When we say the word “Bonnaroo,” it may call to mind confusing stage names and unwashed hippies, but you should also associate the Tennessee festival with an always great and diverse lineup of artists, from the well-established to the just breaking out. This year, the festival’s eleventh, is no different – with more than five stages and a crazy amount of acts, choosing what to do can seem pretty daunting. That’s where we come in: here’s what we’d check out this weekend in Manchester. (Click on the blue arrows to navigate through our Bonnaroo Guide.)
Also Check Out: Our Bonnaroo 2012 Playlist
Thursday, June 7
4:15-5:15pm: EMA @ the Other Tent
Bonnaroo’s main stages don’t even start hosting acts until tomorrow, so now’s a good time to check out what the smaller tents have to offer. We love EMA’s heavy, dark, demon-summoning anthems; just take care that her massive riffage doesn’t deafen you first thing.
MP3: EMA – "Milkman"
5:30-6:30pm: The Lonely Forest @ This Tent
The Washington State quartet Lonely Forest are from Kurt Cobain’s hometown, but they draw their influence more from anthemic, wistful folk-pop in the vein of Death Cab for Cutie, whose Chris Walla produced some of their released music. If this sounds up your alley, drop by the This Tent to check them out. If not, fellow Washingtonians Cave Singers will put on a rollicking set over at the Other Tent.
MP3: The Lonely Forest – "Coyote"
7:00-8:00pm: Danny Brown @ This Tent
Danny Brown’s one of the most buzzed-about new rappers out there, and we’ve been hearing a lot about his live show, so we highly recommend checking his set out.
MP3: Danny Brown – "Grown Up"
8:45-9:45pm: White Denim @ The Other Tent
We’ve got mad love for this endlessly inventive, insanely prolific Austin quartet, and they’re bound to jam the living daylights out of the straight-up jams on their handful of 2011 releases. Cross your fingers for some deep cuts off their 2009 breakout Fits.
MP3: White Denim – "Get Back To Love"
10:15-11:15pm: Phantogram @ The Other Tent
Live, the upstate New York duo Phantogram’s eerily beautiful electro jams take on a heavy, almost trance-inducing but still rave-y quality that makes their performances one-of-a-kind. Helps that longtime friends and collaborators Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter have amazing onstage chemistry. Hope for some of the cosmic jams from their excellent 2011 EP, Nightlife.
MP3: Phantogram – "When I'm Small"
11:30-12:30pm: Alabama Shakes @ This Tent
Alabama Shakes have a lot going for them as tonight: a late-night, festival-kickoff set on the biggest open stage, anthemic, fist-pumping jams that are some of the best Southern rock has to offer right now, and not much competition.
MP3: Alabama Shakes – "You Ain't Alone"
Friday, June 8
1:45-2:45pm: Tune-Yards @ This Tent
By this point it should be obvious we’re huge fans of Merrill Garbus and her electrifying, inspiring live show, so, obviously. It’ll be a great way to kick off what promises to be Bonnaroo’s busiest day.
MP3: Tune-Yards – "Gangsta" (Ad Rock Remix)
3:00-4:00pm: Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings @ What Stage
Outside at three PM seems like kind of a weird place to see soul queen Sharon Jones (dark, smoky bar and/or fancy gilded concert hall sounds a little better), but you’ve got to check these guys out anyway – plenty of wailing horns and sexy grooves will have you into it no matter the surroundings. Just don’t wear yourself out too early!
MP3: Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings – "Better Things"
5:00-6:15pm: Little Dragon @ This Tent
Swedish synthpop quartet Little Dragon bring an expanded lineup and sound to their mesmerizing live performances that’s definitely worth checking out.
MP3: Little Dragon – "Shuffle A Dream"
6:40-7:30pm: Oberhofer @ Great Taste Lounge
You’ll have to trek kinda far to a Miller Lite-sponsored “lounge” to check out Brad Oberhofer and his band, but we swear it’s worth it – dudes consistently put on one of the best live shows out there. Even if you’re not a fan of the Oberhofer tracks you’ve heard, this is the place to be: live, these songs take on new and incredible energy that’s completely infectious.
MP3: Oberhofer – "o0O0o0O0o"
7:45-9:00pm: St Vincent @ That Tent
We won’t stop recommending St. Vincent festival sets until you hit them up. Guitar wizard Annie Clark and company are making the festival rounds with a killer 2011 record (yep, it’s still got legs) and a fantastic, incendiary live show you absolutely can’t miss.
