Frontier Psychiatrist

For A Minute There, We Lost Ourselves: Bonnaroo 2012 Recap

Posted on: June 13, 2012

Bonnaroo 2012

Bonnaroo may not be real life, but that doesn’t make it any less stressful. Every year, 80,000 (approx.) crazies rage or mosey their way down to the farm in Manchester, Tennessee for an assumed relaxing period of both chill and weird. While it is a welcome vacation from commuter trains, twitter (sorry, boss), landlords and sitcom reruns, Bonnaroo is far from a beach getaway or a recharging weekend in the woods. Fortunately, the amazing performances and overall great vibes always win out in the end, and this year’s unbeatable lineup did not disappoint in the least.

The stress of Bonnaroo set in early in the week, as it mixed with the excitement and anticipation. After jamming a full week of preparation, work and writing into three days, I was already spread thin as we packed the car Wednesday evening. Our unruly 14-strong Bonna-crew (oof) was traveling from several metropolises across the country, so we decided to meet at Manchester’s Wal-Mart/Shanty Town early Thursday morning to use the back entrance together. Immediately, there was an unfamiliar feeling: we were the only ones on the road. Breezing through what once took hours in minutes, we arrived at an empty checkpoint, and welcomed by frowning, sexist and likely broke deputies. A highly intrusive drug search of our vehicles and male travelers was followed by barking of orders from inept Bonnaroo staff in our virtually open campsite (Pod #10). Things just didn’t feel right. Throughout the rest of the weekend, our group battled illness, fatigue, annoyance and dirt with varying levels of success.

Bonnaroo 2012

Then again, the highs of Bonnaroo are enough to put a smile on even the most sour, sick and stressed attendee. The combination of one of the best festival lineups in the last 10 years and immaculate summer weather has certainly made this an event for the history books. As a more-than-frequent concertgoer, I was blown away by the professionalism of the performers and the pristine sound quality that stayed consistent throughout the weekend. Ear drum splitting acts like Mogwai and Flying Lotus sounded just as fantastic as quieter, more nuanced groups like The Infamous Stringdusters and City and Colour. With bands as basic and quintessentially Bonnaroo as Phish and Rodrigo Y Gabriela up against other more ballsy and rewarding picks like Pelican, Danny Brown and White Denim, the Bonnaroo bookers did an absolutely fantastic job of providing a breadth of options for virtually any attendee.

As you can tell, my last experience at Bonnaroo has left me quite torn. First, there is no doubt in my mind that Bonnaroo is the best festival in the country, with the most comfortable grounds, unmatched vibes and best bands. But just because it’s the best festival, that doesn’t make it the carefree fairyland the advertisements or Ferris wheels would have you believe. A rigorous and exhausting weekend of live music with those crazy enough to join, is just that: rigorous and exhausting. But it’s also incredibly rewarding. It wasn’t until we were jamming through Phish’s excellent, carefree and glowstick filled set that I realized the true power of the fest. It’s not about the drugs or the food or the camping or the dust: it’s about loving the best music with your best friends. And there’s absolutely no one who could argue with that.

While I’m not 100% in for next year, the positive experiences of Roo 2012 keep playing in my brain. Now if only I could get that vacation.

Bonnaroo 2012 Tents

Full List of Shows Attended (Bold indicates highlights)

-Mariachi El Bronx
-Danny Brown – Detroit’s The Hybrid Danny Brown definitely put on the best hip hop show of the weekend, complete with organ-rattling beats and endless allusions to oral sex. Both a true showman and a no-bullshit artist, Danny Brown is the perfect example of where a hip hop show can be great, even if you’re not entirely familiar with the performer’s material. You won’t find any grating “best rapper alive” talk here (looking at you, Kendrick Lamar.)

-White Denim – How could I possibly miss the #1 FP psychedelic album of the year in the flesh? Austin’s White Denim are pretty much the ideal Bonnaroo band, with facemelting solos and shifting blues basslines. All jam bands, take note.

-Kendrick Lamar

-The Infamous Stringdusters
Sharon Jones & The Dap KingsBrooklyn’s Sharon Jones is a queen among girls when it comes to soul throwbacks, which seem to be coming from virtually everywhere these days. This former prision guard knows how to get an early crowd shaking in the heat on the mainstage (What?), not to mention her impossibly tight backing band.

