The Best of Bonnaroo 2011: Paste's 10 Favorite Moments

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The Best of Bonnaroo 2011: <em>Paste</em>'s 10 Favorite Moments

The 10th annual Bonnaroo is officially in the books, and all we’re left with are sunburns and memories.

While you struggle to readjust to a world that exists beyond a dusty Tennessee field, check out some of the Paste gang’s favorite sights and sounds from the festival, and to completely relieve the weekend, check out some of our behind-the-scenes videos and stay tuned for a complete photo gallery.


10. The Mongolian Surprise
One of the most charismatic frontmen at Bonnaroo didn’t speak a word of English. (Wait, that’s not entirely true: He said, “Thank You” and “Cheers.”) But that didn’t stop Ilchi, the thick-bodied singer in studded-leather shoulder armor, from introducing every song in Mongolian—or the crowd from cheering at the end of every monologue. The seven-piece, Beijing-based band Hanggai mix traditional Mongolian tunes with rock elements and even a little hint of Appalachia thanks to their sometimes collaborator Abigail Washburn. The result is one of the most enjoyable fusions of musical traditions I’ve heard in a while.—Josh Jackson

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9. The Head and the Heart Surprise the Solar Stage
After barely getting a peek of the band at their ridiculously crowded Sunday afternoon performance, I was pleasantly confused (blame it on heat exhaustion) when I thought I heard the Cat Power-esque croons of Charity Rose of The Head and Heart while heading over to get a good spot for Beirut. I wandered through Planet Roo towards the chorus of the group’s “Rivers and Roads” where I was amazed to see the full band bursting with energy on the Solar Stage. The handful of people watching quickly morphed into a full-fledged sing-along.—Carey Hodges

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8. Celebrity Spotting
Go to a film festival if you want to see movie stars, but come to Bonnaroo if you want to scratch your head and wonder, “WTF are they doing here?” From basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabaar to ahem, another kind of baller Ron Jeremy, to Jerry of Ben of Jerry’s, the celebrities on-site were as eclectic as the music line-up. When Zach Braff climbed the dividing fence to shake a few hands and take some pictures, Paste intern and devoted Scrubs fan Carey Hodges was back in love.—Josh Jackson

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7. Deervana
When I realized at 1:30 a.m. that there would be no sleep while Lil Wayne was on stage 200 yards from my tent, I walked over to the Sonic Stage to see members of Deer Tick and Phosphorescent drunkenly pay homage to Nirvana. The unannounced set of covers was (appropriately?) sloppy but full of passion to the point that lead singer John McCauley dove into the drum kit (and had a bruise to show off the next day).—Josh Jackson

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6. Arcade Fire
Before Arcade Fire hit the stage on Friday night, a group of parachuters set the night sky aglow by dropping hundreds of LED lights into the crowd. The fact that I wouldn’t have remembered a stunt like that unless I had jotted it down in my notebook only speaks to how great Win Butler and company were. Their encore (“Wake Up” and “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” was more of a giant singalong, and things that might seem cheesy or overwrought when by a lesser band (like killing all the stage lights after singing, “I need the darkness, someone please cut the lights”) instead were simply unforgettable.—Bonnie Stiernberg

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5. Buddy Miller and Patty Griffin Join Mavis Staples for “The Weight”
The Staple Singers famously performed this track with The Band on The Last Waltz, and it’s been a staple (get it?) of Mavis’ live show for a while, but this time around she was joined by a pair of country legends. Introducing them as her baby sister and older brother, Staples brought out Griffin and Miller to each take a verse.—Bonnie Stiernberg

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4. Mumford & Sons’ Finale
When Mumford & Sons walked on Bonnaroo’s second-biggest stage, the audience spilled into every square inch of the surrounding area. And they paid back the crowd’s excitement in full, particularly with an eight-minute closing rendition of “Amazing Grace” that included guests from Old Crow Medicine Show, Union Station and the David Mayfield Parade (meaning a series of solos including Jerry Douglas on dobro and Ketch Secor on harmonica).—Josh Jackson

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3. Superjam featuring Dr. John and Dan Auerbach
Things got swampy at the That Tent on Sunday night when Dr. John teamed up with The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach and My Morning Jacket’s Patrick Hallahan for a set of New Orleans standards. The group eased through traditional tunes like “Iko Iko” as well as soul and funk gems like Betty Harris’ “Break in the Road.”—Bonnie Stiernberg

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2. Buffalo Springfield
Neil Young might have kicked off the group’s big reunion set by saying, “We’re Buffalo Springfield. We’re from the past,” but he, Stephen Stills and Richie Furay proved they can still rock with the best of them. After playing through much of their catalog, they wrapped up with their classic “For What It’s Worth” and Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World.”—Bonnie Stiernberg


1. MMJ Marches With Preservation Jazz Hall Band
Boogying Rhode Island style with John McCauley of Deer Tick and The Low Anthem gang to The Original Meters with Dr. John & Allen Toussaint which continued backstage and led into joining all of My Morning Jacket and Preservation Hall Jazz Band in NOLA parade style second line all the way through the festival grounds to a surprise Portugal The Man set on top of a Mr. T Mardi Gras float … yes, these things really do happen at Bonnaroo.—Jay Sweet

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