While the sun scorched and the dust swirled, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit played one of Bonnaroo’s final sets last Sunday afternoon, moving between mid-tempo ballads like “Traveling Alone” and Drive By Truckers throwbacks like “Never Gonna Change” along the way.
The band closed out their performance with an extended “Children of Children,” beefing up the song’s outro with more than two minutes of furious fretwork. In the video above, Isbell hands his acoustic guitar to a stagehand, grabs an electric and rips into a slide solo. It was one of the most moving moments of a performance that found Isbell stepping into his own as a festival headliner, playing the same stage that would house Dead & Company later that night.
If the Bonnaroo version of “Children of Children” sounds similar, albeit longer, than the studio recording on the band’s Grammy-winning Something More Than Free, it’s because the 400 Unit recorded the song in one continuous take.
“That’s the band playing live,” producer Dave Cobb told Rolling Stone last year, sitting in the control room of Nashville’s Sound Emporium Studios on the same day that tracks like “24 Frames” were finished. “We tracked Mellotron strings afterward, but what you’re hearing is the band playing the song together. To me, it feels like something you’d hear on Deja Vu by Crosby, Stills and Nash.”
Something More Than Free was the 2016 Grammy winner for Best Americana Album.