Over the past four years, the annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in rural Manchester, Tennesee has become the premiere summer event for its diversified roster, eclectic sounds and 70 hours of subdued summer chaos. Somehow, as it grows and develops, gaining more world notoriety and legendary rock status, Bonnaroo also maintains a sense of familiarity and comfort in its identity. It changes, and morphs from year to year, but it’s hard to imagine that town without a Centeroo, this, that and the other stages. Sure it rains…it’s the south in late spring, but that only brings out the energy and adventure in one of America’s newest rights of passage. Here’s a glimpse into some of the better moments at Bonnaroo 2005.
The “no traffic” jam on Interstate 24.
The weather – cool throughout, a little rainy here, a little hot there and a little muddy in between, but all together comfortable.
Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe and Galactic proving “funk” is still in flavor with spirited late night sets.
Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters doing “Frankenstein” and “Chameleon.”
Mars Volta’s entire warped early morning set further proved they may be difficult to understand, but they are sticky just the same.
My Morning Jacket – Jim James with his trademark long curls trimmed, didn’t detract the band from it’s head banging glory, as MMJ band dosed the crowd with costumed theatrics and a baroque dressed conductor to lead the way.
Widespread Panic’s marathon 3.5 hour, no set break Sunday night show featuring guest appearances from Bob Weir, Herbie Hancock, The Word and Col. Bruce Hampton.
Secret Machines – Taking their intense light show and their unparalleled fiery psychedelic brand of indie rock to a packed late night tent.
Black Crowes on the main stage, the band never sounded so good including a stellar version of “Brokedown Palace”
Anything on the small, but overlooked Sonic Stage which featured intimate performances by: Benevento/Russo Duo, Ratdog and STS9 amongst many others.
Tea Leaf Green
“The biggest obstacle would be overcoming self-doubt…but I think we overcame self-doubt, and kicked its ass.” – My Morning Jacket’s Jim James on recording their upcoming album
[Bonnaroo] started as sort of a jamband festival, and it’s been great to watch the dynamic expand as a lot of the other bands come in. They get to see a part of what we’ve known for a long time, and I think they really like it.” – Widespread Panic’s Dave Schools
“Iron & Wine, Xavier Rudd…Ray LaMontagne I’m a big fan of…” – Warren Haynes on younger acts he’s excited to see”
“I get the feeling these days, there are a lot of good artists, a lot of good writers, [that] rather than address an issue squarely – if you do that for instance, in this country, half of the people – when you out that line that addresses that issue, they’re gonna switch the station, they’re gonna go listen to something else…’I don’t want to hear that.’ But guys these days, there are a lot of artists…as they develop as writers, they attack more fundamental issues of humanity, or deeper than these political divides, and I think that’s good. I think you’re getting to the point where, if you can settle out your own humanity, then you’re gonna act like a human. And if an artist can actually nail something that illustrates a profundity about the listener’s humanity, if he can hit that universal theme, then what comes of that is, people have more clarity, and will act with that. In the ’60s for instance, you listened to a great Dylan tune, a love song, and it gave you a feeling, and you were pretty much bound to make certain decisions and have certain revelations with regards to stuff that’s not so quite fundamental. But that kind of issuance from your core, will lead you to the right kind of realizations about issues.” – Bob Weir on the decrease in politics in music
“Trey Anastasio called me – we went to Connecticut to record a track for my new record – Trey told me that the idea of jambands to him came from when he first heard a record called Jack Johnson that Miles Davis did, I was fortunate enough to be on that record, I played organ for the first and only time for that record. But [Trey] said, to him, that was jambands.” – Herbie Hancock on when he first heard the term jamband
“A woman threw an apple at me about a week ago. It felt pretty good actually, cause she was a very pretty girl, so that made it a little less painful.” – Ray LaMontagne on his craziest fan experience
“At these types of things, you meet so many different people, and from that, you might collaborate on a record – you may not collaborate with them right then and there.” – Joss Stone on collaborations at Bonnaroo
“It’s like camping day two, you’re sick of beans, you gotta be doin’ something else right? There’s bands, you’re hanging out…what are you gonna do? You can only walk around so long.” – Comedian Jim Breuer on drugs and alcohol at festivals
“I wish there was one of these when I was growing up. It’s a perfect opportunity for the fans to see so many different types of bands, that all appeal to people that love music, and people that are willing to seek out music. For the bands, it’s a chance to play for people that never heard you before, so that’s a win-win situation.” – Warren Haynes on Bonnaroo
“You listen to a 50 Cent song, ‘I’ll do what I wanna do / I don’t care if I get caught / The D.A. can play this mother-fuckin’ tape in court / I’ll kill you.” And you hear George Bush say, ‘I’ll do what I wanna do / I don’t care if I get caught / The U.N. can take my mother-fuckin’ ass to court / I’ll kill you'” – Saul Williams, on if music is still a reflection of society as it was in the ’60s.
