Relive this past weekend on the Farm with six magical moments that we’ll never forget from Bonnaroo 2023.
As an event that’s been around for over two decades, there are endless reasons why Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival holds a special place in the hearts of fans and performers alike. Featuring nearly every genre of music you could imagine, Great Stage Park – more fondly known as “The Farm” – in Manchester, Tennessee, becomes home to nearly 100k Bonnaroovians every June.
My return to this special festival was many years coming, as I hadn’t been able to made it back to Bonnaroo since my first time six years ago. While I don’t live far, I became swept away by dozens of other events over the years, and the stars just never aligned perfectly for me to return, until this year. My favorites were on the lineup with two sets, I had no conflicting plans, and my heart had been patiently waiting for the day I’d get to skip under that beautiful arch again. So let’s take a quick trip down memory lane, back to last weekend, and relive some of the most magical moments from this year’s Bonnaroo.
Six Memorable Moments From Bonnaroo 2023
Sharing the festival experience with fans from all walks of life
Bonnaroo is an all-ages and all-genres party, so there’s no doubt you’re going to encounter a plethora of individuals who are all coming together to embark on the same journey. I met fans who were on their 10th+ Bonnaroo trip, and plenty who were attending their first. I connected with people who were locals and people who had driven for days or flown to get there. I witnessed one proposal, and I can only imagine it was one of many, as plenty of actual marriages happen here too!
I even had the honor of bringing a friend to their first festival, which was incredibly special and nostalgic of it having been my own. Being back for the first time in six years brought all of the memories of that initial awe and comfort that I’d felt from this place and these people that made me fall in love with the festival scene. While the size can overwhelm at times, it mostly left me speechless at how many like-minded humans all chose to come to one place. Exchanging gifts with strangers, having conversations during intermissions, making new friends, and running into old ones were just a few of the things that made my weekend besides the music.
Catching two Zeds Dead sets was extra special for me
While Bonnaroo was the event that started my festival addiction, Zeds Dead was the duo that made me dive headfirst into the electronic scene shortly after. While they’d played Bonnaroo in 2016, I had just missed them by a year with my first being in 2017. I always wondered when they’d come back, and hoped that when they did, I could attend. The next Bonnaroo I planned was in 2020 for the incredible lineup that got away, because that year’s edition was quickly dismissed by the pandemic. So it was truly fate that by the time I finally made it back to the Farm in 2023, all these years later, so would my long-time favorites.
Not only did Zeds Dead have a headlining set at The Other stage, but they also had a second two-hour late-night set at Where in the Woods, the campground plaza that features electronic artists into the early morning hours. After having caught the duo close to three dozen times now, I knew that while their mainstage sets are always fun, the real heat was going to happen in the woods. Drawing easily the most packed crowd I saw in the woods all weekend, they threw down trending tunes from artists like Hyroglifics, Chef Boyarbeatz, and Distinct Motive and played some of their own old nostalgic bangers like “Hit Me,” “Lies,” and “Unduh Yuh Skirt.”
Tyler Childers opening his set a capella
Bringing my mom for one day of Bonnaroo to see her favorite artist of all time is a story I’m saving for the next article, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t leave a fan of the unreal, Bluegrass talent known as Tyler Childers. With a voice that’s beyond comprehension, his lyrics are like those of a poet, telling humble stories of love and life. To kick off his performance Tyler immediately let the crowd know that he didn’t come to mess around.
His stunning a capella of Cory Branan’s “Sour Mash” quickly silenced the excited murmurs of the crowd, as everyone took in the sounds of his raw voice in spine-chilling awe. I had heard many a Tyler Childers tune with my mom over the years, and could understand why she and so many people loved him. But after hearing his voice live, it became immediately clear to me that it could never be fully captured in a recording. His set was a breath of fresh air for the music lover within me who, while caught so far deep into the electronic scene now, was actually raised on country music.
The production and aesthetic of Where in the Woods
One aspect of Bonnaroo that has exploded over the years is the presence of campground after-parties. Electronic music lovers who have taken a few trips to the Farm will remember when the ravey renegeade was called Kalliope, not long ago. This stage was located inside of Centeroo within the main festival area, and essentially an art car with pyrotechnics that played until the sunrise.
It seems that the Bonnaroo team recognized the surge of EDM fans that the festival began to attract, and it was time for a bigger and more separate upgrade. Not far at all from the entrance of Centeroo, the woods create a sense of intimacy and aesthetic that you can’t quite capture by setting up an art car inside of the festival itself.
While too packed to truly refer to it as “intimate,” Where in the Woods is the closest you’ll get to surrounding yourself with only the most genuine EDM fans at Bonnaroo, and they didn’t hold back on the production. Knowing it was a campground stage, I expected half of the production and size, but was blown away by the lights shooting through the trees and the hundreds of shining disco balls that shimmered throughout.
Fans keeping the spirit of High-five Friday alive
High-five Friday is one of the longest-running Bonnaroo traditions. The security entrance lines to get into Centeroo used to be set up in a zig-zag shape, and as the line moved and fans passed each other they would high-five everyone on the opposite side of the railing. This high-five tradition was typically kept alive all weekend and not just on Fridays either. If you were moving through that security line, you were high-fiving all of the Bonnaroovians across the line from you as you passed.
I noticed that the lines were now set up into multiple straight rows instead of the zig-zag barriers, which had kind of killed the high-fives since everyone was just standing in place waiting in vertical rows. While it seemed more efficient this way, the high-fives were such a memorable part of something as mundane as the security line, yet, I still saw, gave, and received countless high-fives every day of the festival. I even saw high-five references on shirts, totems, and signs. On Friday, there was a guy running around giving them and screaming about the last high-five Friday, which was hilarious. Real Roo fans were still keeping that tradition alive as best they could, and I hope it stays for years to come.
Sheryl Crow opening with “Soak Up The Sun”
Having grown up listening to a lot of Sheryl Crow with my family, there’s no doubt I was excited to see her name on the Bonnaroo lineup. After getting lucky enough to hear her speak on an artist panel just before her set, I met up with my family – who were coming with Saturday passes – at the gates. Arguably her most famous song, “Soak Up The Sun” was the picture-perfect opening for her afternoon performance. Not only do the lyrics embody the love and positivity of Bonnaroo, but we actually had no choice when we were on the Farm, but to literally soak up the hot Tennessee sun.
I was anxiously waiting for my mom and sister to make their way through the gates, it was minutes before her set time, and they were still waiting in line, along with so many others, trying to make it in time for Sheryl Crow at a peak entry hour. My heart was racing with nervous excitement as bringing my family to a festival was a moment I’d been waiting for for years. They were almost through the gates when I heard the song start; the song my mom and I would scream every word to together when I was a kid.
We could hear it but we were missing it: They were still in line. They made it through right as the song was ending and we ran towards the stage. Ten minutes later after we’d settled into the crowd, I looked around at my family there with me and burst into tears. They were really here, doing the thing that I loved the most, and soaking up the Bonnaroo sun with me.