We love music festivals and, unlike our children, we have no qualms about naming a favorite. For the past seven years we have been fortunate to cover the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, TN. It's the huge festival with a small town vibe. Everyone is friendly and helpful. After all, the festival's motto is, "Radiate Positivity".

Bonnaroo also manages to book an astounding array of diverse and amazing artists. We'll be updating this article daily for the next forty days leading up to the start of Bonnaroo with our favorite photos from the past as well as shots of artists performing in 2016. Each image will be accompanied by a story or anecdote from the photographer. And now, in no particluar order, we begin.

 

(22) Public Enemy at Bonnaroo 2009

  Public Enemy by Randy Cremean
 Public Enemy  public enemy 13

 

One of my first late night Bonnaroo sets and still one of my favorites. When Flavor Flav came out, he walked along the front of the stage, high-fiving the photographers and thanking us for being there. I got to hear "Bring the Noise" and "Don't Believe the Hype" from the pit with the tent crowd going absolutely bonkers. It was amazing. - Randy Cremean

 

(21) FIDLAR at Bonnaroo 2016

FIDLAR by Randy Cremean

When they first started out, FIDLAR were known as a party band. They played songs about getting fucked up. Their shows were raucous, with bodies and beers flying all over the place. The reputation was well-deserved. Underlying the drunken revelery though, were great songs with catchy hooks. Their blend of skate/surf/ garage/punk rock got people moving. With the release of their second album, FIDLAR cleaned up their act, while retaining all the positive qualities that made them great in the first place. Focused and sober, their musicianship shines through in a live setting. Front man Zac Carper may have given up drugs, but he's still just a crazy person trying to make sense of this world. His songs have as much of an edge as they ever did and still speak to the souls of music fans looking for those same answers.

This photo is from Lollapalooza 2012. You can sing along to FIDLAR and do some crowd surfing at Bonnaroo on Friday, June 10th at 5:15pm, in That Tent. - Randy Cremean

 

 

(20) Alabama Shakes at Bonnaroo 2012 & 2015

Alabama Shakes at Bonnaroo 2012 by Randy Cremean  bonnaroo2015 alabama shakes 15
Alabama Shakes at Bonnaroo 2015 by Randy Cremean  
Alabama Shakes at Bonnaroo 2015 by Randy Cremean

 

I first saw Alabama Shakes when they only had an EP to their name. In March of 2012 they were tapped for a taping on the legendary Austin City Limits television show. It was an incredibly prescient booking of a band whose popularity would skyrocket once their debut LP was released a month later. At that taping, I fell in love with Brittany Howard. She had a voice more powerful than a hurrican and she could shred the guitar! When Bonnaroo rolled around in June, they were in my top five bands to see. After playing a tremendous set in This Tent to an enormous Thursday night crowd, the band hung out for the rest of the festival. After shooting The War On Drugs, I stayed in the VIP area to admire Adam Granduciel's entrancing songs. After a while I noticed someone standing next to me and it was Brittany Howard, also geeking out to The War On Drugs. I geeked out internally about standing next to her and left before I said anything embarassing.

Alabama Shakes returned to Bonnaroo in 2015 and played the main What Stage at sunset for a crowd that extended to the horizon. Seasoned from touring the world, and much more confident, the band were a tour de force, with Brittany showing why many consider her one of the best frontmen/women in music. As she strode onto the stage, Brittany licked her fingertips, looking for all the world like a football quarterback intent on driving her team down the field for the game winning touchdown. And win she did; the hearts of over fifty thousand Bonnaroo revelers. - Randy Cremean

 

 

(19) Kaleidoscope Space Tribe (aka Walk The Moon) at Bonnaroo 2013

Walk The Moon by Amy Price

 

The smaller stages at Bonnaroo have hosted more than a few artists who have since gained much higher levels of fame. In 2013, the Sonic Stage hosted a show of nothing but Talking Heads covers by Walk The Moon, who drew their name from one of Talking Head's lyrics.  We don't know if David Byrne personally heard the set - he performed on one of the large stages later with Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent - but I believe he would have been pleased. - Amy Price

 

(18) Lamb of God at Bonnaroo 2016

02082016 Lamb of God 01   02082016 Lamb of God 04
  02082016 Lamb of God 00

 

As the only metal act in the top half of the lineup, Lamb of God are wholly responsible for head-banging activities at Bonnaroo. Fortunately, they are more than up to the task. With ferocious onstage energy to match their music, and incredible light/video production, it is no wonder Lamb of God are one of the most popular purveyors of aggressive music on the planet. Let your hair down out of that supid man bun and whip it around as you thrash into the night. - Randy Cremean

Lamb of God perform on Saturday, June 11th at 8:45pm in The Other Tent.

