After four days embedded in the Bonnaroo experience out in Manchester, Tennesee June 11-14, Billboard’s correspondents picked the highlights of this year’s fetival from Trent Reznor’s big announcement to Bruce Springsteen and Phish’s jam and much more.
10. The Beastie Boys show some New York love by bringing out fellow city MC Nas for a run through “Too Many Rappers” from the Boys’ upcoming “Hot Sauce Committee.”
9. MGMT‘s ecstatic brand of psychedelic pop draws immense crowds to That Tent for a late-night set on Saturday. Thousands sweat, shake and shout along to “Electric Feel” at 3 a.m.
8. Wilco guitarist Nels Cline sends numerous songs into exultant territory as the sun moves low on the pre-Bruce Saturday night. The band’s three-guitar, roots-group-gone-to-outer-space setup shines on intricate, emotional compositions like “Impossible Germany.”7. The Reverend preaches it: 63-year-old Al Green shines on the main stage with shimmering versions of classics “Let’s Stay Together” and “Here I Am,” but he drives his voices into those crazy lovely upper registers on “Lay It Down” and floors the crowd, working up a sweat and giving out roses.
6. Warren Haynes, who is a member of 75% of all jam bands currently operating in America, drives his Gov’t Mule through a fiesta of Saturday afternoon covers, including “Helter Skelter,” Radiohead’s “Creep,” “Southern Man” with the magnificently-voiced Grace Potter, and a gorgeous take on U2’s “One.”5. A tutu-sporting David Byrne dives in to a series of interpretive dance routines with his company of white-clad backup dancers, reprising the “big suit” moment from “Stop Making Sense” and grooving through a trio of songs from seminal Talking Heads album “Remain in Light.”
4. The Drive-By Truckers back southern soul man Booker T. Jones on a three-song blast of Patterson Hood’s Molly Hatchet-referencing autobiography “Let There Be Rock,” a Jones-powered cover of “Hey Ya” that got the sweaty crowd sweatier and a ramshackle-train run through “I Can’t Turn You Loose” that added up to a sprawling yet complete trifecta of Southern rock.
3. What began as a performance by Ilo and the Coral Reefer All-Stars turned into half of a full-on Jimmy Buffett performance, with the head Parrothead delivering “Margaritaville,” “Fins,” “A Pirate Looks at 40” and more to a noontime crowd on Saturday, certainly well earlier than Buffett’s used to taking stages. For his part, the young Cape Verde native Ilo – who 48 hours prior to the festival was still in customs, unsure if he could get to America – proved a worthy sidekick, delivering three songs of gently rolling world music-infused pop-rock.2. Nine Inch Nails‘ Trent Reznor announces during his band’s post-Bruce slot that the Bonnaroo appearance would be his band’s last U.S. show ever. Reznor thanks the crowd “for all the years” but is, unsurprisingly, not forthcoming with any further details.
1. The megapowers collide: Bruce Springsteen joins Phish on Sunday night for a three-song surprise set of “Mustang Sally” and Springsteen’s own “Bobby Jean” and “Glory Days,” the latter song’s second What Stage performance in two nights. Springsteen lays down the groundwork; Trey Anastasio doodles circles and designs over the top. Unprecedented, and not to be forgotten.
Guest Star of the Fest: Jay Weinberg, 18-year-old son of E Street drummer Max, who stepped in for Dad midway through Springsteen’s set and killed it. Jay drove “Radio Nowhere” at well over the speed limit, and brought a style that was looser and heavier to everything from “Lonesome Day” to “Born to Run.” Kid taught himself drums four years ago, now he’s in the E Street Band. Nice work, Dad.
Line of the Festival: “”Anybody ready for some motherf—in’ Phish?” – Snoop Dogg, closing his Sunday night performance.
Least Likely Gospel Cameo Ever In The History of Time: After taking cracks at the theoretical Bonnaroo odor, her work with animals and hippies in general, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog joins Neko Case on – no, really – “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”
Choice covers: Erykah Badu (“Rapper’s Delight” and NWA’s “Gangsta Gangsta”), Snoop Dogg (“Jump Around”), Neko Case (Harry Nilsson’s “Don’t Forget Me”), MGMT (Til Tuesday’s “Voices Carry”), Gov’t Mule (U2’s “One,” Radiohead’s “Creep”, Neil Young’s “Southern Man”).