The 2013 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, another weekend of heat, porta-potties and hopefully great rock moments out in a field in Manchester, is afoot. And just like thousands of other music geeks, we're ready to watch Paul McCartney roll out the classic hits, Mumford & Sons lead the sing-alongs and R. Kelly get sex it up with his late-night set.
Why have so many music fans braved thunderstorms and heat stroke to camp in the middle of nowhere every June since 2002? Easy. They're hoping they'll catch sets as cool, crazy, or downright fascinating (for better or worse) as these ten memorable moments from Bonnaroo's past.
10. 2006: Beck's Got Two Turntables And A.... Puppet Video
At Bonnaroo '06, Beck was no longer a loser, baby, he was a..... "creep. [He's a] puppet. What the hell are these strings doing here?" Or so sang the hilarious marrionette dopplegangers for the shaggy-haired troubadour and his band that starred in the bizarre, truly funny video interlude of Beck's set. He employed the video for his main stage slot right before Radiohead not only to give them a friendly ribbing, but to lampoon Bonnaroo's jammy reputation in general, ("I smell hippies," one puppet says). But really, why tell instead of just showing. Just watch it for yourself.
Video: Beck with strings attached.
9. 2004: Dave Matthews Gets Comfy
Hard to believe it took three years for fest organizers to put Dave Matthews on the lineup, but it wasn't until the '04 Bonnaroo that the king of friendly, musicianly jams made his debut. And much as you'd expect, Dave and 'Roo went together like chocolate and peanut butter, or say, pachouli and hacky sack. Unsurprisingly, Matthews was back in Manchester, TN the next year with the whole Dave Matthews Band.
Video: Dave Matthews performs "Trouble"
8. 2008: My Morning Jacket Slides Under The Covers
Bonnaroo "house band" My Morning Jacket played its fifth 'roo in 2008 and provided what many fans hold as the greatest Bonnaroo gig ever. Taking the stage at midnight on Friday, the group tore through a nearly four-hour, 35-song set that was studded with numerous covers (the Velvet Underground's "Oh! Sweet Nuthin," James Brown's "Cold Sweat," Motley Crue's "Home Sweet Home" and Erykah Badu's "Tyrone" among them) and guest appearances (Metallica bassist Kirk Hammett, comedian Zach Galifianakis). By Saturday morning the show had achieved best-of status, due, in part, to the massive rainstorm that provided a backdrop during the majority of the set.
Video: MMJ covers Kook & The Gang's "Get Down On It"
7. 2009: Wilco Plays Transcendent Americana At Sunset
This isn't an obvious moment with an incendiary headliner wielding flashing lights from the mainstage, but a subtle one: a great modern American rock band hitting one of its personal highs as the sun sets over a beautiful Saturday night in the heartland. The band's multifaceted set captured all Wilco does well, from noisy, brutal jams to wounded, heartfelt balladry; soaring rock epics to twangy Woody Guthrie tunes. As a bonus, longtime indie hero Nels Cline finally crossed over to Rock Star status by wrenching out the incomparable solo of "Impossible Germany" to a crowded Tennessee field. And Jeff Tweedy recruited a cameraman to help strum his guitar.
Video: Wilco performs "Impossible Germany"
6. 2009: Bruce Brings Christmas To Town
By mid-2009, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band were a runaway freight train, appearing at festivals throughout the U.S. and Europe, delivering regular three-hour salvationfests in markets far and wide, deploying random covers on the spot and taking Stump The Band requests from the crowd, most of which were delivered via poster-board. So when it came to a scorching hot Saturday night in the middle of June on a farm in the un-GPS-able wilds of Tennessee, Bruce went, naturally, immediately to the person holding up the life-size poster of Santa Claus. "It's too f---ing hot for Santa!" the Boss howled with a wink of his eye and a twist of his head, before leading what will very likely go down as Bonnaroo's best-ever caroling session.
Video: Bruce Springsteen and E Street play "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town"