Friday morning at Bonnaroo 2022 dawned hot and steamy like the preceding days. Many hardcore music fans were just getting ready to fall asleep in the muggy conditions. Then in mid-morning, clouds began to darken the sky, and the threat of thunderstorms shut down Centeroo for several hours. The blustery storm dropped a short downpour before quickly departing, and temperatures at the festival finally began to cool into more moderate summertime conditions.
Centeroo reopened in the early afternoon just in time to avoid most delays in the day's ambitious musical schedule. The second day of Bonnaroo expands into a massive festival with the opening of the two giant main stages in addition to all the other stages already in full swing. With so many musical choices available both in Centeroo and across the campground plazas, decision-making becomes an enormous challenge. Nevertheless, festival-goers seemed to be in good spirits on the second day, with beaming smiles and high fives part of an everyday ritual.
Soulful country singer Maggie Rose from Maryland opened the festival's second largest stage, the Which stage. The powerful singer began her set to a nearly empty field as the gates had just reopened to Centeroo, but by the time the performer sang her well-known cover of Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody,” an eager crowd had begun to gather around the stage.
The massive main “What” stage opened with a set by another Tik Tok star, Tai Verdes, just after 3 pm. The soulful singer led an R&B-drenched band through an energetic and well-received set. Verdes was followed on the main stage by sexy Swedish singing sensation Tove Lo. The charismatic singer performed for the first big crowd of the day, gathering to hear her well-known dance-inspiring tunes.
Meanwhile, all sorts of music from different genres could be heard from the other venues scattered around Centeroo. Young Indy performers continued to fill the Who stage with music and curious fans. One fascinating performance came from Izzy Heltai, who grew up in the Boston neighborhood of Brookline, Massachusetts, and began as a classical pianist before gravitating to folk music. Heltai and his band fascinated the crowd with songs like “Beauty Queen” and “Day Plan,” the most popular tune from Heltai’s recent E.P.
Meanwhile, over at This Tent, The Regrettes got off to a late start due to a series of technical difficulties. But that didn’t bother the audience, who launched into a sing-along of Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend,” one of many times the song would get passed around by crowds during the festival. The last time The Regrettes’ were at Bonnaroo was in 2018, showcasing their punk-oriented debut “Feel Your Feelings, Fool!” The Los Angeles punk rockers led by the charming Lydia Night played a short but poignant set reminiscent of The Go Go’s. But unlike that 80’s band, this new wave of female rockers are accomplished musicians. Friday’s set included “Seahorse,” from their first album, but much of the performance showcased their dance-oriented new album Further Joy. It may have been one of the shortest sets of the day but also one of the best.
As the sun began to hang low in the sky, a vast crowd gathered at the What stage to hear the legendary Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant return to the festival with bluegrass singer Alison Krauss. Plant has played Bonnaroo several times over the years, including once before with Krauss. Seeing so many young music fans gather in awe of his performances is always fascinating. The band tore through a ten-song setlist of a myriad of covers. They opened with “Rich Woman,” a 1950s R&B single they recorded with T Bone Burnett for their 2007 collaborative album Raising Sand. In 2021 the duo released a follow-up, also produced by Burnett and titled Raise the Roof. The covers ran the gamut from Allen Toussaint’s “Trouble With My Lover” to the songs most in the audience were desperately waiting to hear by Led Zeppelin. The duo veteran band of Nashville musicians set an impressive soundtrack for the artful singers. The musicians included JD McPherson on an array of guitars, Stuart Duncan on a fuzz-pedal-enhanced fiddle, and Jay Bellerose on thundering drums.
As summer twilight began to fall on one of the year's longest days, The War On Drugs played a straightforward hard rock set on the Which stage. Lead singer and guitarist Adam Granduciel and his Philadelphia-based band came out of the gate heads down in full hard rock mode with lots of Americana influence thrown in. The group gathered a large crowd of loyal fans, which was impressive, especially towards the end of their set when the day's most famous act was about to perform over on the What stage.
