Bonnaroo is Back and Better than Ever!

Words and photos by Yvonne Gougelet.

We’ve showered, we’ve slept in our beds, we’ve begrudgingly cleaned out our cars, we’ve gone back to our boring day jobs, and the Bonnaroo Blues are kicking into overdrive. Take us back!! Just one week ago over 65,000 music lovers from across the nation (and globe) converged at the Great Stage Park, also known as “The Farm,” at one of the greatest music festivals in the nation, Bonnaroooooooo.

The Music Festival Weather Gods granted us with flawless weather (high of 87 on Sunday, low of 59 Friday night), and it’s safe to say this was the Best Roo ever. It was hot, but not the usual Bonnaroo-I feel like I’m dying-hot. Not a drop of rain, and hardly any dust in Centeroo, either.

Bonnaroovians / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

Bonnaroo 2016 saw the lowest audience turnout in its then 15-year existence (approximately 45,000 people). Selfishly, we want fewer people for better access to the front of the stage for good views, fewer people in line for food, porta-potties, etc. But if we want Bonnaroo to continue to flourish – and exist – the numbers need to be up. 65,000 attendees were reported this year, and it was the perfect amount of people. Not too overcrowded and not too few to worry about future ‘Roos. Bonnaroo’s Sweet Sixteen was so sweet indeed!

Centeroo 2017 / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

This year’s lineup was filled with a little somethin’ for everyone, from rock to EDM, from hip hop to jazz, funk, soul, bluegrass, you name it. An all-you-can-eat buffet for music connoisseurs, if you will, and why we love Bonnaroo so much. U2 played their very first American festival, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Chance both played their second headlining set, and Lorde and The Weeknd closed out the weekend on a super chill note.

“What an extraordinary thing Bonnaroo is. Thank you for naming it after me.”
-Bono

Bono of U2 / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

The Edge of U2 / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

Anthony Kiedis of Red Hot Chili Peppers / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

“We’ve played a million fucking festivals. This is my favorite one.”
-Flea

Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

“I’m not always booked at Bonnaroo, but I love to come down here.”
-Chance the Rapper

Chance the Rapper / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

What makes Bonnaroo stand out from all of the other major festivals in the nation are the Bonnaroovian vibes. The motto of the festival is “Radiate Positivity,” send out good vibes, do random acts of kindness, and you’ll receive them back, almost instantaneously. (I’ve witnessed it firsthand in my eleven years on The Farm.) Tens of thousands of music lovers of all ages, races, shapes, religious backgrounds, political beliefs, etc., all come together and create a utopian community for five nights and four days. Unity through the power of music.

Bonnaroovians / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

Bonnaroovians / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

BabyRoovian / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

Bonnaroovians / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

Roochute made its triumphant return and added L.E.D. lights to guide the way at night. Introducing Groovechute:

Groovechute / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

I discovered that the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is, in fact, the Bonnaroo fountain. Nothing beats those mid-day dips.

Fountain / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

Art of Mano fountain design / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

The headliner sets were enough to make any music lover happy, but there was so much more than just the headliners. Over 150 bands played across 11 stages. Here are our top music moments from Bonnaroo 2017.

(Full set galleries below!)

The Soul Shakedown Superjam featuring Preservation Hall, Chance, Jon Batiste, Sam Cohen, George Porter, Jr., Lecrae, Margo Price, Joseph, Rayland Baxter, Jason Huber of Cherub, Tank and the Bangas, Lukas Nelson, Nicole Atkins, Boyfriend & Flint Eastwood. Full set-list.

Chance, Joseph, Boyfriend, Flint Eastwood / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

The Bluegrass Situation featuring Ed Helms, Bryan Sutton Band, Martina McBride, River Whyless, Greensky Bluegrass, Margo Price, Mandolin Orange, Baskery, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Gaby Moreono, and Lillie May.

Irish multi-instrumentalist James Vincent McMorrow gave us his all in this powerful set.

James Vincent McMorrow / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

Portugal. The Man‘s smokin’ set playing till 3 am. (New album Woodstock is their best yet!)

John Gourley / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

English soul-rocker Michael Kiwanuka took us to church on a Saturday at This Tent.

Michael Kiwanuka / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

Chad Smith (drummer of Red Hot Chili Peppers) playing a surprise set with English indie-rock band Ruen Brothers

Ruen Brothers with Chad Smith / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

Chad Smith with Ruen Brothers / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

Boone, North Carolina, boys Rainbow Kitten Surprise. They entered to play Bonnaroo just last year, were denied, and ended up playing the second-largest stage of the fest.

Rainbow Kitten Surprise / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

The three sisters of Joseph not only rocked their own show but wowed the crowd in the Soul Superjam and in an intimate Statefarm set.

Joseph / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

Joseph right before their set / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

Folk-Rock band Kaleo on the What Stage. Well-deserved main-stage spot.

Kaleo / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

What else can we say about ultra babe Tove Lo, other than she’s one of the very few sets this photographer stayed and enjoyed from top to bottom.

Tove Lo / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

Miami-based hippy funk-rock band Magic City Hippies are definitely one of our favorite discoveries at Roo ’17 and one we can’t stop listening to, now that we’re off The Farm.

Magic City Hippies / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

Magic City Hippies post-set / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

Allan Rayman playing the Who Stage, just before telling the lighting guy to turn the lights off. He plays a cross between R&B and rock, as if Tom Waits meets Michael Jackson. Crazy combo, but it somehow really, really works.

Allan Rayman / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

We loved the vibes at Rezz’s sunset set at the new The Other stage, which happened to be the scene of the Roonicorn videos that have since gone wildly viral.

