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My First ’ Roo: Artists Reflect On Their Past Bonnaroo Experiences (Arc Iris)

by Mike Greenhaus on June 13, 2014

Arc Iris

Bonnaroo Classes: Jocie Adams, ’09, ’11; Zach Miller ‘08, ‘09, ‘11, ‘12

Arc Iris members Jocie Adams (singer/guitarist) and Zach Miller (piano) unknowingly shared a Bonnaroo experience even before the orchestral indie-folk band formed. Adams trekked from Rhode Island to Manchester, Tenn. in both 2009 and 2011 with The Low Anthem, the New England indie-folk band that originally put her on the map. A quiet band playing in front of a rowdy festival crowd, The Low Anthem had mixed feelings about their first ‘Roo set, but ultimately walked away a tougher band—with several hundred new fans. Miller first attended Bonnaroo as a fan at the tender age of 17. During his first night at the festival in 2008, he caught one of Bonnaroo’s stronger opening night lineups, the triple punch of Vampire Weekend, MGMT and Battles. Miller enjoyed himself so much that he returned the following year, where the festival’s lineup included none other than The Low Anthem. After a year off, Miller came back to Bonnaroo in both 2011 and 2012 as a member of the Boston post-folk band The Blind Woods.

Arc Iris officially formed in 2012 and quickly blossomed into Adams’ primary project. Though the ensemble originally came together around her songs, Arc Iris quickly grew into a true band, and Adams left The Low Anthem in 2013. Despite Adams and Miller’s shared Bonnaroo history, this year marks Arc Iris first appearance on The Farm, and they will bring along their self-titled debut, which was released on Anti- in April. You can find them in the New Music on Tap Lounge at 1:20pm today.

What years did you attend Bonnaroo as a fan or performer?

J: ‘09 and ‘11

Z: ‘08 and ‘09 as a fan, ‘11 and ‘12 as a performer with the Blind Woods

What were your expectations of Bonnaroo before your first trip to the festival?

J: I played Bonnaroo with The Low Anthem in 2009 and was expecting for it to be an exciting challenge because we were a quiet band. I was wide-eyed and delighted to have the opportunity to play for potentially the largest crowd we had ever played for at the biggest American festival.

Z: Acid, boobs with butterflies and praying mantises painted on them and most of all, incredible music!

What do you remember most about your own performance?

J: (With the Low Anthem): It was pouring rain and we couldn't hear each other onstage but I remember people rushing to the tent for shelter and ultimately because of the rain, we played to a very tightly packed crowd, which was thrilling.

Z: I remember the girl in the front row with a butterfly painted on her boobs.

Describe your craziest Bonnaroo experience.

J: Watching Lucinda Williams play. Her drummer was screaming throughout the entire set demanding more fans. By the end of the set he had about 7 portable fans surrounding him. It was terrific.

Z: My band and I stood out in the blazing sun for over seven hours to get in the pit for Radiohead (‘12). When it got to the time that they opened up the pit to us, there was a mad rush to the front. Our buddy Graeme, who was “a little person”, would’ve been trampled if not for us picking him up. And then Radiohead played the greatest set they’ve ever played.

How does Bonnaroo compare to other festivals you have played?

J: It’s the nuttiest one!

Z: I guess it's simply the best festival. Where else can you yell the name of the festival you're at and have some other random person yell it back to you? Could you imagine that anywhere else?

What was your quintessential Bonnaroo moment from years past?

J: Painted boobies.

Z: The first night I got to Bonnaroo (‘08) I was 17 years old and I had a pretty grim view on the modern music world. My friend dragged me to MGMT, Battles and Vampire Weekend, all in a row. It was insane. I cried during Battles’ set.

What band would you most like to collaborate with at Bonnaroo this year?

J: Dolly Parton (she’s playing a secret show, right?)

Z: Elton John. Triple pianos. Triple sunglasses.

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