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Artists Look Back at Bonnaroos Past (Gogol Bordello, Pretty Lights, Bela Fleck and Many More)

G. Love
Bonnaroo Classes: ‘03, ‘06

G. Love’s connection to Bonnaroo stretches back to the festival’s first year. A virtually unknown Jack Johnson performed at the inaugural Bonnaroo in 2002 and blew away fans with a song he originally recorded with G. Love—“Rodeo Clowns”—with the help of Bonnaroo performer DJ Logic. G. Love performed at Bonnaroo himself for the first time in 2003 and immediately made the festival his own. In addition to a high-energy set with his band Special Sauce, G. Love participated in the festival’s second SuperJam with Dr. John, North Mississippi Allstars guitarist Luther Dickinson, Galactic drummer Stanton Moore and Phish bassist Mike Gordon. After a few years away from the festival, G. Love & Special Sauce will open the Which Stage at 12:30 PM today. G. Love will also play a solo set on the Sonic Stage at 2:45 PM today.

What were your expectations prior to your first trip to Bonnaroo?

I remember hearing about the first Bonnaroo and how great it was so when we were invited on the bill for the second year I was excited. At that time there really weren’t very many festivals in the USA. We had played Woodstock ‘99 which was a complete disaster in every way. We had played the European festival circuit which was always well run and inspired. I always wondered, why couldn’t we get a festival scene happening at home. Bonnaroo basically blew it wide open and gave a home, an epicenter for all of us travelling bands as well as a home for all the music kids looking for a place to hang. On the way to my first Bonnaroo I was buzzing.

What were your initial impressions when you arrived that first year?

I was amazed at the energy. Lots and lots of peeps, no drama, no fights. The vibe was energetic and peaced out. I remember the lineup was outstanding. We had an amazing set and got to see a lot of bands we had been crossing paths with at the time like MMW and The Roots.

Describe the music that you found most moving or enjoyable at your first Bonnaroo.

I remember catching part of Medeski, Martin and Woods set in some tent and being completely blown away.

What do you remember most about your own performance?

I also got to sit in on a SuperJam with Luther and Cody Dickinson and Dr. John. Although that may have been my second year. It’s all bleeding together.

How does Bonnaroo compare with other festivals you’ve played?

Bonnaroo, ACL, Lolla, Coachella, Rothbury, Wakarusa, Summer Camp, there’s so many festivals and more every year. Bonnaroo was the one that blew it all out of the water. The spirit of Bonnaroo is like Woodstock- but every year. The acts are diverse but it’s still geared to the crunchy side of town which suits me just fine.

If you could collaborate with one Bonnaroo artist this year, who would it be?

Robert Plant.

Looking back at your initial experience at the festival, what was your quintessential Bonnaroo moment?

Probably when we hit the stage that first year. It was one of those sets. We started with a new song called “Back of the Bu” and it was one of those hits where it was on from the first note till the last. Jubilant! The other memory was when my cousin, my merch guy and a whole car load of Philly Freaks got busted by the cops on the way home… It’s all going down at Bonnaroo. Be safe and have fun.

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Tim Carbone, Railroad Earth
Bonnaroo Class: ‘07

Railroad Earth formed around the new Millennium, just as the modern festival scene was taking shape. Though the group’s only other Bonnaroo show was in 2007, the Americana rockers are one of the many great live bands to benefit from the expanded festival scene that’s emerged in Bonnaroo’s wake. Railroad Earth will make their grand return to Bonnaroo in That Tent at 12 PM today. In addition, Tim Carbone will introduce the film Dive! in the Cinema Tent, which will be followed by a Q&A with Film Director Jeremy Seifert and Anna Rachael Borofsky (Rock and Wrap It Up, and Clean Vibes).

What were your expectations prior to your first trip to Bonnaroo?

I heard it was immense and really dusty and hot. That was correct but it was amazing!

What were your initial impressions when you arrived that first year?

It was so huge but so well run. The backstage area was the eye of the hurricane.

Describe the music that you found most moving or enjoyable at your first Bonnaroo.

I really only got to see music the day we played but what a day! Loved Manu Chao, Franz Ferdinand, Damien Rice but The Police were the most enjoyable for me.

What do you remember most about your own performance?

My favorite part was when David Bromberg came up and sat in with us on the Sonic Stage.

How does Bonnaroo compare with other festivals you’ve played?

It’s so huge it kind of dwarfs every other festival I’ve played at.

If you could collaborate with one Bonnaroo artist this year, who would it be?

Without a doubt, Robert Plant and his Band of Joy.

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Chris Funk, The Decemberists
Bonnaroo Classes: ‘07, ’09

The Decemberists were already established tastemakers when the Portalnd, OR-based band made their Bonnaroo debut on the Which Stage in 2007. But Colin Meloy and his bandmates quickly embraced Bonnaroo’s spirit by inviting both legendary soul singer Mavis Staples and rising Americana rocker Bobby Bare Jr. out during their set. Staples even led the group through a cover of “The Weight,” a song she immortalized with The Band during the concert filmed for The Last Waltz. Two years later, the group retuned to Bonnaroo to play material from their 2009 concept album The Hazards of Love and this year The Decemberists will make their main What Stage debut on the heels of their first number one album, The King is Dead. The band is scheduled to hit the What Stage at 5:30 PM today. Multi-instrumentalist Chris Funk looks back on his past Bonnaroo experiences below:

What were your expectations prior to your first trip to Bonnaroo?

Really none, we hadn’t played a festival that large until we rolled in there.

Describe the music that you found most moving or enjoyable at your first Bonnaroo.

Watching the White Stripes and jamming with Mavis Staples.

What do you remember most about your own performance?

Mavis Staples—and that is was hot as hell.

How does Bonnaroo compare with other festivals you’ve played?

I think it’s the largest we’ve played, I’ll say that.

If you could collaborate with one Bonnaroo artist this year, who would it be?

Man, there are so many. How about a super jam with literally everyone playing at the same time.

Looking back at your initial experience at the festival, what was your quintessential Bonnaroo moment?

Stealing our manager’s golf cart, and the Bonnaroo golf cart police chasing us everywhere. They were very kind people.

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