroo: water, sunscreen and if you’re not totally digging where you are, change locations. There are infinite options for fun. Keep walking till you find yours.
#6. Radiohead Tease
Thom Yorke created quite the buzz during Radiohead’s Friday night set with a cryptic dedication. Before their new track “Supercollider,” Yorke declared, “This song is for Jack White. We saw him yesterday. A big thank you to him, but we can’t tell you why. You’ll find out.” Sounds like a collaboration, no?
#5. Kenny Rogers Goes ’All Night Long’
Kenny Rogers might have had the biggest Sunday of any of the nearly 80,000 music fans that packed the farm. After being presented the key to Manchester, Rogers was joined onstage by Lionel Richie for “Lady.” Richie then took center stage for “All Night Long.” Sunday night, Rogers later took his turn guesting, joining Phish onstage for his day’s second performance of “The Gambler.”
#4. D’Angelo Emerges
There could have been no better way for D’Angelo to emerge from hibernation than joining Questlove for an early morning Bonnaroo “Superjam.” Backed by a nine-piece band for his first U.S. performance in over a decade, D’Angelo was onstage for over an hour, lending his neo-soul flavor to Jimi Hendrix’s “Have You Ever Been (to Electric Ladyland),” the Beatles’ “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window” and Led Zeppelin’s “What Is and What Should Never Be.”
#3. Beach Boys Bring ’Good Vibrations’
No matter what mood soggy campers woke up in, the cloudy skies Sunday afternoon couldn’t dampen the pure joy of the Beach Boys’ sun-drenched classics. “Kokomo” had the rain-weary dreaming of bringing their loves to Aruba or Jamaica to get away from it all.
#2. Phish Makes it Rain
Long credited by the festival’s organizers as providing the blueprint for the event with their homegrown parties in the Northeast, Phish is the undisputed ultimate Bonnaroo headliner. While, yes, they are wasteful plastic garbage, the shower of glowsticks during a Phish set just looks so darn purdy. Early in the second set, the neon rain during the “Can’t I live while I’m young?” refrain in “Chalk Dust Torture” signaled the crowd was ready for round two.
#1. The Mud
It happens every year, and the sooner you stop trying to stay clean, the happier you’ll be. Just like on Burning Man’s playa, inclement weather on the farm — coupled with lack of sleep — strips people down to their core. Any last bit of ego you were hanging onto was washed away hours ago. Bring pants that can be rolled up. Otherwise: Embrace the mud.
Did you experience Bonnaroo 2012? Share your favorite moments in the comments below!