Day 3

By the afternoon of day 3 of Bonnaroo 2017, the festival began to heat up in every way possible. The temperature warmed up to the mid-80s F, a more average level for summer in Tennessee, with climbing humidity. Lots of young exposed body parts bronzed in the summer sun as music fans stripped down to the bare essentials and sought relief from the afternoon sun in shady spots and air conditioned venues like the cinema comedy tent. The beer tent was doing a brisk business selling microbrews from over thirty different breweries. The large bubbling water fountain was a favourite stop for those needing a cooling respite from the heat.

The venues were also heating up with live performances in at least a dozen different places across Centeroo. The young North Carolina band Rainbow Kitten Surprise had the crowd dancing in front of the Which stage by mid afternoon, to their pleasurable indie rock sounds. But an even larger group was forming over on the main stage for New York rapper Jon Bellion. The young hip-hop star had a sweaty young crowd swaying to his set. Tegan and Sara brought their Canadian indie pop to the Which stage next. The now veteran singing sisters have been a festival staple for decades but judging from the faces in front of the crowd have a whole new following of young female fans. The American synth pop band from Maryland, Future Islands played the main stage next. Emotive lead singer Samuel Herring captured the crowd's imagination with his stage antics and rich vocal skills, which could be compared to a young Tom Jones. Back on the Which stage the Seattle-based band the Head And The Heart brought their sultry indie folk music to a large crowd painted into orange glow of the setting sun. About the same time the California girl band Warpaint was bathing This tent in their psychedelic dream pop.

As twilight turned to darkness the Kentucky rockers Cage The Elephant brought one of the most exciting rock sets of the day to the Which stage. The young rockers have now become veterans after a decade on the festival circuit. Their extended residency in their early days in London left a lasting impact on their sound. Indeed the band sounds like a young Rolling Stones in the prime at times. Led by charismatic vocalist Matt Shultz, who tore around the stage like a whirling Dervish and lunged into the crowd on several occasions, the band played fierce rock rhythms. This band just keeps getting better every year and have a long future ahead.

Just like the night before when the festival shut down for U2, most of the Centeroo went quiet for the much-anticipated performance by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The veteran funk rockers have headlined Bonnaroo before, but for most of the young fans at the festival, it was their first experience with the band. The Peppers have always been a moody band performing amazing concerts at times and less so at others. Whether it be from too much partying or sheer exhaustion, the band has been known to play disjointed shows over the years. But for this near two-hour performance, the aging rockers were in prime form, fully synchronized and full of energy. While iconic bassist Flea pranced about the massive stage, singer Anthony Kiedis danced his way across the huge stage as well, despite some sort of metal brace on his leg. Hearkening back to the 80 ’s when the band would sometimes play naked, Kiedis even went shirtless for the second half of the concert. Drummer Chad Smith played like a madman throughout the near two-hour set. Former touring guitarist Josh Klinghoffer played relentless riffs as the band tore through some of their biggest hit songs.

By the time the Peppers ended their extended set many young EDM fans had migrated back to the other side of Centeroo for a late night set by Australian music producer Flume. The masterful mixer has set himself apart from most EDM DJ,s by creating his music instead of just remixing others tunes. His LED cubicle podium and light show astounded the massive EDM crowd that gathered to hear his set which extends into the early morning hours. About the same time, DJ’s Snails and Marshmellow were performing their grandiose EDM shows over on the Other stage. Also, simultaneously the legendary Superjam was going down in This Tent. It was a night of visual and musical overload right until the first light of the final day of Bonnaroo 2017.


One of the unique aspects of the Bonnaroo music festival is the much anticipated Superjam. The legendary jam has seen some of the most interesting mash-ups in modern music history over the years, some more than successful than others. Occasionally the sessions have gone on into the first rays of sunshine of the following morning.

Superjam 2017 happened to be one of the shortest jams coming in at just over ninety minutes. For what the set, however, lacked in length it more than compensated for with sheer brilliant jam music. This year's jam was anchored by The Preservation Hall Jazz Band. The New Orleans funk masters, who at an earlier performance at the festival had received the keys to the nearby town of Manchester from the mayor, were joined by George Porter Jr. Ask most anyone from New Orleans, and they will tell you Porter is simply the best bass player in contemporary music. Singer and keyboardist Jon Batiste, well known as the band leader on 'The Late Show with Stephen Colbert', rounded out the core group. The group opened the first of thirteen songs in the set with a funky 'Bourbon Street' crazed dance tune C+C Music Factory staple 'Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)'

