Classic Rock and Bonnaroo – A Steadily Growing Relationship

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By Jason Kane

Classic Rock fans used to cringe when they heard the word Bonnaroo – it conjured images of hippies gathered in mass quantities dancing and listening to their favorite jam bands. The festival is typically associated with acts like Phish, Dave Matthews Band, Keller Williams, etc… However in the past 5 years there have been a lot of classic rock bands nuzzling their way into the once jam band exclusive set list of Bonnaroo. On top of that there are rumors circulating the internet that ZZ Top and Tom Petty will play this year’s 2013 festival. Here is a look at two years where classic rock bands rocked Bonnaroo.


Bonnaroo 2010 was a great year to attend the festival for classic rock fans. Interestingly enough the festival saw many collaborations where classic rock met newer rock. For starters The Flaming Lips along with Stardeath and White Dwarfs did a complete cover of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Some old school rockers considered it blasphemy but all in all it was a pretty cool tribute to one of the most iconic classic rock bands that has ever existed.

bonnarooThe collaboration between Daryl Hall of Hall and Oates and the more contemporary band Chromeo also saw classic rock being fused with today’s rock. The two had played together two years back after getting together for a jam session at Hall’s house.

To top the festival off there were also separate performances by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Stevie Wonder and Jeff Beck – not exactly the hippie fest that rockers once thought it was.


Last year’s 2012 Bonnaroo really embraced classic rock in a big way. There were solo performances by big names like Colin Hay of Men at Work, and 80’s rockers Red Hot Chili Peppers and Danzig played amazing sets as well. There was also the Van Halen tribute band “Unchained” that played the festival as well, and although there was a bit of controversy surrounding their coveted 2am slot on the “That Tent” stage, it was still great to hear some classic Van Halen tunes echoing through the park.

Saturday June 9th was the night rockers didn’t want to miss as rock legend Alice Cooper took the stage and turned the festival upside down. A few months before his set Cooper was quoted as saying, “If you’re in the first 20 rows, you’ll probably get some blood on you.” Although the 64 year old didn’t rock the place THAT hard, it was still a high energy show that definitely turned a few younger souls onto classic rock.

And speaking of turning younger souls onto classic rock, The Beach Boys played a set the following night. You’ve got to give it to Bonnaroo for not just completely selling out and booking all pop acts and house music – after all they probably could and they might just sell more tickets that way.

The Bonnaroo Music Festival has come a long way from being the 3-day hippy jam fest that it used to be, and rock fans are beginning to realize that. If you really love rock music then the occasional annoying 20-something you’ll run into on the concert grounds won’t be enough to stop you from seeing a great show.

Jason Kane writes about rock concerts and his vinyl album collection that keeps growing thanks to

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