Sunday is a day of exodus and closure at Bonnaroo, but this was not a year to pack up early and head for home. An extremely high-quality evening of music greeted those who stuck it out until the end. After witnessing the festival’s final acts, it was no wonder that the farm was more packed than usual for the last day of the event. There was no wasted space on the schedule at all, and deciding which acts to see proved as difficult as any other day.
At That Tent, Sam Bush and Del McCoury were barely audible above the constant din of Centeroo, but a closer look revealed a loose, happy duo dishing out a regal brand of bluegrass. The majority of the crowd, though, was gathered in front of Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeroes and Tame Impala. While Ed Sharpe’s crew exhorted the audience to put away their phones, Tame Impala merely took the stage and politely destroyed The Other Tent with their fuzzy psychedelic mayhem, showing that a recent lineup change hasn’t affected them one bit. Leader Kevin Parker’s voice is stunningly accurate to the studio recordings; the band has a sound that seems heavily manipulated on record, but their unique aural hypnotism is just the natural way they do their thing. The setlist was no surprise – “Elephant”, “It Is Not Meant To Be”, “Solitude Is Bliss”, “Apocalypse Dreams”, “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”, and “Alter Ego” all surfaced, to the delight of the audience – but the manner in which the band executed made their show one of the most memorable of the weekend. There’s no limit to how far this quintet can go, and they may well grace the What Stage some day.
Under nearly perfect festival conditions, David Byrne and St. Vincent gave the Which Stage crowd one hell of a good party as the sun began to set for the final time on Bonnaroo 2013. With an inconceivably tight horn company and a stunning cache of songs to choose from, the duo presided over a flawless set that was perfect in sound, performance, and placement. Fans from every generation were satiated by a big chunk of Talking Heads tunes (“Road to Nowhere”, “Wild Wild Life”, “Burning Down the House”, music-nerd national anthem “This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody)”), a handful of St. Vincent songs (“Cruel”, “The Party”, “Northern Lights”, and others), and, of course, plenty of gems from the duo’s recent release Love This Giant. The Byrne standby “Strange Overtones” was also a highlight.
At the end of the weekend, all eyes and ears were on Tom Petty, who would have been the token headlining legend of the weekend if it weren’t for that pesky Paul McCartney. Petty didn’t back down, though, and he more than held his own in the ever-growing shadow of the Friday night colossus still fresh in everyone’s brains. Opening with The Byrds’ “So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Star” was a mighty card to play and Petty unleashed his full hand by the end of the night, spicing up a litany of hit songs by interjecting a cover of “Friend of the Devil” that sent the place into a lather. A steady but not unpleasant drizzle added a “we’re all in this together” sort of poignancy to “Free Fallin’”, and “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” was as good as it gets for audience participation. Everyone felt summer creeping in as the curtain closed on another spectacular four days in Manchester. A powerhouse closing combo of “Refugee”, “Runnin’ Down A Dream”, “Don’t Come Around Here No More”, “You Wreck Me”, and “American Girl” put a very emphatic and rainy stamp on the experience. This level of musical excellence has become the norm at Bonnaroo, with very few exceptions over the past 12 years. They’ve spoiled us; let’s hope they never stop trying to one-up themselves.