Think Bonnaroo’s Forgotten it’s Jam Heritage? Think Again.


Photo by Nathan Zuker

The progression of Bonnaroo’s musical versatility over the years is nothing short of impressive. Expanding from its predominantly jam based roots, the festival now features feature one of the most diverse musical offerings in the world. That said, it’s easy for the OG Roo community which came up on legendary moments fueled by the likes of the Trey Anastasio, The Dead, Widespread Panic and countless other improvisational virtuosos to feel somewhat out of place in the current meta of festival’s makeup – that is until you dig a bit deeper.

What impressed me most about this year’s Bonnaroo experience was that outside of the Super Jam, I didn’t really go into the festival with any jam expectations. Sure Vulfpeck, Umphrey’s and STS9 were on the bill, but they didn’t register for me like a Goose or String Cheese would at face value (yes, I’m aware of some bias here). This element of surprise was one of the most refreshing experiences I had throughout the entire festival as I was able to catch new acts at just the right moments to keep the jams flowing and vibes immaculate. They were literally a breath of fresh air.

Beyond curating one of the more progressive takes on the jamband scene that I had experienced in a long while, Bonnaroo’s jam lineup highlighted the evolution of the genre by elevating its versatility. I didn’t go into these sets hoping for a big 20 minute Tweezer and for that, I’m glad. I had no expectations and each night was overjoyed by this persistent narrative that no only is the scene going forward, but it’s solidified place in festival culture ensures a new era is on the cusp.

Here are some of the highlights of Bonnaroo’s eclectic jam-fueled moments.



I’ll be honest, Cimafunk wasn’t on my radar at all for Thursday nights slate of shows but in true Bonnaroo fashion it was a set that I stumbled upon, delivered mightily and served as my official welcoming party to The Farm. I wouldn’t equate Cimafunk to the likes of your more traditional jam acts – there’s no noodling or +15 minute jams to be had here. But, the band is as tight as can be, lays down thick grooves and adds some Afro Cuban flavor with an incredible horns section creating a sound all their own. I highly recommend making an effort to see them on the festival circuit this Summer if you can swing it.



If you like Phish, Talking Heads or Pink Floyd you’ll like Neighbor – hence why I had a blast at this show. Ironically, their front man Richard James also played in the cover band Pink Talking Fish so the inspiration here runs deep. Bonnaroo was their first big festival moment and they spoke to playing in small clubs and bars as recently as this year. They give you all of the straight up jamming you’d want and also mix in some Phishy quirkiness taboot.



I’ve seen Vulf once before but they kind of turned it up a notch and stole the show at Bonnaroo. We got synergized band uniforms, an onstage wedding ceremony, tons of crowd interplay and just straight up fresh funk grooves all night long. These guys are tight and it was refreshing to hear a funky jam based sound that felt uniquely its own. Cory Wong was one of the featured statesmen of the festival performing on three different occasions including this set and the Super Jam but for me bass player, Joe Dart absolutely stole the show and shut things down. They’ll be playing their only remaining shows of 2023 (as of now) at the Brooklyn Mirage’s Great Hall in October and I plan on catching them again without question.

Cory Wong’s Syncopated Super Jam


Like most, I live for Bonnaroo’s Super Jams and to be honest, last year’s didn’t really do it for me. However, this time around I think it’d be safe to say that I didn’t stop dancing for the entirety of the show. The covers were awesome, RHCP’s “Give It Away” was particularly memorable, and Victor Wooten joining in along with many others just kept things fresh all night long. Cory Wong hard carried Bonnaroo ‘23 and I send massive gratitude to that man for shouldering a ton of responsibility over the weekend and absolutely killing it at every turn.

Honorable mentions: Jam-scene staples Umphrey’s Mcgee and STS9 both threw down on the farm as well with solid sets. STS9 specifically has impressed me in both of the shows I’ve seen this Summer.

-Chuck Energy

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