The Top 42 Moments of Bonnaroo 2013


    Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival is used to having some of the biggest, most recognizable names in the music business topping its lineup – from Bruce Springsteen to Radiohead to Metallica. But the 2013 edition one-upped all of their previous incarnations by bringing in perhaps the most famous musician in the world: Sir Paul McCartney. Having a Beatle on The Farm brought together fans of all ages, races, and walks of life. With his set being the most anticipated in the history of Bonnaroo, the weekend was Macca’s right from the get-go. Even his sound check will go down in Bonnaroo lore, and plenty of bands payed homage to the legend with various covers and stories throughout the weekend.

    However, on Thursday night, a different headliner dominated the buzz around the farm. Early in the evening, rumors began to swirl that Mumford and Sons would have to cancel their headlining appearance due to the health of their bassist Ted Dwane after having emergency brain surgery to remove a blood clot. Later in the night, the UK collective confirmed the news on their Facebook page, and Bonnaroo went into scramble mode. By the power of Bonnaroo magic, a headliner-sized guest just so happened to be on the premises, as Jack Johnson was on his way to the farm for a surprise appearance with ALO when the news broke.

    Camp NoWhere

    Photo by Ben Kaye

    The organizers reached out to him, and even though he was unprepared to perform his new material live, hadn’t played a show in over a year, and didn’t know if the rest of his band could do it…he said yes. Luckily, his band was all in and made their way to Manchester immediately so they could begin their 24-hour preparations for a headlining show. Considering the last-minute circumstances, Johnson admirably stepped up and did the best he could to help out a festival that he holds dear to his heart. He even made a song about the situation that he performed on stage: “What the hell, it’s Bonnaroo!”.


    Even with the last minute headlining change, the weekend was a huge success once again for Bonnaroo, who seem prepared for anything and everything that comes their way. Having three Superjams – one for each full day – turned out to be a stroke of genius — especially the big ol’ dance party that was The Rock ‘n’ Soul Superjam.


    Photo by Ben Kaye

    Music aside, the weather was just about as perfect as could be, with only mild drizzles of rain here and there that helped make the infamous Bonnaroo dust a non-factor. It did get hot – when is it not hot during a Tennessee summer? – but temperatures stayed cooler than they have in years past. Sure, the lines were long and it may have been tad oversold. But as the festival keeps improving on its infrastructure and adding more and more shade, water fountains, and port-a-johns, the experience keeps getting better and better despite Mother Nature or the drudges of humanity.

    Chalk 2013 up as another win for Bonnaroo.

    Paul McCartney’s Thursday night sound check

    Paul Suit First Song

    Photo by Amanda Koellner

    Hearing a headliner’s soundcheck ringing throughout the campground near Centeroo is not an unusual occurrence – the day’s headliner usually soundchecks early in the morning while everyone is still waking up and getting ready for the day. However, around 9:00 p.m. on Thursday night, a familiar sound echoed through the empty What Stage field – Sir Paul McCartney took the stage a full day early to get his soundcheck out of the way. Word spread quickly and soon there were pockets of hundreds of fans at every vantage point possible, trying to get a glimpse of Sir Paul while the What Stage venue was still blocked off and being guarded by mounted policemen.

    Macca was never one to do things the standard way, and instead of just sound checking a few songs and leaving, he ended up playing for over an hour, with some songs displaying their full visual punch –for example, “Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite”. He even played songs that didn’t end up making the cut for his regular set the next night – most notably “Magical Mystery Tour” and “Penny Lane” – and made up a little ditty about Bonnaroo. It was an absolute treat for those who experienced it, and his songs instantly bonded the small crowds together – singing, clapping, and dancing all together to each classic hit.

    The sense of wonderment was palpable, as variations of “oh my god is this really happening?” could be overheard multiple times throughout. It was a great preview of what was to come on Friday night, which would prove to be one of the most memorable headlining sets ever at Bonnaroo. -Carson O’Shoney

    When Jack Johnson surprised everyone at a late night tent set with ALO

    Jack Johnson with ALO

    Photo by Amanda Koellner

    A decent-sized crowd came out for ALO Thursday night, although it would pale in comparison to the crowds that would expand to mind-blowing proportions at certain points in the weekend. But on the first night, those that lasted long enough for a late night tent show were there because they knew Jack Johnson had flown in from Hawaii to join his Brushfire Records friends in a low-key setting. Little did those hanging out in the comfortably full tent know that Johnson would end up sliding in and serving as the perfect backdrop for Saturday.