-The Avett Brothers
-Rodrigo Y Gabriela and C.U.B.A.
-Radiohead – Duh. This was my first live experience with Radiohead, and my excitement can not be overstated. The kings of avant garde rock (and pretty much everything in between) delivered in ways that are inexplicable. Let’s just say that at the end of their 25 song set, my face was not dry and that I finally understand The King of Limbs.

-Major Lazer
-Flying Lotus – Despite not playing much of his own music, FlyLo basically played one of the best DJ sets imaginable. By tweaking new-classics like “Hands on the Wheel” and “Niggas in Paris” with his now-trademark woozy, hyper jazz sound, FlyLo basically blew every other electronic act of the weekend out of the water. This is an absolute must-see show, unfortunately the video doesn’t capture the bass.

-Pelican – By far the earliest show I attended all weekend, Chicago’s post-gods rocked That Tent at 12:15, and I don’t regret it in the least, despite losing serious steam at the end of the evening (I slept through the entirety of RHCP). I was nervous that these dark masters would have to change some of their sound to fit the beautiful weather, but they managed to put a dark, virtuosic cloud over the rest of Saturday. That said, they desperately still need a new drummer.

-Bad Brains
-Das Racist
-Battles – Surprisingly, Battles are a perfect choice for Bonnaroo. Part prog rock, part dance party, Battles rocked This Tent with cuts off last year’s Gloss Drop as well as some old favorites off Mirrored. I hope to look that good in a lavender button up, one day.

Punch Brothers
-The Roots
-Red Hot Chili Peppers
-Superjam ft. ?uestlove + D’Angelo – The Superjam is a Bonnaroo staple, and this year did not disappoint. Led by the enigmatic ?uestlove and the returning D’Angelo, this year’s Superjam took us through some amazing rock moments like Zeppelin’s “What Is and What Should Never Be”, Hendrix’s “Have You Ever Been?” and The Beatles’ “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window”. My only old man complaint is that it was so damn late, although that’s what I get for entering the fest at noon.

-Gary Clark Jr. – I haven’t listened to much Gary Clark Jr., but I certainly will now. Sure, Bonnaroo 2012 had some pretty fantastic axe-men, but Gary Clark was certifiably the most rock and roll of all. Fortunately, you have plenty of options to see him this summer, as he’s playing nearly every festival.

-The Black Lips
-City and Colour – Dallas Green (former vocalist for Alexisonfire) is a sensitive guy that I can get behind. With a silky smooth voice and Neil Young-esque folk, this Canadian brought every chick in the crowd to their knees. That isn’t meant like it sounds.

The War on Drugs
-Ben Folds Five
Bon Iver
-The Shins
-Phish – Amazing. Although I only was able to attend about an hour of their four hour set, Trey and bros effectively won me over as a fan. Although I can’t name five Phish songs, I always expected them to be a great live band. Thankfully, I was right. Extra points for bringing out Kenny Rogers.

Peter Lillis is Managing Editor of Frontier Psychiatrist. He’s forgone a recovery period. All images are his. He wishes he could attend Brooklyn’s Northside Fest this weekend with his FP bros, but he just might collapse. This piece was named “Freshly Pressed” by the WordPress staff on June 13, 2012, chosen out of more than 900,000 posts on the blogging service that day. FP, we made it.


41 Responses to "For A Minute There, We Lost Ourselves: Bonnaroo 2012 Recap"

Well, I could definitely use a nice combination of chill and weird…but it does sound exhausting!

Love Phish, btw. That is all.


Trey and Kenny- a combination I never thought I’d see- but then again, nothing should surprise me at Roo….

i agree, although the pairing made much more sense than I could ever imagine. i was hoping for “What Condition My Condition Was In”, but “The Gambler” is a welcome substitute. Thanks for reading!

Real music, real fun! Great event!

Pretty cool! I have to see a live band soon! It’s been too long!


I went last summer and it was impossible to escape the heat. It made the evening performances all the sweeter. Exhausting, but amazing!

Last year was much hotter than this year. Weather was perfect, really. Last year it was quite unbearable. Lineup was much better this year too. All around, a better fest. Thanks for reading!

I go to Lollapalooza in Chicago every year and the lineup usually overlaps with Bonnaroo quite a bit. This year they are very different and I’m kinda wishing I went to Bonnaroo. Great recap.

I think the lineup for Lollapalooza is really weak this year. I live in Chicago, actually, and I’m disappointed in Perry and team, and it’s shocking they managed to sell out completely. That said, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza are entirely different beasts. As someone said this time around: “Roo is the music festival you can’t escape.” I think Lollapalooza is for those attendees who want that out, should they need it, and that creates a completely different atmosphere. Thanks for reading!

