Bonnaroo 2010 Preview

By: Wesley Hodges

Bonnaroo 2009 by Snyder
Like the festivals that helped inspire its unique existence (Jazz Fest and Glastonbury), the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival has so much more to offer than just the music. This year's 9th annual event takes place from June 10-13 in Manchester, TN in Great Stage Park, and will once again draw 70-80,000 of the biggest music fiends you'll find anywhere. Hell, you have to be half-crazy to pay money to endure this kind of heat, but coming from someone who's been to all but one Bonnaroo, I can tell you that this year's king of American music festivals, like all previous editions, will be well worth the trip. Let JamBase tell you why with our list of 12 Must-See-Daytime-Bands, a run-down of late-night suggestions, and a few hints as to who to see and what to do in many of Centeroo's smaller cafes and activity centers.

As in 2006, the event promoters have shaken things up with the event's first real rap headliner (Jay-Z), the youngest band to ever headline (Kings of Leon), as well as a certain well-coiffed red-headed (unemployed) comedy icon MC'ing one of the main stages and the welcome addition of an all-night Lunar Stage devoted entirely to electronic music.

On paper, the 2010 edition reads like a synthesis of the last eight years with no musical styling or amenity unturned. Although one might not exactly be boiling over with excitement about some of the bands at the top of the bill, as always, there are infinitely more bands and activities than one could physically be there to enjoy. That right there is what makes a festival on the scale of Bonnaroo so enjoyable. The phrase "to each his own" captures the pioneering spirit of the Bonnaroo fan, and this festival is every bit as much about that person who makes it down to the front row to join the ruckus at The Melvins as it is for that dude hundreds of feet away getting chills at his first Stevie Wonder show or the girl who drags her boyfriend kicking and screaming out of the tent to catch the early Ingrid Michaelson show (and that guy then tells his girl, off-the-record, of course, that he kinda dug it). The beauty of it all is that these people all get to coexist in a bizarro escapist utopia and live out their musical dreams amongst friends. So, saddle up and take our suggestions at face value, because after all, as a wise spray painter once tagged, "The Roo You Take = The Roo You Make."

Thursday, June 10

Over the course of four days and some very late nights on two big stages, three decent size tents, and several smaller café like settings, a movie theatre and a comedy tent, Bonnaroo will feature around 160 artists. This list can't even begin to cover a fraction of the talent on display this weekend, but it is our hope that artists highlighted here help you uncover a lesser-known, an up-and-comer, or perhaps help you make a tough decision at a certain time slot. Instead of giving love to well known headliners we adore like Stevie Wonder, Jeff Beck or The Flaming Lips, we're going to direct your attention to a few bands you weren't perhaps planning to see. You can check out the entire Bonnaroo schedule here.

1. Baroness :: 5:45-6:45 pm :: The Other Tent
For those set up to get down early, these ferociously sharp South Georgia metal warriors might just blow your mind wide open right from the first licks of "A Horse Called Golgotha". The band's highly acclaimed Blue Record has brought them into the limelight, and with a stop at Coachella this year already under their belt, you'll be seeing a lot of these guys on the festival circuit for years to come.

2. Local Natives :: 7:00-8:00 pm :: That Tent
Gorilla Manor may be the strongest, most accessible indie rock album to come out in the last year, and these guys made a name for themselves after wowing the masses at this year's SXSW. Local Natives should be a nice change of pace for those who check out Baroness, and the lustrous vocal harmonizing should beam out nicely under the setting Tennessee sun. Those not familiar with the band should check out their cover of the Talking Heads "Warning Sign" that made it on the band's debut album, along with the excellent "Sun Hands".

3. Miike Snow :: 7:30-8:30 pm. :: This Tent
A little baffled that this one didn't get a slot after sunset, but nonetheless the DJ duo has made a name for themselves under the moniker of Miike Snow and this one will likely be the first of several hot, raucous and youthful get-downs at this year's festival.

Other Suggestions

If you arrive before the music gets cracking in the main tents, don't miss dexterously- gifted Australian guitar wunderkind Joe Robinson (age 19), who is playing as well as attending his first Bonnaroo. Robinson told JamBase, "I can't wait for the always fun challenge of winning over a new audience." Having already wowed over the likes of Steve Vai and the late great Les Paul with his uniquely outstanding talent, we can confidently say that a trip down to the Troo Music Lounge at 1:00 p.m. would be the perfect way to start the weekend. For those who can't make it, Robinson told us he'd be picking with his buddies, the Nashville jam band Elmwood on Saturday in the Troo Music Lounge.