    Reflecting on how the singer came to Manchester, played with friends, hung out at Jack White’s Third Man Records, and headlined Bonnaroo the night after Paul McCartney only leads to one thought: Paul McCartney might have taken us on the ultimate emotions-meet-music journey but Jack Johnson was The King of Bonnaroo. He rolled into tracks like “Girl I Wanna Lay You Down”, “Better When We’re Together”, and “Mud Football”, much to the delight of the fan boys getting their Bonnaroo started with a person who very well could have gotten them into Bonnaroo in the first place. -Amanda Koellner

    Ariel Pink’s champagne shower


    Photo by Nate Slevin

    Ariel Pink is know for having a controversial image in the public eye, spanning from drunkenly stage diving into fans or stubbornly whispering lyrics into the microphone. As the outfit approached the Bonnaroo This Stage, minus the Haunted Graffiti moniker, Pink was on his A game. Three-fouths of the set was reached impeccable heights as the band embellished the highlights from Before Today and Mature Themes, ultimately turning the country farm into a retro- 80s playground. In reacting to such an energy, the big witted frontman drenched himself with champagne while the crowd reacted with sporadic crowd surfing.

    To say the least, Bonnaroo crowd completely trumped the typical stand-still hipster crowds that the artist normally faces. Heck, I was even fist-pumping my notebook and pen in the press pit and sung and danced along to nearly every track. This communal synergy even allotted for the outfit to debut a new song,”Hang On to Your Life”, which gently soothed the crowd in smooth head bopping. Pink’s performance proved a significant enhancement of their live performance and their overall impact on festival audiences from here on out. -Sam Willett

    Because Bonnaroo wasn’t hot enough, Solange had to play

    Solange 5

    Photo by Ben Kaye

    Solange delivered more than just smooth pop R&B to the Which Stage on Saturday. Even in the sweltering sun, the other Knowles sister brought extra heat. “I know it’s hot out there,” she said to the crowd before going into “Bad Girls”, “but if I could see you all grinding out there, it’d make me very happy.” Never say unshowered Bonnaroovians are afraid of a little bump and grind. And never say Solange isn’t ballsy enough to cover “Stillness in the Move” just three hours before Dirty Projectors played. -Ben Kaye

    The glowing bass drum and lanterns at Purity Ring


    Photo by Nate Slevin

    Thursday nights at Bonnaroo always provide newcomers the rare opportunity to play to uncharacteristically large crowds of overexcited attendees. Purity Ring’s set was the quintessential Thursday slot, with fans spilling out far and wide to bask in the glow of the Canadian duo’s Japanese lanterns, slow-jamming along to Megan James and Corin Roddock’s shimmering, fractured synth-pop. Lush swells oozed out, like sugar-coated magma. When James took to her ornamental (possibly functional) bass drum, it too glowed with the pulse of the mallet. Like moths in the night sky, we all hovered around and gazed wide-eyed like we’d never seen light before. -Drew Litowitz

    Wilco’s successful opening gig for Paul McCartney

    wilco best

    Photo by Ben Kaye

    When you sit down and think about, it’s really hard to assign a band to open for Paul McCartney. You want an act that carries a legacy of timeless tunes while exemplifying a staggering unity that expel a contagious live performance; something that shouldn’t be forgettable. When Wilco stepped on the What stage to the first strums of “Poor Places”, they cued the Americana tastes that the festival crowds love but delivered a startling shock with noisy dynamics that challenged the balance of their instruments. The set reveled with seamless transitions between a number of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot gems while incorporating highlights that spanned across their catalog.

