Mike’s Bonnaroo XI (2012) Review
Posted by Lindsey on Jan 9, 2013
This year’s Bonnaroo marked my fifth Bonnaroo in as many years, and my second year as a VIP (evidently they have a loose definition of a very important person). I have to say that while this may not have been my all-time favorite Bonnaroo, it certainly did not disappoint.
As far as I can remember, I saw The Kooks, Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Gary Clark Jr., The Devil Makes Three, Young the Giant, Phish, The Shins, The Civil Wars, Santigold, Needtobreathe, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Dumpstaphunk, The Avett Brothers, Dawes, Foster the People, The Temper Trap, The Roots, Alice Cooper, The Beach Boys, Ben Folds Five, and the Joy Formidable. Granted I didn’t see the entire set of each and every band, but I at least stayed for three or four songs.
The headliners played as well as expected, but the real value of going to Bonnaroo is to discover new music. Santigold stole the show when she invited about hundred fans to come up on stage and dance with her. Foster the People delivered an entertaining set right before Radiohead on Friday night, which caught many people (including myself) by surprise. Phish played two sets back to back just as the weather finally fell through on an ominous Sunday night.
The Devil Makes Three are a folk-rock trio from California, and they were the find of the festival for me. Their lyrics were clever and songs were energetic, especially for a three-piece band. Young the Giant impressed a clearly worn out Sunday crowd, and they even played some new songs that will be on their next record. The Avett Brothers played a passionate set, highlighted by an electric version of “Kick Drum Heart” that apparently was one of the first times they included a kick-ass solo (or so they say).
Overall the experience was a very positive one. The weather certainly helped (mid-80’s and sunny three days and overcast another), which was a big detractor the past couple of years. The main complaint people had were that the late-night acts were highly questionable (Van Halen cover band? Who okayed this?). I don’t usually have the energy to make it out that late, but there certainly was a drop off in the quality of acts this year than from previous years. This problem was exacerbated by the numerous conflicts of acts playing the same time slot peppered throughout the weekend. Hopefully they get their act together for next year.
From my perspective, the Bonnaroo staff and safety were all top-notch and on top of their game. Most of the time they were helpful and didn’t get in anyone’s way. Dealing with 80,000 people is no easy feat, and the staff did the best they could given the overwhelming responsibility. However, there were some malfunctions with the RFID readers, which meant that some people had a difficult time gaining access to Centeroo on occasion. The work that the staff put in during the months in between was highly appreciated. More shade, less dust, and easier access to water were needs that Bonnaroo addressed perfectly.
- Mike (@mrmikerayner)