Stepback Saturday: Bonaroo Through the Ages

June 22, 2014




1. a really good time


For over 12 years, tens of thousands of music fans have made the trek across the country for the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. The four-day gig is a music lover’s dream, showcasing everything from indie rock artists and country crooners, to hip hop legends and pop stars. Taking place annually, always on the second Thursday in June, the fest holds court at the 700-acre Great Stage Park farm.

Rolling Stone named Bonnaroo as one of the “50 Moments That Changed Rock & Roll” a year after it began; GQ Magazine considers it one of the 10 Best Festivals. It ranks among the great festival giants Coachella and Electric Daisy Carnival in terms of crowd appeal and success rate.

But the festival hasn’t always been the diverse music celebration it is today.

Whereas the modern Bonnaroo hosts artists of all genres and audiences, the early-days festival placed emphasis on folk bands and jam artists. Beginning in 2002, Bonnaroo featured artists like the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Old Crow Medicine Show, Jim White, Jack Johnson, and The Blues Brothers. But despite its nontraditional advertising, the festival sold 70,000+ tickets well in advance. It was perhaps due to this immediate success that the festival slowly began to diversify.

Jack Johnson was a return talent the next year, joined by other big-name artists Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Jason Mraz, Gavin Degraw, The Flaming Lips, and O.A.R. Less than two years into its lifespan, it was already becoming a big-name festival that would change the way the world experienced music.

Attracted to its philosophy of artists playing from noon until 4 AM or later, Bonnaroo soon saw its stages occupied by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Radiohead, The Beach Boys, Pearl Jam, Tom Petty, The Allman Brothers Band, Bon Iver, Jay-Z, Bob Dylan, The Black Keys, Dave Matthews Band, The Police, Arcade Fire, The Strokes, Metallica, Bruce Springsteen, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and more. Such notable acts only continued to draw the crowds, who became infatuated by the feel-good vibes and talented stages of the event. The festival grounds soon gave way to a comedy tent, silent disco, movie tent, dozens of food and drink vendors, and craftsmen booths, giving attendees plenty of things to occupy their time with.

And, of course, what kind of music festival would it be if it didn’t feature an enormous ferris wheel?

This year’s festival took place June 12th-15th and featured artists such as Kanye West, Vampire Weekend, Janelle Monae, The Head and the Heart, Skrillex, Sam Smith, Disclosure, Lionel Richie, Cage the Elephant, Zedd, Grouplove, Arctic Monkeys, Elton John, Fitz & The Tantrums, Wiz Khalifa, and Broken Bells.

Sound like an unbelievable lineup to anyone else?

Have you attended the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival? Tweet @weknowthedj with your favorite memories!


-Shelley DeHekker


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