 

(17) Bobby Womack's final performance at Bonnaroo 2014

Bobby Womack at Bonnaroo 2014 by Amy Price
BobbyWomack 8705

 

Sometimes as photographers and journalists we're witnesses to the last performance by an artist, and such was the case for Bobby Womack's 2014 Bonnaroo performance. I had planned to watch the entire show and ended up in the very front, Womack ran at least 20 minutes late finishing his set, but no one minded (save the stage personnel who were concened about being on time for the next artist). His road crew and friends and family were assisting and watching over him with care, providing a chair and lyrics to assist Womack, who was not in great health. But when he sang, it all came roaring back. One of the sweetest photos of the set was the one with of him with his daughter, who was singing backup for him. - Amy Price

 

(16) Jay-Z at Bonnaroo 2010

 Jay Z Bonnaroo2010 17  
 Jay-Z at Bonnaroo 2010 by Randy Cremean 

 

In retrospect, the minor controversy over Jay-Z headlining Bonnaroo and Coachella in 2010 seems ridiculous. Keep in mind, though, it was only two years earlier that Kanye set back relations between rappers and festivals with his disastrous Bonnaroo headlining performance. Jay-Z had more than dirt on his shoulders when he took the stage. He had the weight of redeeming an entire genre in the eyes of Bonnaroovians. Fortunately for all, he more than delivered the goods. With a full band, spectacular stage production, and hit after hit after hit, Jay turned in one of the greatest performances in the history of Bonnaroo.

I remember waiting in the photo pit for his set to begin as anticipation swelled in the crowd. Through a small crevice on the front of the stage, I could see activity below. It was Jay-Z preparing to enter via a small elevator. He stood there for several minutes, head down, gathering himself; looking for all the world like a boxer getting ready for his introduction. The lights went out and he began to rise. I had goosebumps as the crowd erupted in a tidal wave of camera flashes and jubilant screams. - Randy Cremean

 

(15)  Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters at Bonnaroo 2015

Robert Plant at Bonnaroo 2015 by Amy Price Robert Plant at Bonnaroo 2015 by Amy Price
 Robert Plant at Bonnaroo 2015 by Amy Price

 

Plant was scheduled to perform at Bonnaroo on the heels of cancelling several North American dates after waking up one morning 'sounding like Kermit the Frog'.  Taking the stage at sunset while holding a mug of steaming liquid, Plant stepped to the front, gave the audience a sly grin and a nod and ceremoniously dumped the liquid out of the mug, with the notion of 'well, that's that, back to business now.'  The band's music - a mélange of American and African roots and blues, with more than a tip of the hat to the Middle Eastern rhythms and melodies of The Zep - gave ample support to Plant's vocal stylings. - Amy Price

 

(14) Florence + The Machine at Bonnaroo 2011 & 2015

Florence Machine Bonnaroo2011 19   Florence Bonnaroo2015 03

 

Getting to shoot Florence on a small stage at Bonnaroo 2011 is one of those weird but fortuitous things caused by the delay you often see between a performer being huge in the UK and their eventual popularity in the States. She could have easily played the Which Stage in the same primetime slot. Florence's debut album, Lungs, had already reached number one in the UK and her sophomore album, Ceremonials, was five months away from debuting at number one. The beyond huge crowd spilling out of the sweltering tent into the surrounding dust-choked field knew every word to every song. It was clear she was something special and that we'd never get a chance to see her on a stage that small again.

Flash forward to 2015 and Florence + The Machine were playing the main stage. She had much more room to roam and fabulous stage production befitting her epic songs. Florence will always be one of my favorite artists to photograph. She works the stage like a trained dancer; lithe and graceful with exquisite arm movements held just long enough for photographers to get the shot. When Florence +The Machine next visit Bonnaroo, it will undoubtedly be as headliner. - Randy Cremean

 

(13) Tame Impala at Bonnaroo 2016

 tame impala at Lollapalooza 2015 by Randy Cremean

Tame Impala played Bonnaroo in 2013 and it was amazing. I only know it was amazing due to videos like this. You see, I was shooting The National, who were playing at the same time. I have no regrets, as The National are one of my all-time favorite bands, but I definitely won't be missing Tame Impala this year, or ever again. They sound big enough to fill an arena, which is where they'll be playing very soon. This photo was taken at Lollapalooza 2015. - Randy Cremean

You can rock out to Tame Impala's psychedelic mastery at Bonnaroo on June 11th (Friday night) at 1am on the Which Stage.

