Bonnaroo Music Festival

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Coordinates: 35°28′40″N 86°03′02″W / 35.47778°N 86.05056°W / 35.47778; -86.05056

Bonaroo Music Festival logo
Genre Pop, alternative rock, indie rock, hip hop, R&B, EDM, metal, funk, stoner rock, jazz, jam bands, Americana, country, folk, bluegrass, gospel, reggae, world
Dates June 11–14, 2015
Location(s) Great Stage Park, Manchester, Tennessee, USA
Years active 2002–present
Official website

The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival is an annual four-day music festival created and produced by Superfly Presents and AC Entertainment, held at Great Stage Park on a 700-acre (2.8 km²) farm in Manchester, Tennessee, USA. The festival typically starts on the second Thursday in June and lasts four days. Main attractions of this festival are the multiple stages of live music, featuring a diverse array of musical styles including indie rock, classic rock, world music, hip hop, jazz, americana, bluegrass, country music, folk, gospel, reggae, pop, electronica, and other alternative music. Musical acts play from around noon until 4:00am or later.

The festival began with a primary focus on jam bands and folk rock; it has diversified greatly in recent years but continues to pay tribute to its roots. Past notable acts include Elton John,[1] Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, Paul McCartney, Tool, The Beach Boys, Kanye West, Phish, My Morning Jacket, Stevie Wonder, The White Stripes, Neil Young, Pearl Jam, Tom Petty, The Dead, The Allman Brothers Band, James Brown, Wilco, Bon Iver, The Flaming Lips, Willie Nelson, Mumford and Sons,Jay-Z, Bob Dylan, The Black Keys, Dave Matthews Band, Buffalo Springfield, The Police, Arcade Fire, Jack Johnson, The Strokes, The Black Crowes, Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bruce Springsteen, Beastie Boys, Kings of Leon, The Decemberists, ZZ Top, ASAP Ferg, and Widespread Panic. The festival features craftsmen and artisans selling unique products, food and drink vendors, a comedy tent, silent disco, cinema tent, and a Ferris wheel.

The festival was named one of the "50 Moments That Changed Rock & Roll" by Rolling Stone magazine.[2] and "Festival of the Decade" by Consequence of Sound and among the 10 Best Festivals by GQ Magazine.


The word Bonnaroo, popularized by New Orleans R&B singer Dr. John with his 1974 album Desitively Bonnaroo,[3] means "a really good time." It is a Ninth Ward slang construction taken from the French "bon" meaning "good," and "rue" from the French "street," translating to "the best on the streets."[4] The name was chosen both for its literal meaning and to honor the rich Louisiana music tradition. Superfly Productions is the organization that founded Bonaroo. It is a organization of originally four men who had finished college and had fallen far into debt with school payments. The four men collaborated together and figured out how to do what they love for a living while using their previous received college education. Superfly productions also founded Outside lands festival that takes place annually in San Francisco, California. Superfly also founded GoogaMooga that takes place in Brooklyn New York. "[5]

The first Bonnaroo took place in 2002 and took inspiration from music festivals in the 1990s, including those put on by the band Phish, Coachella and Glastonbury. With no traditional advertising, the festival sold out in nearly two weeks. By 2003, the festival had been named by Rolling Stone as one of the top 50 moments in rock & roll. Comedy acts such as Jim Breuer were first added in 2005. In 2007, Bonnaroo purchased the land for the festival, creating Great Stage Park with all of its iconic features. A permanent main stage was installed in 2010.[6]


On January 10, 2007, Bonnaroo organizers Superfly Productions purchased a major portion of the site where the annual music festival is held. The purchase of 530 acres (2.1 km2) encompassed all of the performance areas and much of the camping and parking area used for the annual festival; the festival will continue to lease another 250 acres (1.0 km2) that currently serve as additional parking and camping. Since its inception, Bonnaroo has contributed more than $1 million directly to Coffee County organizations. In addition to annual charitable contributions, the festival's activities provide annual revenue to the county. Measured in a 2005 study, the economic impact of the event on Coffee County was more than $14 million in business revenues and more than $4 million in personal income.[7] The Bonnaroo music festival makes most of its income from the fans. Some of the charities that receive and honorable amount of money year after year are Doctors Without Borders, Head Count, MusiCares, Habitat for Humanity, Boys and Girls Club of America, Rock the Earth, the American Red Cross, and the Sierra Club, as well as provided aid during tragic disasters such as the Haitian earthquake, Hurricane Katrina, Nashville floods and Gulf of Mexico oil spill. [8]

By 2013, the direct and indirect economic impact of the festival since inception was estimated at $51 million, including $2.9 million in tax revenue for the year 2012.[9]


Bonnaroo promotes itself as a sustainable festival.[10] As a reward for sending a letter to a legislator in support of climate change legislation, the Natural Resources Defense Council gave free downloads of a compilation from 17 various Bonnaroo artists called "Best of Bonnaroo".[11] A Greener Festival has recognized Bonnaroo's efforts for the past three years.[12] IN 2004 Bonaroo diverted 120 tons of trash by taking recycling so seriously. They also provide organic and recyclable materials to eat and drink from which also provides less waste. [13] There is a defined process, which includes a self-evaluation and an audit from Greener Festival auditors during Bonnaroo.[14]


