In advance of the 15th installment of Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival kicking off this weekend, EW spoke with artists like My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, the Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne, Skrillex, and North Mississippi Allstars’ Luther Dickinson about their craziest moments down on the Farm. Turns out, the festival is just as insane for artists as it is for fans. Below, they reveal their wildest moments at Bonnaroo in their own words.
WAYNE COYNE, the Flaming Lips
[In 2010] after we got done, LCD Soundsystem was playing. And three or four songs into their set, it’s raging pretty good. I’m on the side of the stage and see that there’s this big, naked, sweaty guy in front of the audience that’s trying to get over the barricade. He’s red, sweaty, and naked as f—. And then he disappeared! Well, low and behold, five minutes later, this motherf—er runs from the side of the stage and runs up to the stage where LCD are playing! I remember being there with just the people on the side of the stage, and we had to tackle the guy! He was going insane, out of his mind on drugs.
After that happened, I would ask people in interviews or whatever, “Do you remember the naked guy that tried to tackle LCD Soundsystem?” Everybody remembered it. Eventually it got back to him that I was wondering what had happened to this guy and I got the guy’s number — I still text him today! But I texted him initially: “What the f— happened?” It was the only time he’s ever done anything like that. And I thought, for as crazy as he was, and potentially violent as he seemed, [security] treated him like, you’re in our audience and this isn’t going as well as you wanted it to go. [Laughs] Only at Bonnaroo can you be zonked out of your mind and running around naked and still be treated like you’re a VIP.
I’ve talked to James Murphy a couple of times since then and we would talk about the naked guy — if only the naked guy would have broken through my grip, the whole band could have been attacked!
I didn’t plan [the surprise sunrise set in 2014]. We were driving around on a golf cart, high on life, feeling so buzzed. The only thing open was the Kalliope stage — which is like a Burning Man art car. So we got up on the art car and there was this girl sitting there, with blonde hair, just chilling while some guy is blaring some crazy hard trance. She’s like, “You’re Skrillex, right? I’m supposed to be DJ’ing but this guy has gone like an hour over his set and won’t let me play.” And I’m like, “I’ll say something.” So I go over and I’m like, “Hey, is it cool if me and my friend, we’re supposed to DJ.” He was like, “Oh yeah!” And that was the first time I DJ’d with [breakout EDM artist] Mija.
JIM JAMES, My Morning Jacket
We had a hilarious experience at Bonnaroo [in 2015] where it was three or four in the morning and we had played and were trying to get back somewhere — and, you know, it’s quite a giant place — and there was this line of golf carts and we walked up to one and we’re like, “Is there anyway we can get a ride back to the main stage?” And the person on the golf cart goes, “I’m sorry, these are only for the people with the Roll Like A Rockstar Pass.” [Laughs] They’re selling carts to people who think they’re going to party like rockstars, like how we’re partying, and meanwhile we’re walking miles through the dirt.
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[But] Bonnaroo has been good to us. To put in a nutshell, I go there to lose my mind, whether that’s on stage playing and lost in music or out in the crowd with friends or in the silent disco tent or walking late at night over to the ferris wheel or meeting new musicians and people that I admire. I can’t tell you how many bands, new or old, that you run into backstage. You end up standing with them and then hopefully you can make a record with them some day. That’s my favorite part.
LUTHER DICKINSON, North Mississippi Allstars
For us, personally, 2004 was the pinnacle of our band. It will never be any better than that show [at Bonnaroo]. Our band, the concept, the loose collective of people from our region playing with us — we filled a bus full of people from Mississippi and drove there and went buck wild. RL Burnside, the godfather of the North Mississippi blues scene, was with us and it was his last concert. But it was so hot when we did our gig that our dad had a heatstroke as soon as we got on stage. I caught dad as he was falling and put him in a pickup truck and we wheeled him off. [Laughs] He woke up in the back of the pickup truck and he said, “I should have fainted on stage.”
[And] The Kings of Leon played after us, and I remember them coming on when we were coming off and [they] go, “Woo! That was loud!” I shared a joint with one of them later at a late night Robert Randalph show. So yeah, I would say 2004 was my best year. [Laughs]