    If I could pinpoint the first moment where I began to lose my voice, it was after the swoon-worthy transitions of “Impossible Germany”. That four-gutar soul jam reached an array of emotions as they navigated through gentle guitar harmonies to full-blast thrusts that spring-loaded another Nels Cline solo to staggering heights. If this finesse didn’t shock the crowd enough, Summerteeth gem “Via Chicago” surfaced a theatrical climax that made me jump out of my skull. The crowd was gently swaying through the achy acoustic gem until the band manifested a nightmare of noisy shredding while Jeff Tweedy stayed calm in delivering his gentle croon and acoustic strums. While it threw me off guard at first, I only wanted it to happen again and again.

    Wilco’s masterful demonstration elevated the legacy of their music to feel as timeless as the act that proceeded them. -Sam Willett




    Photo by Amanda Koellner

    Seemingly all 80,000 people on site at Bonnaroo ended up at the What Stage for McCartney’s Friday headlining set. The crowd was as diverse as you would expect from a Bonnaroo crowd of that size — from young children to folks who were around for the original British Invasion and everything in between. McCartney knows how to please a crowd, and he has an enormous cataloge of hits to work with. Unlike most Bonnaroo headliners, many of his works have been permanently engrained into the conciousness of just about every festivalgoer since they were children. Every Beatles song he played, from “Lovely Rita” to “Eleanor Rigby” to “Blackbird”, was met with rapturous applause, but none was more life-affirming or Bonnaroo-defining than “Hey Jude”.

    As he led the crowd in an endless wave of “Na-na-na-na-na-na-na”s, there was a euphoria that swept across the farm that I had never experienced before. Everyone was connected, singing in harmony, and being led by the most wonderful ringleader in the world. It was the single most defining moment that exemplified the Bonnaroo spirit in the seven years I’ve been coming to the farm. It brought me to tears, and I’m guessing I’m not the only one. When people look back at Bonnaroo in the future, this will be the moment that defines the entire experience. Long live Macca. -Carson O’Shoney

    When all the dudes came out for Deap Valley


    Photo by Ben Kaye

    Excitement for the ensuing three days had been mounting, as it does on the magical night that is Thursday at Bonnaroo, when Deap Valley sauntered onto This Tent at 8:30 p.m.. The band, really best described as chicks-do-the-Black- Keys, attracted a decent sized crowd primarily made up of excited males chugging and swigging beers. Said males certainly came out because, well, it’s two smokin’ hot gals, one with long Stevie-Nicks-like hair and the other a fire-redhead, but also because these ladies trump The Black Keys in grit and adrenaline. When the sign donning their name jerked up to the left of the stage two songs in, a low-octave sea of cheers erupted, and the weekend of a lifetime was officially underway. -Amanda Koellner

    The Androgynous Synth player at Reptar, or a teenage Talking Heads


    Photo by Nate Slevin

    With all its pop-culture references and silly charm, what better place than Bonnaroo for a band whose namesake is a Rugrats character? Easily the most fun to be had on Friday morning, these teenagers played a delightful blend of art-rock, dance, funk, and post-punk. While lead singer Graham Ulicny snarled and yelped with erratic fury, his backing band of horns, synths, and angular guitars made for a fun and rewarding party. Replace David Byrne and Tina Wymouth with a bunch of Atlantan Teenagers, and you’ll get something like Reptar. Throw in a long-haired, androgynous dude in a leotard and have him dance like nobody’s watching, and you’ll get the most fun you have before lunchtime. Can you feel it? Yes I can feel it. -Drew Litowitz

    When you couldn’t see J. Tillman, but you realized it didn’t matter.


    Photo by Ben Kaye

    J. Tillman’s Father John Misty project, act, religious experience, whatever you’ve made it for yourself, is best known for the combination of hip-shaking, joke telling, and soul-rattling vocals. When the former Fleet Foxes drummer took That Tent Thursday night, the crowd was so thick that the majority could barely get a glimpse of Tillman’s luscious locks and hips that do everything but lie. The sound wasn’t loud enough for anyone to hear his always-delightful banter, either. But when the band played his undeniable songs like “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” and “Only Son of the Ladiesman”, watching, dancing, and hearing jokes fell from everyone’s concerns and the musician yet again proved he’s found his niche, away from somber solo releases and time spent in Robin Pecknold’s shadow. Even more impressive? He can do it sans bells and whistles. -Amanda Koellner