In 2008, it was named "Best Festival" by Rolling Stone magazine, calling it "the ultimate over-the-top summer festival." [15]

One of “50 moments that changed rock & roll” – Rolling Stone

“Bonnaroo has revolutionized the modern rock festival” – The New York Times [16]

“Festival of the Year” – Pollstar

“Best festival of the summer” – SPIN [17]

“The culmination of a musical movement” – USA Today [18]

“The concert event of the summer” – USA Today

“Music and subculture melted together into a pot of creative bubbling energy” – CNN [19]

“Bonnaroo: Three days and four nights of musical history in the making” - AP


The official venues located at Bonnaroo often change from year to year. The following are a few of the more permanent venues.

Which Stage at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, TN.
  • Centeroo - The Central area of Bonnaroo. Serviced by one main entrances, nearly all of the festival activity is enclosed in this area. Various merchants and activities supplement the plethora of music related activities located within Centeroo. While Centeroo is open 24 hours a day, musical artists generally only play from noon until the evening, followed by the unopposed headlining act. Afterwards, there are late-night sets, usually running from midnight until the early morning, sometimes as late as 5 or 6 AM.
  • What Stage - The main stage of the festival is also the largest. What Stage is open from approximately noon until midnight (late night sets usually over by 3am). Traditionally, the headlining act each day will play on the What Stage with no other acts performing on any other stages.
  • Which Stage - The second stage, Which Stage, is generally one of the last stages to finish before the headlining act each night. After the headlining act performs, a late night show generally follows here.
  • This Tent, That Tent, and The Other Tent - These three tents serve as a combined tertiary tier for musical performances. Late night shows also generally occur in all three of these venues, along with the yearly Superjam, a one-off combination of various musicians performing at the festival.
  • Comedy Tent - This tent is reserved strictly for comedy acts, such as stand up comedians.

Various other small tents and stages also exist, such as the Solar Stage, Lunar Stage, Sonic Stage, and the Cinema tent. See the Bonnaroo website for further details on these venues.


A robot with wavy tentacle arms.
Some graffiti by Nashville artist Ryan McCauley on the Graffiti Wall, which separates Centeroo from the campsites.

Available to the Bonnaroo public throughout the week are various activity tents. These tents become most popular with the night crowd, with such activities set up as The Silent Disco tent and several other club or bar-themed venues. In the Silent Disco, each person upon entering the tent is given a set of headphones that syncs with the DJ and the music, so everyone is listening to the same song through the headphones while appearing from the outside to be dancing to no music at all. Other activities include the Comedy Tent where comedians from Mike Birbiglia to Flight of the Conchords have performed. The Cinema tent, showing a variety of mainstream and independent movies, is also popular as it is one of the air conditioned tents, and the Broo’ers Festival tent is a popular attraction featuring a variety of breweries from all over the United States. Outside the big tents, Planet Roo hosts a variety of non-profit organizations sharing information on healthy lifestyles and resource conservation, and Splash-a-Roo (a giant slip-n-slide area) and a giant mushroom fountain provide a practical way to beat the heat. Bonnaroo creators designated the wall surrounding Centeroo, colloquially called "the Graffiti Wall", as a place for street artists to paint whatever they feel like painting.

Outside the music venue, in the packed campgrounds known to Bonnaroovians as Tent City, there are also about 11 pods set up by festival organizers with activities and services for the campers. Each pod has an information[20] and medical booth and a community art project. Often these are joint projects between invited artists and the campers themselves: past festival pods have featured birdhouse construction and decorating,[21] stretched canvas and paints open to anyone with a message or picture in his or her mind, a giant Lite Brite-like panel, and huge frames and raw clay which Bonnaroovians shaped and moulded to their taste. Some of the art installations are finished prior to the festival and have offered visitors an opportunity to walk through a bamboo forest 15 to 20 degrees cooler than the surrounding farm and to peer through a series of large kaleidoscopes. In addition to information, medical services and an art project, each pod offers public showers for $7 each.

Activities like these, along with great food vendors and unique shopping, provide an easy and fun way to hang around the festival in between music performances. In 2009, Bonnaroo featured the Bungaloo, a community art project that invited festival goers to paint a small tile that was then affixed to 10 foot water drops suspended between The Other Tent and This Tent. For each tile painted, the festival-goer could vote for the charity of their choice. Bungaloo, a new online paint company, made a $1000 donation to the charity with the most votes.


In 2013, Bonnaroo brought its stage to YouTube.[22] In conjunction with talent and Bonnaroo fans, Bonnaroo and Los Angeles production company Kids At Play[23] created Soopergroop – a band created from four musical acts brought together over four days to create and share original works at Bonnaroo 2013 and launch Bonnaroo’s YouTube channel.[24] The channel’s title, Bonnaroo 365, refers to the celebration’s intention to be part of fans’ daily lives. YouTube’s position with musician and fans – amassing 1.9 billion views of music videos in 2012[25] – made it an essential platform for the music festival.

