FEATURE: Bonnaroo’s Collaborative Nature

Lionel and KennyThe Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, especially in its early years, was in large part all about the unknown collaborations and Superjams that were to unfold once you crossed the Centeroo arch threshold into the venue area of the magical 700-acre Tennessee farm. In recent years, the Superjams have been brought back in full force and this year’s festival features “The Soul Superjam with Jim James, Daryl Hall, Zigaboo Modeliste and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band” as well “Ed Helms’ Bluegrass Situation Superjam with Special Guests” – two special, one-off live music events that aren’t likely to repeat elsewhere this summer. In addition to those, you can count on a bevy of surprise sit-ins throughout the fest – ’tis the nature of the beastly mega fest.

The latest release on the Bonnaroo365 channel (see below) briefly highlights some of the bigger collaborations to go down in recent years at Roo, including The Boss and Phish, MMJ and Kirk Hammett of Metallica, John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin and Gov’t Mule and many more. Check out the clip below and read the smattering of brief recollections from my memory bank of sit-ins and superjams at the nine Bonnaroos (2003-11) I was lucky enough to witness.


Collaborations | Bric-a-Brac | Ep.2 | Bonnaroo365


2003: moe. invites out Warren Haynes for Opium > Wormwood during their afternoon Sunday set on Which State and later invites John Popper for “Bring It Back Home” to help round out my first Bonnaroo experience. [LISTEN]

2004: Jon Fishman joined Jazz Mandolin Project at a late night Saturday set. The night prior Umphrey’s McGee and moe. did a full band switch midway through UM’s legendary late night set. [DOWNLOAD]

2005: Galactic’s late night Krewe de Carnivale featured an amazing array of special guests from NOLA and around the jam scene including Leo Nocentelli (The Meters, members of Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Boyd Tinsley of Dave Matthews Band and more). I’m not sure the New Orleans musical tradition had ever been represented better outside of The Big Easy at the time. [Torrent]

2006: My Morning Jacket knocked it out of the park at their late night set and brought out Andrew Bird, as well as original founding members of MMJ at various points throughout the show. This two-set marathon remains my personal favorite concert of all-time. [DOWNLOAD]

My Morning Jacket and Andrew Bird - "The Bear" | Bonnaroo 2006 | Bonnaroo365

Also, who can forget the following night when Trey Anastasio, Mike Gordon, Marco Benevento and Joe Russo (G.R.A.B.) showed up as the mystery Superjam band and, as an added kicker, brought out Phil Lesh for “Goin Down The Road Feeling Bad”?! Walking up to this set and seeing who it was is a sensation I’ll never forget and to see Lesh pop up later in the show was a big cherry on top.

2007: tool blew the gaskets off the main stage at their sea-changing headliner set in ’07 and notably invited Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine for “Lateralus”. Lasers galore on What Stage that night.

2008: My Morning Jacket capped off a four-hour marathon set in the rain by bringing out a visibly intoxicated (it was 4 am at Bonnaroo so a big chunk of slack must be cut here) Zach Galifianakis to sing lead on a closing cover of Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home”. Also, as featured in the Roo official video above, Kirk Hammett of Metallica also joined the band to close set one with a blistering “One Big Holiday”.

2009: Another all-time favorite show occurring in Manchester, TN – Nine Inch Nails absolutely destroyed the landscape and audience in front of Which Stage at their 1 – 3 am late night set, notably bringing out Dillinger Escape Plan during “I Wish”. Also, Phish lived out some musical dreams of their own when they brought out Bruce Springsteen to close the first set of their festival-closing Sunday night show on What Stage for a trio of tunes including “Mustang Sally”, “Glory Days” and “Bobby Jean.”

2010: GWAR was joined by comedian Margaret Cho and the video below pretty much speaks for itself.

2011: So many to celebrate from the 10th Anniversary: Dr. John with The Meters for the full playing of Desitively Bonnaroo, Widespread Panic with Bruce Hornsby on “Red Hot Mama” and a Sunday Superjam led by Dr. John featuring The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, Patrick from MMJ and more. Also, I vaguely recall a String Cheese Incident show with Sexy Sax Man, flying dinosaurs, and a guy on a jet pack…

2012: Although I wasn’t able to make it, I tuned into a good bit of the webcast throughout the weekend and the surprise appearance of Lionel Richie (who was not appearing at the festival) for “Lady” and “All Night Long” during Kenny Rogers set was pretty special, even while viewing on a 17″ screen 2,500 miles away. Kenny would later make yet another appearance with Phish for “The Gambler” at their Sunday night main stage show.

There is magic on that farm, that much is for certain.

p.s. I wasn’t there (barely old enough to drive at the time) so for 2002 memories, we’d love to hear your standout sit-ins in the comments section below if you were at the inaugural festival.