Of course, a vast crowd was gathering for the Chicks, the Texas country superstars on tour for the first time in five years. The trio of music icons, Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire, and Emily Strayer's made their Bonnaroo debut playing much of their 2020 comeback album Gaslighter, including hit singles like “Tights on My Boat” and “Sleep at Night.” The Chicks have always been champions of political activism for righteous causes, and they didn’t shy away from controversy with their Bonnaroo performance. The band played their protest song “March, March,” as a list of mass shootings in the U.S. scrolled on the massive multimedia screens. Near the song's end, the screens show the names of Black Americans who’ve died violently. Later in a more humorous vein moment, the multimedia screens showed cartoonish images of Ted Cruz and Vladimir Putin floating in a tropical lagoon before getting devoured by a massive sea monster, which drew a roar of approval from the crowd. There were plenty of fan-favorite tunes in the set, including “Cowboy Take Me Away,” “Ready to Run,” “Wide Open Spaces,” “Not Ready to Make Nice," and “Goodbye Earl.”
Among the many aspects that make the Bonnaroo music festival unique is the incredibly diverse lineup offered up each year. This year’s gathering was no exception, with music fans moving from the Chick's anthemic country rock back to the What stage for a late-night performance for Rap star J Cole. Hip Hop has become one of the most popular musical genres in the world, and Bonnaroo has managed to deliver some of the biggest stars in the genre over the years. This year J Cole delivered the goods fronting a band chock full of talented musicians. The influential Rapper is a German-born American rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer, and professional basketball player for the Scarborough Shooting Stars of the Canadian Elite Basketball League. Cole opened with “95. south,” from his 2021 album The Off-Season. Later, he played deep cuts for hardcore fans like “Too Deep for the Intro” from his Friday Night Lights mixtape. Next, he included his duet with Miguel's “Power Trip,” singing along to a track. Finally, the Hip Hop star ended with some of his most well-known rap anthems like “Love Yourz,” “Wet Dreamz,” and ending the set with “No Role Modelz.”
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard returned to the festival for the second time to play a triumphant late-night set at That tent. Stu MacKenzie led his band of maniacal Australian musicians through a vigorous jam of music mash-ups that borrowed from nearly every rock sub-genre. From the classic rock of Jethro Tull to punk rock icons The Clash, the band mixes the classic sounds into their own brew of complex rocking jam music. Songs like “The Dripping Tap” from the group’s latest Omnium Gatherum had the tent full of enthusiastic fans in a dance frenzy.
Meanwhile, EDM fans had been gathering slowly throughout the day, listening to the stacked lineup of D.J.'s on the Other stage. By the time Disclosure took the stage just before midnight, a huge crowd had gathered for the multimedia extravaganza. English brothers Guy and Howie Lawrence brought the House Music fans were salivating for all day. It was the band's second appearance at the festival since their 2014 debut, this time backed by a multimedia mega show and a gigantic thumping sound system with organ eviscerating bass rhythms. Another of Bonnaroo’s aspects that separates them from most other festivals is the window of opportunity for late-night sets to be extended by bands wishing to push the envelope. Some marathon sets in the festival's history include My Morning Jacket, The Disco Biscuits, and Pearl Jam, all extending sets beyond the 3-hour mark. On this night, Disclosure took advantage of the window to expand their set into the early morning hours, much to the delight of the EDM crowd just warming up for an all-night dance party.
Before Disclosure had even ended their set, Chicago-based Illenium, the first EDM artist at this year's festival to appear on the giant Which stage, began his performance. The late-night marathon set featured no less than 27 songs delighting an ever-growing sea of young EDM aficionados. The concert was spectacular visually and musically, with pyrotechnics, multimedia imagery, powerful laser light shows, and more. Illenium, a master of remixes and collaborations that can be heard in almost any late-night dance club, delivered a powerful presentation. The extended set lasted until the early morning hours and ended with a guest appearance by Atlanta singer Teddy Swims. The duo finished the set with a rendition of “All That Really Matters,” a tune they had collaborated on together.
For late-night music fans who preferred the jam band genre, a 1am set by Goose was the highlight of late-night on day two. Goose, the American "indie groove" band from Norwalk, Connecticut, has shot to the top of the list of jam band fan favorites in a few short years. The band that had appeared the night before with Andy Frasco and the U.N. tore through a ten-song setlist of extended jam remixes. The group in the midst of their Dripfield Summer Tour always plays a fresh and unique set mixed with a few random covers. The surprise covers at the Bonnaroo show included Fat Freddy’s Drop tune “Fish in the Sea” and an extended version of Eddy Grant’s iconic anthem “Electric Avenue.” As dawn approached, many young music fans could still be seen crowding into the Who tent for the silent disco, and EDM rhythms could still be heard pulsing from the Where In The Woods stage in the campgrounds.