A look back at Bonnaroo 2017

All photos by Bill Foster




Why we get up Early: Tank and The Bangas.

Tank and The Bangas played the Preservation Pub in front of a rapturous crowd of about 100 people less than six months ago. Today, they played This Tent at Bonnaroo. In between, they won the NPR Tiny Desk video contest, placing first out of over 6,000 entrants. The buzz about the band is sufficient that even the 12:45 Sunday morning slot of death wasn’t enough to deter a dance happy, enthusiastic crowd. Tarriona “Tank” Ball is a force of nature. A former slam poet, she incorporates spoken word into her performances today. Inspired by anime, Disney and their home town of New Orleans, the band mixed jazz, funk, pop, and soul into an intoxicating mix in front of colorful backdrops and spinning lights. Although unfamiliar with their songs beyond the award winning “Quick,” the crowd listened intently to the spoken word bits and danced the hangovers away to the instrumental portions. Tank and The Bangas are the most unique live show I’ve ever seen, and I can’t recommend them enough next time they come to town. – Bill Foster

Knoxville at ‘Roo: Backup Planet

The only (semi) Knoxville band on the docket in Manchester this year, BP did not disappoint. Shorn of their usual intense light show, the quartet let their music do the talking leading the crowd through a muscular hour of their own compositions and a cover of The Allman Brother’s “Whipping Post.” BP is playing several shows in Bonnaroo this year, as they have pop-up shows all over the General Admission camp in addition to their set today. The practice shows as they sounded as tight as any band I have ever heard. Guitarist Gavin Donati is the rare player who can shred at an absurdly fast rate, yet still sound soulful and melodic while Ben Cooper’s keyboard playing and talk=box soling provided a perfect counterpoint. But, Chris Potochik on drums was the bands secret weapon today, overpowering his kit and playing the only drum solo I’ve heard in a decade that didn’t make me want to run a for the beer stand. -Bill Foster

The Heat: Royal Blood

Royal Blood rocked harder than just about any other band this weekend. The English rock outfit cranked up the volume to get everyone’s juices flowing to start the day at the What Stage. About halfway into their set, it occurred to me that they were just a two-piece band. That revelation stunned me because their sound is so big and full. It was as if The Black Keys dabbled in hard, psychedelic rock.

One thing I did not think I would be reporting on from Bonnaroo was a mosh pit, but here we are. The folks down in the pit area had absolutely no interest in coasting through an overcast Sunday at Bonnaroo, and I don’t think Royal Blood would have let them. The rowdy crowd in the pit jumped and thrashed about and got a small circle pit going, which looked really cool on the screens from my safe spot on the lawn near the soundboard. Everyone, whether they participated in the moshing or not had their energy level up, ready to finish strong on a Bonnaroo Sunday thanks to Royal Blood. – Kent Oglesby

Flatbush Zombies

Biggest Surprise: Flatbush Zombies.

Bonnaroo’s scheduling this year is a little different, forcing me to decide at 7:15pm whether to shoot Greensky Bluegrass (whom I’ve seen several times), Crystal Castles (ugh and leave it at that) or Flabush Zombies, whom I had never heard of before today. Well, that’s been rectified as the three Brooklyn rappers put on one of the greatest hip-hop shows I have ever seen before one of the largest crowds I have seen at This Tent. Stoutly independent, the Zombies have eschewed a record label, making their hip-hop bones with three mix tapes before finally releasing an album last year. All three Jamaican rappers are dervishes on stage, jumping, spinning and diving into the crowd at will. They also have three distinct styles of rapping that compliment each other perfectly. It’s not often I download an album as I walk out of a tent but I did it today. Check them out. You won’t be disappointed.  – Bill Foster

Getting Some Comedy In: Hannibal Burress

The hottest ticket in the Comedy & Cinema Tent this weekend was far and away Hannibal Burris. To get into Bonnaroo comedy shows, because seating is limited and air conditioning comes at a premium on the farm, you have to register early to reserve a seat. Hannibal did one set on Saturday and one on Sunday, and both sold out hours before the show. His Sunday set sold out immediately after registration opened. Looking at the massive line at the entrance, I felt lucky to even get in.

Getting up early (well… early by Bonnaroo standards) at 10am to register certainly payed off for everyone who got to see Hannibal Burress’ set. Hannibal had mostly new material including about 30 minutes of bits specific to Bonnaroo. The Bonnaroo jokes were really cool, because it’s something that everyone in the tent got to experience together and laugh at these jokes that will likely not be in his routine again. Next time you’re at Bonnaroo, it’s definitely worth it to get into the Comedy & Cinema Tent at least once. And if Hannibal Burress is there performing, make sure you register for your seats early. –Kent Oglesby

Weekend Top Picks: 

Best Big Stage (What, Which) Show:

Kent: Red Hot Chili Peppers

Rusty: Chance the Rapper

Bill: U2

Best Tent (This, That) Show:

Kent: Preservation Hall Superjam

Rusty: Angelique Kidjo’s Remain in Light

Bill: Flatbush Zombies

Best Small Stage (Who, Miller) Show:

Kent: Allan Rayman

Rusty: Backup Planet


Favorite Show From Act You Hadn’t Heard Of:

Kent: Angelique Kidjo’s Remain in Light

Rusty: July Talk

Bill: Flatbush Zombies

Favorite Non-Music Thing:

Kent: Tie between Hannibal Burress and Amish Donut

Rusty: Darting under the parachute

Show of the Weekend

Kent: Chance The Rapper

Rusty: Angelique Kidjo’s Remain in Light

Bill Foster: U2




More Photos by Bill Foster

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Backup Planet


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