Now in its fifth year, the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival has hit an unparalleled stride. With a continual evolution of acts, stellar performances, numerous sit-ins and a festival setting unlike anywhere else, the annual trek to Manchester, Tennesee has become an essential summer roadtrip. When you throw Radiohead into an already top-notch line-up of heavy jam staples and indie breakouts – and take out the rainstorms of previous years – 2006’s Bonnaroo may just be the best one yet.
In the midst of all the overlapping sets and absolute craziness that abounds at Roo, we captured some of the magic on stage and plenty off – with quotes straight from the artists themselves.
2006 Festival Highlights
A tremendous 3-hour late night set by My Morning Jacket, as Jim James & Co. continue to top themselves in Manchester each growing year.
An inspired, explosive debut performance for the ‘SuperJam’ of Trey Anastasio, Mike Gordon & The Benevento/Russo Duo, with special guest Phil Lesh sitting in for “Casey Jones” and “Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad.”
Ben Folds singing his rendition of Dr. Dre’s “Bitches Ain’t Shit” and calling it a “Silent Collaboration.”
Oysterhead’s first performance since 2001
Bright Eyes delivering the goods with an array of indie allstars – Jim James, Gillian Welch, Gruff Rhys (from Super Furry Animals)
Lewis Black ranting all weekend in the comedy tent
Tom Petty with special guest Stevie Nicks, proving that classic rock has found a place in Bonnaroo.
A monstrous hip-hop late night set by Blackalicious, Common, and Lyrics Born making it clear that you don’t need funk or techno to keep going through the night.
Beck’s interpretive puppet show followed by his band eating dinner at a formal table with waiter service on stage.
Our Favorite Artist Quotes
We’re really into Neil Young, Nick Drake, Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell, a lot of harmony groups, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, and now people like the Flaming Lips. To make something that’s within melody and song, and then we can strip it down to an acoustic guitar and put our little twist on it within the arrangements. Real honest, heartfelt, soulful music – which is what we’re about. It’s hard to sum up what you’re trying to do, but that’s where we’re coming from.” – The Magic Numbers’ Romeo Stodart on the craft of songwriting
“I’m just glad I didn’t stay [a hippie] because I wouldn’t be doing comedy now. I’d probably be fuckin’ milking goats!!” – comedian Lewis Black
“The part of his (William Falkner) speech that I identify with most is, ‘Humanity will not only survive. Humanity will prevail.’ I believe in the human heart and all its richness and all its goodness. As far as writing about the human heart, the human heart writes us. We don’t write it. In line with what Matisyahu was saying about music being a spiritual tool, I’d just like to say that this set up here is a very good example of how people work together to find that unity and that groove that we need. I think as far as writing, the human heart – it’s writing us in the right direction when we’re together in a place like this.” – Phil Lesh in response to William Falkner’s 1948 noble address, and a reference to what constitutes good songwriting
“It’s really important to have that progressive element and bring new things in. I’d love to see something like Dream Theater here that doesn’t get as much exposure in the U.S., but is huge in Europe. You need to have that freshness. For fans to say ‘I’ve discovered something new that I’d never expect to see at Bonnaroo,’ I think that’s one of the things that bring people back here. It’s the ones you don’t know you’re going to see that blow you away and keep you coming back.” – Umphrey’s McGee’s Joel Cummins on Bonnaroo
“It’s good to see the Austin scene merging with the New Orleans scene. A natural disaster will do that and cause music to spread. ” – John Popper on music in the aftermath of Hurricane Kartrina
“Taylor Hicks opened a show for us two years ago in Birmingham, AL, so when I saw him on TV., I was like, ‘That’s that same dude!” So at this show, he was beggin’ to come on stage and play harp, and I was like, ‘man I don’t even know you.’ And he [said], ‘C’mon, let me just play.’ So now, [last week in L.A] he says, ‘I’m gonna go on stage with you and everyone’s gonna know who I am and not you now!’ So he jammed with us and it was great. He’s been a fan of [ours]…go on his myspace page and it says Robert Randolph and The Family Band. – Robert Randolph on Taylor Hicks (The American Idol winner) who made an appearance at Robert’s show last week in L.A.
