Happy Roo, Happy Review: Bonnaroo Music + Arts Festival Review

Bonnaroo music and arts festival review 2017

I covered three days of Bonnaroo this year. There was a total attendance of 65k festival goers, bouncing back from 46k last year. Everyone was in good spirits, high-fiving and wishing each other a “Happy Roo!”  Here is my story and my review.

On Thursday morning, I flew from New York City down to Charlotte, North Carolina to take a 7-hour drive with my radio producer, Jack, to the festival grounds in Manchester, Tennessee. Between Bonnaroo and the CMA Music Festival, airline companies thought it was appropriate to price tickets in the $900 plus range to get down to Nashville (the closest airport to Bonnaroo). I opted out of that.

Instead, I enjoyed a 7 hour ride through the rock-laden mountains of Nantahala National Forest in western North Carolina and rolling hills of the eastern Tennessee countryside. I drove west with my radio producer, Jack, and his two lovely kids, Alex and Felipe.

Once we got to the festival at around 7pm, we picked up our media passes and waited in an hour-long line to reach the festival gates. We got into the festival, and began working. My plan was to go in with the rBeatz Radio Station, FacebookTwitter, and Instagram at my disposal, a Nikon D3400 camera, and run a bit of a narrative in conjunction with insight from the day’s acts. We ran coverage on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

Felipe quickly became a protagonist in my Bonnaroo narrative, and we immediately began to help him find love at the music festival. Felipe and myself would find eligible bachelorettes interested in playing along with a live interview on rBeatzRadio. We would ask them which act they liked the most and which act they were most looking forward too. We would then ask them three questions to see if they were compatible with Felipe. The questions were…

1) Where would you take Felipe on your first date?

2) What is your favorite ice cream flavor?

3) If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?

Felipe’s favorite ice cream was strawberry and he would go to California if he could go anywhere in the world right now. The first question was just for fun ?

If one of the eligible bachelorettes matched with Felipe on the last two questions, they would win an rBeatz prize pack. People were very receptive to the game because it was a nice, quick change of pace, and who doesn’t like to play games and win prizes?!

Below are reviews from the acts and other cool things I witnessed. At the end of this story, I will give you my top 10 acts of the weekend.

bonnaroo 2017

DAY 1: Thursday, June 8th

I also introduced Felipe in my intro radio edit below. Listen to us entering the festival grounds.

I planned on watching Goldfish first, but logistics and getting in took longer than expected. We ended up going directly to work, trying to help Felipe find love.

One of the first things we noticed were the clever stage names. There was, “The Other” stage, “That Tent,” “Which Stage,” “This Tent,” and “What Stage,” allowing for hilarious ice-breakers when asking where certain artists were playing. It was reminiscent of Abbott & Costello’s Who’s On First. For example, an exaggerated version would be…

Person 1: “Do you know where Portugal. The Man is playing tonight?”

Person 2: “This Tent”

Person 1: “Which Tent?”

Person 2: (points his finger) “That Stage”

Person 1: “What Stage?!?”

Person 2: “NO! THE OTHER STAGE!”

Person 1:  “I thought that was the EDM stage?!?”

Person 2: “Ughhhh let me just walk you there!”

Mondo Cozmo

As we were walking around, an American singer-songwriter and producer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania gave us pause. It was Mondo Cozmo at the This Tent. It was a nice beginning set to see, making me feel those oldie folk-rock vibes that Bonnaroo was built upon.

Mondo Cozmo #bonnaroo

A post shared by rBeatz (@rbeatzmusic) on

After a couple songs at Mondo Cozmo, we continued walking around and saw Bonnaroo even had a place devoted to sports! They had the Stanley Cup up on the Comedy & Cinema area. Listen to an interview we did with Erin and Erica. We tried to help Felipe find love as well.

Innanet James

Innanet James played at the The Other stage. This is where I did most of my coverage. Bonnaroo had an eclectic lineup this year due to lower than desired sales last year. The Other stage was the EDM stage, and it did NOT disappoint.

@innanetjames #bonnaroo

A post shared by rBeatz (@rbeatzmusic) on


After Innanet James, we found Rylie and played #HelpFelipeFindLove. Felipe wanted to change his answers, so I let him. I figured, “why not?”

We found Alexis and Garden soon after and played #HelpFelipeFindLove. Alexis got a little shy towards the middle, or maybe she didn’t need to find love because her boyfriend was there.


HeRobust was my favorite set on Thursday. He always comes with energy, and this set was no different. I was in the photo pit, and this was one of the earliest dubstep/trap shows, so the headbangers were out in full force. I was getting whipped by long hair left and right. I also couldn’t help myself. I had to put my camera and phone from time to time and join in. The vibes were too infectious.

