Bonnaroovians around the country gathered Tuesday January 19th to watch the Official Bonnaroo Lineup Announcement on Conan O’Brian. For those unfamiliar, Bonnaroo is a Music and Arts Festival held in Manchester, Tennessee annually. AND WE AT DEAD AUDIO ARE INFATUATED WITH IT.
In the past, Roo has used the internet to reveal it’s lineup to it’s fans. It had been dubbed the Bonnaroo Lineup Announcement Marathon (BLAM!) by curators. Not knowing what to expect from an official lineup release on national television, we set our DVR’s to record and gathered around the TV and Fireplace to catch the 11 PM showing.
Conan was quick to note, though, that the lineup had been leaked via the web prior to the show’s taping. With disdain he scorned the internet for ruining our Christmas in June, then proceeded to announce who would be headed to The Farm this year: Pearl Jam, Dead & Company (two sets!), LCD Soundsystem, J. Cole, Tame Impala, (Lexington’s own) Chris Stapleton, Judd Apatow and Friends, Miguel, Father John Misty, Ween, Jason Isbell, The Chainsmokers, Big Grams, The Claypool Lennon Delirum, and many more! You can see the full and official 2016 Bonnaroo Lineup here.
This year, to celebrate it’s 15th anniversary, AC Entertainment and Live Nation have put together one of their most diverse and talented lineups in the festival’s history. However, Bonnaroo is not immune to the saturated festival market, leading to some interesting omissions. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights.
For it’s 15th anniversary, I really did expect a crazy-big exclusive name on the top of the bill like a Prince, Radiohead, or a reunited NWA with Kendrick or Eminem. What we got was Pearl Jam, Dead & Co. (2 sets), and LCD Soundsystem. Here, Bonnaroo is keeping with it’s tried and true headliner formula of a jam band, a reunion, and a heavy-hitter household name. Notably missing is a legacy act like Stevie Wonder or Neil Young who are both touring this summer. Nevertheless, Bonnaroo’s three headliners are better than Coachella’s top three: Guns N’ Roses, Calvin Harris, and LCD Soundsystem.
Dead & Co.
With it’s festival roots firmly planted in the jam genre, Dead & Co. is a solid get and answers the question, “does Bonnaroo still care about jam bands?” Not to mention the exclusivity, as Bonnaroo is Dead & Co’s only planned tour date a the time. I’m looking forward to the inevitable groovy dance party that’s going to break out when they “Carry me back to Tennessee”.
If you attended Bonnaroo 2010 and caught LCD’s late night set then I don’t need to tell you how great of a show this will be. James Murphy is an indie-electronic-DJ pioneer. With the recent reunion and subsequent new album on the way, LCD Soundsystem’s What Stage debut is going to be one that goes down in the history books. Can you imagine the intensity and subsequent eruption surrounding the build up to “Dance Yourself Clean”?! And I’m going to be a nostalgic mess when they play “All My Friends,” and it will make me even more grateful for the friends that have been to all these Bonnaroo’s with me.
Someone once told me Pearl Jam is like peas. No one really wants peas, but dammit they’re good for you and your parents love them, and the older you get you realize they aren’t that bad. Regardless of your taste in music, it’s hard to argue PJ’s dominance of the Alternative Rock genre for the past 25+ years.
While not headliner material just yet there are several bands that are solid gets and deserve recognition.
The Australian psych rockers have skyrocketed as a must-see band in just three albums. The only other indie band I can think of that’s had this kind of trajectory is Arcade Fire, who also headlined the main stage after just a handful of LPs. Tame are hot off their third LP, Currents, one of the best albums of 2015. Kevin Parker & Company are going to blow minds during the rare, highly-coveted late night spot on the main stage.
J. Cole’s most recent album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, became the top-selling hip-hop album of 2014, despite being released just three weeks before the end of the year, and for good reason. It’s an album fully-realized, telling the story of Cole’s childhood and rise to stardom from his point of view. Slated for the same slot as Kendrick Lamar in 2015, Cole has opportunity to prove to the world why he belongs on the Which Stage as he brings the album to life. For more, Check out more DAB coverage of the J.Cole – Bonnaroo’s Hip-Hop Heavyweight.