“To me, the music and the fans and all that are directly linked to spirituality. I don’t see how we can see it any other way. Music is a spiritual tool. That’s the history of music. That’s the history of music in the Jewish religion in the times of the temple, when the Levium – the tribe of the musicians – were singing and playing instruments, and that’s how they conducted services of many cultures for thousands of years. That’s what music is capable of doing; uplifting people and transcending out of their boundaries and that’s what spirituality is all about. As long as you channel that and stay clear and stay focused on that, that’s what I’m trying to do. Spirituality is about getting outside of yourself, it’s about humility and helping people.” – Matisyahu on spirituality and music
“I want to play with Radiohead for their whole set!” – Robert Randolph on his choice for sitting in as a guest
“It’s like having sex and going back to Little Rock on Monday holding hands.. The rest of the tour you just can’t touch it.” – Steel Train’s Jack Antonoff on the afterglow of Bonnaroo
“We’re playing at midnight tonight and got a long time to play, so I’m hoping that that massive tidal wave of excitement of people getting reared up for the night will be like trying to stop a bunch of bulls from charging.” – My Morning Jacket’s Jim James on their impending late night slot
“My mother wouldn’t let me go to Woodstock. I expected a bigger laugh on that YOU PRICKS!” – comedian Lewis Black
“The difference between art and disposable crafts [is] that if you are suffering, then that should be in your art, but it’s not a prerequisite.” – Steve Earle on whether or not you need to be in struggle with your heart to write great music
“Songwriting is pretty much a blue collar job, although there are a lot of aspects of being in a rock band that are not blue collar. You just need to walk away from everything and sit down and put your time in. The bottom line for me is, if I don’t put my time in, I don’t get what I want out of the job, which is self-expression that I’m proud of. So for me it’s just another day on the job.” – The Disco Biscuits’ Jon Gutwillig
“New Orleans is such an incredible Mecca of inspiration, and going to New Orleans to see people like Allen Toussaint play is the absolute most inspirational thing of my career.” – Mike Gordon on New Orleans
“Normally with the British way of indulging in certain things, three days is pretty much a max really.” – The Streets’ Mike Skinner on festivals in the United Kingdom
“I was walking down the street in New York, and I see this really tall guy walking towards me, kind of a dorky looking guy walking toward me wearing a t-shirt saying “I drank a beer at bonges.” And I that thought that was really weird because bong was spelled with an “e” after the “g” and I turned around just because that struck me so much, and I realized it was David Letterman. But this has nothing to do with [Bonnaroo]. ” – moe.s’ Rob Derhak
“Nothing. How fucking shocking is that!? Considering that I WAS one, and that was a special time…and did I ever look special.” – comedian Lewis Black on what it is about hippies that makes him angry
“I think a good song is a good song, whether it was written in the 20’s or the 40′ or last week. There’s a spirit from the past that I really like bringing forward, because there’s a purity and honesty, and realness there at times in life in America that people still want to hear. And it connects deep down in your spirit and soul. It’s a sign of the times that bluegrass music is selling records. ” – Ricky Skaggs
The name Matisyahu comes from the story of Hanukkah. Matisyahu was the father of Judah Macabe, which was a rebel army that stood up to the Greek Empire who at that time was trying to keep the Jews from practicing their religion. Basically they went in and desecrated the temple and destroyed all that, and basically their reasoning was, there’s nothing higher than the human intellect. And anything that doesn’t make sense to the human intellect, and anything that doesn’t make sense according to the human intellect is something they couldn’t stand for. So the whole Jewish religion is based on something higher than intellect, which is faith, called Imuda in Hebrew. And that’s what the Macabe army represented. They went into this fight with complete faith, complete Imuda, because they were a family versus a whole entire empire, and they ended up winning the war and going into the temple. And that’s the famous story where there was one night worth of oil – they found one bottle of oil that didn’t have the seal broken off it, which was still pure, it hadn’t been messed with. That’s the symbol for the idea that, that no matter what, a person always has that one drop of pureness in them that’s untouched, and if they can find that place in themselves, and build from there, no matter what they’ve been through.. But the oil lasted for eight nights, and eight is the number which represents Infinity, which is God, which is infinite and chooses to represent himself in a finite world which is here. So that’s what’s tied in to the name Matisyahu, is the idea of “light out of darkness”. – Matisyahu explaining the origins of his name
“I thought you were gonna ask me where the name ‘Rob’ came from?” – moe.s’ Rob Derhak after Matisyahu explained the origin of his name
“Coming from the UK we’re a lot more eclectic, ‘cause we’re a smaller place. I think what America’s really good at is making money, to be honest. Where that fits in with music it tends to get very genre specific, and people in America tend to live their whole lives within a genre. So, what’s good about the internet is its good for America and hopefully people become more eclectic, and hear new music. And for a UK artist, the internet is crucial to me in the U.S.” – The Streets’ Mike Skinner
