MANCHESTER, Tenn. − “Are we having a good time, Bonnaroo?” Diesel, also known as NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, yelled at the crowd shortly after starting his 2:30 a.m. set Saturday at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival.
Playing a mixture of EDM beats with samples of hip hop, house music and even rock mixed in, Shaq − who played as performances around Centeroo wound down − seemed to draw waves of totems (one-of-a-kind signposts often carried by Bonnaroo faithful) to The Other stage, where he delivered a never-ending blur of blinding lights perfectly synched to his ground-shaking EDM set.
The 51-year-old basketball legend first immersed himself in the EDM world around 2014 and has collaborated with DJ Nitti Gritti, who joined Shaq onstage for “Moshpit,” a track released in 2021 that’s garnered more than 3 million streams on Spotify. In the past year, Diesel performed at Electric Daisy Carnival, Lost Lands, Red Rocks and more, and is planning to release a new EP, which will be his first collection in decades.
Shaq spent most of his time on stage playfully threatening the audience − “I’m coming out there!” − and encouraging chaos.
“I don’t see no mosh pits in the back,” he said at one point.
He frequently asked if anyone wanted to join him onstage, which at first seemed like offhand banter, but people began to trickle onstage greeting the self-proclaimed “world’s biggest DJ.”
Amid his demands, Shaq paused to ask the crowd if everyone was all right several times and later slowed down to say, “I love you, Bonnaroo,” while making the heart symbol with both of his hands. He followed one such tender moment by calling the crowd headbangers as he introduced his just released single “Bang Your Head.”
The crowd ate it up, following every demand and singing along whey they heard samples from Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow,” Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and even The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army.”
As his set drew to a close around 3:30 a.m., Shaq told the crowd to shine cell phone lights before making good on his frequent warning of the night − “Don’t make me come down there” − by joining the front row as audio of the basketball star being announced as the first pick of the 1992 NBA Draft blasted through the speakers.
It was a whole lot of nonsense, but fun and exactly the sort of thing to keep the Bonnaroo audience going in the wee hours of the morning. While one might not have heard a recognizable drop, or remember the intricacies of his EDM set, it was clear by the end that the Bonnaroo crowd wouldn’t forget Shaq screaming things like “lady mosh pit” any time soon.