Home Live For Live Music Bonnaroo 2024: It’s A New World, But It’s Still (Desitively) Bonnaroo

Bonnaroo 2024: It’s A New World, But It’s Still (Desitively) Bonnaroo [Review/Photos/Videos]

bonnaroo 2024 its a new world but its still desitively bonnaroo review photos videos

“WTF happened to Bonnaroo?” That’s a question I’ve seen a lot of in the comment sections of the videos we’ve posted from the 2024 edition of the Manchester, TN event, one of a handful of major festivals that reigns supreme in the contemporary mainstream music world.

To younger fans—the college kids and 20-somethings who make up the festival’s core audience in 2024—this is the Bonnaroo they’ve always known: one of the biggest showcases of the biggest artists of today from across the musical spectrum. To those who patronized the festival’s early years, though, that exasperated inquiry is understandable.

Bonnaroo began its life as an independent jam band festival, one of the only events of its kind at that time. Inspired by both the single-band festivals thrown by jam giants Phish and the magic of New Orleans during Jazz Fest, the event’s founders borrowed its name from an old Dr. John album, Desitively Bonnaroo, a part-slang, part-French phrase that translates to something along the lines of, “Ultimately [Desitively], the best on the streets [Bonnaroo].”

That phrase has been abstract in nature since the LP’s 1974 arrival, but it has always captured the essence of its eventual namesake festival just as much as it embodied the unique magnetism of the Night Tripper—big and bold yet confident and cool, with a touch of something mystical to give it an intriguing glow from the moment it enters your mind’s eye. Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival has never been for the faint of heart—the daunting Tennessee summer heat and ever-present dust clouds have always been a factor on the Farm—but it has always proposed enough adventure to entice intrepid young music fans from around the country to buy the ticket and take the ride.

Just like the 20- and 30-somethings who patronized the festival’s early years, the world has grown and evolved in the ensuing decades. Bonnaroo has changed, too. In the halcyon days of the festival’s jam scene supremacy, there was no Spotify. Social media was in its infancy. The Live Nation-ification of today’s music industry (Bonnaroo included) was still years down the road. We’ve since seen seismic shifts in what can be “mainstream,” how fans find new music, how artists connect with their crowds. We’ve seen a robust festival scene bubble up in Bonnaroo’s image and, on various occasions, burst as the world around it changed yet again. New artists and events rapidly appear and fade away. These days, festival cancellations have become ever-present. Bonnaroo even weathered a few canceled years, itself.

And yet, in 2024, tens of thousands of 20- and 30-somethings flocked to Bonnaroo once again. They came to see and hear something different than the kids who came in the early 2000s—a lineup topped by stars like genre-bending singer/rapper Post Malone, British multi-instrumentalist/electronic music superstar Fred Again.., the latest incarnation of forward-thinking electro-soul project Pretty Lights, and resident “legacy act” Red Hot Chili Peppers—but in many ways, the spirit of their mission was the same: You like music? You want to have a festival adventure? For (literal) generations, this party in Manchester has remained “ultimately, the best on the streets.”

Related: Watch Billy Strings’ Video Of Post Malone Tattooing A Penis On Steve-O’s Face At Bonnaroo 2024

From the audience to the stage, Bonnaroo’s baked-in significance was a running theme throughout the weekend. “They tell us this is a big gig,” a member of Greensky Bluegrass joked during the band’s impressive Sunday evening set in This Tent—a slot perviously shuffled on the schedule to make room for the exploding popularity of another artist, rising it-girl Chappell Roan, whose massive, tour-closing Which Stage crowd helped continue a recent upswing that has now landed her on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and her 2023 album in the Billboard 200‘s top ten nine months after its release.

Pretty Lights brought the buzzed-about, improv-centric Swirl Bridge to the What Stage on Thursday—the first time the main stage has ever powered up on the festival’s opening night—then delivered a sunrise set on the Other Stage early Sunday morning that straddled the line between the DJ project that similarly welcomed daybreak at Bonnaroo 2011 and the live collaboration-focused ensemble that now carries the PL banner. Post Malone found time during his What Stage headlining set on Friday—between bursts of pyrotechnics and his trademark withering sing-rap vocals—to welcome surprise guest guitarist Billy Strings for added heat on “Rockstar” and starkly contrasting bluegrass accompaniment on “Stay”.

Parcels, the Aussie electro-pop quintet making waves worldwide, noted that their Saturday late-night set in This Tent was one of only two gigs they’re playing in the U.S. this year. IDLES, the thrashing U.K. rockers who played That Tent during the same window, seemed more unhinged than usual in their last American set before departing the Western Hemisphere for the rest of the summer.

Electro-rock group NEIL FRANCES called out their Saturday set’s uniqueness within the festival’s electronic sub-lane, much of which was programmed on the DJ-focused, high-production Other Stage (“You probably haven’t seen a lot of bands on this stage, but here we are”), and they’re not to be confused with soul-funk singer-keyboardist Neal Francis, who used his own Bonnaroo set on Thursday as a farewell to his big-band Francis Comes Alive configuration. [Side note: The lineup also featured both a MIKE and a mike., but I didn’t manage to check either one (one, two). Next time.]

Jon Batiste took a joyous lap through the What Stage crowd to round out his golden hour Sunday set. “This festival is the ultimate,” Grouplove‘s Hannah Hooper beamed during her band’s frenetic This Tent performance on Friday.