Also, Thursday night has always been the best night to go exploring all this ephemeral Tennessee utopian acreage has to offer. So, spread your wings, grab a comfortable chair, meet your neighbors, and set up shop for a big weekend.

Continue reading for JamBase's recommendations for Friday...

Friday, June 11

1. Dr. Dog :: 4:00-5:15 pm :: The Other Tent
The prolific Philly-based vintage rockers just released their sixth excellent full-length album in less than ten years back in April. Shame, Shame is a little more polished production-wise, and the boys bring the guitars to the forefront this go-round following 2008's harmony-heavy Fate. A summertime day set with these festival scene staples should be nothing short of spiritual and will likely summon those "Shadow People" out from the woodworks that bassist/vocalist Toby Leaman sings about on the band's new tune. With the new album peaking at #44 on the Billboard charts, these guys are finally getting the recognition they've deserved for a few years now.

2. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros :: 2:30-3:30 pm :: The Other Tent
Founded by vocalist Alex Ebert previously of the late-90s L.A. pop band Ima Robot, these guys flew onto the radar in a big way with the commercial success of their single "Home" and the recent appearance of "Janglin'" in a Ford commercial. The folk-psych tunes and communal vibe of the ensemble (boasting 10-plus members at any given time) will hopefully bring back a little taste of the Old Bonnaroo, even if just for an hour.

3. Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue :: 12:00-1:00 pm : Which Stage
At the age of 24, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews is already a well-known artist in large part to his recent appearances on the hit HBO show Treme (where he plays himself) and vocal approval by the likes of Bono. Born and raised in the Treme, Andrews has been entertaining fans in the Big Easy since he's been barely old enough to walk. Andrews and his band is more than your standard New Orleans jazz show. We highly recommend you start your Friday at the Which Stage (you know, the one with the bobble heads).

Friday's Late Night Picks

The Black Keys :: 12:00-1:30 am :: That Tent / Galactic :: 2:00-3:30 am. :: The Other Tent

Lots and lots of great choices on what is generally the apex of the weekend. On Friday, you've still got fresh legs and the ability to go all night long and this year's late-night lineup is as stacked across the board as it's ever been, and with The Flaming Lips doing Dark Side, Daryl Hall & Chromeo and the dance party that will surely ensue at LCD Soundsystem, you can't go wrong anywhere. But our pick is to check out The Black Keys playing in That Tent and then head on over to Galactic down at The Other Tent. Galactic's legendary 2005 epic late night Krewe de Carnivale indicated what these guys are capable of when given the limelight of the after midnight show. Even though these guys have been out on the road for about 15 years now, they proved this year during Mardi Gras at Tipitina's that they can still make magic well past the break of dawn. Bassist Robert Mercurio gave JamBase an idea of what's in store for the Galactic set.

"We're bringing in some extra production lighting-wise. It's gonna be our most extravagant light show and stage set-up that we've ever done. We really just decided that we're gonna go over-the- top this year. We're excited to see it, too; we haven't really seen it either," laughs Mercurio. "Our Lighting Director has been working hard on it and programming it and it should be really a spectacle beyond what you've ever seen from a Galactic show. We'll have Corey Henry and Cyril Neville with us at the Bonnaroo show like we've had on the entire Ya-Ka-May tour."

Other Suggestions For Friday

Go see Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers tear it up at the acoustic-based Sonic Stage from 2:15-2:45 p.m.

If you are rolling along towards the break of dawn, head down to the Lunar Stage where a bumpin' club scene will be spinnin' wild from 2-6 a.m. at Crystal Method and Lee Burbridge.

Continue reading for JamBase's recommendations for Saturday...

Saturday, June 12

1. Dave Rawlings Machine :: 3:15- 4:30 pm :: That Tent
Most are probably familiar with Dave's wife and Bonnaroo veteran Gillian Welch, but this flat-picking lyrical genius is finally getting his day in the sun with the long overdue release of his debut A Friend of A Friend last year and a nice mid-afternoon slot at this year's 'Roo. Rawlings has played guitar in Welch's band for years and the roles are being reversed this time. The energetic, free- wheeling live shows are always full of surprises and the only time I got the chance to see him Norah Jones stopped in for a tune and the show closed with an impromptu "Friend of the Devil > Just Like Heaven > Friend of the Devil" that I think even left the musicians themselves a little surprised. Definitely got that wholesome Carter-and-Cash kind of good feelings vibe.