“Let me tell you why I’m not a musician – what I really would’ve liked to have been. ‘Cause being a musician beats the shit out of being a comic. My parents sent me to a piano teacher who had arthritis. That’s straight up FUNNY. A PIANO TEACHER THAT HAS ARTHRITIS!! Now I know some of you are with the arthritis foundation and, um, yeah…I just thought I’d throw that out for no fuckin’ reason at all.” – comedian Lewis Black
“[I’m] looking forward to seeing Atmosphere and Matisyahu. As a MC, I think they’re really progressive in the world of MCing that a lot of people at this festival are exposed to. So I’m excited to see them so they can kick my ass.” – G.Love on who he is excited to see at this year’s Bonnaroo
“To see Bonnaroo progress over the last couple years – I think being able to get the quality headliners – looking at this year like, Radiohead, Tom Petty and Phil Lesh & Friends, the chances of making that happen and making it really unique…you’re not gonna get that anywhere else. Every year I come here, I end up walking away finding a band that I love that I go home and buy 10 cds of.” – Umphrey’s McGee’s Joel Cummins on Bonnaroo
“We keep coming back because they have so many different types of artists play. I was excited to see Andrew Bird, Bright Eyes, the comedy, and so far it’s as good as it’s always been.” – My Morning Jacket’s Jim James on playing Bonnaroo for the fourth time
“It’s hard to describe who fits when you talk about Jambands. If Tom Petty goes on tour and jams every one of his songs out, is he then a jamband? What the jambands have been in my perception, is a home for bands to do whatever they happen to do; if they play accordion, they happen to sing well, they happen to sing poorly, whatever it is. You could almost make the argument that all the bands here [at Bonnaroo] have potential to be jambands if they just let it fly a little bit.” – The Disco Biscuits’ Jon Gutwillig
“The minute you have to think about it too much, it’s probably not going to be a good song. Because a song should be almost like a physical reaction to life, and just come right out.” – G. Love on songwriting
“As we arrived and saw the organization and how well this is all put together it’s a just a tremendous, exciting experience for me.” – Alan Toussaint on arriving at Bonnaroo
“I played a chicken dinner at a church. I was 9 years old, and they kept asking me to play quieter, so I got up and left. Then they wanted me to come back and play ‘Happy Birthday’…so that was the first one. For me, one out of three 3 gigs that I played when I was a kid up until I was 20 years old were just humiliating. I don’t know why, but I kept doing it. But then one ends up being really good and then it makes you want to keep doing it. But for a while it’s a constant humiliation.” – Ben Folds on his first performance ever
The diversity [of Bonnaroo] is the ultimate form of communication. – moe.s’ Rob Derhak
“It surprises me that America doesn’t have a lot of this kind of festival, ‘cause in Europe we do. I think the heat be may one of the reasons. In the UK we’re always going on that it’s always raining. But this seems pretty tough going as well, so well done for getting through. Hey can I crowd surf here?” – The Streets’ Mike Skinner on Bonnaroo, and the crowded press tent
“Love, makin’ love, losing love, lemonade, and politrix!” – The message G. Love would like to leave with his music
“Meeting different musicians, getting to talk to people, and hearing different bands…that’s really the beautiful thing about a lot of the festivals. Last year I got the chance to get on stage with Trey [Anastasio] which was in a lot of ways coming full circle to me, having been a huge fan of him, and then getting that opportunity. Playing the show, a lot of people saw me, and I give credit to Bonnaroo for sure. Always give credit where it’s due.” – Matisyahu on the value of Bonnaroo on an artist’s career
“This is my church now! Amen Brotha!” – Robert Randolph on Bonnaroo
“Comedy is based on silence, so it’s always a treat to have music going on. I appeared once in a tent in Great Adventures in N.J. – which gives you an idea where my career is really at – and you’d hear the rollercoaster come by and scream every three minutes, which made it interesting as a comic because I’d time my shit to that yell! So you don’t know what to expect as a comic, but that’s what makes it fun.” – comedian Lewis Black
“Patchouli is not just about hippies anymore…now everyone stinks just the same!” – John Popper on the smells of Bonnaroo
We were brought together doing benefits for Katrina in New York, and being on several concerts together. I began to play at a place called Joe’s Pub on Sundays, and Elvis would come over and sit through the entire show and actually sit in. [And] it was time for an ‘Alan Toussaint songbook’, so that started the ball rolling.. We got together working on songs he had chosen plus we decided that we could write songs together, because Elvis is wide awake and he saw the big picture I must say long before I did. I’m glad to say it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had as well. – Alan Toussaint on collaborating with Elvis Costello.
“Is everyone stinky? Anything we should talk about?” [responds to crowd shouts] “Dio-McCarthyism? Like Ronny James Dio McCarthyism?” – Mike Doughty during his set
“At first it was a jamband festival. Is it still? There’s a lot of jamming but there’s a lot of different kinds of music.” – Mike Gordon on Bonnaroo
“You don’t have to do any work anymore. You just wake up and hear what he said and you’re done for the day!” – comedian Lewis Black on what makes President Bush the greatest source of riches for comedians since Richard Pryor
“His legacy is my brothers and sisters and all of us as a family. To build together, to build music as a team together, all of our business ventures are together. To me, my family is the legacy that I enjoy.” – Damien Marley on the legacy of his father
“The human heart writes us, we don’t write it” – Phil Lesh
Quotes captured by Glide Magazine’s Bonnaroo correspondent David Blutenthal. Photos by Blutenthal, Tobin Voggesser and Mike Wren