As is customary at Superjam the night unfolded with a series of announced and surprise guest singers and musicians, playing well-known cover songs. This year's theme was funk-inspired music. Labeled 'Soul Shakedown' the set included rousing covers by Jon Batiste, Nicole Atkins, Margo Price, Joseph, Sam Cohen and Jason Huber of Cherub, and female singer Boyfriend. Some highlights included, Boyfriend and her dancers wowing the crowd during Rick James’ 'Super Freak' with a mash-up of MC Hammer’s 'U Can’t Touch This'). The performance included a sexy dance routine that saw the singer and her dance posse stripping into sleek, sensual outfits. Lukas Nelson, the talented son of Willie Nelson, and Margo Price sang a duet, on Al Green’s 'Love and Happiness'. Portland sister trio Joseph brought a beautiful harmonic TLC’s 'Waterfalls' to the set. After riveting performances of TLC's 'Waterfalls', Prince's 'Little Red Corvette' and Rick James' 'Superfreak', Gospel inspired hip hop artist Lecrae rocked the house with a funky cover of A Tribe Called Quest's 'Can I Kick It?'.

But the biggest surprise of the night came when the unofficial Mayor of Bonnaroo Chance The Rapper showed up sending the sweaty crowd into a frenzied response. Earlier in the evening, the Chicago Hip Hop artist with an excellent singing voice had amassed one of the largest crowds of Bonnaroo 2017 for his main stage performance. For many of the several thousand young music fans crammed into This Tent for the late night Jam session, this was the moment they had been waiting for. Chance has a beautiful singing voice and an affinity for jazz, paying homage to the veteran musicians on stage. He was joined by nearly the entire Superjam 2017 line up for a funky dance crazed cover of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg's 'Nuthin' but a G Thang' and segued into Outkast’s 'Hey Ya!'. The chorus line included Nicole Atkins, Boyfriend, and Flint Eastwood just to name a few of the backup singers. It was a finale most in the crowd won’t soon forget.

Day 4

As day 4 of Bonnaroo 2017 dawned warm and humid, four days on nearly non-stop celebration began to take its toll on exhausted concert goers. Some began to pack up their campsites and headed to the exits to get an early start on their long treks homeward. Many others just collapsed in any cool shady spot they could find for a long-delayed sleep.

But by mid-afternoon, thousands of rejuvenated music fans began to come back to life and surge towards the various stages. By late afternoon a large crowd had gathered at the Which stage for Umphrey’s Mcgee’s second set of the festival. As hardcore jam-band fans chanted “six-hour set ” the band went straight to work playing the jam music that has made the band a mainstay of festivals in the jam genre.

Meanwhile over on the main stage, an even bigger crowd gathered for the pleasing pop rhythms of the German indie rock band Milky Chance. The huge crowd pretty much remained in place for the remainder of main stage sets including ones by pop star Lorde and alternative R&B sensation the Weekend. The much anticipated Lorde set began with a technical misfire. The young New Zealand singer appeared onstage for a few minutes before halting the performance due to technical difficulties. Although announcers assured the crowd the singer would get to play her whole set, the more than thirty-minute delay did seem to cut into her show. But her short set nevertheless was well received by the crowd. The Weekend closing performance also felt about anti-climactic, especially after so many amazing performances on Friday and Saturday. The talented singer sans his trademark dreadlocks played a pleasing and well-received set. But the performancce coming in at barely over an hour just didn't seem to compare to the closing sets music fans have come to expect at Bonnaroo. In past years closing sets by Grateful Dead and Co., Tom Petty, Elton John, and Widespread Panic, to name a few have stretched to nearly four hours of music. While the Weekend put on a great show, he just doesn't have enough material to perform such a marathon show.

There was plenty of other great music to be had across Centeroo the final evening, however, from multiple genres. Ed Helms held his annual Bluegrass jam featuring a surprise appearance by Bobby Osborne. The set began with bluegrass performances from Nashville-based The Bryan Sutton Band, Helms, Mandolin Orange and festival favorites Greensky Bluegrass. Then Martina McBride took over to play a cover of the Beatles' 'Blackbird'. Next singer-songwriter Gaby Moreno played a funky bluegrass cover of Prince's 'Kiss'. But the biggest surprise of the jam was when the 85-year-old legend Bobby Osborne took the stage with his mandolin, performing three songs. In honour of Tennessee, the group played 'Rocky Top', the Felice and Boudleaux Bryant song first made famous by Osborne and his late brother, Sonny Osborne. The set ended with a heartfelt version of 'God Bless the USA'.

The Which stage closed out on an entirely different not with a large, enthusiastic crowd gathering for one of the newest bad boys in Hip Hop Travis Scott. The 25-year-old Texas rapper whipped the crowd into a frenzy and for many music fans may have been the highlight of the closing day of Bonnaroo. All in all Bonnaroo 2017 was a great success with a phenomenal amount of fantastic music spread across multiple genres and continues to be the festival that all others will be measured against.

Photos by L.Paul Mann

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