NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — In 2002, a new music festival featuring jam bands became an instant hit as fans loaded up their camping gear and converged on a 700-acre farm about 60 miles southeast of Nashville, Tennessee, to create a unique musical experience.
Now in its 15th year, Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival has featured a diverse lineup from Elton John and Jay Z to Paul McCartney, DeadMau5 and Bruce Springsteen. This year’s festival runs June 9-12 and features Pearl Jam, Dead and Company, LCD Soundsystem and J Cole.
The festival had an auspicious beginning. In its first year, Bonnaroo organizers spent no money on advertising, but offered a discount to fan club members of the first headliner Widespread Panic to spread the word, said Ashley Capps of AC Entertainment, who co-founded the festival with Superfly.
With an annual attendance of 80,000, Bonnaroo’s future looks bright. Last year Live Nation bought a controlling stake in the festival and this year, new permanent bathrooms and showers will be unveiled to the relief of many fans.
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Here’s a look at some of the most memorable moments in Bonnaroo’s history:
RADIOHEAD TURNING POINT
“The real turning point, frankly from a media standpoint, when people stopped using the jam band word, it was literally the day we announced Radiohead,” said Superfly’s Rick Farman, of the English rock band’s 2006 headlining appearance. “That literally changed the perception.”
The performance came as the band was working on new music for their 2007 pay-what-you-want album “In Rainbows,” which would go on to win a Grammy. Frontman Thom Yorke would release his debut solo album “Eraser” later that summer.
Radiohead’s performance lived up to the expectations, when they played over two dozen songs, including classics like “Paranoid Android,” and “Karma Police,” and ended with a preview of new music, “House of Cards,” and “Everything in its Right Place,” from their seminal album, “Kid A.”
KANYE’S LATE ARRIVAL
Bonnaroo is known for its good vibes, but plenty of fans voiced their frustrations in 2008 when rapper Kanye West was two hours late to his already delayed set. He didn’t take the stage until nearly 4:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Tired fans booed and chanted; some threw trash onto the stage.
Later in a blog post, West blamed Pearl Jam, who performed an hour longer than planned, and said organizers wouldn’t let his crew set up his elaborate stage and lights until after Pearl Jam left the stage. He categorized the event as “the worst insult I’ve ever had in my life.”
So it seemed unlikely that West would ever return to the farm, but surprisingly he came back as a headliner in 2014. Performing mostly in silhouette, West played songs from his 2013 album “Yeezus,” and wrapped his set with the powerful “Blood on the Leaves” after about 90 minutes. He also used the platform to call out the media and Pearl Jam again, and called himself the biggest rock star in the world.
MY MORNING JACKET’S RAINY SET
The Louisville rock band has been a Bonnaroo staple since its second year in 2003 and has earned a reputation for lengthy, improvised late night jams. But in 2008, frontman Jim James and his band went with a marathon performance of nearly four hours in a drenching rain.
The set list covered songs from nearly all of their albums, including their 2008 release “Evil Urges,” and covers of Erykah Badu, Sly and the Family Stone, The Velvet Underground and James Brown. Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett joined them on stage, as well as comedian Zach Galifianakis on the final song, a cover of Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home.”
Groundbreaking hip hop trio Beastie Boys had an ambitious touring schedule planned for 2009, including headlining festivals and a full tour to promote their upcoming album. But a month after headlining Bonnaroo, Adam “MCA” Yauch announced that he was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his salivary gland.
The tour was cancelled and their album, “Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2” was delayed until 2011. Yauch was in treatment until his death in 2012 at the age of 47. Mike “Mike D” Diamond and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz have said they would no longer perform as the Beastie Boys out of respect for Yauch.
The performance at Bonnaroo probably wasn’t even their greatest over their decades-long career, but it was significant because it was the last time this trio of first-rate rappers would ever appear live together, making it one of the festival’s most bittersweet moments.
Follow Kristin M. Hall at twitter.com/kmhall