“All I can do is incorporate the tools that I’ve been given, or learned to have, into the moment that I’m in, and that I want to say. The worst thing I could ever do would be to approach it in reverse. ‘How do I get people to think I’m cool?’ Or ‘How could I get people to know I’m a good guitar player?’ So for me, there is a very natural reveal that’s happening. I’ve never pushed. Its kind of like a Ouija board…assemble all the pieces and then just let it go. And hopefully, whether you like what I’ve done so far or not, you don’t call bullshit on it. That’s my biggest fear…call bullshit on it. You want to say ‘that’s not for me, it’s my dollar,’ that’s fine. As long as you say, ‘well, I believe the guy.'” – John Mayer on bringing more attention to his guitar playing
“If you approach a song from a vocalist standpoint, there is a lot of room for play. But I really think that has to do with Guinness. Two Guinness…not so playful. Four Guinness…pretty playful.” – Ray LaMontagne on improvisation
“Fear of customs!” – Comedian Jim Breuer on why jambands infrequently play Europe
“I think humans have a really bad habit of dividing things into groups and classes, and I think Bonnaroo – it seems like it started out appealing more to the jamband community, but I really applaud the people that organize Bonnaroo, ’cause I think they’ve taken a lot of steps to try and make it appeal to everybody.” – My Morning Jacket’s Jim James
“When I was like 15 or 16 years old, I found my parents Grateful Dead records and started listening to them. And they really didn’t match the music with the cover. When I saw the skeletons and the roses I thought it would be really cool, and then I put the music on and I never really got into it. Then when I got a little bit older I started to get into it and I went to my first Grateful Dead concert at MSG. And then when I was 17 I took off and went on the road with Phish, following them in a Volkswagon bus.” – Matisyahu on first becoming aware of the term jamband
“I like the naked guy jumping on stage with the Meters last year, and people were like, ‘are we threatened?’ ‘Are we into it?’ And ‘Are other people gonna start getting naked too?'” – Warren Haynes on his most humorous Bonnaroo experience
“There’s a very interesting thing that happens when you get famous. You kind of get this card in the mail that says ‘come to any party you want…be on any TV show you want.’ And I’ve kind of thrown that one away and said, ‘well hey, if I can get a card that rolls out the red carpet, can I get a card that puts me on any stage with a guitar?’ So I’ve been focusing on diversifying as a musician instead of diversifying as an entity.” – John Mayer on playing with Herbie Hancock
“The cool thing for me…is to see people [play]. Like I just got done watching Joanna Newsome, and it was like watching a wizard with spiders for hands. I couldn’t even understand what she was doing…it was awesome. ‘Cause I’m obsessed with the future…something that’s so futuristic that I can’t understand it yet.” – My Morning Jacket’s Jim James on what stands out to him at Bonnaroo
“Six hours? After two hours I need a nap! That’s rockin’!” – comedian Jim Breuer on Gov’t Mule’s famous 2003 Jazzfest performance
“In a situation like this, you’re gonna have a little of both. Hopefully some people are being enhanced, but it’s obvious when you walk around that other people are deteriorating.” – Warren Haynes on whether drug use enhances or detracts from the event
“I just flew in from Hawaii, and I was sitting in my hotel room, and then all of a sudden I thought to myself, I’d be so pissed off if I didn’t check out more bands at this festival, so 2:30 in the morning I went over and checked out Mars Volta, and it was really pretty mind-blowing…it was amazing.” – Jack Johnson
“This festival here is in Tennesee, this is basically the heart of red state America. And [people] come for the music, the community of the music. And this is one place where the bitterness that you see in the partisan divide in America, both sides come together here and move it up and enjoy themselves thoroughly. This is one place that actually…the healing of this country is actually taking place, now as we speak.” – Bob Weir on politics in music
