Readers, I caved. I shelled out nearly $300 to live out of my car for 4 days and take $7 showers. I’m talking about Bonnaroo, one of the country’s biggest music festivals, which is taking place in Manchester, TN June 7th-10th. But it’s money very well spent. Concertgoers can see musicians from Ludacris to Feist, all while sleeping in makeshift tens and avoiding questionable brownies from strangers. In addition to sunscreen and a cooler full of peanut butter, bread, and water, you’ll also need my recommendations for bands and some crucial songs that will give you a sample of what you might hear during those glorious 4 days.
From the top headliners to the up-and-comers:
Radiohead—okay, okay. It’s harder to pick a single Radiohead song than to avoid tan lines after 4 days in the Tennessee sun. My pick: I’m breaking my one-song rule and recommending all of Kid A.
Red Hot Chili Peppers— I mean, come on— This band has released two “greatest hits” albums. But they’re in no way “aging”. Their concerts are still as wild as they were in 1999. Funk meets punk meets California surf-rock. And check those bass lines. My pick: By The Way
The Beach Boys— Their Bonnaroo set is part of a 50th anniversary tour. Their fans vary from my 6-year old cousin to my 70-year old grandma. It’s hard to hate these guys. A must-see for musicophiliacs. My pick: Wouldn’t It Be Nice
Bon Iver—The rest of the world finally got on the Justin Vernon train, as seen by this year’s Grammys: A “Best New Artist” well deserved, even if he’s been making music since 2007. My pick: Flume.
The Avett Brothers—I’ll be lining up for this alt-country band hours before their set. They’re twangy enough for country fans, catchy for pop fans. Plus, Bob Dylan shared the stage with them at last year’s Grammy awards. If Bob approves, you know they’re good. My pick: Traveling Song
The Shins—They’re more likely to play upbeat songs than their older, mellow hits for a festival… No doubt we’ll hear New Slang, though. Also, keep an eye out for their first album in 5 years, Port of Morrow, due out March 16th. My Pick: Australia
Feist— She’s got more in her repertoire than songs in commercials. In fact, her latest album, Metals, was #18 on Rolling Stone’s 50 Best of 2011. My pick: The Bad In Each Other
St. Vincent— From her days in The Polyphonic Spree to, recently, the cover of SPIN Magazine, this girl is an unstoppable artistic force. In a world overrun by adorable quirky female singer-songwriters, she stands out. My pick: Marry Me
The Civil Wars—They just won two Grammys—for Best Country Duo and Best Folk Album. Need I say more? My Pick: Disarm.
Punch Brothers—Whether they mean to or not, these guys are bringing bluegrass to the mainstream. My prediction: they’ll achieve Avett Brothers status within two years. Also, check out their Radiohead covers on Youtube (Can they PLEASE do a bluegrass cover album with Iron Horse?) My pick: Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
Battles— Their stage will be a hotspot for those extra-friendly festivalites that offered you brownies earlier. No doubt a very fun, energetic show. My pick: Inchworm
Delta Spirit— Yet another band with Americana roots that’s been steadily rising in the past few years. Groovy, plus they use trashcan lids for percussion every once in a while (Blues meets Stomp?) My pick: Trashcan
The Devil Makes Three— Is it obvious that I’m partial to the bluegrass bands? They’ve got rockabilliy, punk, and country influences and, like Delta Spirit, are percussion rebels in that they’re drummer-less. My pick: Bangor Mash
Moon Taxi— It wouldn’t be a college radio station blog if we didn’t plug the last band on the lineup. They’re Tennessee locals, so Bonnaroo must be a huge honor for these guys, who are known for energetic shows. There’s no way I’m missing their set. My pick: Gunflower
Hope to see you there!