@herobust Live #Bonnaroo 2017 ???

A post shared by rBeatz (@rbeatzmusic) on

HeRobust 2017 Bonnaroo Herobust Live 2017 herobust live at bonnaroo HeRobust bonnaroo HeRobust 2017 HeRobust fans bonnaroo 2017


Allan Rayman

Allan Rayman was beautiful. His set reminded me of a more soulful and melodic version of Francis and the Lights. His voice is super soulful, and it was a nice break to watch a unique soul/hip-hop artist. I came from HeRobust, so I needed a break.

Allan Rayman Bonnaroo 2017



I stumbled upon Twiddle’s set and remembered that someone I interviewed said she was most excited for Twiddle. I started listening to the four-piece band from Vermont, and I couldn’t leave. They play an eclectic mix of rock, jazz, bluegrass, reggae, and funk. I was hooked.

Side boob is putting what I witnessed at Bonnaroo lightly. Nipples were out, and so were pasties for the more conservative types. Freedom of expression is a theme at these music festivals, and they’re a place where you can show your true colors without fear of judgement or punishment. If men can go topless, why can’t women?

@twiddlemusic is killing it #bonnaroo

A post shared by rBeatz (@rbeatzmusic) on


Abraham ‘Abe’ Laguna aka Ookay has a wild set. The dubstep producer from San Diego blasted gritty dubstep and plenty of trap samples. I took some time to appreciate my surroundings and bear witness to the late-night EDM crowd.

@ookayx Live #Bonnaroo 2017

A post shared by rBeatz (@rbeatzmusic) on

I was drawn to this alien, dangling in the crowd, dancing with the masses. There were not too many totems at Ookay’s set, so this Alien really rose above the people.

Alien dancing @ookayx #Bonnaroo 2017

A post shared by rBeatz (@rbeatzmusic) on

There were these LED whips called pixelwhips that were out-and-about this weekend. A lot of dancers at festivals like to dance with props like hula hoops, LED gloves, or pixelwhips.  I took this video of a woman dancing with a pixelwhip at Ookay and made sure to showcase the The Other stage sign. Hehe – I like saying the The Other when describing these creative stage names.

The Other Stage is where it’s at @ookayx #bonnaroo #bonnaroo2017

A post shared by rBeatz (@rbeatzmusic) on

DAY 2: Friday, June 9th

I woke up freezing at about 5 am, so I had to cover myself with everything I had. Then, as the temperatures rose towards 80 degrees, I began removing layers until I couldn’t rest any longer. I had to get up, explore the campgrounds, and witness Great Stage Park during the day. Below are a couple things I saw as I walked around, along with my day 2 intro video.


Khruangbin’s show was super mellow. They’re sound was described by Noisey as “Thai Funk, Surf Soul.” Laura was on bass, Mark was on the guitar, and D.J. manned the drums.

Did a bit of a Saturday intro on rBeatzRadio.com before my interview with Khruangbin.

I had to go back to the car, way out in the parking lot, to get chargers and prepare for my Khruangbin interview. Below is a old-timey vehicle that looked like it came from Burning Man. I ended up taking one of those rickshaws back from the campgrounds.

#Bonnaroo vibes ?

A post shared by rBeatz (@rbeatzmusic) on

Khruangbin live bonnaroo Laura Khruangbin live bonnaroo Khruangbin live 2017 bonnaroo DJ Khruangbin BONNAROO Khruangbin bonnaroo 2017

Khruangbin Interview

I had the pleasure to interview Laura, Mark, and D.J. from Khruangbin in the press area. The lovely people at Notes for Notes allowed us to use their mobile studio for the interview. Notes for Notes is a non-profit organization that designs, equips, and staffs after-school recording studios inside Boys & Girls Clubs offering youth the opportunity to explore, create, and record music for FREE.

Listen to the full Khruangbin interview below.

Stick Figure

Stick Figure was one of the only reggae bands at Bonnaroo. I ran into their dog, Cocoa after their set.

Service is always an issue when covering an event. Luckily, we had the press tent for Wi-Fi, but out in the open, it was a different ballgame. We were suppose to interview Stick Figure after their set (as mentioned in the video above), but we lost connection with their manager. This stuff happens, especially at music festivals! Instead, we interviewed the less-famous Anna, Casey, Taylor, and Sarah. We tried to #HelpFelipeFindLove. These girls were pretty giggly.

