Bonnaroo Music Festival :: 06.10 - 06.12 :: Manchester, TN

Bonnaroo 2005 by Jeremy Jones
Over the course of the past four years, Bonnaroo has established itself as THE American Music Festival. For those who crave audio diversity, there is no place on U.S. soil that can compare. Amongst the myriad of amazing Bonnaroo qualities, perhaps the most important and single most amazing aspect is the diversity. With two main stages, three big tents, and several other smaller venues, Bonnaroo offers an unbelievable array of music. But what is even more impressive than the layout, sound quality, and overall bad-ass production is the bands that are chosen.

Fans from the Jam School had the option to follow their favorites from The Allman Brothers to Tea Leaf Green, Assembly of Dust to YMSB, Particle to STS9, and Keller Williams to up-and-coming torchbearers Umphrey's McGee. For those who are all about The Rock, Bonnaroo offered Widespread Panic, The Black Crowes, Gov't Mule, Heartless Bastards, and Drive-By Truckers. Those who dig the singer/songwriter vibe could saddle up to Ray LaMontagne, Iron & Wine, John Prine, M. Ward, and Amos Lee. Hip-hop was certainly in the house with De La Soul, J5, The Perceptionists, RJD2, DJ Krush, Saul Williams, and Matisyahu. The ever-expanding world of Indie Rock was represented with Modest Mouse, Secret Machines, Dr. Dog, and Lake Trout. The Word regrouped, Trey was there (kinda), Herbie Hancock, Dave Matthews, Alison Krauss, Earl Scruggs, My Morning Jacket, Karl D, Galactic, The Duo, and then of course there was The Mars Volta. Based solely on Bonnaroo's ability to know which bands to tap for what time of night (or day), we find that this festival is clearly a notch above every other fest of the summer. The bottom line is that a music festival is about THE MUSIC, and put simply, Bonnaroo always offers the most diverse and important musicians who excel in the live arena.

Warren Haynes with the Allman Brothers :: Bonnaroo 2005
By Jeremy Jones
It seems clear that with so many options and so many choices, each and every one of the 77,000 Bonnaroo attendees had their own personal Bonnaroo experience. There's no way to cover it all, and trying to (as we've done in the past and will likely do in the future) is just daunting! That said, we offer you Dennis Cook and Kayceman's overview along with a slew of "moments" we're calling Top 3 From The 'Roo which we've culled from some of our favorite artists, managers, photographers, Superfly employees, and fans. So come on along and relive the glory. We love Bonnaroo, and we hope you do too.

-By Dennis Cook

Bonnaroo 2005 by Jeremy Jones
The official start of the festival was Friday, but by Thursday afternoon thousands were already stripped down to shorts and bikini tops. The gates were just opening, and the sun shined like a slow-moving bruise - reddish late-day sun giving way to blue-black clouds. The Tennessee soil wasn't yet the mud wallow it would become by the next day, and everywhere you turned, someone grinned at you. One was reminded of David Crosby's sage lyric, "If you smile at me, I will understand because that is something everybody does in the same language." Inhibitions and worries were left outside the chain-link fence as we set up tents and tarps and drank the first shots of the weekend.

Bela Fleck Acoustic Trio :: Bonnaroo 2005 by Jeremy Jones
The initial musical offerings would commence at nightfall, but amongst the nostril-flaring scent of straw, strong herb, and dense farm earth, you could pick up another spirit – an unmistakable hunger for experience. The folks who'd come from every corner of the country were ready to color outside the lines in fresh tones from a metaphorical 64-pack of Crayons. Free from our day-to-day routines, we spoke with our neighbors – something many of us never do at home – shared our food and party supplies, and generally began carving out a lil' utopia for music-obsessed freaks. If goodwill can be brewed in a lab, the organizers and attendees of Bonnaroo may have stumbled across an early formula.

An Evocative Landscape

Bonnaroo 2005 by Jeremy Jones
This is a monumental production - something dreamed large in an age of increasing miniaturization. We're so used to smallness, workaday ordinariness, that when we enter into a space this vast, yet still enclosed and safe, it triggers a lot of thoughts. Akin to a skyscraper or suspension bridge in complexity and construction, the sheer physical scale of Bonnaroo dwarfs just about anything else out there. That it's built around music-makers and other dreamers of dreams just makes it resonate on even more levels. You could see the sense of wonder and even awe on people's faces. It stunned many into a quiet thoughtfulness as they passed from stage to stage. The space itself fuels the musical and emotional epiphanies that abound each day.

The Blanket Of Nightfall

Brazilian Girls :: Bonnaroo 2005
By Jeremy Jones
The tone of things shifted later in the day. The late night sets reflected that creeping darkness and a deeper embrace of mystery. The wild things came out to play, chasing the sunrise with a gusto you don't often see back home. Thursday night kicked off with Rose Hill Drive putting their weathered boots into classic rock's ass and makin' it yelp. They stacked their own material up against Black Sabbath ("Fairies Wear Boots") and Led Zeppelin ("The Immigrant Song") and could walk away with their heads held high. That kind of balls-out delivery was echoed by nearly all the late night sets – a thrilling mix of confidence and daring set design that kept one up and elated way past their normal bedtime. From the epic performance from The Mars Volta to the catchy-abrasive inspired turn from Secret Machines, the wee hour programming provided some of the best times to be had at this year's 'Roo. Being active and awake helped shift everyone, artists included, a few degrees left of center. It made thousands throw a hand in the air at De La Soul, where a dizzying amount of ladies accepted the group's invitation to join them on stage during the finale to shake what their mamas gave them. And if the main stages didn't get you, there were burlesque shows and gentle singer-songwriters tucked into various corners of Centeroo, not to mention the booty-activating arcade/disco tent, where DJ's like Motion Potion chased sunrise in their own way including blindingly original mixes like Widespread's "Please" layered with Deee-Lite's "Groove Is In The Heart." Even if the incessant rain or general clamor was getting to you, it didn't take long to find something that totally engaged your senses, if only the carnival of oddities that people-watching afforded.

Being Present

Mike Gordon and Marco Benevento - Bonnaroo by Jeremy Jones
Knowing we were going nowhere for days, most of the assembled settled into the here-and-now in a fashion foreign to our daily lives. While still tied to the outside world through sporadically-functioning cell phones and the occasional wireless internet connection for the backstage folks, there was the tangible sense of a population really living "right here, right now." Despite the ephemeral nature of this event, it imprints itself on our memory in profound ways. Back at our jobs, nestled in our familiarity, we don't embrace the present tense often enough. Our thoughts are on the next bill to pay or the obligations we've yet to fulfill. Out under open skies in Manchester, we run toward the unfolding moment with open arms. We savor the now, sucking the marrow out of life a little more vigorously. We're open to whatever might happen, maybe because so much in this environment is out of our control (the weather, the schedule, etc.). We surrender to the sense of discovery that is offered to us. This is why we return to our regular lives bubbling over with enthusiasm for what we've been a part of. It lives on because it makes us live a little more brightly.

Make sure to click "Continue Reading" for Kayceman's Proving Ground...

And don't forget to check out Dave Vann's View From Bonnaroo for more images.

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