Outside of surprisingly tame Warped Tour (2004) and Lollapalooza (2006) experiences, I am pretty unlearned in the way of big-time festivals. I like wireless internet. I like duvets. Hell, I love long showers. But, against my better judgment and my body’s wishes, I will be making the roughly 700 mile trek this Wednesday evening with 75,000 other junkies, goons, hippies, hipsters, hoopsters, blipsters, eagle scouts and everyone else in-between to the muggy fields of Manchester, Tenn.
All joking aside, Bonnaroo is about the music, and we have quite a weekend ahead of us for that. The opportunity to see nearly 70 of the best acts pop, rock and hip hop could muster is a serious selling point. The hard part will be making a decision.
After the jump is a grouping of the hardest choices the Bonnaroo staff has presented us with. Of course, making the right decision depends on other circumstances and not only the artist, we just want you to be educated going in. For further studies, check out our Grooveshark playlist, featuring all these artists and more playing this year’s fest.
- THE WALKMEN – 10:00 pm @ That Tent vs. SLEIGH BELLS – 10:15 om @ The Other Tent
The first of many conundrums, luckily this is between two very different acts. The Walkmen, a good natured bunch of indie rock traditionalists, have gone through a bit of changes over their career. After dipping their toes into post-punk, folk and even a little surf rock, their most recent album Lisbon showed them focusing on their strengths as songwriters and mood creators.
Sleigh Bells, on the other hand, are likely to be the loudest act this year. This diabolic thrash-pop (?) duo have been darlings of the blogosphere since their debut Treats blew eardrums across the globe. Looking to get rowdy?
- PHOSPHORESCENT – 1:45 pm @ This Tent vs. BELA FLECK & THE ORIGINAL FLECKTONES – 2:00 pm @ Which Stage vs. JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE – 2:30 pm @ The Other Tent
This is one of the scheduling conflicts that makes me think that the promoters didn’t even check over their work. Phosphorescent is an indie-folk mainstay. Matthew Houck, the only regular member, has been steadily releasing under-the-radar gems since 2003. This will likely be an intimate set, one that’ll help you ease into the long day ahead.
If you’re looking for the OG Bonnaroo experience, look no further than the reunion of Béla Fleck and The Flecktones. These bluegrass jam band gods harken the Roo of yore with epic acoustic diatribes with jazz fusion flashes. Take caution to not overdose on good vibes.
Justin Townes Earle will also be banging out some americana of the acoustic vein. Son of Steve Earle, JTE is known for his moving roots rock and public drug-induced meltdowns. Despite his announcement of kicking “hard drugs,” we’re hoping that Bonnaroo will bring out the sober madman in him.
- BASSNECTAR – 12:30 am @ This Tent vs. BIG BOI – 12:45 am @ The Other Tent
We don’t really talk much about electronica here, but Bassnectar is one to mention. Categorized as “free form,” this Southern California artist has covered the ever changing wave of electronic music for the last 10 years. What sets Bassnectar apart from other current electronica acts is that he incorporates elements of sampling, dubstep bass and breakbeats in a diverse way, showcasing his interest in making real music rather than just following trends.
On the other hand, it’s Big Boi. From OutKast. Yes, him.
- PORTUGAL. THE MAN – 5:00 pm @ That Tent vs. MAN MAN – 5:15 pm @ This Tent
The battle of the Mans (Men?). Wasilla, Alaska’s own Portugal. The Man are putting the psychedelia back in rock and roll. Like their forefathers, Portugal. The Man accomplish the ever challenging feat of making off-color blues rock catchy and new. Also put on a blistering set for only three guys
Meanwhile, Man Man sound like Modest Mouse playing freak folk at a petting zoo in Chernobyl. Ok, that doesn’t make much sense, but they’re pretty weird. And weird usually makes for a great show.
- GOGOL BORDELLO – 2:00 am @ The Other Tent vs. GIRL TALK – 2:30 am @ This Tent vs. STS9 – 2:30 am @ That Tent
For a nine piece band of gypsy punks, Gogol Bordello surprisingly carry a large amount of crossover appeal. Known for their batshit crazy sets that include bass drum crowd surfing and slavic chants, this could be a show you’d regret missing.
Pittsburgh, Penn.’s own Greg Gillis (aka Girl Talk) has built a tremendous following playing other artsits’ songs. That’s not to say he’s unoriginal, his live shows and albums are built out of hundreds of samples from artists ranging from Notorious B.I.G. to Gwen Stefani to Fugazi to everything else under the umbrella of “pop.”
Sound Tribe Sector 9 are also members of the Bonnaroo jam band family, but set themselves apart by taking long solos and freaky dancing into the 21st century. Known for incorporating elements of electronica and hip hop to traditional jam band fare, STS9 always promise to put on a mind bending set.
- GREGG ALLMAN – 4:30 pm @ That Tent vs. ROBYN – 4:30 pm @ The Other Tent
Are there still traces of Duane Allman’s DNA strewn across Interstate 20? Until someone goes through the legwork of cloning (maybe) the greatest American guitar player of all time, we’ll settle for his younger, less talented brother, Gregg. Since he was cut from the same cloth, there’s definitely something there to see.
Robyn, on the other hand, will be riding a wave of bleeps and bloops into the likely exhausted brains of attendees. Enjoying a remarkable comeback in the last few years, Swedish born Robin Carlsson is doing a stellar job of putting intelligence and originality back into pop and dance across the globe.
- ROBERT PLANT & BAND OF JOY – 6:00 pm @ What Stage vs. BEIRUT – 6:15 pm @ The Other Tent vs. EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY – 6:45 pm @ This Tent vs. THE STROKES – 6:45 pm @ Which Stage vs. SUPERJAM ft. DAN AUERBACH + DR. JOHN – 7:00 pm @ That Tent
This one you’re on your own. The good news is that it will all be great. The bad news is that you can’t see it all.
Happy Bonnaroo everyone!