Sundays at Bonnaroo are always bittersweet. The faces you have been seeing for the past couple of days are going to be gone come sun rise and the little city that was built up will be brought down to nothing until the following year. As the day begins to fade into night you say your last goodbyes to the farm and the people and throw yourself into the area of the What Stage again one more time and let it all out. I have my own Sunday tradition at Bonnaroo and that is catching some bluegrass and buying at least one really good meal from centeroo and treat myself for completing another year.
The Bluegrass Situation took over That Tent all day and kept the crowds coming. For the first time ever I saw every act at the tent and each one was absolutely fantastic. John Moreland wove beautiful stories into his easy going music and was a grand way to start the day off. Following him was Sara Watkins with a smooth set of up-tempo country and bluegrass. The Wood Brothers are all masterful musicians with great voices and played to a fairly big crowd and smiles could be seen on everyone’s faces in the surrounding area of their music.
Steep Canyon Rangers played some beautiful bluegrass, possibly the best of the day, to a fairly rowdy crowd, which was followed by the always energetic Sam Bush and his band to close That Tent down until the SuperJam captained by Ed Helms happened during Dead and Company. Ed Helms brought out all the performers of the day and also included The Secret Sisters, Langhorne Slim, and Lee Ann Womack to the festivities. The crowd was absolutely gigantic for the special set that is now a yearly staple of Bonnaroo and a welcomed tradition. This one felt superior to the regular SuperJam considering that they also honored Tennessee music and since a lot of that is country and bluegrass, these set of musicians did it right. Once they ended everyone had the chance to see the second set of Dead and Company to close out the weekend, but I am getting ahead of myself.
The warm weather throughout the day felt even more brutal after being out in the sun for three straight days prior to that. Two bands powered right through though on the Who Stage, Sun Club and Sunflower Bean. Sun Club was overtly psychedelic and wild during the early afternoon set and got the small but adoring crowd going crazy right with them. Sunflower Bean deserves all of the accolades they have been getting as the three piece outfit blazed through their set with a lot of determination. They fed off one another and just kept pushing the music to extremes. I’m sure seeing either of these bands in a small room is absolute perfection.
On the Which Stage Kurt Vile & the Violators played their brand of indie rock to a fairly sizeable crowd. Kurt seemed to be in a good mood and was even seen around the rest of the day checking out many of the other bands. The Boognish rose to close the stage for the day with Ween. The wild and rowdy crowd was ready for Gene and Dean to make the Bonnaroo return and though the set may not have been as long as many had hoped for, it was absolutely thrilling. With the band back together and clearly loving be on stage with one another, Ween fans danced, screamed, and threw their hands in the air with nothing but affection for the five piece outfit.
The grand finale was Dead and Company and saw the biggest crowd at the What Stage for the entirety of the weekend. Having them close out the 15th anniversary of the festival seemed appropriate and a reminder of what the festival once was. As a special treat, Donna Jean sang most of the set with them and all people could do was smile and be happy that a core of the group is still together and happily playing. John Mayer, Jeff Chimenti, and Oteil Burbridge bring a breath of fresh air to Bob Weir, Bill Krreutzmann, and Mickey Hart and push them further on down the road they have been on for so long. When you’re in a field and get to end the festival singing “Tennessee, Tennessee, there ain’t no place I’d rather be, Baby Won’t you care my back to Tennessee” you had a pretty good weekend. Bonnaroo 2016 may not have had the highest attendance ever for the festival, but there is still nothing like it in the country. See you next year down on the farm.
Article: Bryan Lasky