MP3 TAKES: Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival 2023
Introducing MP3 TAKES, our event review series where we dive deep into the exhilarating world of music festivals and live performances. In an era teeming with music events worldwide, our aim is to help you navigate through the noise and uncover the most captivating experiences. Join us on this adventure to highlight the backstage stories, memorable moments, and unique elements that make each event one-of-a-kind.
Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival 2023 marked the first year MP3 MAG had the pleasure of attending The Farm. Long considered the pinnacle of East Coast music festivals, Bonnaroo lived up to the hype and then some.
Here are our MP3 MAG TAKES from the weekend:
Weather Didn’t Dampen the Spirits
Upon arriving on Thursday, many festival-goers set up camp in the Outeroo and made their way into Centeroo, the main stage area. However, they were soon turned back and evacuated to their cars due to an incoming weather warning. This first warning proved to be a false alarm, as the weather broke up before it deeply affected the area. Despite having their initial set time canceled due to the warning, European band CVC was granted a rescheduled performance. They rocked out with high energy in “That Tent.”
While the festival had to be canceled in 2021 due to flooding and rain, this year only dealt with typical summer weather changes, which held out until the final night on Sunday.
Bonnaroo 2023 reportedly sold out with an audience of around 70,000 – the largest crowd we’ve ever covered. The crowds at the stages were so vast that it was hard to see their end unless you were performing on stage. Despite this massive attendance size, Bonnaroo offers an expansive footprint with installations throughout the venue, camping, and everything in between, which helps disperse the crowds and allows everyone to find their own magical corner of The Farm.
Bonnaroo is renowned for its large crowds and weather, but nothing is more significant than the talent it brings each year. On Thursday, we witnessed one of the most stacked bass lineups in recent memory, featuring Daily Bread, Mersiv, Liquid Stranger, and Zeds Dead. They all concluded the “Other” stage on night one. Zeds Dead took things a notch higher by performing from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m., alongside a Deadbeats afters slate including Sippy, BLANKE, and IMANU.
Friday night belonged to Kendrick Lamar, widely considered the greatest rapper of his generation and the only Pulitzer Prize winner in hip-hop history. He departed from his usual setlist from the “Mr. Morale and The Big Steppers” tour (the highest grossing hip-hop tour ever), and played a fan-friendly set that included numerous hits and deep cuts. The crowd even sang “Happy Birthday” to him as he celebrated his 36th birthday.
ODESZA followed their worldwide tour with a summer festival performance, headlining on Saturday night. They gifted The Farm with one of the most theatrical, emotional, and high-energy sets in its history, according to Festival Owl. You can catch ODESZA on select dates this summer at various festivals and solo amphitheater events, as well as at a global night at the movies.
On Sunday, Foo Fighters returned to the Roo stage for the first time since the passing of drummer Taylor Hawkins. The set included some of their greatest hits, with Paramore’s Hayley Williams joining Dave Grohl on stage for an emotional tribute to “My Hero.”
For first-time attendees of a major camping festival, the expanse of Bonnaroo can be daunting. According to the map, over 15 stages of programming provide an endless buffet of music, comedy, and assorted entertainment. Unlike festivals like Electric Forest, which focus on intimate discoveries and exploration, Bonnaroo offers an extravagant array of programming that caters to attendees at every corner.
The “What” and “Which” stages, the larger stages and crowd areas of the festival, hosted crowds that seemed limitless. Three 6 Mafia’s evening set at “Which” attracted a diverse audience, both young and old, diehards and newbies alike. Perhaps the largest crowd of the weekend showed up for GRiZ’s last-minute “Chasing the Golden Hour” sunset set at “What” on Saturday, before his indefinite hiatus.
The vibe at Bonnaroo was unparalleled. If you’ve been in the festival scene long enough, you’ll meet people whose love for Roo is unmatched. They talk about it year-round, displaying their Roo bandanas and posters proudly. Many speak of how they met their best friends, and even their partners, at Bonnaroo and vow never to miss a year. After experiencing it ourselves, we can attest that this festival feels like one of the last great summits of festival land. The expanse needs to be seen and explored over years to be fully comprehended, and the lineups and programming are unparalleled offerings in this increasingly similar festival world.
Bonnaroo offers the chance to explore, feel, cherish, celebrate, and simply have fun. It’s a paradise and a playground for adventurers of all ages. 10/10 – we’ll be back on The Farm to relive it all over again.