2. Mumford & Sons :: 5:00-6:00 pm :: That Tent
With Mumford following Dave Rawlings Machine and John Prine following them, one could just camp out by That Tent for the afternoon and do just fine. These Londoners have quickly made a name for themselves in 2010 with a reputation for incredible live performances following them around the globe. After hearing their excellent album Sigh No More, we're hopeful this will still be a well-kept secret (if there is such a thing at Bonnaroo) and a great chance to get a decent spot up front. Also, we have a feeling that "Dustbowl Dance" is gonna stir up the crowd in a big way.

3. Jimmy Cliff :: 3:30-5:00 pm :: Which Stage
Even though he's a world-renowned, generation-spanning artist, Cliff seems to fly under- the-radar with a lot of twenty-somethings and younger. That's a shame because Cliff is one of the most soulful foundational reggae artists ever. In most circles, Cliff is best known for his 1975 hit single "The Harder They Come" and a cover of "I Can See Clearly Now" from the Cool Runnings soundtrack, but there's far more to this legend than those soundbites. Come see for yourself.

Saturday's Late Night Picks

Thievery Corporation :: 12:00-2:15 a.m. :: That Tent
The downbeat international collective headed by the production duo of Eric Garza and Eric Hilton bring their ethereal club grooves to the Manchester late night scene for the first time and it's a mystery why it took this long to happen. These guys reportedly stole the show at 2006's one-off Echo Project and dropped a fire late night show at the House of Blues at last year's Lollapalooza. This one's a can't miss pick.

GWAR :: 2:30-3:45 a.m. :: The Other Tent

Sometimes there are no words to sufficiently express a thing. Just watch the clip below and imagine yourself on the front lines of this craziness.

Other Suggestions For Saturday

They'll be showing the World Cup opening match between the good ole Red, White, & Blue vs. England at the Lunar Stage starting at 1:30 p.m. Enormously important soccer game at a music festival…things could get rowdy.

The snide, fast-talking Aziz Ansari of Funny People and Parks and Recreation notoriety will be doing stand-up in the Comedy Theatre from 6:00-7:15 p.m. Shouts of "RAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNDY" will be not be in short supply. Ansari's recent comedy album Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening even included a track called "Bonnaroo," so you know he's been around this block before.

The Silent Disco: First made popular in the European club scene, be sure to hit up the Silent Disco over near The Other Tent at any point of the day or night, for any amount of time, and you'll be glad you stopped in at this fun mashup club scene. Always an invigorating AND disorienting experience.

Continue reading for JamBase's recommendations for Sunday...

Sunday, June 13

1. Worst Conflict of the Week :: 4:00-6:30 pm :: What, Which, This, That & The Other Stages
It happens every year, and 2010 is no different, at one point there will be at least two, three, or even four, must-see acts playing at the same time, and this year there are FIVE! This weekend, the crossover occurs late Sunday afternoon. Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman/60s icon John Fogerty (What Stage :: 4:00-5:30 p.m.) has still got it, and his familiar voice still sounds like its beaming out of an AM radio. This year he'll be making his Bonnaroo debut on the main stage (he's also an extremely underrated guitar player). Also, from 5:00-6:30 p.m., Ween will be playing over on Which Stage. We don't have to tell you to at least stop in. The set which should perhaps spark the most curiosity out of this quintet would have to be aggressive Boston rockers Dropkick Murphys (This Tent :: 5:00- 6:15 p.m.), who have promised to scare off the hippies with their aggressive, bag-piping brand of punk rock. Should be interesting to see a band even try to get a dog-tired Bonnaroo crowd riled up on late Sunday afternoon. Next, the all-time great tunesmith Kris Kristofferson will be in That Tent from 4:30-6:00 p.m., and things will likely get legendary. Finally, you've got the campy, cheeky post-punk rockers They Might Be Giants over in The Other Tent from 4:30-5:45 p.m. to make the decision even tougher. Guess there could be worst choices to make.

2. Phoenix :: 7:15-8:45 pm :: Which Stage
One of better live acts currently touring, if there is one band that can bring back the crowd-surfing, sing- along, Glastonbury-type scene one last time before DMB closes it out it's these Versailles rockers who established themselves in 2009 as a force to be reckoned with in popular music with the release of the aptly- named Grammy-winning album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. Phoenix's brilliantly crafted rock songs are as catchy as they are sophisticated, and a lot of up-and-coming synth-y indie bands should take note of Phoenix's subdued usage of the synthesizer - just the right amount in just the right places without overdoing it.

3. Medeski Martin & Wood :: 6:15- 7:45 pm :: The Other Tent
Kinda weird, but also kinda nice to see MMW playing at the festival's smallest of the major venues. Those looking to get a head start on the traffic out before the Dave Matthews Band are gonna wanna stick around for one last blowout with these uber-talented jazz pioneers and who, along with Les Claypool, DJ Logic, Umphrey's McGee, John Butler Trio, Galactic, Ween and Norah Jones, make up the returning alumni from the Bonnaroo charter class of 2002.

