Music festival veteran, Ben Harper, is ready to electrify the stage once again at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, TN (June 14-17). “Every show I’m hoping is the best show ever to play, because that’s how I approach the stage with that level of expectation in myself,” he states in an interview with Monty “Moe Train” Wiradilaga. Harper will be making his third Bonnaroo appearance, and is just as excited as when he was a metaphorical founding member in 2002. “I think America needed something like Bonnaroo desperately, musically and culturally, and I’m really glad it exists,” he said. “I’m just really glad that it’s here and it’s become the mother of all festivals.”

Apparently over 90,000 people agree with Harper. For four days, Bonnaroo becomes a self-sustaining city, fueled by the love of music. “Man, if there’s 10 people or 10,000 people, that’s the perfect setting for me,” Harper states. “Everyone’s going to have their specific area of interest when it comes to how they love to hear music, but there’s something really hip about the same group of people ready to hear The Police or String Cheese (Incident), White Stripes, or what we do.” “Bonnaroo does have a different feel,” he expressed, “It’s hard to put your finger on, but it’s some of the best musical Southern hospitality that there is in the States.”

Although festivals such as Bonnaroo and Coachella have recently become benchmarks for music festivals in the US, Europe has proven itself slightly ahead of the pack. “Europe has been kicking America’s butt so long and great,” he declared, ” in having great music festivals, well-run music festivals that really bring a wide variety of musicians together.” However, not to be outdone, Harper said that Bonnaroo “really put America on the map as being relevant in that arena.” He added that Bonnaroo is “one of the main festivals that brings the United States into creative balance with festivals throughout the rest of the world.”

This year, Bonnaroo is making large strides in making their festival as eco-friendly as possible. Through the implementation of “green initiatives,” the festival plans on reducing the post-festival environmental impact. Certainly no stranger to transmitting messages through his music, Ben Harper fully embraces the greener world message that Bonnaroo is communicating this year. “The bottom line is, we can all contribute to a higher level in social consciousness, especially environmental awareness.” Harper told Wiradilaga that LivingLandSandWaters.org is one environmental cause which he stands firmly behind. “Chad Bredrake is my man,” he said, “Chad goes up and down the rivers in Mississippi specifically – but rivers all over the world and cleans them up. He’s one of my environmental heroes.”

From year to year, “Bonnaroonians” (an affectionate moniker for Bonnaroo attendees) look forward to the multitude of possibilities during the SuperJams, which often highlight some unlikely pairs of headlining acts on the same stage. Many of Bonnaroo’s past citizens would attest to the notion that the SuperJam is the highlight of the entire festival. As proven in other years, one can expect Harper to pull a few tricks out of his magic musical hat. “I’m ready. I hope some people are sitting with us and I hope to get on stage with some other people. I’ll have my amp and guitar in tow.” For tens of thousands of Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals fans, that will be a dream come true.


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