Nothing quite compares to stepping back onto the Farm in Manchester, TN and knowing you’re embarking on another four-day ride that is the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. For its 15th anniversary, Bonnaroo put together a stacked lineup, including acts like BØRNS, Misterwives, LCD Soundsystem, Tame Impala, Pearl Jam, and Death Cab for Cutie. Bonnaroovians showed up, totems and sunscreen at the ready, prepared to throw down for an awesome weekend.

This being my third trip to the Farm, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect of the festival. As usual, though, nothing can prepare you for the first time you walk into Centeroo, the main festival area. Going through high five trains and walking under the classic arch get you sufficiently ready for a day full of jams and new friends.

Day 1:

Thursday’s lineup is usually a more laid back experience. There aren’t any headliners on the big stages, so it’s your opportunity to get the lay of the land and check out some new artists you aren’t as familiar with.

We started out by seeing Lany. The crowd was extremely relaxed and ready for a good time, and we made some friends from Chicago, with whom we enjoyed the set. The highlight of the concert for me was when they played my personal favorite, “ILYSB.”

Bonnaroo_Music_Festival

After that we made the trek across the Farm to see LOLAWOLF, Zoë Kravitz’s brainchild. I wasn’t as familiar with this band, so I went into it with an open mind. The group impressed me with their songs like “Jimmy Franco,” giving off Santigold-like vibes.

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LOLAWOLF

Next up was Bully, another band I didn’t know much about. They were definitely a different direction from the other artists of the day. With their female-fronted lineup, their angsty rock made everyone in the crowd ready to let loose.

We finished out the night with BØRNS, who put on an awesome set. Tons of people crammed into This Tent to enjoy songs like “American Money,” “Past Lives” and a cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes.”

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BØRNS

The one artist I was sad to miss on Thursday was Vulfpeck. I heard they were a good time, but unfortunately (or fortunately for my taste buds – shout out to Bonnaroo food vendors), one has to eat at some point.

Day 2:

We woke up in our sweltering tent on Friday excited for a day full of artists we wanted to see. First up after a trip to pick up an Amish donut was Daughter. They were certainly a good band to put down your blanket and chill to, a welcome relief when you’re walking around all day. They serenaded the crowd with hits like “Youth” and “Candles,” giving the crowd a soothing experience all around.

Next up was MisterWives. This was the first show we saw at What Stage, meaning the crowd was a lot larger than anything else we’d seen so far. The group definitely rose to the occasion – MisterWives kept the crowd high energy and having fun with their songs like “Reflections” and “Our Own House.” The band kept saying how excited they were to perform, and that excitement transferred to a really amped up show.

We grabbed a bite to eat and headed back to What Stage to check out CHVRCHES, which was one of my personal favorite shows of the weekend. I had seen CHVRCHES two years ago at Bonnaroo, but they exceeded my already good impression of them this time around. The Scottish group kept the crowd entertained and even brought out surprise guest Hayley Williams from Paramore for vocals on their new song “Bury It.” The highlights for me were the songs “Leave a Trace” and “High Enough to Carry You Over.”

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CHVRCHES

Afterwards we set off to watch Halsey. I most recently saw Halsey at Austin City Limits, so I knew she put on a good show. She didn’t disappoint. Her show featured a lot of lights and special effects, as well as a surprise appearance from St. Lucia on a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” After the show, I found out that Halsey had recently gotten out of the hospital before her performance, and I was all the more impressed with her energy and quality of vocals.

We caught a few songs of J. Cole’s set, which was a good time. He brought out Chance the Rapper for a surprise appearance, and the crowd received that performance really well. After that, we headed to the Chainsmokers, which was another highlight of the weekend for me. They opened up their set by calling out to the crowd, “Hey Bonnaroo, are you ready to make Coachella look like a bitch?” They played all of their well-known songs like “Roses” and “Don’t Let Me Down,” but they also played a lot of remixes. Everyone in the crowd was super high energy and the group really put on a good show with a lot of lights and good beats.

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The Chainsmokers

And then it was time for my all-time favorite performance of the festival, Tame Impala. Scheduled from 1 a.m. to 3 a.m., Tame Impala graced the crowds with smooth music and a sky full of confetti. With songs like “The Moment” and “The Less I Know the Better,” the group honestly exceeded every one of my expectations. They ended a little earlier than expected which was slightly a disappointment, but all in all I was highly satisfied.

Tame_Impala

Tame Impala

There were a number of performances I would have liked to see that I had to miss on Friday, including Mothers, Leon Bridges and Purity Ring, but I was overall happy with the day’s shows.

Day 3:

By the time Saturday rolls around and you’re sufficiently dirty enough to be a cause for concern, Bonnaroo gives you an even more stacked lineup for the day.

