4 Can t Miss Sets for Jam Band Fans Going to Bonnaroo 2023

When you trace the roots of Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festivals starting from 2002, you’re stepping into a world drenched in the influence of the jam band scene. Born from the love of improvisational music, Bonnaroo has long since been the ultimate mecca for the ardent jam band enthusiast. The inaugural lineup, headlined by stalwarts like Widespread Panic and Trey Anastasio Band, set the tone, establishing the Tennessee-based festival as a hotbed for lengthy, intricate musical explorations that blew minds and bent genres.

As Bonnaroo evolved, it began diversifying its roster to include a wider spectrum of sounds, from indie rock to EDM to hip hop, yet its roots remained firmly planted in the fertile soil of jam band ethos. The festival’s defining characteristics, such as extensive set times, multiple sets from key artists, and the vibrant communal spirit, are all elements that reflect its original jam-centric identity. Even as the musical landscape has shifted over the years, Bonnaroo’s continued devotion to these elements, evidenced by featuring acts like Goose, Billy Strings, Phish, and Dead & Company, has ensured the jam band culture continues to pulse through its veins. This year is no different, as the lineup curators selected some great acts to represent the jam scene.

Neighbor – Friday 1:15AM, This Tent


Photo: Frankie Cavone

A homegrown jam band from Boston that has recently started commanding attention, Neighbor is making some serious waves in the scene. Fusing a unique blend of rock, funk, and soul, this tight-knit group brings together a rich tapestry of sounds, transcending the boundaries of traditional jam band styles. With Lyle Brewer on guitar, Dan Kelly (of New Motif) on keys, Richard James (of Pink Talking Fish) on drums, and Dean Johnston on bass, this crew crafts electrifying, soulful tunes that serve as a testament to their unwavering synergy.

Neighbor’s live performances are a feast for the senses, demonstrating their ability to create a gripping narrative with their music that carries audiences on a wild, thrilling journey. From intricate improvisations to ground-shaking, foot-stomping beats, Neighbor commands an irresistible sonic energy that’s as infectious as it is exciting. It’s clear that the bond of this band goes beyond just music – they’ve fostered a true brotherhood that’s evident in their cohesive, effortless sound, and that connection drives the enthralling charisma that’s propelling them onto stages and into hearts around the nation. They just released their first tunes on Spotify earlier this month, but the real magic is in their live show recordings available on Nugs.net and Youtube. If you’re in search of a pure Jam Band with one of the best guitar players out there, be sure to make Neighbor’s late night set on Thursday.

Vulfpeck – Saturday 12:45 AM, Which Stage

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Photo: Roger Ho

This is my most anticipated set of the entire weekend. Simply put, Vulfpeck knows how to groove like no one else. That coupled with the fact that they’re somewhat of an elusive show to catch these days makes it that much more special. While not a “jam band” in the traditional sense, Vulfpeck is definitely a band that jams. Since their debut in 2011, they’ve been steadily holding it down for the funk realm. Born out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, this four-man collective—Jack Stratton, Theo Katzman, Woody Goss, and Joe Dart—made headlines with an ingenious Spotify hack, dropping a silent album to bankroll a free tour, a move as unprecedented as their sound. They’ve been curating a cult-like following, playing with the traditional elements of rhythm & blues, jazz, and funk, but with a fresh twist that keeps the heads nodding. Albums are packed with bangers—think “Dean Town” and “Back Pocket”—that serve as solid proof of their musical mastery and their key part in the modern funk revival. Fast forward ten years later, and Vulfpeck has already sold out Madison Square Garden and is set to rock the Which Stage Late Night set at Bonnaroo—a coveted slot reserved for only the best. Vulpeck stands out on their own, but the show becomes an even more powerful performance with the addition of frequent sit-in guitarist Cory Wong, who has his own set and is leading the Superjam this year. This Vulfpeck set is all but guaranteed to include Cory this year and more surprises making it one for the Bonnaroo history books.

STS9 – Sunday 2:30 AM, The Other Stage


Photo: Melissa Ruggieri 

Sound Tribe Sector 9, has been an force in the festival scene since their formation in the late 90s. Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, STS9 is a genre-defying electronic music collective with a unique blend of live rock instrumentation and electronic beats. Comprising of David Phipps (keyboards), Zach Velmer (drums), Hunter Brown (guitar), Jeffree Lerner (percussion), and Alana Rocklin (bass), this quintet has pioneered a cutting-edge sound that has elevated them to legendary status among festival-goers. The band’s insane fusion of live and electronic elements paired with a relentless, tour-driven work ethic has fostered an intensely loyal fanbase and a noteworthy presence in the festival circuit.

From headlining renowned festivals like Bonnaroo, Coachella, and Electric Forest to running their own festival-like events, STS9 has always been deeply embedded in the heart of the live music scene. They were one of the first acts to truly bridge the gap between jam band fans and EDM crowds, showcasing their multifaceted musical prowess at countless events around the globe. Their boundary-pushing performances, often highlighted by spectacular light shows and an innovative mix of organic and synthetic sounds, continue to define the festival experience for many. This year at Bonnaroo, STS9 is primed for another one of their famed sunrise sets, slotted to bring in the Sunday sunrise from 2:30 – 5:30 AM. Make sure to get there, as this set will be the party of the weekend.

Umphrey’s McGee – Sunday 4:15 PM, Which Stage


Photo: Umphrey’s McGee Facebook 

Formed in 1997 in the college town of South Bend, Indiana, the sextet, consisting of Brendan Bayliss, Jake Cinninger, Joel Cummins, Andy Farag, Kris Myers (the hardest working man in the scene), and Ryan Stasik, have owned the more progressive rock, metal, and jazz-fusion niche of the jam scene for decades. This blend of styles, paired with the band’s intricate arrangements and precise musicianship, has propelled Umphrey’s McGee to become a staple in the festival scene and beloved by jam-band aficionados worldwide.

No discussion of Umphrey’s McGee’s festival legacy can be complete without mentioning the Summer Camp Music Festival. From their very first appearance at this Illinois-based event, they have played a pivotal role in its evolution, performing every year since its inauguration in 2001. The band’s staggering sets, multiple performances, and surprising collaborations have become a mainstay of the festival, amplifying its allure year after year. Over time, Umphrey’s McGee has transitioned from festival participant to festival co-host alongside Moe, demonstrating their dedication and commitment to the Summer Camp ethos. Umphrey’s is guaranteed to put on a banger set, so don’t miss this one to take you right into Sunday night.

Other Jam-Adjacent Sets to Catch:

My Morning Jacket, Rebelution, Portugal The Man, Hermanos Gutierrez, The Stews


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