No one lucky enough to attend the inaugural Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in 2002 could've foreseen the great transformation and amazing growth that the event has undergone in its first nine years. However, the seed for growth and constant evolution was planted in the early planning stages of the first edition of the festival. The early focus of the event was centered mostly on musically boundless genres, with programming largely revolving around improvisational jam bands, bluegrass, jazz, DJ's, funk and New Orleans music. The creators had a simple mission and that was to recreate the round-the-clock experience of Jazz Fest with the late night shows, food, and lagniappe, but instead of requiring hotels, the vision of Bonnaroo was to create a small, sustainable city for four days in the middle of nowhere in the dead of summer and invite the world's finest bands to master the ceremonies. The crazy thing is that thus far the wildly risky experiment has paid off in spades, producing some of the most indescribably enjoyable times most folks will ever have. Bring an open mind, see at least one act you've never heard of each day, and be kind to your camping neighbors and they'll do the same. Good luck and good times on the good road to Bonnaroo 2010!

Continue reading for Wesley Hodges' special Bonus Feature of Bonnaroo "A Timeline Through The Years"... A Timeline Through The Years

2002: The inaugural festival sells out 70,000 tickets well in advance without the use of traditional advertising methods, relying on word-of-mouth and far exceeding the promoters' expectations. Widespread Panic plays one of its final concerts with late guitarist Michael Houser. Galactic's Robert Mercurio described the first 'Roo as having "something special about it, because people questioned how you can get 80,000 people in the woods and no one get hurt. It was unprecedented to have anything like that in the U.S." moe. plays a marathon late night set featuring special guests from The String Cheese Incident, Umphrey's McGee, The Disco Biscuits, and Robert Randolph. They would later be recognized for the show with a Jammy Award for "Concert of the Year".

2003: James Brown, Bob Dylan and Neil Young & Crazy Horse appear at the festival. Stages and tents renamed What, Which, This, That, and the Other, confusing Bonnaroo attendees ever since.

2004: Two vicious electrical storms followed by an abnormally cold summer night at The Dead's set blow through Manchester causing several delays and turning Centeroo into a mud pit. Sets by Steve Winwood, a late night Umphrey's McGee set, David Byrne and the resurgence of the The Dead were highlights of the fest.

2005: Temperate weather and amazing late night sets by Galactic and Sound Tribe Sector 9 highlighted the '05 edition. The Cinema Tent debuts showing Mike Tyson's embarrassing 7-round TKO loss to Kevin McBride as chilled-out festival patrons enjoy the tent's air conditioning.

2006: Mysterious smoke rings begin appearing in the Manchester skies and a turning of the tides begins. At the time, the addition of the iconic Radiohead was seen as a huge transition for the previously jam- centric festival, but this was just the beginning of a new era. Radiohead would play the longest show of their career and one that Thom Yorke still considers to be perhaps the band's best. G.R.A.B. (Trey, Mike & The Duo) are the surprise Superjam late night act and are joined by Phil Lesh for a few songs, including "Going Down the Road Feelin' Bad."

2007: The polarizing psychedelic hard rockers Tool are invited to headline, perplexing/angering Bonnaroo veterans and hippies. Many of these same fans go to the show and most become Tool fans. The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne lands his spaceship, distributes thousands of laser pointers and waxes on about the war in Iraq to thousands of starry-eyed fans. The String Cheese Incident play Which Stage late Friday as part of their Farewell Tour.

2008: "FUCK KANYE" becomes a rallying cry after rapper Kanye West lobbies to get his "Glow in the Dark Tour" headlining set rescheduled to 2:45 a.m. and subsequently doesn't take the stage until 4:30 a.m. amidst twilight and boos. My Morning Jacket plays a cover-heavy set in the driving rain and almost no one leaves until the show's completion at 4:00 a.m. MMJ are joined by Jeff Coffin, Kirk Hammett and Zach Galifianakis, among others. "Best show ever" is a common sentiment amongst attendees (including yours truly).

2009: A dream fest for many, Phish finally headlines the festival playing a late night show on the main stage on Friday and closing out the festival on Sunday with Bruce Springsteen joining the band for "Mustang Sally," "Bobby Jean"and "Glory Days." Nine Inch Nails, moe., Yeasayer, and MGMT highlight one of the best late nights in the festival's history on Saturday.

Join JamBase next week when we'll have pictures and insights from the 'Roo!

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