We also ran into Lucy, Melissa, and Stephanie and played #HelpFelipeFindLove

Random singing and dance parties are encouraged at Bonnaroo. This was after D.R.A.M.


I always have said Illenium needs to score a major movie. His set was further proof. Melody, synths, and dynamic drums are his game. He did a bit more hard-style due to the circumstances (playing at the The Other stage).

@illeniummusic was magical ✨??⭐️ #Bonnaroo

A post shared by rBeatz (@rbeatzmusic) on

@illeniummusic live #Bonnaroo 2017

A post shared by rBeatz (@rbeatzmusic) on

Marshmello matoma Illenium fans Illenium fans 2 Illenium live bonnaroo illenium at bonnaroo Illenium at bonnaroo 2017

Found myself a marshmello at Illenium.

Marshmello illenium

Tove Lo

I caught the end of Tove Lo for her hit song, Stay High. See below.

@tovelo Live #Bonnaroo 2017 Stay High

A post shared by rBeatz (@rbeatzmusic) on

The XX

The crowd for The XX was huge. Jack was able to get up onto the bleachers and take this shot.


NGHTMRE’s set was wild as expected. By far and away one of the best sets of the entire festival. No surprises that he crushed it. What was even more refreshing was that he’d play a lot of familiar songs remixed into dubstep/trap drops. This is what some of the best EDM DJs do.

@nghtmre is lit ??? #Bonnaroo #bonnaroo2017

A post shared by rBeatz (@rbeatzmusic) on

Listen to his entire set below.

I caught this dancer as I was leaving NGHTMRE.


I didn’t stay much for U2. The crowd was huge and no one else was playing, so I figured I could use the time to decompress before Major Lazer. I got a couple of shots of Bono, then headed out. They came out to Sunday Bloody Sunday off their Joshua Tree album.

Bono U2 Bonnaroo 2017


As I was going back, I decided to capture some of these holographic art installations outside outside the Tower entrance.

Major Lazer

Major Lazer brought the dancehall vibes to Bonnaroo. This was one of the first instances where I saw the glow sticks getting thrusted forward during each drop. Diplo, Jillionaire, and Walshy Fire kept the energy up while their dancers certainly helped. Some of their dancers even doubled as drummers! One of the highlights for me was this Twenty One Pilots’ “Ride” remix they played. Also, being 2 feet away from Walshy Fire as he took selfies for social media was pretty cool 😉 see the video below.

@majorlazer #Bonnaro ???????????

A post shared by rBeatz (@rbeatzmusic) on

Major Lazer Bonnaroo 2017 major lazer bonnaroo major lazer live 2017 major lazer 2017 Major Lazer Bonnaroo Friday Walshy Fire 2017 Walshy Fire major lazer bonnaroo major lazer dancer Diplo smoking gun

Portugal. The Man

I left Major Lazer a bit early. Being that close to the illustrious trio was enough for me. I did my job, shot them as best I could, then met some friends at Portugal. The Man. The rock band from Wasilla, Alaska played a beautiful set. The crowd was swaying back and forth when I showed up. I watched my state flag of Maryland sway back and forth to the psychedelic rock vibes.

Shoutout to my #Maryland flag @portugaltheman #Bonnaroo

A post shared by rBeatz (@rbeatzmusic) on


Big Gigantic

The best set at Bonnaroo! Big Gigantic absolutely crushed it. There had been a lot of dubstep/trap on the The Other stage, and Big Gigantic brought the electro-funk (my personal favorite genre – shhhhh don’t tell the other genres). He brought out the singer and trumpet player from Trey’s (from Phish) ‘solo’ band Jennifer Heartswick at the beginning. Dominic Lalli and Jennifer Heartswick had a soulful back and forth that made me think it was a love story told in the form of sound.

She thanked me on Saturday for the video. I sent her the praise you hands back ???

big gigantic hartswick

I ran into a glover at Big Gigantic, and he mesmerized the camera.

Bonnaroo’s reminded festival goers before the festival to “Prepare Thyself, Play As A Team, Respect The Farm, Stay True Roo, Don’t Be That Guy & Radiate Positivity!” I shortened the “Don’t Be That Guy” part below.

Towards the end of the night, I walked by Snake & Jake’s Christmas Club Barn. If you were out past 4am on Saturday, which I was, this is where you’d hang. This was the only indoor music area. I went in on Saturday to dance and take a bit of a break. The place was BUMPIN’ playing a lot of Baltomore/Jersey club.

Snake Jake's Christmas Club Barn

If you’re reading this and listening to the interviews, you might be wondering, “Where is Angelica?!?!?” I mentioned in the early interviews that she would be our other protagonist. These festivals are about going with the flow, and Angelica did not end up flowing with rBeatz. That happens! We moved on after another amazing day at Bonnaroo. We found another protagonist on Saturday 😉 His name is Tom.