“I think it’s pretty natural there’s a lot of hoo-hah during an election year, and I think maybe what people need to realize is…just because there’s not an election for three more years, that we can’t forget about what’s going on. But it is really up to us to maintain a level of awareness with what’s happening with our own government. They’re supposed to work for us, and if you don’t let them know how you feel all the time, then they wind up making decisions for you. And yeah, maybe we don’t want to hear political sloganizing from the stage all the time, but I think its important, especially at festivals like this, that information is around for people to check out on their own time. This is a great place to do it…we can all share our ideas here.” – Dave Schools on musicians being less political this year than Bonnaroo ’04
“I’m not sure if musicians have any responsibility at all…except to show up.” – Ray LaMontagne on whether or not musicians feel any responsibility as an artist
“I’m not American, but the sense I get over here is a lot of disappointment in your leaders. It just seems that you voted someone in that’s just really…shit.” – Glen Hansard from The Frames
“It’s numbing what’s coming our way daily. I don’t watch TV anymore…zero…I can’t do it…I can watch the Simpsons and I can watch South Park, but it’s numbing.” – Bob Weir
“You get Dylan singing a love song, and that’s political too. But it’s a deeper politics…those politics between you and your lady, where the line between politics and feelings, thoughts and feelings, is blurred. And there’s a fuzzy area in there where there is something crucial, and fundamental happening where your feelings take words. They become something that you can delineate into words. And that’s perhaps the stuff you really want to go for. Because that’s the stuff, if it rings a bell today, its still gonna be able to ring a bell in thirty years, and if the truths that will be revealed through that song, through that expression, are applicable to situations in thirty years, then you’ve found something worthy of saying.” – Bob Weir on politics in music
“Let me answer that after I finish my show, ’cause if it sucks, then I’m excited to see nobody!” – comedian Jim Breuer on who he looked forward to seeing at Bonnaroo
“You don’t realize the road has rigors till you’ve been on it for a while. It’s all fun and games, and meeting new people, and working on your craft. And the next thing you know, its ten or fifteen years later, and maybe some of the guys in the band have families…life catches up. I made the comment in Mike Gordon’s movie, The Deep End, about Allen Woody, you know, you end up living a double life, in that you’re out on the road working your tail off, having fun, you’re playing music, and you do it for 6, 8, 10, 14 weeks, and then you come home, and its like the merry-go-round stops. And its tough to adjust. And the older you get, the harder it is to go back and forth, back and forth. And I think the people that can make that transition are the ones that value time off. For Panic specifically, [hiatus] was something we’d been trying to do for a while, and things kept precluding our taking time off – Mikey getting ill, then deciding we needed to break George in and try to rediscover ourselves before we took any time off. And for me personally, it became more than just rest from the road. I love the road, I love playing music…I was busier on our year off than I’ve ever been, but its more about serving your heart – finding out what you’re capable of. Panic hadn’t taken any time off in 18 years, and I think its really important that we all remember to do that…I can’t wait for our next year off.” (laughs) – Dave Schools on the rigors of touring
“We’ll get around to touring when we get around to it. Right now I’m totally caught up in Ratdog…I’ve got pretty much a hot hand with that – the band is spitting fire, and I’ll be stir fried if I’m gonna walk away from that.” – Bob Weir on plans for the Dead to tour again