Superjam brings virtuoso collaborators together for a special one-night appearance as a band. The festival fosters plenty of musical energy and collaborative mojo. That’s why sometimes the music created is bigger than the given time slot. In fact, some of the relationships epitomize and transcend the Superjam, growing from or leading to longer-term work together.
Dr John x Dan Auerbach
In 2011, Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys helmed a Superjam alongside Dr. John, a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer with previous Superjam credentials. In 2003, the Good Doctor performed with Mike Gordon, Stanton Moore, and Luther Dickinson. (Dr. John also has one of the most important festival bona fides: he is credited with bringing the word “Bonnaroo” itself to popular parlance.) A year after rocking Superjam, Auerbach and Dr. John would carry forward the dynamic musical relationship they forged on stage into the recording studio. Auerbach produced Dr. John’s latest album, Locked Down, as part of a comeback that has brought the legendary New Orleans performer renewed acclaim and a Grammy award. As he told Spin, “Dan was just real honest with me…I could tell he wanted just to make a raw record, the kind he makes hisself. My spirit told me to do it. You don’t go wrong when you listen to your spirit.”
The organizers of Bonnaroo, Superfly Presents, preceded the formation of their own festival with a special jam session designed as a one-night-only trio. Oysterhead—Trey Anastasio of Phish, Les Claypool of Primus, and Stewart Copeland of the Police—joined forces to play for 2000’s Jazz Fest in New Orleans, a show put on by Superfly. After a highly regarded performance, the three virtuoso players followed up with a studio album, The Grand Pecking Order, and a tour in 2001.
Pulling together Oysterhead certainly paid dividends for Bonnaroo’s architects: Five years later, in 2006, Oysterhead reunited for a special two-hour set at Bonnaroo. The three men would also all play the festival separately—with their own bands plus appearances by Anastasio and Claypool in subsequent Superjams—but have not released new music as a trio since.
D’Angelo and Questlove
The return of D’Angelo is one of the greatest comeback stories in pop music. It also happens to have been routed through the Bonnaroo Superjam stage. As discussed already this week [link to Peck piece], the Roots’ Questlove (who Executive Produced D’Angelo’s classic Voodoo album) helped shape a soulful Superjam lineup that also served as a platform for D to show he still had it after a decade-plus hiatus from recording and performing in the United States. The reaction was astounding, and the music world welcomed D’Angelo’s return. But rather than rush out new material, the stage proved to be a space of renewal.
After Bonnaroo, D’Angelo spent the rest of the summer touring with Mary J. Blige and landed an evening spot at Jay-Z’s Made in America Festival. As he continues to ready his comeback album, D’Angelo held a public jam session with Questlove this spring at Brooklyn Bowl. D’Angelo’s fire is back. And the spirit of Superjam lives on, too.