Bonnaroo is sweaty, dusty, grimy, loud and completely wonderful. The annual Manchester, Tenn. festival, one of the country’s largest, has evolved to more than a sequence of outdoor concerts: It has the feeling of a family reunion without all the tension, one where seasoned fans and fledgling festival-goers alike rendezvous for a weekend of music and merrymaking.
This year’s event sold out for the first time since 2013, a payoff that’s perhaps thanks to bookers’ spot-on lineup. Bonnaroo hasn’t always been on the same wavelength as their audience—last year’s headliners were The Killers, Eminem and Muse, a far cry from the fest’s jammy, vibey roots. But this year, Bonnaroo got its groove back. ‘Roo veteran Kacey Musgraves charmed a field of fans who knew every single Golden Hour lyric. Cardi B weathered a wardrobe malfunction and played the rest of her set in a bathrobe. Childish Gambino and Post Malone both rocked the main stage after dark, and a string of beloved indie acts kept us occupied in the early afternoon. And, in what felt like an especially true-to-’Roo moment, jam titans Phish played not one but three sets over the course of the weekend, to a crowd 80,000 strong. It was a very, very “Happy ‘Roo.”
Throughout the weekend, we caught up with some of our favorite performers, including Hozier, Steve Earle and Caroline Rose. Click through the gallery to view Paste’s exclusive portraits.
Read our festival recap here.