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2015 Bonnaroo Music Festival

JUNE 8-11, 2017

Bonnaroo 2016


I have a taste for it, and chances are you do, too.

I love the night life, I love to get down into the deep of the night. Nocturnal pursuits driven by sound and sight, and the eventual breaking on through to the other side of the day, can often leave the soul with a profound impression.

Bonnaroo after midnight is a time and place unto itself. It’s familial and warm, jarring and electric, and if you’re alive and open to the possibilities of your surroundings, the time of your music-loving life awaits you.

performs at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Fesivival 2012 in Manchester Tennessee

Something happens in these moments of nocturnal bliss. You get swept away. You forget your troubles, diminish all worry. Dancing with friends new and old, you’re exhausted and exhilarated at the same time, but you ride it to wherever it’s going to take you. Dare I say the whole scene is “transcendent”? Yes. it is, down to the proper use of the word: extending or lying beyond the limits of ordinary experience.

Over the years, the more “Late Night on The Farm” has changed, the more it has stayed the same—and that’s not a cop-out, because the mission is always achieved: Fill the wee hours with great music, no matter what or who makes it, and an element of surprise.

Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival 2009.


Sitting down to write this, though, I find myself in the position of having difficulty being able to remember such epic moments, because we were so into the moment in the moment, and there were so many of them—almost a dozen years worth now. What happened in the middle of the night in the third Saturday in June in 2003? That’s a little hazy. What went down in 2002? Not a chance. Galactic in 2006—or was that 2007? I knew this was going to be a problem…

It is the artists, more than the specific years, that come up in my recollection; the diverse lot of Bonnaroo late-night legends, who attained such status through outstanding performances and sheer perseverance. Bands like My Morning Jacket. De La Soul. Nine Inch Nails. Dead Mau5. Public Enemy. Phil Lesh and Friends. Clutch. Sigur Ros. Ben Harper and The Relentess 7. Black Star. Girl Talk. Lil Wayne. Alice Cooper. Les Claypool. STS9. LCD Soundsystem. Oh, and the Silent Disco, too.



These acts are more than just names in the twilight of my mind; what they did became part of me. MMJ’s four-hour set that featured pelting rain, moonshine, and a career-defining set. Robert Randolph shaking hips so hard that they had to replaced, and Gov’t Mule throwing it down so heavy that it would have made Ozzy blush.

It wasn’t easy getting the memories down on paper, but armed with back issues of the Bonnaroo Beacon to jog memories (including my own) and countless conversations, I’m now able to confirm just how epic some of the nights really were—and what went down on the farm in the deep dark night.

Keep it here all week to see how history has treated all those raging nights at Bonnaroo.

—Tim Donnelly

Primus Live at Bonnaroo 2011