Bonnaroo Sunday Recap: Tom Petty Plays the Hits, Ed Helms Leads the Bluegrass Tent, The National Take the Main Stage
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers officially closed Manchester, TN’s 12th annual Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival with an over two-hour set in the rain last night. Though the summer time favorites have largely focused on deep cuts and covers during their recent multi-night theater runs in New York and Hollywood, CA, last night’s set relied mostly on the band’s sing-alongs like “Learning to Fly,” “Free Fallin’,” and “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.”
Petty—who headlined Bonnaroo in 2006—opened his show with his tour-opening sequence of The Byrds’ “ So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” and “Love Is a Long Road.” Then, he moved into the anthems with a song he told the crowd “we can all sing along to,” “I Won’t Back Down.” He shifted a way from hits-mode periodically during the night, spicing his setlist up with the Mojo blues number “Good Enough” the Hard Promises track “A Woman in Love (It’s Not Me)” and Traveling Wilburys’ “Tweeter and the Monkey Man.” Guitarist Mike Campbell channeled Bonnaroo godfather Jerry Garcia too, most prominently through a cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil,” as well as through his guitar tone on spacey, stretched out versions of “It’s Good to Be King,” “Refugee” and “Runnin’ Down a Dream.” His show-closing hit sequence included “Don’t Come Around Here No More” and “American Girl.” Before the latter song, Petty remarked that he wanted to end “at the beginning” of his career.
His festival-closing performance was the exclamation mark on an already busy, if slightly damp day of music. Lee Fields, who participated in Bonnaroo’s SuperJam a few hours earlier, opened the What Stage with a set of Daptone’s trademark classic soul, while fellow SuperJam performer John Oates offered an intimate spot on the Sonic Stage.
Later in the afternoon, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis drew one of the weekend’s biggest crowds to the What Stage. Their set was more rally then performance, even if their intentions were earnest: Macklemore stood up for marriage equality, against aggression in hip-hop and told the crowd how excited he was to play Bonnaroo. In more a more shticky moment, he also pulled a fur coat from fan in the audience and wore it onstage as he riffed on Tennessee bobcats. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros almost hit Mumford & Sons’ 2010 Which Stage record with their similarly uplifting mixture of indie and vintage music.
Across Centeroo, comedian and banjo player Ed Helms hosted a day of bluegrass and roots music in That Tent. Named after the festivals and jam sessions he hosts in LA, Helms’ Bluegrass Situation Tent featured performances by Aoife O’Donovan, John Fullbright, Black Prairie, Noam Pikelny & Friends and Sam Bush & Del McCoury. McCoury—one of holdovers from the inaugural Bonnaroo onsite this year—described the festival as one of the best places to “pick and sing.” He also took requests from the crowd. At the end of the night, most of the Bluegrass Situation tent’s performance returned for a jam session. Helms’ opened the segment with his longtime bluegrass outfit The Lonesome Trio but the session gradually grew to O’Donovan, Fullbright, Bush and McCoury as well as the members of Black Prairie and Pikelny’s bands at various points. Punch Brothers’ Chris Eldridge, Allison Krauss & Union Station’s Dan Tyminski and Chris Stapleton all participated in the pickin’ session. In other sit in news John Stamos made a surprise onstage appearance in the Comedy Theater with his old Full House costar Bob Saget.
Many performers dotted their set with covers. Country/roots group Delta Rae took on Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” on the Which Stage, bluegrass-inspired Decemberists side-project Black Prairie reworked Led Zeppelin’s “The Song Remains the Same” in That Tent and garage rockers JEFF The Brotherhood charged through Nirvana’s “Something in the Way.” Meanwhile, in The Other Tent, two more indie-inspired modern psychedelic groups honored Bonnaroo’s roots in improvisational music. Australian psych rock kings Tame Impala drew an overflowing crowd as dusk settled in and post-punk rockers Cloud Nothing noted, “we are gonna get a little jammy with it, hope you are patient.”
Later in the day, David Byrne returned to Bonnaroo for his third time for a set on the Which Stage. This time he brought along his current tour partner St. Vincent. They focused primarily on material from their recent collaborative album Love This Giant, which relies heavily on a tight brass section. They also mixed in a few choice selections from their other projects. Byrne played his own “Strange Overtones” and “Like Humans Do,” as well as Talking Heads classics “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody),” “Burning Down the House” and “Road to Nowhere.” He also led the group through the 1980s Talking Heads hit “Wild Wild Life,” which Byrne added into his setlists with St. Vincent for the first time last week. St. Vincent pulled out a few of her songs too, most prominently “The Party” during the show’s encore.
Despite having grown into the poster children for Brooklyn indie rock, The National offered what may have been the truest representation of Bonnaroo’s jamband roots. They’ve slowly grown from a tent performance in 2007 to a Which Stage set in 2010 to yesterday’s debut on the massive What Stage. They got into the sit in action and brought out St. Vincent to sing on the Trouble Will Find Me song “This is the Last Time” and embraced their melodic side on “I Need My Girl.” For his second Bonnaroo appearance in a row, bassist Scott Devendorf also showed off his Grateful Dead roots by sporting a Steal Your Face t-shirt. This time, he opted for one that was tie-dye.