M83 is another name that has yet to make it to Manchester, but will do so in grand fashion this year. With a new album on the way, M83 has a lot of dreamy, celestial dancey tunes to either pack-out a late night tent spot, or sunset show on the Which Stage. Be sure to get familiar with their 2011 masterpiece Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming before they’re (surely) late night set.
Guys, things are going to get brown, so brown it’s going to be black. After five years of separation, the Boognish has finally spoken: Dean and Gene Ween have decided to get back together, and the excitement surrounding this reunion cannot be overstated. Ween last played the Which Stage on Sunday in 2010, it was hot, rowdy, and pretty perfect, especially during that Bowie cover of “Let’s Dance.” Spanning nearly every genre over nine studio albums, Ween has an extensive catalogue to pull from, and with sold out arena shows throughout the summer they’re going to give the fans a show to make up for their hiatus.
The Claypool Lennon Delirium
With a sound Rolling Stone characterized as “proggy psych-pop” Les Claypool and Sean Lennon’s new venture is sure to turn heads when The Claypool Lennon Delirium will perform it’s first show taking place on The Farm. For a more in depth look into this trippy new supergroup, check out our coverage from contributing columnist Taylor Ralph.
STRONG UNDERCARD PRESENCE
While the first couple of lines on the lineup always gets the press, it’s important to note Bonnaroo’s strong undercard. Some mid-lineup highlights include Big Grams (Big Boi + Phantogram), Death Cab for Cutie, Father John Misty, HAIM, Band of Horses, Purity Ring, Tyler the Creator, RL Grime, Vince Staples, The Floozies, Kurt Vile, Blood Orange, Lettuce and Shamir. These are bands that could be several lines up on any other festival, even at Coachella, CHVRCHES is on the second line of their lineup, #4 on Bonnaroo’s.
The notable names at the bottom of the lineup show good depth. With bands like Papadosio, Hermitude, and The Internet all rounding out the list.
One of the best and most unique experiences at Bonnaroo is the Superjam. The Superjam is a magical hour and a half where once-in-a-lifetime collaborations take place. From Jim James’ Heart & Soul Superjam, to Skrillex’s jaw-dropping collabs on the Which Stage, the Superjam can take any form, and use nearly any artist on, or not, on the bill.
Since Bonnaroo is lacking an established Hip-Hop or EDM headliner perhaps the Superjam focuses on these genres as Bonnaroo could easily draw from the strong hip-hop and EDM undercard presence.
Another idea surrounding the event could be a country/blues/soul Superjam featuring acts such as Jason Isbel, Leon Bridges, Chris Stapleton. Something to note is Chris Stapleton’s set at CMJ Music Fest the same weekend in Nashville (just a short drive from Manchester) will feature none other than Justin Timberlake! Here’s to hoping JT brings some sexy back to The Farm.
While we’re thrilled with the lineup, we feel there are some names absent from the list. Notably missing from this list: Drake, Sufjan Stevens, Modest Mouse, Fetty Wap, Major Lazer, Beck, A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg, Umphree’s McGee (who historically visit the farm on even-numbered years), Shpongle, Missy Elliot (Could she pop in during J. Cole’s set?), and Dan Auerbach’s The Arcs.
Despite a few omissions, this lineup gets better and better with each view. I recommend following Bonnaroo’s and Dead Audio’s Spotify playlists to get familiar with those names which you have never listened to, that band that someone told you to listen to a few weeks ago but you haven’t given it a shot, and that’s how you stumble on bands like the retro-glam BØRNS, the psych-soul texmex rockers Chicano Batman, or jazz prodigy Kamasi Washington.
This isn’t Bonnaroo’s best lineup in it’s 15 year history, but it’s far from bad, and definitely not it’s worst. The festival getting back to it’s roots with a true jam headliner, LCD and Ween are the hottest reunions of the year, and bands like Tame Impala and M83 are going to get the Bonnaroo welcome they deserve. Comedy gets an awesome headliner in Judd Apatow and Workaholic’s Adam Devine. Not to mention activities such as The Ferris Wheel at sunset, the Silent Disco where y0u never know who will be spinning, running through the Water Fountain in the June heat, a secret Robe Rage Party at the Christmas Barn, or the sunrise walk home to your campsite to the always-surprising sounds of the Clock Tower. See you on the Second Weekend in June!
*Special thanks to contributing columnists Blake Searcy and Taylor Ralph*