BY: ADAM TURNER
Coachella may have the allure of a Cali landscape and Lollapalooza may have more underground appeal, but there is arguably no summer festival that captures the excitement and carries on the tradition of the hallowed, mother-of-all-festivals Woodstock better than Bonnaroo.
Held annually for more than a decade in mid-June on a 700-acre farm in Manchester, Tenn., Bonnaroo is a massive four-day celebration of music, art, film and comedy.
Though the past few Roo’s have boasted particularly impressive and diverse lineups of musicians, this year’s may very well take the cake. With so many options and only so many hours in a day, how can you possibly choose who is worth seeing? While hardly comprehensive, here are 10 bands you cannot miss at this year’s Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival.
Worth Mentioning: Mumford & Sons, Nas, ZZ Top, Billy Idol, Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, Earl Sweatshirt
Your soon-to-be favorite rock group in just a few years. Guarantee it. This Canadian guitar-drum duo has only released two studio albums. Their latest, Celebration Rock, was easily one of the best albums of 2012 and was recognized as such by countless critics, such as Pitchfork and Rolling Stone. The title is fitting: These guys are playing ridiculously pure, classic rock with irresistibly shoutable lyrics. Expect a lively crowd and a livelier performance by the Japandroids.
Tracks to Check Out: “The Nights of Wine and Roses,” “The House that Heaven Built”
9. Wu-Tang Clan
RZA. GZA. Ghostface Killah. Raekwon. Method Man. If these names mean anything to you, and they should, then there’s already no way you’re missing this concert. Wu-Tang Clan did more than influence the rap scene; they forever changed it. Primarily active during the 90s, the Clan was a fearless collective of roughly nine MCs, each more distinctive than the last. They’ve all led successful solo careers, released classic albums on their own and now, in honor of their recently announced new album, will be back on the same stage again. These legends ain’t nothing ta f’wit.
Tracks to Check Out: “C.R.E.A.M.,” “Protect Ya Neck”
8. “Weird Al” Yankovic
Come on. You owe this to your 11-year-old self if nothing else. Weird Al is one of our most lasting and beloved comedy figures, and arguably the most popular musical humorist to ever rock the accordion. This is sure to be a fun and hilarious show, with Al pulling from decades of classic satirical material. I, for one, will not miss the chance to air high-five my younger self through time and space. I’d be so proud of me.
Tracks to Check Out: “Angry White Boy Polka,” “Eat It,” “The Saga Begins”
7. Of Monsters and Men
You’ve heard them on the radio countless times now and have surely sung along to their hit single without even realizing who it was. Though “Little Talks” has been a huge hit for the baby band Of Monsters and Men, their entire debut My Head is An Animal is a folky pop triumph. These Icelandic indie wunderkinds only have a few tracks, but already have a huge following, and their joyful sing-alongs are sure to be delightful in a festival setting.
Tracks to Check Out: “Mountain Sounds,” “Six Weeks”
6. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
This alt-country singer/songwriter isn’t ranked highly in Bonnaroo’s lineup, but he rides first class in my heart and should in any music fan worth a damn. Formerly a member of the seminal alt-rock group the Drive-By Truckers, Isbell broke off on his own after a few albums and formed the 400 Unit. He’s released three albums now, all filled with his signature, meaningful lyrics and Southern pride. If his latest live record is any indication, this guy can put on a rousing show.
Tracks to Check Out: “Codeine,” “Goddamn Lonely Love,” “Dress Blues”
5. The Lumineers
Capped off by a great performance at the Grammys, 2012 was the breakout year for The Lumineers. This Americana folk-rock trio rocked the airwaves with two little exclamations: “Ho Hey.” Their eponymous debut was one of the years best and widest appealing records, and they are sure to translate that freshmen energy and hype into an unforgettable performance at Roo.
Tracks to Check Out: “Classy Girls,” “Flowers in Your Hair,” “Stubborn Love”
Nearly two decades after their incarnation, you still can’t pin down Wilco. Born out of the dramatic breakup of the near-perfect alt-country rockers Uncle Tupelo, Wilco has changed band members, labels and genres with abandon over the years. What never changed is leader Jeff Tweedy and the band’s commitment to making gloriously weird, eclectic, catchy, and occasionally revolutionary albums.
Tracks to Check Out: “Kamera,” “Summer Teeth,” “Box Full of Letters”
3. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
The Heartbreakers are coming to Bonnaroo, because Even The Losers get lucky sometimes. There will be so many American Girls in attendance, you may even score a Last Dance with Mary Jane in the Great Wide Open fields of Roo. If you think you’re going to Breakdown in excitement beforehand, I Need to Know. This kind of punny corniness is only possible when your songs are as pervasive and successful as Tom Petty’s have been. There’s no doubt people will flock to this living legend come June, so until then, we’ll just have to wait. And as we all know, The Waiting is the hardest part.
Tracks to Check Out: “Free Fallin’,” “I Won’t Back Down,” “Rebels”
2. Kendrick Lamar
Ladies and gentlemen, meet the new king of rap. If it wasn’t solidified with 2011’s insanely lyrical Section.80, it was settled without a doubt with last year’s instant classic concept album good kid, m.A.A.d. city. Nobody is rapping on K. Dot’s level at the moment or pushing the medium forward in more exciting ways. He’s being featured in countless tracks and blowing up in the best possible way. What better way to celebrate such a standout year than a set at Roo?
Tracks to Check Out: “HiiiPower,” “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst,” “Backseat Freestyle”
1. Paul McCartney
If you really need a reason to see Macca live, you’re reading the wrong article. Arguably the most popular, influential musician of all time. A career that spans decades. The motherlovin’ Beatles. SIR PAUL IS COMING TO BONNAROO. Go buy your ticket now and wipe away endless tears of joy from now till June 16. And prepare to cherish that memory for a lifetime.
Tracks to Check Out: An impossible task, but…”Yesterday,” “Band on the Run,” “Let It Be,” “Hey Jude,” “Eleanor Rigby,” how do you not have your ticket yet?