Soopergroop[26] talent was chosen for their musicality and YouTube audiences. They met for the first time at Bonnaroo in June. Their work process over the four-day festival was the subject of an eight-part documentary series by Kids At Play released on Bonnaroo’s YouTube Channel.

The artists were: Ÿ

  • Soul Khan, an American songwriter, rapper and retired battle rapper from Brooklyn, N.Y..
  • Jenny Suk, known as JENI, singer and songwriter from the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • ŸKnower, the Los Angeles duo of Louis Cole and Genevieve Artadi, electronic funk-pop artists.
  • Black Violin, an American hip-hop duo from Miami (Kev Marcus on violin and Wil B on viola).

Annual attendance[edit]

Note: all figures are approximate

Bonnaroo Music Festival by year[edit]


  1. ^ Mason Stillings (February 25, 2014). "Elton John and Kanye West to play Bonnaroo Music Festival". Festival Essentials. Retrieved October 10, 2014. 
  2. ^ Wayne Bledsoe (May 11, 2012). "The Birth of Bonnaroo". Tennessee Alumnus Magazine. Retrieved June 16, 2014. 
  3. ^ Dougherty, Steve (March 30, 2012). "Dr. John's Unlikely New Partner". The Wall Street Journal. p. D4. 
  4. ^ "Jon Pareles at the Bonnaroo Music Festival". The New York Times. Retrieved January 19, 2006. 
  5. ^ {{cite news url= <>}}
  6. ^ Buchanan, Leigh. Superfly Presents. Inc. magazine, June 2011.
  7. ^ "Bonnaroo Purchases Festival Site". PR Newswire. Retrieved November 2, 2012. 
  8. ^ {{cite web url=}}
  9. ^ Staff (May 20, 2013). "Study: Bonnaroo has $51M economic impact". Knoxville News Sentinel. Retrieved June 14, 2014. 
  10. ^ [1][dead link]
  11. ^ "Free Download of 'Best of Bonnaroo' Comp for Climate Change | News". March 5, 2010. Retrieved November 2, 2012. 
  12. ^ "46 Festivals Win The Coveted Greener Festival Award". October 27, 2011. Retrieved November 2, 2012. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Award". A Greener Festival. Retrieved November 2, 2012. 
  15. ^ [2]
  16. ^ "SUMMER FESTIVALS: POP AND JAZZ; Bonnaroo Jams In Everyone". The New York Times. Retrieved November 2, 2012. 
  17. ^ SPIN - Google Boeken. Retrieved November 2, 2012. 
  18. ^ "Bonnaroo bands jam for a wider audience". USA Today. June 25, 2002. Retrieved November 2, 2012. 
  19. ^ Joseph Van Harken CNN. "Raising the Bonnaroof - Jun. 18, 2003". CNN. Retrieved November 2, 2012. 
  20. ^ What do you do at the information booth? 'Play Bach, and help people' - interview -
  21. ^ Inside The Birdhouse Pod at Bonnaroo 2011 -
  22. ^ [3]/
  23. ^ "Kids At Play". Retrieved 2013-11-28. 
  24. ^ "Bonnaroo". YouTube. Retrieved 2013-11-28. 
  25. ^ "Statistics". YouTube. Retrieved 2013-11-28. 
  26. ^ "Bonnaroo & INDMUSIC Release Soopergroop Docuseries". LBBOnline. Retrieved 2013-11-28. 
  27. ^ Patrick Ryan (June 12, 2014). "Bonnaroo kicks off today". USA Today. Retrieved June 16, 2014. 
  28. ^ Ric Hickey (July 14, 2013). "Bonnaroo 2013: Walk The Moon Thrills". City Beat. Retrieved June 16, 2014. 
  29. ^ Patti Wenzel (June 12, 2012). "Festival Season: Four days at Bonnaroo". Retrieved June 17, 2013. 
  30. ^ Lucas Kavner (June 14, 2011). "Bonnaroo Festival Reports Tenth Death Since 2002". Huffington Post. Retrieved June 17, 2013. 
  31. ^ Mary Jayne McKay (June 14, 2010). "Bonnaroo 2010: Hot Times on Stage and Off". CBS News. Retrieved June 17, 2013. 
  32. ^ a b Bob Grossweiner & Jane Cohen (June 16, 2009). "Bonnaroo 2009 sees attendance increase over last year's festival totals". Ticket News. Retrieved June 17, 2013. 
  33. ^ a b c d Wayne Bledsoe (June 3, 2010). "Bonnaroo 2010: What a long, strange trip it's been". Retrieved June 17, 2013. 
  34. ^ Ray Waddell (June 14, 2004). "Bonnaroo Scores High Gross, Attendance". Retrieved June 17, 2013. 
  35. ^ Andrew Beaujon (Aug 7, 2003). "Bonnaroo 2003 Music Festival". Spin. Retrieved June 16, 2014. 

External links[edit]