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The Best of Bonnaroo 2013

Close to 200 acts performed this year. Here are the top 14

paul mccartney

Ebru Yildiz

As a festival, Bonnaroo has come to be defined by its diversity – Malian worldbeat duo Amadou and Mariam, bookish indie stars Grizzly Bear and hip-hop legends the Wu-Tang Clan performed within hours of each other on Friday. But the main-stage headliner always plays unopposed, the idea being that the entire Bonnaroo community can coalesce around a single artist. Across cultural, generational and aesthetic lines, whose catalogue could possibly be more universal than McCartney's? The answer: Nobody's. And that made this the single greatest Bonnaroo headlining performance in the festival's 12-year history, as it was moment after awesome moment of fever-pitched collective transcendence. "Paperback Writer," "Maybe I'm Amazed," "Band on the Run," "Blackbird," "Something" (played in tribute to George Harrison), "Eleanor Rigby," "We Can Work It Out," "Hey Jude" – to have not gotten swept up in and invigorated by the life-affirming celebration would be an outright rejection of joy.

david cross

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David Cross

David Cross admitted to being massively hung over as he took the stage at the comedy tent, but he still delivered a solid set. He blasted headliner Paul McCartney's underwhelming fireworks display. "He makes a million dollars every 80 seconds – what a cheap motherfucker," Cross said. (It should be noted that Cross was spotted watching Macca's set from the front barricade, smiling ear-to-ear throughout the entire performance.) He ranted against everything from texting teens – "I hate your generation" – to homophobes who argue what the founding fathers would have thought of gay marriage. "It was 245 fucking years ago," Cross said. "These people would literally be freaked out by cotton candy."

tame impala

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Tame Impala

Like A$AP Rocky, the Australian bedroom-psych troupe Tame Impala could have easily played one of the larger stages, but instead packed the Other Tent, with thousands of fans pouring out onto the grass, screaming every word. For their first show in Tennessee ever, Kevin Parker and Co. created a psychedelic wall of sound even more dynamic than their last LP, Lonerism; nailing the spooky groove of "Keep On Lying," extending the power chord stomp "Elephant," and leading a huge sing-along of "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards."

bob saget john stamos


Bob Saget

The shock value of seeing Bob Saget telling the filthiest jokes imaginable was a thrill for fans in the comedy tent, who applauded wildly as Saget joked about everything from how Full House alum Dave Coulier used to shave his balls to strapping on a guitar and singing a song called "My Dog Licked My Balls." He recalled fans coming up to him on the street in front of his daughter and referencing his Half Baked line saying, "You suck dick for coke" (Her response? "I thought you were directing now, dad.") He also recalled the time he had to interview Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L. James on the View. "I told her I couldn't put her book down – it was stuck to my hand." The set culminated with John Stamos unexpectedly walking on stage to survey the crowd and deliver the Half Baked line "I seen it." The place went nuts.


Dana Distortion


The (soon-to-be) rockstars of Thursday were L.A. up-and-comers Haim (pronounced hi-um), who played an hour-long set at That Tent, delivering the breakout set of the day. Effortlessly slip sliding across smooth, Reagan-era radio pop, and riff-replete power rock, the band could've won the crowd over on the strength of songs like the infectious "The Wire" or the retro-industrial "Send Me Down," but stage presence including monitor stands, encouraging crowd-wide clap-alongs and pitch-perfect vocals pushed their set to the stratosphere.

Charli XCX

Gary Miller/WireImage

Charli XCX

20-year-old English indietronica star-in-the-making Charli XCX was banging her head like Beyonce at the Superbowl on Friday, skipping across the stage scantily clad in a plaid and camouflage school-girl's uniform, belting out razor-sharp melodies in loud, smoky bellow over a sleek, synth-pop sheen and a propulsive live drummer. "I want to know who's taken any drugs this weekend," Charli polled the criminally modest-in-size crowd, to inevitable cheers. "This song's about E, so this one's for you," she continued, introducing the gritty, dance-floor-ready "Take My Hand." The tent went into full roof-raise when the singer busted into "I Love It," the almost disgustingly catchy hit she had with Swedish electro duo Icona Pop. If Charli XCX continues to win over crowds with her hooks and stadium-suited gestures, she could follow the path of Boston synth-pop college favorites Passion Pit, who had a breakout with their 2009 first-day tent slot, in the middle of a rainstorm.

divine fits

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Divine Fits

Indie-rock fans didn't have it so easy on Sunday, as overlapping sets from Tame Impala, The National, Divine Fits and David Byne and St. Vincent left many in a near circle-on-circle-encompassing Venn diagram of listeners with some agonizing choices to make. It's a shame that more people weren't checking out Divine Fits. Britt Daniel and Dan Boeckner played with the commitment of a young band on a mini stage, Daniel bouncing across the stage slaying his Telecaster screaming the New Wave hook "Baby Get Worse" and the ragged, charming "Would That Not Be Nice."

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