DAY 3: Saturday, June 10th

I showed up early to the press tent to listen to these lovely individuals talk about cat-calling, perspective, calling women chefs simply chefs, the artist lifestyle, and dynamics. It’s always cool to listen to successful people talk.

I then headed over to watch The Front Bottoms and record my Saturday video.

The Front Bottoms

The Front Bottoms were my pick for they most underrated act at Bonnaroo. They had a super fun and authentic set, giving me a casual Blink 182 vibe. The lead singer, Brian Sella, sang about accidentally drowning his girlfriend and the time his younger brother broke both of his arms. These guys are New Jersey natives and the crowd was really feeling them. They even had a couch on-stage, further demonstrating their casual vibe. Friends and a giant teddy bear would just chill on the couch drinking beers. The bear then walked around giving people hugs.

@thefrontbottoms were one of #Bonnaroo’s most underrated acts ??????

A post shared by rBeatz (@rbeatzmusic) on

bear hugs front bottoms bonnaroo the front bottoms bonnaroo Brian Sella The Front Bottoms The Front Bottoms bonnaroo 2017 Mathew Uychich and Brian Sella TFB TFB Brian Sella Mathew Uychich The Front Bottoms Bonnaroo The Front Bottoms Drummer cBrian Sella Bonnaroo 2017 The Front Bottoms Couch

I got my good friend and one of the ex-members of The Front Bottoms to create a mix for Bonnaroo. He likes the heavier stuff like SNAILS. Pretty sure The (current) Front Bottoms didn’t follow that route. The mix is fire, so listen below. The track list to the mix is in the Soundcloud description.

After The Front Bottoms performance, I met up with TFB’s FIRST booking agent, Monica, to help me with my radio show. We met a friend, Tom, to help him find love at Bonnaroo. Listen below to find out Tom’s favorite ice cream flavor and place he’d go in the world.

Before venturing onto Unlike Pluto, we found Kelly, Leah, Lana, and Elizabeth. We played #HelpTomFindLove

Unlike Pluto

The former biology major turned DJ had a nice set. I stayed for a couple of songs and saw this guy twirling a ball on a stick. Looks like Instagram found it interested enough to view over 40k times.

@unlikepluto was unlike no other #Bonnaroo

A post shared by rBeatz (@rbeatzmusic) on

Unlike Pluto bonnaroo Unlike Pluto live bonnaroo Unlike Pluto live bonnaroo

We ran into Ally at the Bacardi Oasis area. See who her favorite set was. She played #HelpTomFindLove

We interviewed Briana and Shawna to #HelpTomFindLove

A bit later, we met with Joanna to #HelpTomFindLove

Joran and Mandi were next #HelpTomFindLove


Hannibal Buress

If you listened to the Tom introduction, you caught me getting really excited that Hannibal Buress was here. I’ve been listening to music all weekend, and I needed a break to laugh. Oh yea, I was also there to take pictures of Hannibal Buress. Sometimes I forgot that I had a job to do. Sabrina Jalees crushed the opener.

Hannibal Buress bonnaroo


Hannibal Buress LIVE bonnaroo set Hannibal Buress comedy tent

He loved playing with this voice changer. Perfect for comedy at a music festival.

Hannibal Buress AUTOTUNE Hannibal Buress auto tune Hannibal Buress bon Hannibal Buress about to tell a joke Hannibal Buress FUNNY bonnaroo

Sabrina Jalees live at bonnaroo 2017 Sabrina Jalees bonnaroo 2017 Sabrina Jalees bonnaroo Sabrina Jalees live 2017


Rezz was one of my top 3 favorite performances at Bonnaroo. Her glasses were hypnotizing and the amount of grit that came from her sounds was astounding. Super gritty bass with beautiful arrangements that played with the energy flawlessly.

Rezz Bonnaroo Rezz day 3 bonnaroo Rezz Saturday Bonnaroo best set at bonnaroo rezz Rezz at bonnaroo

I did a bit of a mid-day recap below. Discussed Rezz’ set along with what’s next.


I already saw Chance The Rapper at Governors Ball, and I’ve always wanted to see Matoma live, so I did. The pull from Chance the Rapper was so strong, Matoma’s set hardly filled half the The Other stage area. Matoma is known for his more tropical house vibes. He was also playing at night on the EDM stage, so he turned up the grit a bit. Made friends with these banana’s dancing. You always gotta show the banana’s love.

