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Mumford & Sons, Billy Joel, Bassnectar, Ben Harper Highlight 2015 Installment of Bonnaroo Festival

Mumford & Sons closed their Saturday night main-stage set at the ’Roo this year with a grand, guest-gang Beatles tribute—Hozier, Ed Helms, members of My Morning Jacket and Dawes, Rhiannon Giddens and Danny Clinch all joined them onstage for one of those epic Bonnaroo singalongs that occasionally happen.

Brandi Carslile

Brandi Carslile

 

In one of those surprise moments that lifted the spirits of weary concertgoers and got tens of thousands of people singing in sync, peals of the very-appropriate-for-a-massive-festival-atmosphere chorus “I get by with a little help from my friends” arose from Manchester.

Bonnaroo 2015 also featured Ben Harper, Earth, Wind & Fire, My Morning Jacket and some of that rap and EDM music the kids like these days.

Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals

Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals

 

I could picture one of those increasingly popular hot air balloon lantern things flying right into a snack tent’s funnel cake grease during the Billy Joel set and igniting the very dry grass . . . as he sang “We Didn’t Start the Fire” . . . but luckily, all lanterns launched successfully.

Boy Named Banjo takes the Solar Stage.

Boy Named Banjo takes the Solar Stage.

 

Nashville artist, Boy Named Banjo

Nashville artist, Boy Named Banjo

 

This year’s Bonnaroo may be remembered as the year Billy Joel’s guitar tech rocked the crowd and nearly stole the show; a buzz of excitement spread through the crowd during Mr. Joel’s festival-closing performance as unexpected sounds of “Highway to Hell” came from the sound system. Comments the likes of “who is that singing?” “what’s going on?” and “oh, hey, we know this one, let’s belt it out!” began to circulate. The singer turned out to be known as “Chainsaw,” a member of the road crew for Billy Joel, who had switched from piano to guitar for this AC/DC number.

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Naturally, the set also featured Joel’s own biggest hits as well, including “Piano Man,” “Only the Good Die Young” and “She’s Always a Woman.”

Two thousand fifteen may also be remembered as the year Slayer came to Bonnaroo; Cartman, we all recall, used the music of Slayer to disperse hippies at a music festival in a classic South Park episode, but, alas, it turns out that a little metal couldn’t destroy Bonnaroo, and despite the heavy metal sounds of Slayer, the festival crowds hung around.

bonnaroo_helms

Ed Helms

 

Mr. Ed Helms has helped fuel a genuine movement, promoting the resurgence of string band music, and the actor, musician and organizer of bluegrass wonderfulness brought together the Punch Brothers, Jerry Douglas, Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn and others under his Bluegrass Situation banner in the That Tent on Sunday afternoon.

Bluegrass Superjam

Bluegrass Superjam

 

As has been widely noted, the festival has undergone many changes since its inception in 2002. Macbook-wielding acts like Bassnectar and Deadmou5 are receiving prime-time spots, large numbers of indie-rock and EDM-loving youngsters have replaced the Deadheads of old, and there are more bass drops than extended jam-band guitar solos, but that’s OK. Music changes, culture evolves.

The sun goes down as the Alabama Shakes close their performance.

The sun goes down as the Alabama Shakes close their performance.

 

One thing remains the same, though—every year on the farm, come the second week of June, it’s always Bonnaroo, it’s always magical and, from Centeroo to Camp Kielbasa, the Bonnaroovians let the good vibes roll once again.

To view some of the performances from this year’s Bonnaroo, visit redbull.tv/bonnaroo.

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About the Author

Bracken, a 2003 graduate of MTSU’s journalism program, is the founder and publisher of The Murfreesboro Pulse. He lives in Murfreesboro with his wife, graphic artist and business partner, Sarah, and son, Bracken Jr. Bracken enjoys playing the piano, sushi, Tool, football, chess, jogging, spending time in his backyard with his chickens, hippie music, climbing at The Ascent, bowling, swimming, soup, tennis, sunshine, revolution, defiance and anarchy. He can cook a mean grilled cheese, and can fry just about anything.

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