This year marked the 15th anniversary of Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival and this celebration was certainly one for the books. Regardless of your feeling on the quality of lineup that was produced, Bonnaroo came and conquered for another stellar year.
The hype was palpable and Thursday set the entire weekend off right. Marian Hill easily became my favorite surprise act of the weekend. The soulful sax mixed with R&B beats over Samantha’s sultry voice was exactly what I needed. Having never even heard of them I was blown away. Cashmere Cat has always been a not-to-miss show and late Thursday night he had That Tent in the palm of his hands by dropping his Ariana Grande featured bangers and solo hypnotic tracks. Early Friday morning, once all the music ended on the stages a surprise GRiZ set happened at Kalliope, which kept the party going till sunrise. Night one-no sleep, no problem.
Friday was where it was at for me. LCD Soundsystem being from Brooklyn, my hometown, had giddy at the fact that I was going to get to dance myself clean with all my friends to my favorite band resurrected from the dead. But before LCD hit the stage my schedule was CHRVCHES, Leon Bridges, JCole and, M83. Lauren Mayberry has really learned to command a stage and it has been wonderful to see the synth-pop trio grow over the years. J.Cole absolutely tore down the main stage with his performance and brought the crowd into a frenzy surprising us by bringing out Chance the Rapper for “No Problems”. In all seriousness, M83’s new album is complete Junk, pun intended, but the love I have for Anthony Gonzalez it wasn’t a show I could miss. While in the photo pit I was singing along to opener Reunion when I lock eyes with Gonzalez and he continues to sing/smile at me – let the butterflies commence. Moments like these are what make Bonnaroo so magical. After, LCD headlined, there were no still bodies at the What Stage. Songs like Yeah, Daft Punk Is Playing at My House and, Losing My Edge brought about complete hipster dancing mayhem that was mind blowing. Tame Impala’s late night set was highly anticipated by most at Roo. The psychedelic rockers had 2 hours to hypnotize and they easily held up to the occasion until their set ended over a half hour too early – quite the bummer on a Friday night.
I kicked my Saturday off with a ride down the waterslide and might I add that everyone should work that into their schedule at least once a day. It was hands down the best way to combat the Tennessee heat. HAIM has had a massive career after their 2013 album Days Are Gone, opening for Taylor Swift and playing every music festival under the sun. I was excited to be able to see those sisters back on stage playing some new material knowing that the wait for a physical album isn’t too far off. Their stage presence is incredible and their cover of Princes “I Will Die 4 U” only further proved the staying power these ladies have. With the ending of HAIM’s set, Centeroo was forced to be shut down due to a storm heading right for us. Luckily, it barely rained and gave everyone at Bonnaroo enough time to head back to camp to get more alcohol in their systems without having to pay for it – good move. Highlight of the evening was Miguel and his wavy, soulful late night performance in the That Tent. With every crotch grab, split, and swinging of the mic stand he put the woman in attendance into a sexually frustrated tizzy.
With the final day upon us it only felt right for me to begin it with a band that I hold near and dear to my heart. X Ambassadors have blown up over the last few years and I am proud to say that I’ve been able to closely document and be a part of that journey. Last year at Bonnaroo they played the Who Stage and this year they played to a packed out The Other Tent. Their live performances have an unbelievable about of energy and it would be hard for anyone to walk away not feeling musically fulfilled. In true Bonnaroo fashion a surprise show was about to go down in the camp grounds by none other than Miguel. How I found out about it was Miguel used my photo from the night prior to announce the pop-up show on his Instagram. Respect to him for giving me, the photographer, proper credit – there is no better feeling then artistic recognition. After- rumors started circulating that Dead & Co would actually allow us to photograph them. I made my way to the main stage to prep myself a 4 hour jam set. Photographers have a three song rule and in the case for Dead & Co, 3 songs turned out to be a half hour crammed into a tiny space with 100 photogs. Not ideal but what was so surreal was that when leaving the pit I was immediately transported back to 1969 Woodstock. Honestly, looking around I was fooled. It was kind of amazing to be able to say that for that moment in time I was a part of something much bigger, something that brought together old hippies with new hippies, something that encapsulated everything that Bonnaroo and music is about.
Monday mornings are always hard but a Monday morning after your favorite festival ends definitely takes the cake. Saying goodbye to your neighbors turned friends, packing up and driving 15 hours home might be the biggest slap of reality one could ever experience. However, If there was a singular take away from this year’s Bonnaroo, it’s that if everyone could radiate the love and positivity that all Bonnaroovian’s live by maybe, just maybe the world wouldn’t have to be such an ugly place. So, I would like to dedicate this year’s celebration of love to the people of Orlando that continue to persevere in the face of tragedy. Love is Love and we Love you.
See all of Dana Pacifico’s photographs from Bonnaroo 2016 below.