We started off with a surprise set by Jason Mraz. Unfortunately, though musically he did a pretty good job, we were only able to stay for a few songs before some of his jokes became a little tasteless and my overall impression of him was soured. We then headed to Grace Potter, who was incredible. Her vocals and overall stage presence made up for the disappointment that was Jason Mraz’s banter. Her cover of Prince’s song “When Doves Cry” was honestly so good.

Next up we checked out The Internet. I had heard a lot of good things about this group made up of Odd Future members, and they didn’t disappointment. Syd Tha Kid’s vocals are surprising and soothing, and they were certainly a good set to kick back and relax to.

Then was another one of the more solid performances of the weekend, Two Door Cinema Club. This was an all around good time, and they had the crowd dancing during every song. I was surprised by the diversity of the crowd as well, considering there was a large group of older men who knew every word to every song in front of us. Between “Something Good Can Work,” “Undercover Martyn” and “What You Know,” the crowd was moving constantly and having a blast.

We caught the tail end of Band of Horses (along with everyone else just going to see “The Funeral”) on our way to HAIM. HAIMwas a huge surprise for me – I knew I liked them, but was surprised by how enjoyable their performance was. The three sisters were all really talented and all showed off their skills on multiple musical instruments. The group also had a solid Prince cover of “I Would Die 4 U.”

HAIM_Bonnaroo

HAIM

After HAIM, the festival ran into a little bit of chaos. Severe thunderstorms were rolling through the area, so everything got put on hold and people were advised to go to their vehicles. Our campsite was a good 45-minute walk away, but luckily we made some nice friends who let us hang out at their campsite and avoid death by lightning strike. After about an hour, everything resumed with a revised schedule.

Up next was Ellie Goulding, who I was surprised by how much I liked. Her set was so energetic and fun. I was also completely blown away by her vocals. I had always assumed there was a lot of production that went into her songs, but she was running around stage and dancing her heart out while still having an amazing voice. My personal favorites from the set were “Devotion” and “Anything Could Happen.”

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Ellie Goulding

After Ellie, we headed to Pearl Jam. This was one of the most universally anticipated shows of the weekend, so naturally the crowd was gigantic. One of the highlights was Eddie Vedder pulling up his young daughter and having the entire crowd serenade her with “Happy Birthday.” It was a really touching experience.

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Pearl Jam

We finished off the night with an appearance at Big Grams, a compilation of Big Boi and Phantogram. This was an unusual experience for sure, but the group did a good job at keeping the crowd interested and excited for such a late night show.

The acts I missed out on Saturday included Post Malone and Sir the Baptist.

Day 4:

Ah, Sunday. The prospect of a real shower and ditching the tent lingers in the air, but you still have a jam-packed day of music to get on with.

We started the day off by checking out Jason Isbell. He kept things low-key and relaxed for the crowds, easing them into the last day on the Farm. Next up was Father John Misty, an artist I’ve been dying to see. My personal favorites from this set were “Now I’m Learning to Love the War” and “The Ideal Husband.”

Next up was Death Cab for Cutie. I felt like I was reliving my early adolescent days while they played all their fan favorites, like “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” and “Transatlanticism.” The former was incidentally a request made by Chance the Rapper. The set was fairly nostalgic for me, while also incorporating some of the band’s newer music.

After that we fulfilled one of my bucket list requests and saw Third Eye Blind. Not only did they play the classics like “Jumper” (which they dedicated to the victims of the Orlando shooting) and “Semi-Charmed Life,” but also they added some covers into their set, including Beyoncé’s “Mine” and Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U.” I thoroughly enjoyed this set.

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Third Eye Blind

Next we checked out The Bluegrass Situation Superjam hosted by Ed Helms. This was the fourth year this has been at Bonnaroo, and as always it didn’t disappoint. Bluegrass is definitely not always my type of music, but Ed Helms and his associates put on a great show.

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Ed Helms

Then, finally, came Dead & Co, aka former members of The Grateful Dead and John Mayer. What a way to end a festival. One of the highlights of this was “Tennessee Jed,” a relevant song for a festival in Manchester, TN. The Sunday headliner is always a unifier, an artist that can bring together all the different types of fans that are present at Bonnaroo. Dead & Co captured the hearts of nostalgic Dead Heads and younger fans.

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Dead & Company

Bonnaroo was, as always, a crazy experience. Between the delicious food vendors, the new addition of permanent bathrooms and the contagious positivity, the festival knows how to have a good time. All in all, my favorite thing about Bonnaroo is how happy everyone is. Whether it’s commenting on your neighbor’s funky socks or asking someone where they got their food, it’s unbelievably easy to make friends and enjoy music together. That’s what the spirit of a music festival really should be – the solidarity of the music.