Exhausted festival goers were greeted with cooler temperatures and welcome clouds on the final day of this year's Bonnaroo, June 19th, 2022. Seeing so many hard-core music fans rally for the last day after many had begun their Roo celebration as far back as Tuesday night when the campgrounds first opened was terrific. The Sunday lineup may have been the most diverse of the marathon musical gathering. Classic Rock, EDM, Hip Hop, Country, Jazz, World Music, and Jam band genres were all represented for the climactic finish to the 20th Bonnaroo music festival.
The Aces opened the main What stage in the early afternoon with a strong Indy rock set. The quartet, composed of lead singer and guitarist Cristal Ramirez, drummer Alissa Ramirez, guitarist Katie Henderson, and bassist McKenna Petty, played an energetic crowd-pleasing set with nods to punk, rock, and new wave music. The early set was an excellent upbeat way to start the final afternoon of Bonnaroo 2022. Next, New Jersey pop singer Fletcher followed with a set on the Which stage. The young singer had a large contingent of mostly female fans, many carrying amusing signs offering to hook up with the amorous singer in various ways. A proud member of the LGBTQ community, Fletcher has developed a following, beginning with a stint on the television series, The X Factor. The beaming singer embraced the adulate audience and played crowd favorites like “Girls Girls Girls.”
Local Nashville Indy rockers Coin hit the What stage just after 3.30 in the afternoon. The young quartet raced through a well-received set that felt too short for many fans of the band in the large crowd gathered for the performance. The set included crowd favorites like "Into My Arms" and "As It Was.” "We're from Nashville, so this is the closest we've been to a hometown show in a minute," lead singer Chase Lawrence said before the group launched into their 2016 alt-rock hit "Talk Too Much.”
No single day of Bonnaroo would be complete without at least one jam band on the schedule, and Boston-based Lettuce represented the genre on the final day. The late afternoon set in This tent garnered an overflowing crowd of ardent fans of the veteran group, which currently features Adam "Shmeeans" Smirnoff, Nigel Hall, Adam Deitch, Erick "Jesus" Coomes, Ryan Zoidis, and Eric "Benny" Bloom. Lettuce, from its inception, has been a very musical band inspired by jazz legends like Herbie Hancock. It was probably no accident that Hancock was set to perform on the same stage a few sets later in the evening.
While Hancock didn’t appear with the Lettuce crew, the band laid down their mythical jazz-drenched jam band sound. The group of phenomenal musicians has played in a myriad of other masterful musical groups. Evans is a member of the jazz/organ trio Soulive. Zoidis is a former and founding member of the Rustic Overtones. Coomes is a session bass player and has toured with Britney Spears and The Game. Deitch is a producer who also plays with Break Science and has worked with John Scofield and Wyclef Jean. Smirnoff has toured with Lady Gaga and Robert Randolph & the Family Band. In addition to playing with Lettuce, Ross has been a full-time member of Dave Matthews Band since 2010. The band brought all this musical prowess to bear for a sweat-inducing dance trance jam during their late afternoon set. The band included a mesmerizing remix of Tears For Fears, “Everybody Wants To Rule The World.”
Australian one-person band Tash Sultana made a triumphant appearance on the Which stage in the later afternoon. The incredibly talented multi-instrumentalist and singer, who describes themselves as fluid gender, played a fascinating set of loop-driven live recordings. The singer, who can play almost any instrument, recreates the sounds of an entire band using the technique. The fascinated crowd screamed their approval as the performer bounced between keyboards, a drum set, bass, electric guitars, and more. Sultana creates a whole new meaning to the term one-person band.
Denver-based Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats brought a much more traditional sound to the What stage in the late afternoon. The group, led by charismatic singer Rateliff performs Americana-based music dripping with influences from other musical genres, including R&B and rock music. The talented band featured drummer Patrick Meese, guitarist Luke Mossman, bassist Joseph Pope III, keyboardist Mark Shusterman and a stellar horn section featuring Andreas Wild, Jeff Dazey, and Daniel Hardaway. The group tore through a well-received 15-song setlist.
