I have attended Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee three times now in the past five years and it has quickly grown into one of my favorite festival experiences!
The first time that I attended Bonnaroo (2014) I had just turned eighteen years old and took the trip down with my brother to see Chance The Rapper the first time he graced the stage there (at 3am if I’m not mistaken) and we also got to see Kanye West perform in front of nearly 90,000 attendees.
The second time I got the opportunity to go to Bonnaroo was in 2017 when Chance performed in front of 80,000 people, I took the trip last minute and took a car full of his merchandise down there with my roommate & co-worker at the time (we worked in his merch department at the time for more context). The experience I had that year was just as wonderful as my first time, I was a little bit more experienced with my surroundings and was able to soak in the environment a little bit more. As the event went on I got to see first hand how diverse the festival was with their crowd, pop up shops, the acts they booked, etc.
This time around in a jam packed schedule in the month of June, I managed to take a few days to travel down to Nashville, TN and stay there for the weekend as I attended the fest. I know I know most hardcore Bonnaroo goers will probably read that and say “oh you didn’t get the real experience” and although they might be right, after sleeping in cars or on a tour bus at the fest in prior years (or in random hotels in the middle of nowhere in Tennessee), I knew I wanted to visit see what the biggest city in the state had to offer at night while I was in Manchester during the day. I had a very pleasant experience at this years festival (aside from some minor issues getting into the festival itself) and I also founding a liking to Nashville + the people in it!
I knew that on my way down to the festival I wanted to write about three of my favorite highlights moments of performances I watched, and although I saw dozens & dozens of awesome bands and creatives, the three below are who stood out to me.
When I first started planning my trip to this years festival there was a couple names that stuck out to me on the lineup, but being a big Childish Gambino fan & the fact I had never saw him live before this, it was my main reasoning for wanting to attend aside from the experience itself.
When his set began Childish Gambino stood upon balcony of sorts, with nothing but spotlights on him, as he slowly lowered inch by inch until he hit the stage (literally)! I was filled with excitement as the musical icon went on to give a fantastic show and play hit records from his unbelievable catalog one after the other.
When an act as big as Gambino performs at Bonnaroo though, be prepared for the swarms of people running over from other stages, you would be surprised how quickly those crowds can get hectic to maneuver through! Aside from that I was luckily able to catch a majority of this set and it’s something I will never forget.
Obviously I was very familiar with Chicago native Juice WRLD before I watched him perform that Saturday evening, but one thing stuck out to me as I watched, how the fans were reacting to his every note. It was super dope to be able to sit back and watch how these kids were looking at Juice WRLD like Prince or Kid Cudi, and although that might sound crazy now he’s going to end up being that icon from their generation when it’s all said and done. It’s just a wild thought because Juice is still a teenager himself and the massive impact he has had on hip-hop is rare, and to watch an easy 50,000 + scream his lyrics was so pleasing to me.
The festival felt like it really kicked off for me once Chicago’s own Saba graced the stage, and man did he give a tremendous show! I have been familiar with Saba’s impeccable stage presence for a long time now considering all of the times I have seen him live, but it’s so dope to see an artist I admire go from performing at local shows in the city to major festivals in a matter of a few years.
Seeing Saba perform songs that I have loved for years and seeing the crowd sing along to his ever word was a wonderful feeling, and although I had already known that Saba + his camp have been killing shows all around the globe, it was dope to see it in the middle of a huge farm in Tennessee in front of thousands upon thousands of people.