Bonnaroo 2015 is in the books. Sunday — the fest’s fourth and final day — was a little tamer than the days before it, since the crowd began to realize the inevitability of work the next day or a long trip home. Even if Sunday wasn’t as turnt as the days before it, the closing block of Florence + the Machine and Billy Joel sent the crowd home in style. And there was a lot more to the final day on the farm on Manchester, Tenn. Join Billboard’s Chris Payne and Dominick Grillo as they navigate the madness.
1:20 PM: Youthful folk rock band Grey Season is drawing an impressively enthusiastic crowd despite playing perhaps the most unforgiving time slot at the fest: early afternoon on the last day of ‘Roo.
1:24 PM: Singer Ian Jones of Grey Season brings a little Jim Morrison to ‘Roo with a spirited rendition of “Back Door Man.”
1:50 PM: “My favorite thing about writing songs is writing about the fucked up things you do and watching people dance to them,” notes Jessica Hernandez of her namesake outfit, Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas. So, what did you do, Jessica? “This song’s called ‘Sorry I Stole Your Man.'” Ah, right.
1:54 PM: Hernandez seems to have a pretty good idea of the kind of folk who come to ‘Roo: “This song is dedicated to all of you weird people at Bonnaroo because I know you’re getting into some weird stuff… This song’s called ‘Carnie Threesome’.”
3:45 PM: Nothing like an old Appalachian coal mining song to help test the political climate of a crowd of people. With Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn performing “Come all Ye Coal Miners,” the audience roars with delight at the repeated refrain “Let’s sink this capitalist system.”
4:20 PM: Danish alt-popper MØ takes the stage. She opens with her banger “Walk This Way” and sets the tone for her set, with lots of singing from a swaggering, squat/lean stance.
4:28 PM: MØ introduces “One More,” which she worked on with a fellow Scandinavian: “Do you know Elliphant? She’s my hero. My Swedish hero.”
4:46 PM: Possibly the first time a Spice Girls song has been performed at ‘Roo, MØ puts her own imprint on “Say You’ll Be There.”
5:13 PM: On the main stage, Spoon has just finished rocking out “The Beast and Dragon, Adored,” with additional guitar theatrics compared to the original. Just after, bassist Rob Pope jokes around with guitarist Alex Fische: “Is there someone you want to thank?” He shakes his head. One more time: “Is there someone you want to thank? Who’s in your top eight?” Someone in the crowd yells the perfect response: “Inside jokes, yeah!”
5:43 PM: It’s not hard to find people with terrible nutritional habits at ‘Roo: “We’d wake up with two blunts and that was breakfast,” slurs a young man who probably isn’t old enough to drive himself down the block.
5:47 PM: Happy birthday to you… Happy birthday day to you… Freddie Gibbs turns 33 today and celebrates with some “gangsta shit.”
7:08 PM: Florence + the Machine takes the main stage and opens with their woozy anthem, “What the Water Gave Me.” The woman of the hour can hardly contain herself, and runs from side to side of the stage, belting her vocals.
7:25 PM: It’s time for Florence to perform “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up),” which means everyone in the crowd is asked to hoist someone up on their shoulders. Many comply.
7:25 PM: Five minutes before Caribou’s set is scheduled to start, a shockingly small crowd awaits the electronic tunes. It’s the kind of size one expects to see at a 1pm set time — not in primetime — but perhaps that is the result of matching show times with Florence + the Machine.
7:35 PM: Apparently the worries about the turnout for Caribou were unfounded: within two songs Other Tent has completely filled out and the size of the audience has expanded across the lawn.
7:36 PM: Florence notices a girl a few rows from the front holding a “HUG ME” sign. She tells her she’ll comply if she can make it over. Immediately, all around help her crowd surf to the stage, where she finds a warm place in Florence’s arms. Aww! Of course, the audience watches the usual sequence of an onstage guest awkwardly not know what to do next once the moment ends.
7:46 PM: Florence is offstage, running through the crowd for the second time in her set. Yes, this is why she broke a leg at Coachella; she’s a master performer with almost no inhibitions who can’t bear to performing without engaging with her audience. And for her, engaging means leaping the barricade and running through the audience with a security guard behind her.
8:34 PM: Caribou’s first (and only) single off 2014’s Our Love finishes off the dance party on a high note. Off to Billy Joel!
9:01 PM: Like a true New Yorker, Billy Joel knows the value of being on time. He was allotted 150 minutes, but precisely one minute after his announced start time, he takes the stage and performs “My Life” with his flashy backing band.
9:10 PM: Joel gasps, “Some of you have been here for three days, huh?” (virtually the entire crowd was on its fourth). Being the narrative-inclined 66-year old he is, he compared it to Woodstock: “I didn’t play; I was just there. I guess this is what it was like…. Anyone making babies out there?”
9:30 PM: Once he gets his eyes off the massive crowd’s expanse, he turns to the people right up front: “Are these like, the rich people seats? Just rattle your jewelry!”
9:43 PM: Joel wraps “She’s Always a Woman to Me,” and throws a damper on the true love vibes: “That’s about one of my ex-wives. That one didn’t work out.”
9:51 PM: For the first time, Billy Joel gets up from his piano stool and grabs a guitar — a red Gibson. He says the band is going to have a special guest come out and that it’s okay to boo him offstage if the audience doesn’t like it. It’s his roadie of 34 years “Chainsaw,” who just wants to rock. He sings lead vocals on AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell,” while Joel struts around the stage with his ax. No one is booing anyone.
10:18 PM: It’s that time: Joel closes out the first portion of his set with “Piano Man,” and gets the best response from the audience he’s seen so far.
Music will always and forever hold a very special place in my heart and tonight just made that place even bigger. I’ve seen Billy Joel before but seeing one of my all time favorite artists like this with 80,000 of my closest friends just left me absolutely speechless. Bonnaroo 2015, you have blown. my. mind. Til next year Manchester!! And Billy Joel, I’ll see you next at Wrigley!??? @bonnaroo #bonnaroo #billyjoel #speechless #amazing #bonnaroo2015 #festivalseason #music #musicfestival #musicislove #itsstillrockandrolltome #manchester #tennessee #pianoman #summer #summertime #latenight #exhausted #radiatepositivity #peace #love #happiness
10:45 PM: A rousing performance of “Only the Good Die Young” appears to cap Joel’s encore. “Don’t drink and drive!” he yells coming offstage, referencing his own rocky past. “Do what I do — drink and get a big limousine.”
10:48 PM: The Bonnaroo schedule said Billy was going till 11:30, so the crowd up front sticks around, hoping for music. But it’s not meant to be. The house music starts playing onstage and fireworks burst in the sky, signaling the end of Bonnaroo 2015.