    When DIIV’s set got cancelled, then Earl Sweatshirt’s, then DIIV played instead of Earl Sweatshirt

    Diiv 3

    Photo by Ben Kaye

    “Hi, we’re called Earl Sweatshirt,” DIIV’s Zachary Cole Smith announced before following-up matter-of-factly that the band’s keyboardist had quit the band earlier that morning. (Still not sure if this was also a joke.) Of course, this all followed the strange word-of-mouth news that Earl Sweatshirt was sick and that DIIV’s Thursday cancellation would be moved to cover for him and make up for their Thursday cancellation. Weirdly, lots of things were happening between DIIV and Earl Sweatshirt surrounding Bonnaroo, and it was all perfectly strange.

    So DIIV ultimately performed and Earl ultimately did not. Nonetheless, DIIV’s impromptu new slot was a gorgeous display of interlocking, languid guitars and horribly oversized grunge-wear. The trio’s dreamy guitar-rock shimmered, doused in the delay of their shoegaze forefathers. The tiny Cole swam around the stage (and his clothing), falling into his guitar lines like he was being thrown around. It rocked. -Drew Litowitz


    Storytime with Sir Paul


    Photo by Amanda Koellner

    Over the course of nearly three hours, McCartney developed a warm and loving relationship with the crowd. He acknowledged a number of homemade signs and introduced each song by sharing bits of wisdom from his incredible life. He told a story about his late friend Jimi Hendrix, who learned “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and opened a show with it two days after it was released, which was extra special since McCartney had been in the audience to hear it.

    Following his performance of “Back in the USSR.” – which included a quick flash of “FREE PUSSY RIOT” on the video screens – he told a story about meeting members of the Russian Government after a show he played in Red Square years ago. In his best Russian accent, he mimiced the Russian Minister of Defense, who greeted McCartney and said, “The first album I ever bought was ‘Love Me Do’,” explaining that they learned English through Beatles records.

    Macca also waxed poetic about his dearly departed friends and Beatles bandmates John Lennon and George Harrison. He played “Here Today” as a tribute to the former, and for the latter he brought out a ukelele during a special version of “Something”. If only elementary school’s storytime had been this exciting. -Carson O’Shoney

    The Wu-Tang set being an obvious clusterfuck


    Photo by Nate Slevin

    Since you can’t really soundcheck nine mics spread across nine MC’s all too well, the sound was suffered tremendously during Wu-Tang Clan’s Friday evening set. But, would a Wu-Tang set make sense if it were smooth sailing? Something tells me that harsh technical difficulties are simply an element of their live experience. Each microphone seemed to be at a decidedly different dB level, but that didn’t stop the crowd from tossing up the W’s and singing along to a string of classic 36 Chambers cuts.

    “Bring the Ruckus”, “Roar”, “C.R.E.A.M.”, “Method Man”, and a slew of other tracks made for a delightful and fun-spirited nostalgia act with only a hint of irrelevancy. RZA and Meth lead the set, anchoring each song while one of the guys chimed in at what seemed like arbitrary increments, finishing each other’s sentences in top Wu Form. With so many members, its always fun to watch a group of rappers whose rhymes serve as both the content and the hype simultaneously. The Ruckus was brought. -Drew Litowitz

    Impromptu acrobatics outside of Four Tet


    Photo by Ben Kaye

    While Four Tet held down the beats at the Other Stage, members Katie and Kaci from Raleigh, NC had the crowd at the back entertained with their acrobatic balancing acts. “We just came as GA to hang,” Kaci told me, but said they also had two shows scheduled everyday. One was in the Brewer’s Tent, and the other was a “surprise show” that would appear outside a random Tent show. Completely improvised, that kind of on the spot art is part of what makes keeping your eyes open worth it on the Farm. -Ben Kaye

    “Live and Let Die”


