Bonnaroo has adopted the motto, “Radiate Positivity.” The going theme in our recaps of 2022 has been the radiating heat. However, even a 115-degree heat index couldn’t suppress our positivity. Especially since Saturday at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival had some of the most anticipated acts of the weekend lined up.
One of the challenges of Bonnaroo has always been FOMO followed by actual missing out because there’s simply so much going on to see it all. While 2022 mostly aligned so that our schedule didn’t have a ton of conflicts, the sheer size of the festival prevented us from seeing everything that we wanted to see…even averaging over 25,000 steps each day. One of the things that makes Bonnaroo so magical is that there’s literally music everywhere you are. In years past, you could get a festival’s worth of music just walking around the campgrounds listening to fellow Bonaroovians who brought their personal guitars and DJ boards. Over the years, the festival has embraced the idea of music being closer to the campsites and has brought planned, official shows to expanded camping pods on added stages.
Shannon and the Clams
With so much happening in the main festival site, Centeroo, we hadn’t had much time to wander around and see what the rest of the fest had to offer. However, with the announcement that Oakland’s Shannon & The Clams were added to the Toyota Music Barn, we were motivated to make the dusty trek into the campground area. Blending a whole heap of retro influences including doo-wop, classic R&B, psychedelic, surf, and too many more to be named, Shannon & The Clams has made a name for themselves for their genre-defying sound. It’s easy to think of them taking a time machine to go back and play oldie rock, but there’s a distinct rock and early punk element to them that would make the 1950’s school principal cover his ears at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance.
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You’ve probably noticed that our Saturday Bonnaroo coverage includes fewer bands than other days. That’s because we were preparing for one of the festival’s most anticipated events—its annual SuperJam. Always star-packed, this year’s set carried even more hype as it was being led by Jack Antonoff who had hinted at his Bleachers concert that he might have some special guests. Some years, SuperJam has focused on a handful of artists coming together to make a unique project. More recent versions have been built around a theme, with various artists rotating through the stage to do cover versions of songs within the concept. This year’s theme was “Jack Antonoff’s 1984.” The name alone likely inspired thousands of google searches to see what songs came out in 1984—and what an amazing year it was! Look for our full coverage of the 2022 Bonnaroo SuperJam in an upcoming feature. Not to spoiler our own article, but we have to say that with Antonoff’s direction of a super band, Lauren Mayberry’s (CHVRCHES) Madonna covers, special appearances from Carly Rae Jepsen and Britt Daniel (Spoon), and so much more going on, it was a heck of a good time!
Speaking of Lauren Mayberry and CHVRCHES, one of the most painful schedule overlaps had to be missing the beginning of the Scottish synthpop group’s set to watch the end of SuperJam. Although we had caught CHVRCHES live earlier in the summer, they have cemented themselves as one of those bands you could watch a hundred times and still not want to miss the next show. Fortunately, the SuperJam ended on time and with some quick walking we were able to catch the majority of the set. As we arrived at the Which Stage, we found Mayberry spinning across it, with the tireless energy she has at all of the band’s shows. The trio push each other all show—the music rises and falls to meet their lead singer’s lofty vocals and dynamic stage presence. And while the crowd basked in the thrill of hearing hits like “Asking For A Friend” and “The Mother We Share,” nothing matches the many spine tingling moments and shared glances of enjoyment among fans that filled their performance of “Never Say Die.”
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The festival’s main What Stage has seen some odd daily schedules come across it over the years. Who can forget the Chris Rock/Metallica back-to-back in 2008? Or even The Chicks/J-Cole the night before here in 2022? The Bonnaroo lineup always gives us little treats like that. Not quite as odd as those examples but definitely a point of discussion leading into the day was getting to see Billy Strings on the What Stage, to be immediately followed by Tool. For his part, Billy Strings took control of the huge field drawing in both fans and new listeners alike. I hesitate to call his music jamgrass as the genre is often associated with a lack of depth. Strings, on the other hand, is more like bluegrass that jams—smart lyrics and solid music that sometimes drifts off to a magical jamming land. For reference, no one need look further than his epically extended version of “Dust in a Baggie” that started his Bonnaroo set. Throughout the set, the crowd danced, swayed, or simply sat back bathing in the bluegrass groove. If there was one complaint, it would be how criminally short of a set time they gave an artist who can easily rip through hours of songs. While the crowd pleaded for more music, Strings finally left the stage, joking how he feared what would happen if he made Maynard and the other guys from Tool angry.
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Tool is a band that feels like it’s always been around but never seems to age. Maybe that’s why there was just as much anticipation of the group playing Bonnaroo in 2022 as there was in 2007. This is partly due to their consistent intensity, both visual and sonic, while creating their signature blend of prog and metal rock. It’s also attributable to the group continuing to put out compelling music and designing attention grabbing shows. With the festival having been cancelled in 2020 and 2021, Tool’s return to The Farm was three years in the making. Shrouded in the shadows, frontman Maynard James Keenan growled and howled through the nine song setlist—a selection of songs that filled the headlining set time, yet felt like it ended way too soon. Around him, the spotlight was on the rest of the band as the LED screens flowed through eerie imagery. While “Opiate” was easily the crowd favorite, it was easy to get lost in the heavy jams, like strobe-filled closer, “Invincible.”
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Going into Marc Rebillet, we only really knew two things: people called him “loop daddy” and everyone…and we mean everyone including Maynard James Keenan from Tool during their set…was saying that we needed to check him out. By the end of Ribillet’s set, I’m still not entirely sure what I witnessed, but just know that it was a heck of a lot of fun. Rebillet—at least at his live shows—jokes (usually NSFW) with the crowd, and while doing so, records his banter to turn it into loops. Those loops eventually become the next song or transition into one of his hits, giving the whole experience this wild and spontaneous feel. From a failed attempt to start the show in the middle of Centeroo instead of on stage, to a large blow-up doll with Rebillet’s face added to it, to the sheer intensity of the crowd, and adding in the infectiousness of his loops…it was an unforgettable experience.
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Once again, there were plenty of musical options running all night long. However, with one more day of Bonnaroo still to come (and the energy drinks fading), it was time to call an end to Saturday on The Farm. Make sure to check out our coverage of Thursday and Friday of the 2022 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival which has already been posted as well as out upcoming posts covering Sunday and the amazing SuperJam!