10 Reasons to Attend Bonnaroo in Tennessee This Year

The four-day music fest is back for the first time since 2019.

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After two years of postponements and subsequent cancellations, Bonnaroo returns June 16-19 to the 650-acre farm outside of Manchester, Tennessee, for what should have been the festive 20th edition of the multigenre music festival. Located just about an hour from Nashville, Bonnaroo is a long way from normal! The last-minute 2021 cancellation was particularly disappointing as many fans and artists were already on their way when Tropical Depression Ida swept through and flooded the property, making it impossible to get people and equipment safely onto the site. Many of the musical acts made the best of it by playing impromptu pop-up shows in Nashville, but it just wasn’t the same.

So, this year, Bonnaroovians and more than 150 musical acts are itching to get down and dirty in the fields for the first time since 2019. The energy will be electric with three years of pent-up festival magic ready to be unleashed on the crowds of tens of thousands of music fans. Here are 10 reasons why you should want to be in that number.

The headliners have some serious star power

With four full days and nights of music, Bonnaroo has stage space for lots of big headlining acts, and it has not disappointed with the star power. Thanks to the festival’s dedication to music stretching across many genres, there’s bound to be a headliner you’d be excited to see gracing one of the three main “Who,” “What,” and “Which” stages.

Fans of intelligent rock music will be fired up to see Tool take the stage for a late-night set on Saturday, and hip-hop lovers have circled Friday night on their concert calendar when J. Cole headlines a set that will stretch into Saturday morning. Sunday night offers a delightfully mixed bag of headliners with Machine Gun Kelly, Roddy Ricch, and Stevie Nicks.

Women rule the bill

Probably the worst part about two years of Bonnaroo cancellations is the fact that Lizzo was slated to headline both times. While she won’t hit the touring road again until this fall, Bonnaroo organizers have worked hard to fill the void of female headliners. Some eyebrows were raised when Stevie Nicks was named to head the Sunday night bill (considering she also headlined the US Festival in 1983!), but she’s an icon of the industry and an important influence on generations of singer-songwriters.

Bonnaroo marks a triumphant return for The Chicks after almost two decades of being ignored by the country music industry for criticizing the US’s involvement in Iraq. Other female-led acts in prominent performance positions include Japanese Breakfast, Tierra Whack, and Chvrches.

You might just find a new favorite band at the satellite stages and tents

Many acts have broken out big during Bonnaroos past on some of the smaller stages, like the This Tent or That Tent, or in earlier time slots on the main stages. Don’t just camp out and wait for the big names or you’ll miss out on some revelatory performances.

Bluegrass guitar virtuoso Billy Strings is already a favorite of flatpicking fans, and look for him to be a popular guest musician during performances all weekend. Nashville-based American alternative and folk act Judah & the Lion could well be this year’s Americana breakout act, a la Mumford and Sons and the Avett Brothers in years past. For another Music City-based treat, check out indie rockers All Them Witches.

Or rediscover an old reliable

It’s not always about what’s new and shiny at Bonnaroo. Sometimes, the best performances come from industry vets who are excited to be playing in front of the next generation of music fans. Jazz legend Herbie Hancock doesn’t usually play at big festivals anymore, so it will be a special opportunity to see him play through hits from a career stretching six decades that’s earned him more than a dozen Grammys. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss are reuniting in support of their latest collaboration, Raise the Roof, an album of deep cuts from some of their favorite artists. The duo’s harmonies can be downright angelic at times.

Take a trip in the Wayback Machine at SuperJam

Bonnaroo’s annual SuperJam has created some magical moments in the past as eclectic combinations of musicians come together to perform songs that revolve around a specific theme. How else would you ever see Questlove on the same stage with Ben Harper and Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, like in 2007?

For the 2022 SuperJam, Jack Antonoff of Bleachers is putting together the roster of musical all-stars for a session dedicated to the year 1984. Could we see Robert Plant singing David Lee Roth's part on "Jump"? Stranger things have happened at past SuperJams. (And, unlike past SuperJams that lasted until early morning, this year’s kicks off Saturday at 8:30 pm, so Plant might still be awake.)

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Camp out with the 'Roonies

Sometimes the parties in the campgrounds rival the festivities on stage at Bonnaroo. An inexpensive car camping pass entitles you and your passengers to roughly 20 feet by 20 feet of space where you can set up your oasis. Campers are free to bring in food and drink (including two cases of beer or two boxes of wine per person—no glass!), and generators and grills to make your site homier. Special theme sites are available for people traveling solo, families, sobriety-seekers, and female-identifying and gender-nonconforming Bonnaroovians. Campgrounds are situated around plazas that host special pop-up events and provide amenities, like showers and medical assistance. The JamTrak tram circles the festival to provide free transportation between venues.

Take advantage of luxe options instead

If your idea of roughing it means a hotel room without HBO, you’re in luck. There are VIP and Platinum packages that include private restrooms and showers, golf cart transportation around the grounds, special up-close viewing and seating sections at the main stages, access to private lounges, and RVs to camp in or luxury tents with air conditioning and beds already set up for you upon arrival. Perhaps most importantly, you’ll have a power strip to recharge your electronics and blackout windows to recharge yourself at night.

Eat, drink, and be extremely merry

While you can bring your own food and water to Bonnaroo, you'll definitely want to check out the dozens of food tents and the craft beer tent called the Broo'ers Festival. The beer fest is set up under a big top near the Centeroo hub and features over 20 craft breweries from across the country selling a wide variety of beers and ciders. Food vendors range from ultra-healthy options like vegan fare and fresh salads to Southern specialties such as Nashville hot chicken, cheeseburgers, jalapeño corn dogs, and tacos—so many tacos!

Take a little break from the music with all sorts of fun adjunct activities

Mornings are for recovery, which is important because Bonnaroo is a marathon, not a sprint. In fact, it actually stages a 5K Roo Run on Saturday morning, an easy loop around the grounds where costumes are encouraged and competition is not. If marching is more your speed, organized and spontaneous parades are known to break out at any time, so jump in the line and rock your body in time! Free yoga classes are scheduled all over the festival grounds at various times of the week, and you don’t even need to bring a mat since the soft grass under your feet will work fine. To cool off in the June heat, take a dunk in the famous mushroom fountain or get slippery and wet on the giant water slide at Splash-a-Roo.

You can help to change the world

There’s an official Bonnaroovian Code that basically revolves around being a decent human being instead of “that person” who ruins everyone else’s experience at a music festival, but it goes deeper than that. Bonnaroo seeks to make the world a better place through the Bonnaroo Works Fund, which sponsors events like the Planet Roo sustainability expo to showcase nonprofit groups. Clean Vibes, the on-site trash and recycling service, encourages festival attendees to “Roo-duce, Roo-use, and Roo-cycle” in an effort to leave the farm better than they found it. The Learning Garden offers educational opportunities from area farmers and volunteers, and the annual BonnaROOTS sunset dinners revolve around communal meals made with ingredients sourced from some of those same farmers.

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