    Photo by Amanda Koellner

    McCartney’s stage setup was simple yet elaborate, with screens that covered the backdrop, the floor, and the sides of the stage. The light show suited the music perfectly, and the visuals ranged from trippy to silly to heartfelt. Smoke screens and lasers came into play for a few songs. The stage even rose up and lifted Macca far above the crowd for a few solo acoustic songs. It was an excellent production, but I don’t think anyone was expecting Metallica-type fireballs bursting from the stage from the former Beatle. Then, near the end of the original set, came “Live and Let Die”: an overwhelming spectacle of fireballs, fast cuts, and fireworks jettisoning from above the stage, on the stage, and even from the back of the crowd. It was bright, loud, and outrageous, making it one of the biggest and best moments the What stage has ever seen, even if only for one song. -Carson O’Shoney

    When Jack Johnson played Mumford and Sons’ “The Cave”


    Photo by Nate Slevin

    Enough said. Aside from Paul and the super jam, it was The Moment. -Amanda Koellner

    Double crowd surfers and Michael Winslow at Animal Collective’s uncharacteristically coherent late night set


    Photo by FilmMagic

    Animal Collective have loosened up a bit since the beginning of their Centipede Hz tour last fall, trying to please audience members a little more, and (counter-intuitively) tightening up their performances to a level of coherence rarely seen at their concerts. Their epic late night, two hour This Tent set was one of the best AnCo experiences in recent memory. Touching upon highlights from Centipede, a string of exerpts off Fall Be Kind (“What Would I Want Sky” and “I Think I Can”), Merriweather Post Pavilion (“My Girls”, “Brother Sport”), Feels (“Did You See The Words”, “The Purple Bottle”), and a rousing “Peacebone”, Animal Collective were crowd-pleasers for once, and it was great.

    Emerging with Michael Winslow from Police Academy — you know, this guy — with no introduction or explanation, obviously (I honestly thought it was an overzealous MC who they were to nice to tell to GTFO), the band jumped into “Moonjock” as Winslow made a bunch of weird sound effects and repeated the band’s name like a robotic radio transmission, before leaving with no explanation or acknowledgement from Avey and co. Why would they ever explain anything?


    Photo by FilmMagic


    A momentous energy filled the air, which motivated plenty of crowd surfers and elicited a series of screams. It was a bizarre sight: two crowd surfers tangled in one another, expecting festivalgoers to separate them and send them off on their separate waves. We eventually untangled them and set them free. When they both set sail, I looked back to the stage and Animal Collective were gone. I wouldn’t have it any other way. – Drew Litowitz

    Paul McCartney is the Walrus


    Photo by Amanda Koellner

    After the penultimate song of his last encore, an intrepid audience member threw a stuffed walrus at McCartney — a perfect choice in the grand scheme of things. McCartney, of course, has a history with Walruses, especially amongst Beatles conspiracy theorists who think that Macca died in 1966, leading to the book Paul was the Walrus: The Great Beatle Death Clues. Sir Paul took it in stride and treated the Walrus as a pet, setting it on top of his grand piano, where he sang directly to it for the “On Golden Slumbers” opening portion of the Abbey Road medley/grand finale. After a night filled with Macca silliness — from little funny dances between songs to admissions of “smell[ing] some good weed out there” — the walrus was the perfect, silly cherry on top. -Carson O’Shoney

    Lt. Dangle and Deputy Junior performing Bath Salts: An Opera of Nightmares


    Drugs are obviously a big part of the Bonnaroo experience, so the festival brought in some top-notch officers of the law to teach the drug-addled masses a thing or two about drug safety: Lt. Dangle (Thomas Lennon) and Deputy Junior (Ben Garant) from Comedy Central’s now-defunct Reno 911!. The two main points they wanted to get across was that 1.) whip-its are totally legal, and that 2.) there are only two kinds of handcuff keys and they’re both easy to buy online. Dangle also serenaded the crowd with an anti-meth song that just so happened to describe all of the ingredients and methods for making crystal meth.

    The real highlight came when the pair were set to perform the apex of their presentation: a huge $200,000 production called Bath Salts: An Opera of Nightmares. However, after presenting the budget to Bonnaroo, they were told they actually had a budget of $0. They soldiered on anyways, describing what the audience would have been seeing whilst performing: from floating drugs of every kind to an army of Goblins trying to eat your face. It was a powerhouse performance, especially given Dangle’s famous short shorts. -Carson O’Shoney