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Festival weekend: Bonnaroo sells out as UK fests brave the rain

Some 80,000 people attended Tennessee's Bonnaroo 2019 (13–16 June), in the Live Nation-owned festival's first sell-out since 2013

By IQ on 17 Jun 2019

Phish close Bonnaroo 2019

Phish close Bonnaroo 2019

image © Alive Coverage/Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival

In a dramatic turnaround, the long-running Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Tennessee sold all 80,000 tickets for its 2019 event – its first sell-out since its Paul McCartney-headlined 2013 edition.

Taking place once again in the 650-acre Great Stage Park in Manchester, Bonnaroo 2019 (Thurs 13–Sun 16 June) was headlined by Childish Gambino, Post Malone and jam band greats Phish. Festival director Ashley Capps tells the Tennessean Bonnaroo 2019 had, “by a huge margin, the biggest presale in [its] history”, with fans responding to organisers’ renewed focus on the festival experience.

“There’s been a lot of focus on the 24/7 Bonnaroo experience, and making the festival an unforgettable weekend outside of having a great lineup musically,” says Capps. “Seeing that huge surge in the presale during the month of December, I think spoke to that focus.”

Founded in 2002, inspired by the founders’ experiences attending festivals organised by Phish in the ’90s, Bonnaroo sold 70,000 tickets in 19 days for its maiden event. Sales dipped below 50,000 for the first time in 2016, although Bonnaroo remained the biggest camping festival in North America.

“We’re going into year 18, and as with any enterprise, there’s always a little bit of ebb and flow,” Capps says. “It’s inevitable. But it’s certainly great to feel like we’re back on top of our game at this point. It’s exciting.”

Capps’ company, AC Entertainment, was acquired by Live Nation in late 2016. LN already owned a controlling stake in Bonnaroo itself, since 2015.

“It’s great to feel like we’re back on top of our game at this point”

On the other side of the Atlantic, last weekend saw the return of two of the biggest events on the UK’s festival calendar, Download (110,000-cap.) and Isle of Wight Festival (90,000-cap.), with both getting off to a rainy start (and, in the case of Isle of Wight, a tornado-y one) amid unseasonably wet weather.

A reported 80,000 people attended Download, held at Donington Park in Leicestershire, which was headlined by Def Leppard, Slipknot and Tool, with other performers including Slash, Whitesnake and Trivium. Slipknot’s Saturday night set (their fourth time headlining the metal festival) was singled out for particular praise, with Metal Hammer describing them as the “ultimate Download headliners”.  “There are no grand displays of production tonight, no set-ending fireworks,” writes MH reviewer Eleanor Goodman, “but they don’t need it.”

On the Isle of Wight, meanwhile, festival organiser John Giddings paid tribute to festivalgoers for braving the downpours on Thursday, telling the Press Association: “We had 24 hours of rain and the audience still enjoyed themselves. If they’re prepared to get through that, the rest is plain sailing, really isn’t it? … I can’t congratulate them enough on having the best time ever when the rain comes down like that.”

Isle of Wight Festival 2019 marks 50 years since Bob Dylan headlined the original event in 1969, and several performers included Dylan covers in their sets. Headliners were Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, George Ezra and Biffy Clyro, with Biffy closing Sunday night amid a barrage of pyrotechnics and fireworks. “We love this festival,” said mustard suit-clad frontman Simon Neil. “It’s great to be back.”


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