Man, it's a hot one. Some famous philosopher -- maybe it was Plato, maybe it was Rob Thomas -- once said that, and he or she was probably talking about a day at Bonnaroo. But the heat, intense as it was, was no match for our Sunday at the Manchester festival, where we hosted a day full of music and food at That Tent.
Shakey Graves kicked the day off for us, performing to a packed crowd despite taking the stage early in the day after a long weekend of music. If anyone in the audience was still asleep at this point, his solo performance of "Roll the Bones" likely woke them up, and just in time for two more band members to join him on stage to bring the house down with tunes like "Dearly Departed" and "Late July."
Alynda Segarra and Hurray For The Riff Raff brought a little gravity to the stage with their socially aware brand of folk, Segarra herself channeling Yoko Ono in an army green jumpsuit and boots. Their especially powerful performance of "The Body Electric" was flanked by other songs from their 2014 album Small Town Heroes, including "Blue Ridge Mountain" and "Levon's Dream."
Perhaps the world's most talented married couple, Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn took the stage surrounded by banjos and thunderous applause from a reverent audience. Joined on a handful of tunes by Rhiannon Giddens, the pair played a wide variety of songs from their work together over the years, including "Railroad" and their excellent take on that '80s classic "The Final Countdown."
Although the Superjam wasn't until later in the night, the supergroup was alive and well on the BGS stage in the form of Earls of Leicester. Led by Jerry Douglas, the all-star band played tunes like "Big Black Train" and "I Don't Care Anymore." We're willing to bet, too, that the dapper dudes had a best-dressed showdown with Punch Brothers backstage. Douglas even walked away from the set with a key to the City of Manchester. Not bad for a day's work!
Punch Brothers brought the biggest crowd yet when they took the stage, decked out in ties and jackets as has become typical of their live performances. Leading off with The Phosphorescent Blues' "My Oh My," the quintet essentially led an hour-plus singalong, with an audience clearly containing some die-hard fans not missing a word. Though they pulled heavily from their new album, the guys also snuck in some old favorites like "Rye Whiskey" and "Watch 'At Breakdown."
Just after Punch Brothers, our own Ed Helms and his Lonesome Trio played a short set that included material from their new self-titled debut album, which hits shelves tomorrow. The crowd got a taste of what they can expect on the record, including "Asheville City Skyline" and "Appalachia Apologia."
When a couple of the Punch Brothers joined the Lonesome Trio on stage at the end of their set, it was clear that the jam was upon us. Those who'd stuck around the stage all day had at least something of an idea of what the Superjam would bring, although they likely didn't anticipate a few of the evening's more star-studded surprises.
Punch Brothers' Chris "Critter" Eldridge got the jam going with Roger Miller's "Chug-a-Lug," before being joined on stage by the rest of his band, Jerry Douglas, Bela Fleck and more for a rootsy take on Jimi Hendrix's "Hey Joe." Rhiannon Giddens made another appearance, performing "Pretty Little Girl with the Blue Dress On" (she'd come back during "White Water" for some show-stealing clogging).
Punch Brothers fans were excited to hear the band take on The Cars' 1978 hit "Just What I Needed," a cover that's long been a staple of their live repertoire. Trampled By Turtles were one of the evening's biggest surprise guests, with their performance of the Beach Boys' "Sloop John B" a highlight of the jam.
Not to be outdone by the boys, Abigail Washburn, Rhiannon Giddens and another surprise guest, Sarah Jarosz, teamed up for a harmony-drenched version of "Down to the River to Pray," one of the only performances that was suited to follow Jarosz's lively rendition of "Up on Cripple Creek."
The last three songs of the night -- "White Water" led by Bela Fleck, a Shakey Graves take on Prince's "Little Red Corvette," and a cover of Townes Van Zandt's "White Freightliner Blues" that brought the whole gang back out on stage -- flew by in a twangy haze. After a great last day at Bonnaroo 2015, the jam sent us out on a high note and got us excited for another weekend of music and community at next year's festival.
[All photos by the talented Elli Papayanopoulos for The Bluegrass Situation.]