MP3: St Vincent – "Krokodil"
9:20-10:10: Pujol @ Great Taste Lounge
Back on over to the Great Taste Lounge to check out another band titled after its frontman’s last name – but you’ve got to check out the prolific Daniel Pujol and his bandmates spinning scuzzy, melodic lo-fi gold.
MP3: Pujol – "OVER THE COUNTERCULTURE JAM"
10:00-11:00pm: Radiohead @ What Stage
1. You have no other choices, and 2. Obviously.
12:30-1:30am: Major Lazer @ This Tent
If you can still stay up or move your body at all, Bonnaroo’s still offering a bevy of fantastic dance acts, starting with Diplo worldbeat project Major Lazer. We’re not sure what ML live shows look like these days now that former cohort Switch has parted ways, but check it out.
MP3: Major Lazer – "Original Don"
2:00-3:00am: Flying Lotus @ That Tent
They might as well rename Bonnaroo from a festival to an ultramarathon what with all the raving they expect you to do at this hour, but if you can manage it, make sure you check out experimental hip-hop producer Flying Lotus.
MP3: Flying Lotus – "As The World Laughs With You" f/ Thom Yorke
3:15-4:00am: Big Freedia @ The Other Tent
If you still have any energy at all, kiss it goodbye: a set from New Orleans sissy bounce maven Big Freedia equals enough booty bouncing to knock you out. Get down hard then sleep tight!
Saturday, June 8
2:00-3:00pm: Das Racist @ This Tent
Take your time crawling out of your tent: Saturday promises to be pretty chill. Kick it off with Brooklyn rappers Das Racist – even if you’re just cursorily aware of their songs, you must catch their live spins on their biggest hits, not to mention their hilarious stage presence.
3:30-4:45pm: Battles @ This Tent
Don’t move an inch – you simply must see Battles. The fact that they’re now a trio makes their live performances even more impressive: sneak as close up to the front as you can to watch each member play at least ten instruments at once. Cross your fingers for “Atlas,” the only song they’re still performing live from Mirrored, which is positively incredible live.
5:15-6:30pm: SBTRKT @ This Tent
Take in the mesmerizing, art-y dubstep of this anonymous UK producer, whose live shows are rumored to be fantastic.
6:30-7:30: Jukebox the Ghost @ Café Where
Jukebox the Ghost are one of the most fun indie pop groups we know of, their live show’s fantastic, they’ve got a new album coming out, and they do a mean Whitney Houston cover – do you need any more convincing?
Unless you’re a Red Hot Chili Peppers fan (and more power to you!), now’s a good time to wander around the festival and check out some of their non-musical offerings. This year boasts a cinema tent and several comedy stages, and you can catch many of the weekend’s acts doing special encore performances at the Sonic Stage. And you’re probably tired from yesterday, so our best advice is to take it easy.
Sunday, June 9
12:30-1:15pm: Delta Spirit @ Which Stage
Delta Spirit have a new, self-defining record out, and a fantastic live show, so check them out to kick off your last day. If you’re not feeling it, check out veteran folk-rockers Fruit Bats over at That Tent.
1:45-2:30pm: Black Lips @ Which Stage
Seeing these Atlanta dudes live is a rite of passage: you should really catch not only their notorious onstage antics (makeouts, nudity, various bodily fluids, Biggie cutouts, etc), but their fantastically catchy, danceable punk jams.
3:30-4:30pm: The Antlers @ That Tent
It’s been awesome to watch this band grow from a shy live presence into a masterful, hypnotic one. Reportedly they’re working on new songs – we’re psyched to see what they have in store.
5:30-7:00pm: Bon Iver @ What Stage
Obviously. We’re hoping Justin Vernon still has a thirteen-piece band, but even if not, his live show’s always been something special. Alternatively, check out the Shins at Which Stage or Kurt Vile at That Tent.
6:45-8:00pm: Young the Giant @ This Tent
We’re half surprised that Young the Giant made it this big in what seems like such a short time, but it was inevitable: their songs are immediate, accessible pop classics tailor-made for fist-pumping. What better way to close out your Bonnaroo?
8:00-12:00pm: Phish @ What Stage
Everything else seems to have shut down to leave these jam veterans with enough space to shut down the festival with a mammoth four-hour set. Even if you’re not a diehard phan – why not?