For the first time ever, Bonnaroo will feature three scheduled SuperJams. After midnight on Friday June 13 at That Tent, Derek Trucks will lead a jam that includes Chaka Khan, Taj Mahal, Eric Krasno, James Gadson, David Hidalgo and Adam Deitch with special guests Andrew Bird, Susan Tedeschi, Ben Folds and more. At the same time on Saturday, a jam billed as Skrillex and Friends will happen at The Other Tent. It includes a wild assemblage of personalities such as Big Gigantic, Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, Robby Krieger (of The Doors), Zedd, Mickey Hart, Janelle Monáe, Warpaint, Chance the Rapper, and others. Finally, in what may fast become tradition, Ed Helms and his Bluegrass Situation SuperJam will close out Sunday’s activity at That Tent. Partcipants will be Lonesome Trio, Dierks Bentley, Sarah Jarosz, Lake Street Dive, The Black Lillies, Shovels & Rope, The Lone Bellow, Robert Ellis, Della Mae, Bryan Sutton, and Dave Johnston of Yonder Mountain String Band.
The Superjam has become emblematic of the festival, so we thought we’d take a look at five of the most memorable instances from the last 12 years as we prepare for more madness in Manchester, TN.
2002 – No list such as this would be complete without including the very first Bonnaroo Superjam. Anchored by Michael Kang, Bela Fleck, Jeff Raines, and Robert Randolph, the highly improvisational set featured Stanton Moore on most of the drum duties, plus bassists Edgar Meyer and Keith Moseley. DJ Logic, Bill Nershi, and Kyle Hollingsworth helped round out the festivities, and the jam ended with three choice covers – “Will The Circle Be Unbroken”, “So What”, and “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”.
2004 – Bonnaroo’s New Orleans devotion was never stronger than during the first few years of the festival, and the 2004 Superjam felt like a Jazzfest show. Stanton Moore, Maceo Parker, George Porter, Eric Krasno, Neil Evans, Papa Mali, Adam Deitch, Reggie Watts, The New Orleans Horns and others tore through funk-heavy tunes like “The World Is A Little Bit Under The Weather”, “I Walk On Guilded Splinters”, “Check Out Your Mind”, and “Soul Power”.
2007 – In 2007, Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones joined Ben Harper and Questlove at midnight in The Other Tent and built an unforgettable set around a version of “Dazed And Confused” that spanned nearly 30 minutes. The group also welcomed Kirk Douglas of The Roots for an encore to end all encores – a huge medley of “Superstition”, “Them Changes”, “I Want To Take You Higher”, and “It’s Your Thing” – proving once again that the passage of time can’t dull the impact of masters like Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, and Sly Stone.
2012 – Billed simply as Questlove with special guests, this Superjam will forever be known for hosting what was, at the time, D’Angelo’s first stateside performance in over 12 years. As wonderful as it was to see him on stage and hear his incredible voice, the band for this one can’t be ignored. Featuring a good chunk of The Roots – Questlove, Kirk Douglas, James Poyser, and Frankie Knuckles – along with funk bassist extraordinaire Pino Palladino, Time guitarist Jesse Johnson, and others, this ensemble provided some of the nastiest funk ever heard at the farm. There were multiple Funkadelic tracks, multiple Ohio Players tracks, a little Sly Stone and Bootsy, and even some Zeppelin and Beatles for balance.
2013 – There were two Superjams in 2013, and that tantalizing setup will continue this year. But only one of last year’s Jams gained legendary status as soon as the house (tent?) lights came up. The Jim James and John Oates-led “Rock ‘n Soul Dance Party” included huge names R. Kelly and Billy Idol, along with drummer Zigaboo Modeliste, Brittany Howard (Alabama Shakes) and bassist Larry Graham (Sly and the Family Stone). They ran through a scintillating setlist that included songs like “Instant Karma” and “1999” before busing out several Sly tunes. Then, in a completely over-the-top late night encore moment for the ages, Kelly belted out Sam Cooke and some blues before Idol took the stage for T. Rex’s “Bang A Gong”. Certainly, more words have been written and spoken about this Superjam than any other.
Festival devotees often talk about the “headliners” and the “undercard” in reference to an event’s lineup, utilizing terms like “top-heavy” to describe a festival with great headliners and not much else. Bonnaroo 2014 is heavy from top to bottom, and now that the schedule is out, solving the puzzle of this lineup is going to be a mighty challenge. Some may continue to compare Bonnaroo to Coachella, and Coachella would certainly win a popularity contest. But when it comes to the music, there’s no question that Bonnaroo brings together a wider and bigger array of genres, icons, and oddities.
The 13th edition of Bonnaroo features many shows that are likely to be once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for most of the attendees. Lionel Richie, for instance, will most likely be playing to tens of thousands of people who have never seen him in concert, and the mere thought of “All Night Long” echoing over the farm is enough to send shivers down the spine. More chillbump-inducing moments are likely during headline-level sets by Elton John, Jack White, Damon Albarn, and The Avett Brothers. Big-time dance acts like Skrillex, Kaskade, Chromeo, and Disclosure will also endeavor to send shivers through the crowd, though in a different manner altogether.
If this year’s group of headliners doesn’t grab you, the rest of the lineup has more than enough meat. Reading the lineup from the bottom up, bands like Lake Street Dive, St. Paul and The Broken Bones, The Black Lillies, Animals As Leaders, Okkervil River, Classixx, and Cloud Nothings are only a few of the dozens that form an impressive festival foundation. Upon reading the middle of the lineup, which features names like Die Antwoord, Phosphorescent, Washed Out, The Naked and Famous, Real Estate, Darkside, and ZZ Ward, the realization dawns that you’ll never see it all – a typical Bonnaroo problem.
It’s increasingly tough to find Bonnaroo’s jammy roots, but they’re there. Umphrey’s McGee is billed higher than ever, and there’s a lot of potential for a great jam weekend if the schedule cooperates. Tedeschi Trucks Band, Yonder Mountain String Band, Grouplove, Greensky Bluegrass, Master Musicians of Jajouka with Billy Martin, Marc Ribot, and DJ Logic, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, The Wood Brothers, and John Butler Trio will likely find a good portion of jam nation at their sets. The more one gazes at the initial lineup, the more there is to consider, and it looks like Bonnaroo 2014 is going to be true to form: an over-the-top, frenetic four days of music.