BEST OF BONNAROO 2016

So Bonnaroo is over and we’ve returned to our normal lives (sad). We’ve showered in private bathrooms, slept in real beds for more than 4 hours at a time, and we finally feel like real human beings again (happy). We never want to see drugs or alcohol of any kind ever again (joking), and we’re so damn excited to tell you and everyone we know about our experiences (serious). Here are our eleven favorite acts at Bonnaroo 2016 (because ten just isn’t enough):

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Pearl Jam at Bonnaroo Photo Cred: Jeff Kravitz

11: Death Cab for Cutie played an afternoon show on the last day of the festival, in 90° heat on the largest and hottest stage, yet they still had the entire audience hanging on every note, word, and emotion. Several people around me were crying unapologetically (not that they needed to apologize, crying is cool and all, but… well, it was unsettling at the time). The Seattle rockers proved that over a decade of mainstream success has not hampered their drive for a killer show, and the group’s sizable catalog had the tens of thousands of audience members clamoring for more. If your biggest problem is that your set is too short to fit all your good songs, you’re doing alright. -IA

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Fidlar at Bonnaroo Photo cred: FilmMagic

10:Band of Horses used this opportunity to showcase their new album Why Are You Ok?, released just a few days earlier. Consistently excellent performers, the band struck a careful balance between this new material and the earlier hits so beloved by the scorched Saturday afternoon crowd. Their anticipation was palpable, as it was clear many in the audience considered Band of Horses the main draw of the festival. Perhaps rightly so, since “Is There A Ghost” and “The Funeral” are two of the most epic live numbers around, screaming with an intensity impossible to replicate in a recording. If you haven’t yet seen Band of Horses live, you should. -IA 

9: Kurt Vile was obviously drunk on stage, drinking and spilling from several cans of Modelo throughout the show, yet he pulled off one of the most casually transcendent performances I’d ever seen. This guy is a seriously awesome guitarist, able to riff passionate, musically-relevant licks without seeming to think too hard. His irreverent stage banter paired well with his loose and mumbly singing, emphasizing his unique take-it-or-leave-it style of not giving a fuck. Before his last song he told everybody he’d be in the pit at the Ween show later, if anyone wanted to say hi. So he was having a pretty good time, it seemed, and it came through in the music. Neat! -IA/AS

8: Third Eye Blind has been doing this for a long time. Their thoroughly-attended tent show was basically a giant sing-along party/crowd-surfing exhibition. Seriously, there was almost too much crowd-surfing, to the point that Stephen Jenkins got involved and jumped into the crowd himself (which was totally awesome but also pretty dangerous for the 51 year-old star). There was one guy in particular who crowd surfed for about 20 minutes straight. We were quite jealous of the look on his face as he floated atop our heads, pumping his fists in the air along to the chorus of “Semi-Charmed Life.” The band that helped define snake person adolescence knew their audience and performed their classics diligently, even going out of their way to change plans and play “Motorcycle Drive By” because some fans they met on the way in (“dressed only in flowers and body paint”) complained that they don’t play enough old stuff. The San Francisco natives excel at developing this sort of audience camaraderie, reminding us frequently that love conquers hate and that we’re all in this together. Fuckin’ hippies, gotta love ’em. – IA/AS

7: Big Grams is half Big Boi (from Outkast) and half Phantogram (whose new album is released today). They played to a packed tent starting around 2AM, and people were pretty much losing their shit. It was awesome. Their “Ms Jackson/Mouthful of Diamonds” mashup was especially mind-blowing, with the entire crowd getting in on every single”I am for reeeal.” Unfortunately, their “The Way You Move” fell flat when mashed with “Don’t Move,” as the crowd expected Outkast’s chorus instead of Phantogram’s and was audibly crestfallen. So the collaboration still needs some tinkering, but both artists’ electric stage-presences combined into a whirlwind of manic energy, fueled by the late night party and contagious beats. Let’s hope for a lasting partnership between these disparate groups. – IA/AS

haim5 1/2: HAIM was unreal. Their catchy tunes have always tickled my ickle, but I DRASTICALLY underestimated how good their live show would be. Este, Danielle and Alana Haim are nothing short of Rock Stars. There is no one of the three carrying the other two, nor is there one that is holding the others back. Add their frenetic, happy energy, and even an impending thunderstorm couldn’t bring the show down. The fact that those three women came from the same vagina is fucking bonkers. – AS

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51/2: FIDLAR can’t be placed above or below Haim, as they are completely different things. But they were equally awesome. The So-Cal surf punks delivered exactly what fans were expecting – a super-high energy show filled with screaming, jumping, and shredding. The only song they didn’t play that I wanted to hear was “Awkward,” but they more than made up for it by cramming basically every other jam they have into their set. -AS

