Bonnaroo 2012 is in the books. The tents have been packed up and what is temporarily the 7th largest city in Tennessee has turned back into the small town of Manchester. Here at The Nashville Festivals Examiner, we are saddened by the idea of approximately 360 days until we again get to have our Bonnaroo fix. To ease our suffering, we will be presenting a series of looks back at Bonnaroo 2012 over the next few weeks.
We’ve already brought you a pictoral look at the unique mix of fans who make up Bonnaroo’s 80,000 fans, the landmarks that have become an iconic part of Bonnaroo culture, and some of the artists of Bonnaroo 2012. Today, we’re going to look our 11 favorite shows from Bonnaroo 2012.
We saw part or all of over 25 bands at Bonnaroo and, while almost all of them were good, some bands stood out from the pack. Originally, a top 10 list, we had a deadlock at #10 and in the end couldn’t make a decision. Here are our favorite shows from Bonnaroo 2012:
1. Alice Cooper
During a pre-Bonnaroo press conference, Alice Cooper promised to command his band to “kill” the Bonnaroo audience and during his Saturday Late Night set, he delivered in spectacular fashion. In a set that was much more full on Rock show with some theatrics than Cooper’s recent Rock theatre shows.
Radiohead’s 2006 headlining set has long been considered one of the best Bonnaroo shows in history so they had almost impossible expectations coming into Bonnaroo 2012. But Radiohead is a band that is never afraid to take on a challenge, and they delivered a masterful 2.5 hour set that pulled heavily from their newer albums but also included older hits like “Paranoid Android.”
3. Flogging Molly
Irish Punk band Flogging Molly turned Manchester into Ireland for an hour on Saturday. Coming into their first Bonnaroo with a strong live reputation built playing other festivals, Flogging Molly caused several thousand Bonnaroo fans to forget the heat and the dust and dance like maniacs.
Check out our interview with Flogging Molly guitarist Dennis Casey for his take on the show.
4. Rodrigo y Gabriela with C.U.B.A
Virtuoso guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela have wowed Bonnaroo audiences in the past with their lightning fast licks and innovative reworkings of Heavy Metal favorites for acoustic guitar. But with the addition of 11 piece orchestra C.U.B.A, their already amazing sound was made even fuller. The result was a high energy live show that was one of Bonnaroo’s best.
5. The Civil Wars
If there was ever a definition of “trooper”, Joy Williams would be it. How many musicians would not only play an afternoon set in the heat and sun of Bonnaroo 2012 just 10 days before she’s due to deliver her first child but would, along with partner John Paul White, deliver one of the 5 best sets of Bonnaroo 2012.
6. The Roots
If you only know The Roots as Jimmy Fallon’s house band, you’re missing one of the most unique bands in music today. Blending practically every genre imaginable into a strong Hip Hop base and the consistent percussion work of bandleader Questlove, The Roots have earned their reputation. Beginning with “Paul Revere”, in tribute to Adam “MCA” Yauch, The Roots delivered 1.5 hours of booty shaking goodness.
7. Sarah Jarosz
When Sarah Jarosz last played Bonnaroo, it was as a 19 year old prodigy on the Cafe stage. Two years and a second album later, Sarah Jarosz has graduated into an industry veteran who ably opened Sunday afternoon at Bonnaroo 2012. Running through an hour of songs pulling from both of her albums, Jarosz had fans singing and dancing to every note.
8. The Beach Boys
Together will all surviving classic members for the first time in decades, The Beach Boys are celebrating their 50th anniversary in spectacular fashion. As if the gods were waiting for the ultimate boys of summer, the rain and clouds abated for a brief time on Sunday at Bonnaroo and the sun shone down on classic radio hits like “Fun Fun Fun”, “Good Vibrations”, and “Surfin’ Safari.” They may not be “boys” anymore, but The Beach Boys are still a fun band.
9. The Dirty Guv’nahs
Tennessee’s own The Dirty Guv’nahs have quickly built a reputation as Knoxville’s favorite club band and they showed why with a strong set of Southern Rock originals and a couple of covers. The strong set was a great opener for Bonnaroo 2012.
Check out our interview with two members of The Dirty Guv’nahs to hear how they felt their Bonnaroo 2012 performance went.
10a. Sam Bush Band
The first of our two bands tied for the 10th best set at Bonnaroo 2012 is Newgrass legend Sam Bush. Bush’s Friday afternoon set had the audience in awe of his entire band’s instrumental prowess. This set served as a reminder to higher billed acts like The Avett Brothers and Punch Brothers that, without the path Sam Bush forged with Newgrass Revival, their genre bending brand of Americana would not exist.
10b. Mariachi El Bronx
One of the oddest bands at Bonnaroo 2012, Mariachi El Bronx is what happens when a hardcore Punk band like The Bronx decide to form a side project backed by a Mariachi band. The result sounds nothing like the guys wandering around your local Mexican restaurant but instead brings the intensity of Punk and the fun of Mariachi music together for a show that was truly memorable.
Honorable mentions go to Cosmic Suckerpunch, Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang, and Moon Taxi, who just barely missed reaching our Top 10 sets.
Let us know your favorite Bonnaroo 2012 sets in the comments section.