Nothing can stop me I’m all all the way UP @matoma #Bonnaroo

A post shared by rBeatz (@rbeatzmusic) on

Matoma bonnaroo 2017 matoma bonnaroo matoma live 2017 matoma dj bonnarooJPG matoma live bonnaroo

I ran into Baola and Susana, and we played #HelpTomFindLove

Louis The Child

Chicago-based music duo consisting of Robby Hauldren and Freddy Kennett was super glitchy and melodic. They really got the crowd going when one of them would stand-up on the DJ booth.

Louis the child talking

Louis the Child bonnaroo Louis the Child bonnaroo day 3 Louis the Child roo

I interviewed Mindy and Kelly after Louis The Child, and we played #HelpTomFindLove

I skipped out of the Red Hot Chili Peppers set. We received an email from someone on their press team saying we could cover Red Hot Chili Peppers. We got SO EXCITED, then 10 minutes later, another email was sent telling us to disregard the last email. 🙁


Frédérik Durand aka Snails might have been the loudest set I heard. I don’t know what I was thinking, forgetting to wear headphones to the grimiest show in the lineup. I’m part of his Vomit Squad fan group on Facebook, so I quickly shared what I witnessed from his set below. I was feeling his set so much that I put my camera down for a second and started whomping like a mad man. I was dancing like a maniac, so security approached me thinking I was a fan who escaped into the photo area. I showed him my wristband, and he asked me why I wasn’t doing my job…………………I responded, “I AM doing my job! CAN’T I DANCE FOR A BIT?!?!” He quickly realized he was in the wrong and asked me to take photos of him and his other security friends. It’s important to keep that work/life balance, even while at work.

His set’s animation started off with a giant snail attacking a city. Super green and slimy set.

It’s always important to hydrate at these shows. Snails agreed.

The hula hoops were out to play for Snails.


SNAILS live bonnaroo

SNAILS live bonnaroo 2017

Snails vomit squad

Snails bonnaroo day 3JPG

snails bonnaroo 2017


Another amazing act for the food that’s a DJ. His visuals are always amazing: bright and vibrant. His set is like a cartoon show that gets way too exciting. He always plays very melodic high-octave tracks contrasted nicely with heavier bass sounds. The visuals are so important for a DJ these days. The light show is becoming just as important as the music. Marshmello’s team excels in its animations behind the DJ. This is part of what makes his sets so spectacular. Awesome in the literal sense of the word.

Everybody knows him @marshmellomusic enters #Bonnaroo

A post shared by rBeatz (@rbeatzmusic) on

@marshmellomusic #Bonnaroo ??⬜️??

A post shared by rBeatz (@rbeatzmusic) on

@marshmellomusic #Bonnaroo nom nom

A post shared by rBeatz (@rbeatzmusic) on

Marshmello 2017 bonnaroo

marshmello bonnaroo 2017

marshmello roo

marshmello up close

marshmello day 3 bonnaroo

Marshmello fans came out to play!

marshmello fans

Shoutout to Bonnaroo staff for being extremely vigilant, helpful, and caring during marshmello and all other shows.

bonnaroo staff


Cara and myself ended rBeatz’ time at the festival. She played #HelpTomFindLove

After marshmello’s set, I decided to explore a bit. I went over to the silent disco stage, where Red Bull Music Academy was throwing a 90s party. Then a dog showed up, and people were going NUTS. This was a great way to end my time at Bonnaroo.

RBMA Silent Disco DJ Bonnaroo 2017

Red Bull DJ

Red Bull Music Academy silent disco bonnaroo

dog at silent disco bonnaroo

girl silent disco bonnaroo 2017

silent disco bonnaroo 2017

Silent Disco Bonnaroo


I got back to my tent at 6am, where I promptly packed up and waited for my radio producer to pick me up. Needless to day, I slept for most of the car ride back to Charlotte and plane ride back to New York City. I got home, and was exhausted from covering this 3-day (for us) extravaganza. Went right back to it on Monday to write this Bonnaroo Review.

Coming home from Bonnaroo




  3. REZZ








Chris Stack

After graduating from Kenyon College, Chris Stack joined a branding and marketing startup, BrandYourself (as seen on SharkTank), in New York City. After leading the company to grow past profitability as a leading account manager, Chris set his sights on his passion: music. He currently runs his own LLC in New York City, helping musicians in the city with their online presence and marketability. A native of the Washington DC area, Chris Stack's passions and hobbies include music production (8 years on Ableton), marketing, baseball (Mets), football (Ravens), Netflix n chillin, and the experience economy.

You may also like ...


Leave a Reply