For eight years, the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival has been drawing tens of thousands of frat boys, trustafari, and countercultural clichés to a 650-acre farm in Manchester, TN for four days of wallowing in mud, grass, and good vibes. This year, festival organizers picked recession-proof headliners Bruce Springsteen and Phish (twice, man), but hedged themselves with the altbros by giving David Byrne the festival's first artist-curated stage. Brooklyn-based rock bands played counterpoint to traditional jam bands, and Mr. Byrne's picks (Dirty Projectors, St. Vincent, Santigold) added some breath to borough's delegation, whose roster read like a best-of list from 2004 (TV on the Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear) peppered with a few bands from 2007 (MGMT, Yeasayer, Chairlift). Alt. rock radio gods Beastie Boys and Nine Inch Nails put on spry, sweaty sets for the 420-friendly pensioners in attendance. Not surprisingly, the festival's best performances came from two outliers: Erykah Badu, whose Sunday afternoon set was so compelling we barely missed Andrew Bird, and Amadou & Mariam, the blind Malian couple whose support of the upcoming Coldplay tour may finally justify that band's existence. Though the vegan corn dogs were pricey and the VIP section overlooked a lake of urine, Bonnaroo provided a thoroughly mellow setting for good ol' boys and carpetbaggers alike to roll their own playlists from an overwhelming lineup of bands.
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