Remember that time My Morning Jacket played an amazing Bonnaroo set in the rain? Or that other time they played an amazing Bonnaroo set in the rain? The psychedelic rock group, led by frontman Jim James, is one of those festival mainstays who have delivered a lot of great memories at Bonnaroo over the years.
The band has graduated to a mainstage since their first trip to Manchester in 2003, when the group performed in That Tent in the middle of the day. By 2004, the band had moved on to the Which Stage, where the band performed again in 2005. And it’s only continued from there. MMJ’s lengthy, winding sets have become a staple of the Bonnaroo experience and this year will mark James’ flagship solo outing at the festival.
The musician, who has recently been touring on a new solo album called Regions of Light and Sound of God, will also lead this year’s soul-themed Superjam alongside John Oates, Zigaboo Modeliste and Preservation Hall Jazz Band. James let us pose five questions about his times at Bonnaroo, which he answered in a poetic style that seems fitting for his music. Turns out he remembers those performances in the rain, too.
Do you remember what your experience was the first time My Morning Jacket played Bonnaroo?
Yes, we were very excited. We played in one of the tents. It was hot and dusty. People were cheering. It was around noon, I believe. We were very excited to be there.
What was your reaction when you learned that MMJ would get to play one of the big stages at Bonnaroo?
We were excited. I guess there is always a mixture of excitement and nerves whenever you get to “grow” or “move up” to a bigger stage and more people. The first time we did it it rained and thunder-stormed and we thought we would die but we did not die. It was beautiful and the gods and spirits all aligned and we got all wet and thought we would die, but like I said, we did not die and all was right with the world. People were refreshed by the rain because they were all hot and hungover in the afternoon sun. And we were refreshed too and it was an awesome awesome event that we called “Beyond Thunderdome.” We would never forget that.
What is the most memorable set MMJ has played at Bonnaroo?
Well we have had several. We had the “Beyond Thunderdome” one. And then we had one where we played for four hours real late at night and it rained again. But again we did not die and after we got offstage we felt like we had won the Super Bowl.
How have MMJ's sets at Bonnaroo been important or influential to the band's career over the years?
Well, it’s just been an awesome place for us to get music out to people. People come to ‘Broo to live out a fantasy life. You get to be a different you away from your everyday experience. It’s an escape from reality for everyone in a very fun way and we try to play into that and project a vibe that is hopefully friendly and positive and wanting to let folks know that we are there to go on this trip with them and to make it as fantastic as possible.
Why do you keep coming back to Bonnaroo?
See my reference to the alternate fantasy world!
- Emily Zemler