 

(12) Conan O'Brien at Bonnaroo 2010

Conan Obrien at Bonnaroo 2010 by Randy Cremean

For a music festival, Bonnaroo has one of the best comedy lineups of the year. In 2010, they booked the biggest possible "get". Conan O'brien was six months removed from his final appearance as host of The Tonight Show and still five months away from his first show on TBS. He was at peak popularity and he was all over Bonnaroo. Conan performed two sets in the Comedy Tent and introduced Damian Marley, The Dead Weather, Tenacious D. He was funny, humble and clearly happy to have the events of the previous year behind him. - Randy Cremean

The 2016 comedy lineup, with more to be announced:

Judd Apatow • Adam Devine • Vanessa Bayer • Pete Davidson • Bridget Everett Rachel Feinstein • Piff the Magic Dragon • John Early • Sean Patton • Nate Bargatze Alice Wetterlund • The Goddamn Comedy Jam • Aparna Nancherla • Beth Stelling Adam Ray • Josh Rabinowitz • Joyelle Nicole • Matteo Lane • Jak Knight • Ian Abramson Sam Jay • Jon Gabrus • Josh Adam Meyer

 

(11) Haim at Bonnaroo 2013 & 2016

Haim at Bonnaroo 2013 by Randy Cremean   Haim at Bonnaroo 2013 by Randy Cremean Haim at Bonnaroo 2013 by Randy Cremean 

 

Haim played SXSW in both 2012 and 2013, but I only managed to catch half a song from the back of the crowd during one of their 2013 sets. Bonnaroo, that same year, was the first time I got to shoot them and they've since become one of my favorite bands to photograph. Three beautiful sisters rocking out, hamming it up for the cameras and, oh, the hair flips! They almost always address the photographers as we leave the pit, which is nice. It feels like we're working together to make great images, which is how it should be. - Randy Cremean

Haim return to Bonnaroo in 2016 and you can rock with them Saturday, June 7th, at 7:30pm on the Which Stage.

 

(10) Merle Haggard at Bonnaroo 2009

Merle Haggard at Bonnaroo 2009

He was, is and will forever be a legend. On this day, he received a key to the city of Manchester. As Merle walked onstage, our eyes met as he tipped his hat to the crowd. He then immediately put on his sunglasses. Right place. Right time. A photo I will always cherish. - Randy Cremean

 

(9) Courtney Barnett at Bonnaroo 2015

Courtney Barnett at Bonnaroo by Randy Cremean

My favorite new songwriter of the past decade, Barnett's wry and intelligent lyrics call to mind Stephen Malkmus at his best. Those words, delivered with a deadpan delivery, are paired with music that ranges from folksy-pop to epic, guitar-crunching garage rock. At Bonnaroo last year, Courtney was the loosest, most confident I'd seen her on stage. - Randy Cremean

 

(8) Father John Misty at Bonnaroo 2013 & 2016

Father John Misty at Bonnaroo 2013 by Randy Cremean

He's intelligent, blisteringly sarcastic and a fantastic live act. Though he feins ennui and, sometimes, outright disdain for the need of artists to perform in order to make a living, no one leaves that much of their self on stage without caring a lot. He's a post-ironic, self-referential, modern-day rockstar and any number of other hyphenated descriptors. Not to go full-on hipster, but I started liking him when he still went by J. Tillman. That was SXSW 2009. He was playing a day party with a small crowd and his acoustic stylings were drowned out by a metal band across the street, so he jumped off the stage and played his set surrounded by the audience. It was intimate and endearing. I still see that determination to connect with people even though he's playing to tens of thousands on big festival stages. This photo is from Bonnaroo 2013 where he and his band absolutely slayed. Father John Misty returns to Bonnaroo this year and will play The Which Stage on Sunday, June 12, at 5:15pm. - Randy Cremean

 

 

(7) Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires at Bonnaroo 2012 & 2016

Charles Bradley at Bonnaroo 2012 by Randy Cremean

First things first. If you don't know the story of Charles Bradley, watch the documentary, Soul of America, which gives a candid account of how the 62-year old Bradley released his first album in 2011. It is inspirational and, afterwards,  you will want nothing more than to hug the man known as the Screaming Eagle of Soul. Equal parts Otis Redding and James Brown, he is one of the best live performers on the planet. A lifetime of sorrow and joy comes flooding out of him at each show and the crowd is swept along. This photo was taken at Bonnaroo 2012. It was my second time seeing Charles, but first time shooting him. It felt like he was singing at me. That's what it is like for everyone in the crowd at a Charles Bradley show. He connects with all the people. He reminds us how we are more alike than different. He encourages us to love, dance and reflect on what matters most. He is a true American treasure. - Randy Cremean

Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires return to Bonnaroo in 2016 on Sunday, June 12th, at 2:15pm on the What Stage.