As keyboardist Marco Benevento, who played That Tent with Joe Russo’s Almost Dead on Friday night, explained to Live For Live Music the week after the festival, “We kind of all realized at the same moment, we’re like, ‘We’ve been playing this festival since it started for the last 20 years. We’ve been here maybe every other year with some other band. Joe [Russo] and I played as a duo. Then we played with [Phish‘s] Mike [Gordon] there, and then we played with [Phish’s] Trey [Anastasio] and Mike [Gordon] and [the Grateful Dead‘s] Phil [Lesh] when that whole thing started. And even after that, I think we played with Bustle in Your Hedgerow, our Led Zeppelin band, and then we started playing with JRAD.

“We were there just kind of realizing, ‘S–t, we’ve been playing here since the early 2000s,” Benevento went on, “and all of our friends from Superfly that we know over the years, they started the festival and then they sold the festival and now they’re here just enjoying it. … It’s a growing up thing, where you realize you’re maybe a little bit older than the group of people that are there, but when we first started, we were one of them, and now we’re the 40-plus-year-olds that are there. And then there’s the 25-year-olds that are there checking out Post Malone and Dominic Fike and bands I’ve never heard of before.

“It’s funny,” he added. “It feels a little strange, but at the same time, it’s like, thank God things are changing and moving and there’s new bands and it’s not the same lineup and it’s not the same fans. Of course, things should be evolving, so [it’s] nice to see that it’s growing.”

Among the new bands on the lineup was New Haven, CT quartet Eggy, one of only a handful of acts at this year’s festival that seemed to fit the “jam band” mold of early Bonnaroos. When Live For Live Music caught up with the band backstage ahead of its crowded Thursday afternoon set at This Tent, however, this group of 20- and 30-somethings was not lamenting the festival’s stylistic shift. On the Bonnaroo 2024 lineup, they didn’t see a lack of “jam bands” or a list of artists who were unlike them. What they saw was possibility.

While they grew up on and around jam bands, their newer music has drifted organically toward a more “pop” sound. “I think we had our time being very influenced by [the jam scene],” Eggy guitarist Jake Brownstein explained, “but it’s really cool seeing the response to [our] new music by jam band purists that have been fans of us being like, ‘This s–t is sick.’ It’s okay to like [a pop song]. … I think that it’s a really positive thing.”

“I’m kind of in the ‘everything is awesome’ stage of my life,” Brownstein added. “I’ll just let the Spotify kind of do its thing these days and I’ll be like… sick, all this music is good music.” Keen-eyed fans could see the members of Eggy drifting through the Centeroo crowd the following day to take in sets by decidedly non-jam acts like Post Malone, Maggie Rogers, and T-Pain.

More so than anything else, what felt apparent from the audience throughout the weekend was the mingling of the distinct fanbases that made up the Bonnaroo crowd. The styles of music represented ranged from rock (Brittany Howard, Cage the Elephant, Geese, The Mars Volta) to pop (Reneé Rapp, Chappell Roan, Melanie Martinez, Carly Rae Jepsen) to hip-hop (Megan Thee Stallion, Joey Bada$$, Sean Paul, BigXthaPlug) to EDM (Diplo, Four Tet, Chris Lake, Alison Wonderland, Two Friends) to metal (GWAR) to folk (Bonnie Light Horseman) to country (Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit) to singer-songwriter (Medium BuildEthel Cain) to blues (Gary Clark Jr., The Teskey Brothers, Larkin Poe) to soul (Jon Batiste) to jazz (Thundercat), indie (Interpol, Goth Babe, Michigander), emo (Taking Back Sunday, the Emo Superjam), and whatever you call what Khruangbin is. Each act had a visible contingent of die-hards in its audience, and each of those crowds presumably went on to check out many other bands, to learn about many other artists—all of whom excel in their given lanes (you may not know all the names on the lineup, but nobody got that Bonnaroo slot by accident). If you went to Bonnaroo 2024, you were exposed to more than a little bit of just about everything going on in the world of popular music today.

Just like the events that initially inspired this one, from Phish Fests to Jazz Fest, Bonnaroo’s impact is perhaps best defined by its longevity. Sure, it looks different than it used to, but it’s still a bucket list item for young music-lovers. It’s still a tour date emphatically circled by artists of all levels, from arena acts to nightclub upstarts. It’s still one of the most culturally relevant events in the American music industry, a landmark annual summit that helps spread new music to new listeners via live memories on a massive scale. It may not be your thing anymore, and that’s okay. But it is, undoubtedly, still that thing for tens of thousands of kids each and every year. As T-Pain reminded a crowd of young fans late on Friday night at Which Stage, “Don’t do it because it’s cool, do it because you’re cool.”

So, WTF happened to Bonnaroo in 2024? Many, many things. Time has that effect on everything, from the music on a festival’s lineup to your desire to spend a summer weekend camping in a field in Tennessee. But despite its evolutions, it’s still the gold standard for the over-the-top farm festival experience. It’s a new world, but it’s still, desitively, Bonnaroo.

Below, watch a selection of crowd-shot videos from the 2024 edition of Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival and scroll through a selection of photos from the weekend via the festival’s media team. To fill out the Bonnaroo census and weigh in on which bands the festival should book for 2025, click here.

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Source: L4LM.com