U2 brought the Joshua Tree tour to the Farm, Lorde brought her dance moves, and Red Hot Chili Peppers brought the hits. The sixteenth iteration of the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival took place this past weekend in Manchester, Tenn., and with a lineup that featured a murderers’ row of pop, rock, hip-hop, and EDM favorites, there were plenty of highlights across the event’s four days. Check out EW’s 11 best moments below.
Mondo Cozmo makes his mark
Thursday night at Bonnaroo has served as a launchpad for several artists over the years — event favorites Portugal. the Man, Alabama Shakes, and the xx have all made their noisy introductions on former opening nights — and this go-around, indie-rocker Josh Ostrander, who writes and records as Mondo Cozmo, made sure he took advantage of the opportunity. Playing with palpable delight, he ripped through his own singles “Shine” and “Hold On to Me” as well as a euphoric, sing-along-inspiring cover of the Verve’s “Bitter Sweet Symphony.”
Turkuaz hosts the weekend’s first all-out jam session
Although EDM, pop, and hip-hop have commandeered more and more of the prime real estate on the historically jam-centric Bonnaroo poster in recent years, that doesn’t mean its crowd has forgotten how to jam out. Powerfunk nine-piece Turkuaz thrilled the Thursday night crowd with its grooving basslines, soaring horns, and roaring guitars.
Glass Animals bring all the lights and a whole lot of vibe
The English four-piece graduated to both the festival’s Which Stage this year and a 10 p.m. Friday night slot — and they made sure they pulled out all the stops for the occasion. Sandwiched between the xx and rock legends U2, they leaned heavily on both their funky, electro-pop LP How to Be a Human (2016) and a positively entrancing light display for one of the grooviest sets of the evening.
U2 inspires a moment of pure rock catharsis
On U2’s first U.S. festival headlining trip, they brought their massive Joshua Tree tour to Tennessee. But on either side of the seminal 1987 LP, they played hits from all over their 41-year career, like 1983’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and 2004’s “Vertigo.” Given the variety of ages and fandom levels in front of them, it occasionally felt like pockets of the crowd popped off at different times — except for when the band launched into their epic “Beautiful Day” from 2000’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind. Then, they had the echo of every attendee pulsing through the air. (Read our full recap of the set here.)
Major Lazer get Bonnaroo naked — sort of
The dance music superstars brought pyrotechnics, confetti, and plenty of potentially seizure-inducing lasers to their late-night set, which proved one of the biggest raves of the weekend. But the highlight actually came courtesy of their rowdy, game crowd: “Take something off and put it in the air!” the trio yelled near the end of their 75-minute set. The whole field enthusiastically agreed, and the night sky soon filled with shirts, hats, and jackets.
Big Gigantic close out Friday night with a bang
Kicking off at 2:15 a.m., the jazz- and hip-hop-infused livetronica duo closed out the Friday night sessions at the Farm with a bombastic, bass-heavy set. If people were tired heading into the 14th hour of scheduling that day, you’d never know it: They brought their LED light accessories, their neon totems, and a whole lot of energy for one of the long weekend’s best parties.
Lukas Nelson & the Promise of the Real ease Saturday along￼
Early afternoon sets are hard at Bonnaroo — for both artists and attendees. With temperatures usually hovering in the 90s and programming that keeps revelers up late the night before, getting a rise out of the audience isn’t always simple. Mild weather certainly helped this year, as did the catalog of Lukas Nelson and his band, the Promise of the Real, who kicked off their set at 2:45 p.m.. With songs like the heartbreaking “(Forget About) Georgia” and the bluesy rocker “Start to Go,” Nelson lured attendees from all over the grounds to make their way to his tent.
Chance the Rapper remains the fest’s most enthusiastic participant
Chance the Rapper has a habit of working his way into just about every set possible when he stops by the Farm. In 2015, after making a surprise appearance with Kendrick Lamar at Earth, Wind & Fire’s show, he led Superjam covers of throwback hits like Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy” and the Fresh Prince’s “Summertime”; last year, he and Miguel returned to the annual all-star jam, and he also popped up on the stages of Macklemore, Bryson Tiller, and J. Cole throughout the weekend. His party-hopping continued this year. Fresh off his Saturday night headlining set, for which he entered the main stage via motorcycle, he headed right back to, yep, the Superjam, where he led takes of OutKast’s “Hey Ya!” and Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang.”
Cage the Elephant rock out
The Kentucky-born rockers, one of music’s most impassioned live bands, earned their first nighttime set this year at Bonnaroo. From the moment frontman Matt Shultz strode out, shirtless under his blazer, it was a tireless affair. Their setlist favored 2016 LP Tell Me I’m Pretty, and the classic rock sounds that define it fit in well with the electric crowd who happily sang, shouted, and head-banged along to each and every note.
Red Hot Chili Peppers bring the funk — and the hits
The funk-rock legends headlined Saturday night at the Farm, and it was hard to tell if they or their crowd were more excited throughout their nearly two-hour set. “We’ve played a million f—ing festivals,” bassist Flea said as they tore through favorites like “Can’t Stop,” “Dani California,” and “Californication.” “This is my favorite one.”
Royal Blood plays to a lively crowd
After nearly four days of all-day, all-night partying and subpar sleeping conditions (read: tents), the Sunday crowd at the Farm is always more than a bit worn down. But if you were at blues rockers Royal Blood’s afternoon set, you’d never know it. From start to finish, the crowd in the main stage pit was jumping, shoving, moshing, and singing along to every scorching hit.
Lorde dances through her Bonnaroo debut
Lorde had to restart her Sunday evening set twice due to technical difficulties, and while it definitely rattled the pop star, who was making her first appearance at the festival, she channeled all that energy into some of her more inspiring dancing yet. Lorde’s never much concerned with staying conventionally pretty — she’ll thrash and contort to her music with reckless abandon — and the effect is dazzling. When her set wrapped, she sprinted off the main stage right into the arms of fans beyond the barricade. “Bonnaroo, I’m so in love with you!” she exclaimed. The feeling was mutual.