Where This Meets That
In 2002, Christy and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary weekend at the inaugural Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee.
With something like 70 “jam-centric” bands and over 70,000 people camping together across three days, it was the closest thing to the original Woodstock that we could ever hope to attend, and it was magical.
We always enjoyed seeing live music together, but as parents it had become difficult to go see all the bands we wanted to see anymore. Bonnaroo gave us the opportunity to see them all on a single weekend, and they were all on top of their game.
That weekend introduced us to many new artists, like Umphrey’s McGee, who was the very first act we caught. They performed Rush’s classic YYZ to send me through the roof almost immediately. We also had a blast being introduced to the music of pedal steel minister Robert Randolph and the Family Band, who squeezed amazing energy out of a sun-roasted crowd.
But the real treats came after the sun went down. Jam-geeks moe. claimed the festival as their own, performing an epic Saturday midnight to Sunday sunrise set that took each of their 15 songs performed to incredible heights. Walking back to our tent as the sun peaked over the trees (and the band playing on), I knew I had just seen the best show of my life.
It was a short-lived distinction. The final night of the festival saw Phish frontman Trey Anastasio’s ensemble take the stage beneath a full moon and absolutely owned it. I was still a little sore that Phish wasn’t together at the time, but his performance that night almost made me forget that other band. Just like that, Anastasio was once again heading up the best live act around.
In years since, the event has included many great acts that I have seen before, from Wilco and Widespread Panic, to Radiohead, Pearl Jam, and, yes, Phish, as well as many others I have so far not, like The Black Crowes, Vampire Weekend, MGMT, My Morning Jacket, Beastie Boys, Arcade Fire, and too many others to list.
This year’s Bonnaroo is just days away, and Sir Paul McCartney and Tom Petty will join the ranks of other classic artists like Neil Young, Stevie Wonder, and Bruce Springsteen, who have played the festival, along with countless other lesser known performers hoping to add their own names to the legend.
Despite great temptation to do so and many close calls, I’ve never returned to Bonnaroo, but that only makes the memories of that first one so much sweeter. So, to help conjure the Bonnaroo spirit ahead of Bonnaroo 2013, here is a high-octane jam from Trey Anastasio’s 2002 full moon performance of “Push on ’til the Day”.
Are you going to Bonnaroo? Or have you ever been? Share a comment below.