Rezz / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

Late night Funk set with Turkuaz

Turkuaz / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

One of our favorite Roo moments was witnessing English rock band Ten Fe experience their very first corn dog and funnel cake after their set. I’ve never seen anyone so excited about carnival food before. Thanks for the bite, gents!

Ten Fe / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

Up-and-coming folk-rockers Wilderado is definitely one of our new indie favorites.

Wilderado / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

Wilderado / Yvonne Gougelet

Bonnaroo is so much more than a music festival. It’s also a comedy and film festival. Some of our top sets were Hannibal Buress, Two Dope Queens, The Improvised Shakespeare group, and Hari Kondabolu.

Hannibal Buress / Yvonne Gougeleet

2 Dope Queens / Yvonne Gougeleet

Improvised Shakespeare / Yvonne Gougeleet

Hari Kondabolu / Yvonne Gougeleet

 

We had an absolutely epic time last weekend and can’t wait to return to the farm next year! Till then! Bonnaroooooooooooooo!!!

Full bands sets!

Soul Shakedown Superjam! 

Chance the Rapper / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

Chance the Rapper / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

George Porter Jr. and Charlie Gabriel / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

Jon Batiste / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

Jason Huber / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

Nicole Atkins / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

The Bangas of Tank and the Bangs / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

George Porter Jr. / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

Boyfriend, Joseph / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

Jason Huber / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

Flint Eastwood, Joseph / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

Red Hot Chili Peppers / Yvonne Gougelet

Red Hot Chili Peppers / Yvonne Gougelet

Red Hot Chili Peppers / Yvonne Gougelet

Red Hot Chili Peppers / Yvonne Gougelet

James Vincent McMorrow / Yvonne Gougelet

James Vincent McMorrow / Yvonne Gougelet

Joseph / Yvonne Gougelet

Joseph / Yvonne Gougelet

Joseph / Yvonne Gougelet

 

Bluegrass Situation Superjam

Martina McBride / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

River Whyless Bluegrass Superjam / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

Mandolin Orange / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

Greensky Bluegrass / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

Baskery & Martina McBride / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

Kaleo / Yvonne Gougelet

Kaleo / Yvonne Gougelet

Kaleo / Yvonne Gougelet

Kaleo / Yvonne Gougelet

Kaleo / Yvonne Gougelet

Magic City Hippies / Yvonne Gougelet

Magic City Hippies / Yvonne Gougelet

Magic City Hippies / Yvonne Gougelet

Magic City Hippies / Yvonne Gougelet

Magic City Hippies / Yvonne Gougelet

Magic City Hippies / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

Michael Kiwanuka / Yvonne Gougelet

Michael Kiwanuka / Yvonne Gougelet

Michael Kiwanuka / Yvonne Gougelet

Michael Kiwanuka / Yvonne Gougelet

Michael Kiwanuka / Yvonne Gougelet

Michael Kiwanuka / Yvonne Gougelet

Tove Lo / Yvonne Gougelet

Tove Lo / Yvonne Gougelet

Tove Lo / Yvonne Gougelet

Tove Lo / Yvonne Gougelet

Tove Lo / Yvonne Gougelet

Turkuaz / Yvonne Gougelet

Turkuaz / Yvonne Gougelet

Turkuaz / Yvonne Gougelet

Turkuaz / Yvonne Gougelet

Turkuaz / Yvonne Gougelet

Turkuaz / Yvonne Gougelet

Turkuaz / Yvonne Gougelet

Rainbow Kitten Surprise / Yvonne Gougelet

Rainbow Kitten Surprise / Yvonne Gougelet

Rainbow Kitten Surprise / Yvonne Gougelet

Rainbow Kitten Surprise / Yvonne Gougelet

Rainbow Kitten Surprise / Yvonne Gougelet

Rainbow Kitten Surprise / Yvonne Gougelet

Rainbow Kitten Surprise / Yvonne Gougelet

Rainbow Kitten Surprise / Yvonne Gougelet

Wilderado / Yvonne Gougelet

Wilderado / Yvonne Gougelet

Wilderado / Yvonne Gougelet

Wilderado / Yvonne Gougelet

Wilderado / Yvonne Gougelet

Twiddle / Yvonne Gougelet

Twiddle / Photo by Yvonne Gougelet

Twiddle / Yvonne Gougelet

Twiddle / Yvonne Gougelet

Twiddle / Yvonne Gougelet

Ruen Brothers with Chad Smith / Yvonne Gougelet

Ruen Brothers with Chad Smith / Yvonne Gougelet

Ruen Brothers / Yvonne Gougelet

Ruen Brothers / Yvonne Gougelet

Ruen Brothers / Yvonne Gougelet

Ten Fe / Yvonne Gougelet

Ten Fe / Yvonne Gougelet

Ten Fe / Yvonne Gougelet

Khruangbin / Yvonne Gougelet

Khruangbin / Yvonne Gougelet

Khruangbin / Yvonne Gougelet

Khruangbin / Yvonne Gougelet

Greensky Bluegrass / Yvonne Gougelet

Ella Vos / Yvonne Gougelet

Jacob Collier / Yvonne Gougelet

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Yvonne Gougelet
Photojournalist
Yvonne Gougelet is a concert and political photojournalist, and playwright. She picked up her first 35mm camera twenty years ago and has been going to concerts religiously for just as long. She's also written four plays which have been produced in NYC, Miami, and Scotland. She is thrilled to join the MusicFestNews team where she can combine her love of music, writing, and photography.
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