Bonnaroo's 20th Anniversary: A Musical Journey Through Time

Article Contributed by L. Paul Mann | Published on Thursday, June 27, 2024

The Bonnaroo Music Festival celebrated its 20th year in 2024, held on an old farm in rural Manchester, Tennessee. The beloved music and arts festival began in 2002, the same year as Coachella, and has taken place annually since then, except for 2021 and 2022 due to the pandemic and hurricane flooding, respectively. The festival has garnered numerous accolades, including being ranked by Rolling Stone magazine in 2003 as one of the "50 Moments That Changed Rock & Roll," named "Festival of the Decade" by Consequence of Sound, and listed among the "10 Best Festivals" by GQ Magazine.

Bonnaroo fans ready to go for the long weekend

Bonnaroo 2024

Bonnaroo 2024

Bonnaroo 2024

The ever-expanding musical extravaganza starts earlier each year. Most music fans camp out for the four-day lineup and can now arrive up to two days earlier on Tuesday. The campground, called Outeroo, contrasts with the main concert area, Centeroo. The vast campsites are divided into nine satellite communities, each with its own entertainment venues and a variety of food and beverage vendors. Entertainment begins as early as Tuesday, but on Wednesday night, the day before Centeroo opens, the live music really heats up. Live bands play on multiple stages, and there are live drag shows throughout the night, like Neon Nostalgia with Boyyyish and Ultraviolet, reflecting Bonnaroo's all-inclusive policies that embrace the LGBTQ community.

Bonnaroo 2024

However, the real star of the campground entertainment is the Where In The Woods EDM stage. Well-known DJs like Aeon-Mode and Chase & Status kept the dance music going on a massive stage with giant lighting and multimedia effects until the early hours of Thursday morning. The venue is nestled in a forested grove where music fans set up hammocks and enjoy nearly nonstop music for five days, complete with food and beverage vendors and art installations. For some EDM fans, most of the week is spent in this magical venue.

MIchigander | Bonnaroo 2024

Wynah | Bonnaroo 2024

Centeroo traditionally opened on Thursday afternoon, June 12. The first day mostly features new and up-and-coming artists, many of whom go on to play the main stages in later years. Young British-Canadian indie singer and keyboardist Matt Maltese kicked off the festivities with a mellow set. Michigander, an American rock band from Kalamazoo, Michigan, brought its indie rock sound to an enthusiastic audience. The group, centered around vocalist, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Jason Singer, was joined by touring musicians Jake LeMond on guitar, Aaron Senor on drums, and Connor Robertson on bass guitar. The smaller Who Stage featured Winyah, consisting of five guys from Pawleys Island and Georgetown, with Luke Gordon on lead guitar and vocals, Thomas Rowland on lead vocals and guitar, Stephen Russell on bass and vocals, Jim Carr on drums, and Rob Buffington on keyboards.

Alex Bailey | Eggy

Jake Brownstein | Eggy

MIke Goodman | Eggy

Dani Battat | Eggy

Eggy after their great set at Bonnaroo

While Bonnaroo has evolved to attract a younger audience with top EDM, rap, and pop artists, the festival remains true to its roots by offering a wide array of jam bands. The Connecticut band Eggy maintains the jam band tradition with a fresh new sound, featuring Alex Bailey (drums, vocals), Jake Brownstein (guitar, vocals), Mike Goodman (bass, vocals), and Dani Battat (keys, vocals). They performed an energetic early set that delighted jam band fans of all ages.

Durand Bernarr | Bonnaroo

Another stage offered a different vibe with a captivating performance by Durand Bernarr, an American singer-songwriter and producer who frequently provides background vocals for neo-soul artist Erykah Badu and features vocals for artists like Anderson .Paak, Kaytranada, and The Internet. Nation of Language, an American indie pop band formed in Brooklyn, New York, in 2016, brought an upbeat vibe to the sunset hour. The group consists of Ian Richard Devaney (lead vocals, guitar, synthesizer, percussion), Aidan Noell (synthesizer, backing vocals), and Alex MacKay (bass guitar). Several other indie rockers performed throughout the night, including North Carolina’s Sawyer Hill, Alaska’s indie singer Medium Build, Los Angeles rockers Militarie Gun, and The Foxies.

The Foxies | Bonnaroo

The Nashville-based band The Foxies returned to Bonnaroo this year, a far cry from their contest-winning debut. This time, they graced the prestigious Who Stage, exuding newfound confidence despite technical difficulties. While their Nashville roots might suggest a country twang, The Foxies defy easy categorization. Their genre-bending approach felt perfectly at home at Bonnaroo, a festival known for its diverse lineup. The Foxies aren't chasing trends but rather celebrating the music that shaped them. Though audio issues presented a challenge, The Foxies' spirit remained unbroken. They delivered a captivating performance that solidified their place as a band to watch, effortlessly blending genres and forging a unique sound that resonated with the Bonnaroo audience.

BigXThaPlug | Bonnaroo 2024

Pretty Lights | Bonnaroo

GWAR | Bonnaroo 2024

As usual, the Thursday Bonnaroo lineup was the most musically diverse day of the festival. BigXThaPlug brought the rap, while Irish singer Roisin Murphy delivered an electropop dance music set late into the night. GWAR offered an over-the-top theatrical heavy metal performance, and Pretty Lights performed a historic EDM set. For the first time, a band played the main stage on Thursday at Bonnaroo when Pretty Lights performed a four-hour marathon two-set EDM extravaganza. The talented EDM artist would go on to perform two more sets over the weekend, including a sunrise set.

Bonnaroo 2024

Neal Francis | Bonnaroo 2024

One of the final performances on Thursday night was a standout set by Chicago’s Neal Francis and his incredible band. Neal Francis' performance at Bonnaroo was nothing short of spellbinding. As the soulful artist graced the stage, the crowd was left in awe, captivated by the sheer power and emotion of his music. From the opening notes, Francis commanded the attention of every person in attendance, seamlessly blending elements of funk, R&B, and rock to create a genuinely mesmerizing soundscape. His fingers danced across the keys of his piano, coaxing out rich, vibrant tones that reverberated through the air.

Neal Francis | Bonnaroo 2024

But it was Francis' voice that stole the show, soaring with raw, gritty passion that sent chills down the spine. Each lyric was delivered with palpable intensity, as if he were laying bare his soul for all to see. The audience hung on to his every word, transported to another time and place by the sheer authenticity of his performance. As the set drew to a close, the crowd erupted in thunderous applause, a testament to Neal Francis's profound impact. It was a performance that will be etched in the memories of all who bore witness, a true testament to the transformative power of live music.