Nearly every festival has its surprise performances, but Bonnaroo routinely does them better than any other.
The walkability of the grounds, for one, allows impromptu performances and all night parties to thrive — even those stuck on the furthest campgrounds can hear every word from the What Stage. If it sounds good, they can walk over. If it doesn’t, well, actually, they’re pretty much up a creek; there’s no escaping the sounds of the festival.
Skrillex seemed to have fulfilled his Bonaroo obligations after a two-hour Friday night set and Saturday SuperJam that raged until 3 a.m. and included guests Lauryn Hill and Janelle Monae. But three hours later, when he climbed into the DJ booth atop the Kalliope Stage — those who’ve been to Burning Man might (or, given your Burning Man, condition might not) recognize the mobile stage; it and the famously decked out VW Bug, “Big Red” made the trek East this year — and kicked off a sunrise set, festival-goers came out by the thousands. Some emerged in PJs, some in party clothes, but everyone danced until breakfast.
Skrillex’s one-hour set was by far the biggest surprise production, but there were several noteworthy ones throughout the weekend:
D’Angelo who famously chose Bonnaroo in 2012 as the venue for his first live U.S. appearance in 12 years, came out during ?uestlove’s curated Superjam. He didn’t play any of his own material but he did cover classics from Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles to a fever-pitched crowd, with assists from members of The Roots, Parliament Funkadelic, and the Time.
Chromeo filled their alloted 7:30 slot Saturday evening, then returned unnanounced later that night to Snake & Jake’s Christmas Club Barn’s billed “Robe Rage with a Surprise DJ Set.” Picture: festival goers clad in tie-dye and robes (and sometimes tie-dyed robes) plus Chromeo in an over-the-top Christmas Club replete with Christmas lights, reindeers, and Santa decor.
And perhaps my favorite — because I really didn’t see it coming — was at RedBull’s Music Academy Stage. The four billed hours offer little by way of description (my calendar says, “Late Night Programming”) but we passed through right when Mystikal came out and let me tell you, nothing gets you to change your plan for the evening like hearing “Shake Ya Ass” rolling live through the hills of rural Tennessee before the sun comes up.