As the sun began to set, Maynard James Keenan returned to the stage, this time with his side project Puscifer. Seeing the reclusive singer in the light of day lit by a bright setting sun was strange, almost like seeing a vampire emerge into the light in a horror film. The show featured collaborator and singer Carina Round and was definitely the festival's most theatrical and intriguing set. Backed by a full metal rock band and a cast of rotating characters, Maynard strutted about the stage in a military gate beaming huge grins between vocals. The band also included long-time collaborators multi-instrumentalist Mat Mitchell and drummer Gunner Olsen. Most of the setlist came from the 2020 record “Existential Reckoning,” the newest release from Puscifer. A technological takeover of society vaguely seemed to be the underlying theme. Still, the music and stage show were so compelling that the actual message seemed less critical to mesmerized fans. The set included other select cuts from the extensive Puscifer catalog.
For many young rock fans, the highlight of the final day of Bonnaroo was the hard rock set by Machine Gun Kelly on the giant What stage as the summer sun faded. Kelly has gone from an obscure Cleveland rapper to a bonafide rock star in the last two decades. His transformation included adding a talented troupe of hard rockers to his entourage, which includes his long-time drummer, the phenomenal JP "Rook" Cappelletti. In addition, Justin "Jus" Lyons and Sophie Lloyd offer a duo of electric guitar magic. Steve "Baze" Basil played a thundering bass, and Brandon "Slimxx" Allen played an array of keyboards. The charismatic singer and guitarist Kelly led the rambunctious band through a marathon 20-song setlist full of theatrical rock poses and ear-splitting solos. The smiling singer frequently bantered with the vast crowd and seemed right at home on the massive Bonnaroo stage. In keeping with the rock star image, at one point, Kelly quipped that his band members were counting on him to perform “a drunk show.” He appeared to appease them by frequently imbibing during songs while chain smoking. Later, the lanky 6-foot 4 performer distressed security when he climbed the camera platform high above the crowd.
Meanwhile, as night began to fall, a different music scene was going back at This tent. Jazz icon Herbie Hancock emerged to play a diverse array of keyboards. Hancock brought a basket of musical genres to his performance on various electronic instruments, incorporating funk and African rhythms into his jazz blend. Hancock's veteran jazz band included trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard, guitarist Lionel Loueke, veteran bassist James Genus and drummer Justin Tyson. The group opened with a medley, followed by Blanchard’s arrangement of sax legend Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints.” The band followed up with “Actual Proof,” which Hancock wrote for his 1970s band, The Head Hunters. Hancock ended the set with his well-known tune, “Chameleon,” while playing his handheld keytar in a musical duel with other band members.
It was inspiring to see so many youthful concertgoers assembling for the final set of the evening by classic rock legend Stevie Nicks. The performer made Bonnaroo history by being the first female headliner to close the festival. The band assembled on the darkened stage led by guitar wizard and band leader Waddy Wachtel and began to play. Then the lights exploded, and Nicks took the stage in the early evening amidst a huge cheer from the massive crowd. The former Fleetwood Mac singer opened with some of the biggest hits from her immense catalog, including “Dreams,” “Landslide,” “Gold Dust Woman,” “Rhiannon,” and “Edge of Seventeen” from her 1981 solo debut Bella Donna. Augmented by a massive multimedia presentation featuring generations of images of the well-known pop star and an enormous light show, the vast crowd seemed mesmerized by the performance. In addition, the set included deeper cuts, like “Destiny” from Nicks’ 1984 LP Street Angel.
A smiling Nicks regularly engaged the crowd throughout the set, noting that “I am wearing a bespoke dress from the photo shoot for the Bella Donna album cover.” She also paid homage to her friendship with Tom Petty (Who closed the stage at Bonnaroo back in 2013). Nicks performed a cover of the late rockers "Free Fallin’” and introduced the Petty-penned “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” with a story that mentioned how she had wanted to be in The Heartbreakers. The singer then dug back into her early roots with early partner Lindsey Buckingham, playing “Crying in the Night,” which Nicks wrote for the Buckingham Nicks album. The show ended with a three-song encore that featured a finale of a rock-drenched cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll.” Robert Plant and Alison Krauss had played a country-tinged softer version a few days before. It would have been a nice sendoff to hear Plant and Nicks collaborate on a rock-drenched cover of the tune. One can only hope, but you never know at Bonnaroo, which is part of the magical legend of the festival.