80,000 music and art lovers braved record-breaking heat in Manchester, Tennessee last weekend for the 10th annual Bonnaroo Music Festival.
Festival headliners included rap superstar Eminem, Arcade Fire, The Strokes, a newly-reunited Buffalo Springfield, and rock duo The Black Keys. Off the main stage, performers such as Loretta Lynn, Florence + the Machine, and Lil Wayne kept fans packed on various stages throughout the 700-acre farm.
In addition to several big-name performers, there were also a series of art exhibitions and advanced screenings of upcoming feature films available for viewing at the festival.
Arcade Fire, winners of this year’s Grammy award for Album of the Year, headlined the main stage Friday night to a field of roughly 60,000 fans. The Canadian rock band set up their stage like a drive-in theater, complete with corresponding vintage film clips.
Their 90-minute performance kept the fans attention with hits like “We Used to Wait” and “No Cars Go.” Humbled front man Win Butler spoke about the massive crowd saying that the band’s music was “written for rooms of 20 people,” but “we will never take this for granted.”
Before Eminem took to the main stage on Saturday night, a brief video was played to the packed crowd that chronicled Eminem’s career as of late. “In 2005, Eminem entered rehab. Since then he appeared disinterested and detached from the industry. There were even rumors of his retirement,” the video read. “But tonight, he returns to the stage.”
Then the rapper entered to a symphony of screams and cheers and yelled a rousing “Bonnaroo!” to the crowd. With a renewed vigor, the now sober rap superstar played old and new hits ranging from “The Real Slim Shady,” to “Sing for the Moment,” and his recent hit, “Love the Way You Lie.”
He spoke to the crowd only a few times during his 90-minute set, but when he did, the sea of screaming fans went silent. Before singing his final song, “I’m Not Afraid,” which tells the story of his recovery, Eminem told the fans they were the reason he survived his battle with addiction.
After several minutes of fans chanting for an encore, the rapper emerged and performed a show-stopping rendition of “Lose Yourself,” complete with on-stage pyrotechnics and fireworks.
A newly-reunited Buffalo Springfield took the stage on Saturday to a crowd ranging from age 15 to 65. “We’re Buffalo Springfield,” Neil Young told the crowd before beginning the set. “We’re from the past,” he chuckled.
Although the band split over 40 years ago, Neil Young, Stephen Stills, and Richie Furay made their classic hits sound as fresh as they did in 1969. By the time they performed their final number, “For What It’s Worth,” Young held the microphone over the crowd as they loudly sang the chorus, “Stop, hey what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down.”
The blast-from-the-past was a breath of fresh air at the festival that primarily featured present-day musicians.
On Saturday, a select number of fans were able to see an advanced screening of the upcoming comedy, “30 Minutes or Less,” starring Jesse Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari. The flick, which hits theaters in August, tells the story of a hostage situation and bank robbery gone hilariously wrong. The crowd roared with laughter throughout the action-packed but hysterical scenes, and it was refreshing to see “The Social Network” star Jesse Eisenberg in a comedic role.
I was able to speak with the film’s star, Aziz Ansari, who introduced the film to fans prior to the screening. Ansari, who is currently starring in “Parks and Recreation” on NBC, said he’s enjoyed his transition from television to the big screen but has no plans to leave the hit television show anytime soon.
“I owe Parks and Rec everything,” Ansari said, “I’m definitely sticking around for a long time.”
He also denied rumors of a revival of his massively popular MTV show, “Human Giant.”
“We’re all kind of doing our own thing now,” the star said. “Maybe some day we’ll work together again but not anytime soon.”
After the film, Ansari headed to the main stage and introduced headliners The Black Keys.
“Hi, I’m Joe Bonnaroo, founder of Bonnaroo,” Ansari told the crowd. “Please welcome my friends The Black Eyed Peas — I mean keys,” he joked.
Unfortunately, the 4-day festival was not without tragedy. Thursday evening, a 32-year-old Pittsburgh woman’s body was found outside her campsite by the Coffee County police. The cause of her death is still unknown, but authorities speculate that the scorching temperatures may have played a significant role.
This is not the first death in Bonnaroo’s ten year history. Last year, a 29-year-old male suffered heat stroke and died shortly after collapsing at the festival.
Though the tone of the festival was tainted by tragedy, the performers did their best to bring cheer to the fans. Check out some photos of Bonnaroo’s most memorable moments this year.