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Misterwives at Bonnaroo 2016 Photo Cred: Jeff Kravitz

4: MisterWives basically held a three ring circus on the main stage, with the bassist and guitarist doing cartwheels and comedy between (and sometimes during) songs, and singer Mandy Lee running around stage stealing everybody’s heart. Many, many people shouted offerings of love and/or marriage to her or her smiling jumbotron projection. Combine that with their anthemic synth-pop and I couldn’t keep my jaw off the floor. The performance was simply on another level, which was both unexpected incredibly inspiring. Leaving the show, I couldn’t help but notice a similar expression on a lot of people’s faces: the excited look of someone who just discovered their new favorite band. -IA

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Pearl Jam at Bonnaroo Photo Cred: Jeff Kravitz

3:Pearl Jam was fucking unbelievable. There’s just no other way to say it. Eddie Vedder has a very real physical and spiritual likeness to Jesus Christ, with his grungy hippie energy and otherworldly, almost godly control over the crowd. After the first song, all of Pearl Jam’s legendary success made complete sense. They played everything a little bit up-tempo, which was totally awesome on energetic hits like “Evenflow” and “Betterman.” Highlights include a political statement about transgender bathrooms in Tennessee (looking at you TN Rep. Susan Lynn), a heart-wrenching rendition of Pink Floyd‘s “Comfortably Numb” (with fireworks!), and every single one of Mike McCready’s insane guitar solos. Watching him perform (and he really sells it), it’s as if his epic shredding already exists out in the world and McCready is just plucking it out of thin air, jamming it through his fingers lickety-split and into his guitar for us all to hear. After executing perhaps the fastest, most intricate guitar performance at the festival (perhaps), McCready fell to the floor in a heap of emotion, relinquishing control back to Vedder’s drastic wailing. Not bad for a pair of 50 year olds. –IA

I’m just stepping in to wholeheartedly agree with Ian here. A lot people were skeptical about Pearl Jam’s place as a headliner, but I think anyone with a remote appreciation for rock n’ roll would have changed their mind at that show. They are simply the best straight-ahead rock band I’ve ever seen. -AS

2: Tame Impala is today’s Pink Floyd. The Australian superstars took their unique brand of washy, psychedelic arena-rock to Friday’s much anticipated 1-3 AM time slot, and holy shit was it incredible. The lawn was stuffed with neon glow-sticks and anthropomorphic totems as far as the eye could see. The audio quality was remarkable, as the band sounded almost exactly as they do in recordings, and the technical staff was on point, with lighting and confetti blowing minds for days. The only draw-back of the transcendent performance was its length; many fans hoped the band might play til sunrise, or at least the set’s full two-hours, but Kevin Parker politely thanked the audience and left the stage about a half an hour before scheduled. So their timing might have disappointed some, but the experience remains worthy of our #2 slot. The fact that it directly followed our #1 band was just gravy, and the one-two punch of seeing them back to back was nothing short of remarkable. – IA/AS

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LCD Soundsystem at Bonnaroo 2016 Photo Cred: Tim Mosenfelder

1: LCD Soundsystem is probably my favorite band of all time. When they announced their reunion in December, my brain said “They are going to play at Roo and I. WILL. NOT. MISS. IT.” My only hesitation was that I was afraid I would cry to death upon seeing them. My expectations were met. Although I’m still alive, they delivered absolutely stellar renditions of James Murphy’s creations, and looked damn good doing it. Murphy did not come across as the eccentric that he is often made out to be. Rather he seemed damn cool, delivering his wry lyrics with passion. The band seemed happy to be back, and I could have stood and watched them play for years. – AS

Other notable activity: BØRNS headlined Thursday night to a tremendous crowd, highlighted by back-to-back covers of Arcade Fire (“Rebellion”) and David Bowie (“Heroes”). Chvrches seemed unused to such a huge (main) stage, but a guest appearance from Haley Williams of Paramore more than made up for it. John Mayer led The Dead (as in ‘Grateful’) on a four-hour Sunday night set, and holy shit is he still the best guitarist alive today. M83 and Two Door Cinema Club both played solid shows on the Which Stage. Several up-and-coming artists gave excellent performances as well, especially Waxahatchee, Jarryd James, Hundred Waters, and Rayland Baxter. Baxter frisbeed a red felt peace sign into the crowd and Ian caught it with his very own hand, which was incredible. Macklemore’s set was interrupted for about an hour by a righteous thunderstorm, during which time Bonnaroo officials ordered fans into their cars for safety. Our friend Molly Rocket brought us some sandwiches while we were waiting.

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Written by Ian Anderson and Atticus Swartwood