While CMA Fest held court in Nashville, 60 miles south in Manchester, Tenn. country, folk and Americana were well represented at the all-genre Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival.
From hip-hop, to country, to EDM and pop, Bonnaroo prides itself on offering phenomenal music for every taste. Pick any stage at any given time, and you won’t regret the decision.
Here are a few of our favorite concert moments from the 2018 event:
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Crow’s Bonnaroo debut on Friday’s (June 8) main stage drew one of the weekend’s biggest crowds. Everywhere there were kids of all ages dancing to her greatest hits including “If It Makes You Happy,” “Everyday Is a Winding Road,” and “All I Wanna Do.” Seeing the sea of young faces singing along to all her songs, she jokingly asked, “Who are you?” She was clearly in her element during “Soak Up the Sun;” skipping around from one side of the stage to the other with the boundless energy of a 13-year-old.
Fans in the VIP pit welcomed Simpson onstage with a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” that quickly spread throughout the general admission viewing area. The Grammy winner’s Bonnaroo performance on the main stage coincided with his 40th birthday. Fiery and resolute, every note in his guitar solos served a purpose and there were few breaks between songs; making his performance an endless psychedelic country jam. At one point, he slipped into a powerful rendition of Williams Bell’s “You Don’t Miss Your Water.”
Anderson .PaakGary Miller/Getty Images
Country fans who are new to West Coast hip-hop might recognize .Paak’s name for being a fellow Grammy nominee with Kelsea Ballerini and Maren Morris. .Paak and his band Free Nationals delivered an electric display of masterful musicianship and flow; giving Bonnaroo their all with every breath of their being. He bounded across the stage during “Glowed Up,” and single “Bubblin’,” before hopping behind the drum kit for songs like “The Season/Carry Me.”
Advocacy Against Gun Violence
School shooting victims Bree Butler and Aalayah Eastmond were special guests at Bonnaroo to participate in Sunday’s (June 10) very sobering “Not One More” panel discussion on gun violence in America. Everyone at the festival who met them were immediately humbled and in awe by their presence; including Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor who was part of a backstage press conference with Eastmond, comedian Eliza Skinner, Midland’s Jess Carson and singer Billie Eilish on Saturday. Butler is a graduate of Santa Fe High School, and on her last day classes, there was memorial service for the eight students and two teachers who died when a fellow student carried out a mass shooting at the school on May 18. Eastmond is alive today because she hid under her classmate’s murdered body when a former student shot and killed 17 at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14 in Parkland, Fla.
At Sunday’s Q&A with the non-profit the Brady Foundation, Butler and Eastmond both said their healing will continue for the rest of their lives as they continue to advocate for stricter gun laws nationwide. Both believed the media and their fellow classmates moved on from the tragedies too quickly and called for more awareness for those affected by gun violence in urban communities.
“[The media needs] to give people, not only who are victims of mass shootings, a voice but also people who go through this every single day,” Butler said. “This is so traumatizing for me, and it was one day of my life. People go through this every single day, and we need to give those people a voice as well.”
Eastmond added, “I noticed the media loves to talk about March for Our Lives, but I want you guys to talk about March for Our Lives and urban communities. The same amount of attention you’re giving my school and Santa Fe, give urban communities the same amount of attention as March for Our Lives.”
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There was bromance abound at Midland’s Saturday afternoon (June 9) set at This Tent. The packed crowd was dotted with male fans hugging each other while singing along to the trio’s new live arrangements from its debut On the Rocks. The crowd’s singing was at its loudest when the Mark Wystrach, Cameron Duddy and Jess Carson segued from Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” into its newest single “Burn Out.” One woman in the front row screamed bloody murder every time Wystrach walked toward her general direction.
Mavis StaplesJosh Brasted/WireImage
Staples testified and preached the oral history of the Staple Singers between inspired renditions of “Freedom Highway” and an extended play of “I’ll Take You There.” She also delivered her own spin on the Talking Heads’ “Slippery People” and Funkadelic’s “Can You Get to That.”
Nile Rodgers and ChicJosh Brasted/WireImage
Experiencing Rodgers and Chic live is like experiencing the biggest acts to ever live in one performance. Rodgers’ catalogue runs deeper than any music fan can comprehend and includes the Keith Urban and Pitbull collaboration “Sun Don’t Let Me Down,” from Urban’s 2013 album Fuse. For Saturday’s performance on the main stage, Rodgers lit up the stage with a medley of hits he’s written including David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” and Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.”
The Inescapable Old Crow Medicine ShowJosh Brasted/WireImage
Bonnaroo and Old Crow go way back. The band had the very first performance slot at the inaugural ‘roo in 2002 and have made a point to return to Bonnaroo every year since. The band had two performances at the festival on Saturday — one abbreviated performance backstage for press and a full performance on the Which stage that could be heard throughout the festival grounds. The band was also part of the Grand Ole Opry’s Bonnaroo debut on Sunday.
Parker MillsapErika Goldring/Getty Images
A summer thunderstorm cleared just in time for Millsap to kick off the final performances on the main stage. And he brought the fire as he blazed through selections from his newest album Other Arrangements and 2016’s The Very Last Day.
Erika Goldring/Getty Images
TJ and John Osborne have been Bonnaroo attendees for a decade, but Sunday’s set marked their first performance at the annual festival. Their set was heavy on fiery arrangements from Pawn Shop and Port Saint Joe. Before closing with “It Ain’t My Fault,” they slipped into the Temptations’ “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.”
Dua LipaDouglas Mason/Getty Images
Lipa’s set was was red hot as her lip shade. With dance moves, vocals and looks to kill, the London ingénue played to an adoring audience, delivering lush pop songs “Scared to Be Lonely,” “Be the One,” “IDGAF” and more.
Grand Ole OpryFilmMagic/FilmMagic for Bonnaroo Arts And Music Festival
A bluegrass super jam is a Bonnaroo tradition, but this year, the Grand Ole Opry made its Bonnaroo debut on Sunday at That Tent with performances by Maggie Rose, Nikki Lane, Joshua Hedley, Del McCoury, Riders in the Sky and LANCO. Rose made an army of new fans in just two songs, “It’s You / Smooth” and “Pull You Through.”