Agreed on the lineup this year. One positive is that they’re featuring electronic and DJs on big stages. But I hate how they always have some kind of aging rock group trying to hang on to their relevancy – RHCP (again), Foo Fighters, Green Day. But I guess it’s what people want. That said – I’m SOOO going to hit up Black Sabbath over Black Keys.

Would have loved to have been there, but I did have some time to catch a few acts live on youtube…not the same as being there, but great concerts. Congrats on being freshly pressed.

Thanks! It’s great they have so many performances on YouTube, helps everyone enjoy in one way or another.

It looks so cool,

Oh, I wanted to go so badly. I hope someday I will have a chance like you had. City and Color…wow! Great video… great blogging. Congrats on being freshly pressed!

Thanks! You should come next year, the payment plan makes it totally doable.

Yeah, what you’re feeling is your energy having been all over the place, so intensely. Good luck getting back on Center. Perhaps it’ll be like childbirth (and you’ll forget the bad within days, and then be willing to do it all over again!). Great recap – kind of feel like I went…though of course, there’s nothing replacing live music…

Still trying to get back to the center(roo). Everyone keeps referring to it as “Post-Bonnaroo Depression”. And it’s real. Thanks for reading!

Center(roo)…that says it all right there! Good luck. Glad I bumped into your site.

I love phish and dont hate the Roo it is like you put just so much work. It is an amazing beautiful pain in the Roo. But the Musicians living the VIP life know what all these people are going through and seem to give some of the best performances as a reward. I love good music matched with great vibes but just dont do the roo anymore it is madness. I did roo for the first 3 years and it strarted to remind of WOodstock 99 another beautiful disaster.I continue to do smaller festivals like All GOod, Maybe even floydfest again this year. Its great to see a good music blog about a good scene make it to freshly pressed iam also glad you safely enjoyed your triparoo. And good luck with the Rest. I think SummerCamp was the best fest this year and last. Thanks for sharing I watched a few shows on youtube and watch others fest on in the comfort of my living room.

I would definitely agree that performers kick it up a notch for Roo. We just gotta hope that the Roo staff can keep it good times, and not let it get out of hand. Somehow missed Summer Camp, will have to catch that next year. Thanks for reading!

That seems fun! I hope to be there next year 🙂

Do it!

Reblogged this on Crazy Dayz and commented:
Great article on Bonnaroo

I’m sure you had a great time. I was asked by my niece to experience Bonnaroo with her and her little friends, I just told them I don’t like that much noise and with all those crazy people I might faint. You might be surprised but I like Phish and Radiohead, influenced by my niece of course. She lives with me. Well, thanks for sharing your story through this entry. Bless you!

colorado springs divorce lawyers

The whole time you’re at a fest like roo, you can find yourself saying, “why the fu** am I here???” while fighting off crowds, bad porta potties, pricey food & heat stroke, but then the minute you leave, you long to go back to the madness. Bravo!

Too true. Thanks for reading.

wow this must of just been pure madness, i can see how this would be intoxicating.

It’s true. We joked that by day three we were more woozy off exhaustion and sleep depravation than anything the Roo-ers wanted to throw at us. That’s a good thing, I think, maybe. Thanks for reading!

Looks like fun. Wish i was there.
Check out this website @ and tell me what you think.

Heh, reminds me of Superball IX last summer. We were very lost for three days…

What a cool experience.

just wanted to add, the weekend was incredible. thanks for the fantastic re-cap. Wish I could actually re-live it all. next year.

Nothing better than having an experience like this with a bunch of good friends. I’ve never heard of this festival. Thanks for sharing.
You Matter! Smiles, Nancy

thanks for the post. nice and honest 🙂

[…] For A Minute There, We Lost Ourselves: Bonnaroo 2012 Recap ( […]

[…] Music Festival is upon us. In our continuing effort to bring you firsthand reviews of the year’s best fests, FP will be well represented at Union Park. This year will be our first covering the […]

[…] Music Festival is upon us. In our continuing effort to bring you firsthand reviews of the year’s best fests, FP will be well represented at Union Park. This year will be our first covering the […]

[…] via For A Minute There, We Lost Ourselves: Bonnaroo 2012 Recap « Frontier Psychiatrist. […]

[…] out that there is such a thing as a comfortable music festival experience. After an exhausting, disorienting and soaked (but successful) festival season, last weekend’s Brilliant Corners of Popular […]

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