 

(6) Bon Iver at Bonnaroo 2009

Bon Iver at Bonnaroo 2009 by Randy Cremean   Bon Iver at Bonnaroo 2009 by Randy Cremean

One of the most beautiful sets I've ever heard at Bonnaroo. I'll never forget singing along to "Skinny Love" with the thousands of sweat-drenched fans who packed that monstrously humid tent. - Randy Cremean

 

(5) Leon Bridges at Bonnaroo 2016

Leon Bridges at ACL Live in December 2015 by Randy Cremean

My hometown of Fort Worth, Texas isn't known for its music scene, unless you count Billy Bob's, the world's largest honkytonk. That's why, when I heard rumblings of a retro-soul wunderkind by the name of Leon Bridges who had been a dishwasher right up until he signed with Columbia Records, I paid attention. My first chance to see Leon perform came at Willie Nelson's ranch during SXSW 2015. He played early in the day, so the crowd was sparse at first, but grew enormously by the end of his set. Afterwards, dozens of people lined up side stage for the chance to meet Leon, get his signature and take selfies. He was one of the nicest, most gracious musicians I've ever seen. For over an hour, Leon Bridges talked to fans, many of whom had just seen him for the first time. His music makes people feel good. Though rooted in '50s and '60s R&B, it has timeless qualities and universal themes that appeal to all people.

This photo was taken in December of 2015 at ACL Live. In the nine months since I'd last seen Leon, he released his debut album, performed on Saturday Night Live, and toured internationally. His growth as a performer was obvious. He now has the voice of Sam Cooke and the moves of James Brown. I can't wait to see his crowd at Bonnaroo dance and sing along. I can't wait to see Leon's smile as he reacts to the enthusiasm of his fans. That's why I do this. Those little moments that pass between the artist and the crowd are everything. - Randy Cremean

Leon Bridges plays Bonnaroo on Friday, June 10th, in The Other Tent at 8:15pm.

 

(4) Radiohead at Bonnaroo 2012

Radiohead Bonnaroo 2012 by Randy Cremean

When I saw their video for "Paranoid Android" on the dorm's common room television, it changed my life. No longer was my musical universe confined to grunge, Bob Marley and Led Zeppelin. Throw in the Douglas Adams reference and I was hooked for life. It took me fifteen years to finally see them live, but I did so three times in 2012. This shot of Thom and his tambourine at Bonnaroo is the most unique image I captured of the two shows I photographed that year. - Randy Cremean

 

(3) Kendrick Lamar at Bonnaroo 2012, 2013, 2015

kendrick lamar 2012 Randy Cremean  Kendrick Lamar Bonnaroo 2013 by Randy Cremean   Kendrick Lamar Bonnaroo 2015 by Randy Cremean

One of the things I love about attending music festivals year after year is the opportunity to see artists grow in both their craft and popularity. On a humid Thursday night at Bonnaroo 2012, I photographed a young rapper who I knew nothing about. He blew me away. He blew the crowd away. His name was Kendrick Lamar. Months before the release of his major label debut, Lamar was showcasing his unlimited potential on the night reserved for emerging artists. One year later, with a platinum-certified album under his belt, Kendrick played the main stage at Bonnaroo to an enormous crowd who knew every lyric to every song. In 2015, Kendrick Lamar completed his meteoric Bonnaroo ascension by headlining the festival.  - Randy Cremean

 

(2) LCD Soundsystem at Bonnaroo 2010

LCD Soundsystem at Bonnaroo 2010 by Randy Cremean

Shortly after the release of their third album, This Is Happening, in May of 2010, James Murphy & Co. played a truly epic late night set at Bonnaroo. This was the type of show for which the festival has become known: a band who could sell out arenas performing in a tent, in the middle of the night, having as much fun as the several thousand dancing revelers in the crowd. The ceiling of the tent became a constellation of shimmering lights as a disco ball spun above the band. I felt lucky to be there; to be part of something clearly so special.

LCD Soundsystem disbanded in the Spring of 2011. They went out with style, grace and an amazing live album/documentary about their final show. Heartbroken fans, though, couldn't help but feel the band had more to offer. Flash forward five years and the band is back together. They have a new album out sometime in 2016 and are headlining Bonnaroo this year on Friday, June 10th. It's been a long strange trip to the main stage, but I think LCD Soundsystem are set to make another magical Bonnaroo moment. - Randy Cremean

 

 

(1) Beastie Boys at Bonnaroo 2009

 Beastie Boys Bonnaroo 2009 by Randy Cremean

Our first Bonnaroo was perhaps the most memorable, if only because we got to see the final performance ever by the Beastie Boys. Earlier that year, Adam "MCA" Yauch announced he had cancer. Following their Bonnaroo performance, the band cancelled all tour dates so Adam could undergo surgery and receive radiation therapy. They never performed live again and Adam passed away in May 2012. Though their Bonnaroo set was a little rough, I couldn't help but giddily rap along to every song. License to Ill was the first album to which I memorized every singly lyric. I wore out two casette tapes rewinding over and over to transcribe the words. Getting to photograph Beastie Boys at Bonnaroo is one of my most cherished memories.  - Randy Cremean