The final day of Bonnaroo 2018 began with an intense morning thunderstorm. Loud thunder booms and cracking lightning strikes gave way to short, intense downpours over several hours. Nervous concertgoers took shelter anywhere they could find, many in their cars. Exhausted by three non-stop days of intense partying many others began heading home. But by afternoon the sun came out painting the high clouds in multiple colors, and the festival resumed almost entirely on schedule.
While there is always an expected crowd depreciation by the final shortened day of Bonnaroo, an enthusiastic majority of concert-goers stuck it out to the end of this year's festival. Some of the endurance could be attributed to the upgraded facilities and entertainment options in the plazas around the campgrounds. But a surprisingly diverse final day of music in Centeroo also helped keep the attention of exhausted music fans. By late afternoon most of the main stages were packed with excited young fans eager to dance their way out of the last day of Roo.
The English neo-soul dance band Jungle was the perfect catalyst for a crowd eager to get in one last dance in the Tennessee sunshine. The band sounded a bit like a cross between Nile Rodgers’, Chic (who wowed the young main stage crowd with their infectious dance grooves the day before), and the Bee Gees featuring the high-pitched vocals of lead players, Tom McFarland and Josh Lloyd-Watson. Meanwhile, Alabama’s St. Paul and The Broken Bones brought a different kind of soul music, a southern version, to the other side of the festival. The tent venue felt a little bit like an old time Sunday revival, led by animated singer Paul Janeway. The lead vocalist pranced about like a Baptist preacher, while the band complete with a horn section played their energetic version of southern soul. The large crowd danced in a sweaty frenzy throughout the set.
Shortly before sunset, young English neo R&B pop singer (and professional model), Dua Lipa brought a polished set to the MainStage. The fast-rising star was part of the new music showcase at last year’s Bonnaroo. The gorgeous singer led a great band and troupe of sexy dancers through a steamy and sultry set complete with spot-on choreography. The singer seems poised to become a headline act in the very near future.
Across Centeroo at the other outdoor MainStage, the Nashville based Moon Taxi kept the jam band vibe alive with a brilliant sunset set that had a large crowd of neo-hippies blissfully dancing.
As twilight gave way to a beautiful starry sky, Atlanta native Future brought his hit-making hip-hop skills to bear on the biggest and most excited crowd on the final day of the 17th annual Bonnaroo festival. Like Dua Lipa’s show before him, the set was a polished multimedia extravaganza complete with a crack backup band and eloquent dancers in precise choreography. The rapper wowed the crowd with his many hit songs that are so popular in most any American dance club, like “Bugatti” “Low Life” and “Jumpman.” Even Bonnaroos’ favorite rapper, Chance, could be seen dancing backstage. The crowd danced wildly through the entire set.
While the rest of Bonnaroo was infected with dance fever all across Centeroo young EDM fans continued their own dance trance for a 4th straight day with 6 consecutive sets of veteran DJ’s at The Other stage.
A very different but no less intense dance jam closed out That tent venue across from the EDM stage. The annual Bluegrass jam led by Ed Helms was replaced, for the first time this year, by a historic live broadcast of a country music superjam on the legendary Grand Ole Opry radio broadcast. Opry members Old Crow Medicine Show, (whose set the day before included receiving the key to the city of Manchester), opened the show. Their frontman Ketch Secor co-hosted the jam with veteran announcer Bill Cody. They were followed by bluegrass master Del McCoury, pop-country singer Maggie Rose, and country-rock band Lanco. Special moments included Country Music Hall of Fame Member Bobby Bare, whose classic "Marie Laveaux" put the crowd into a euphoric dance mood, and vintage singer Joshua Hedley, paying tribute to Glen Campbell with the classic "Wichita Lineman." During the closing set by Old Crow, Cody exclaimed “Yesterday we got the keys to the city, and today we are on the Grand Ole Opry live from Bonnaroo. What could be better?” The show was an important lesson in true Americana music and ended with a traditional cast sing-along of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”
English rockers Alt-J closed out the Which stage with an engaging and moody early evening set. The band is eerily reminiscent of the group Radiohead, due in large part to the band’s stage lighting choices and to the high-pitched voice of singer-guitarist Joe Newman.
A surprisingly large crowd of millennials stuck around for the closing set of The Killers. The mainstream pop band delighted the crowd by opening with their biggest hit “Mr. Brightside.” But the succinct set seemed anticlimactic, especially compared to the marathon jams of many of the past legacy acts that closed Bonnaroo over the years. Despite being a millennial group formed in 2001, the band has a more of a pop sound harkening back to the 80’s. While the band produces plenty of pure pop hits, there is little that is original in their throwback sound. But the group did keep the dance fever alive, which seemed to be the underlying theme that held the many tribes united on this final day of Roo. Dance fever ruled the entire day.
It is apparent that the headline acts at Bonnaroo like at many of the plethora of new music festivals across the country are becoming increasingly irrelevant. The relevancy of Bonnaroo as a gathering of eager young festival goers is defined by the unique experience it offers its participants. Much like the Burning Man festival in Nevada, Bonnaroo has become a rite of passage for many seeking a communal experience unlike any other, and in this pursuit, the Bonnaroo festival has surpassed even its own wildest expectations. Judging by the exuberance and commitment to complete participation by this year's Roo audience, the tribes will be gathering on the Tennessee farm for many years to come.