Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival are celebrating their 15th anniversary and even though most of the lineup leaked a week ago, there is still plenty to look at and analyze. The festival had Conan O’Brian announce most of the big names officially on Tuesday January 19th on his show and afterwards Roo put out the full lineup poster on their site. If you have followed along on the site for a while you would have known that I am a veteran Roo’er having gone in 2012, 2014 and last summer braving the intense heat on June in Tennessee. I still believe they run one of the best festivals in the world and there is so much to do it is impossible to be bored. The beauty of the festival is it runs 24 hours from the Thursday the grounds open late afternoon to Sunday when the last headliner plays. While the main acts stop around 3-4 AM, a silent disco, cinema tent and mini EDM stage run all night long for those who have insomnia or partake in extracurriculars that make sleeping impossible. All that said, I doubt I will be going back this year. The festival has instituted a $60 fee to bring your car into the camp grounds in hopes of getting people to car pool, while not actually making the already tiny camp spots any bigger. There also was a price increase on the early bird tickets, so it is safe to assume general admission will be the same. That coupled with the fact that no matter how good the under card is, the headliners are not my cup of tea, so I’ll see you all at Wayhome then!
The biggest name at the fest this year is Pearl Jam, and other than the New Orleans Jazz Festival, Bonnaroo is the only fest stop on their just announced tour. By all accounts their 2008 show was as legendary as one can be. If you even only sort of like a few of their songs expect to be blown away by their live show. The thing is, if you aren’t a fan of alt-rock from the 90’s there probably won’t be much here for you to love. They are coming to Toronto on May 10th so get pumped if you can’t make it down south for their show.
Next up is the super group Dead and Company that features most of the remaining members of The Grateful Dead and a few friends filling out the band, namely John Mayer. While The Grateful Dead have officially retired, this new group is going around pleasing all the Dead Heads and hippies all over the place. Expect 10 minute songs with plenty of psychedelic riffs making love to your ear holes. They are doing two sets, but really what it means is the band will play for around two hours, take a break and come back out and do another two hours. The night they play on is the night you should probably be dropping the LSD as there will be plenty of spacey visuals to keep your mind expanding the whole time.
The last headliner is LCD Soundsystem, the reunited indie dance group is also playing Coachella and the rumour is that they will probably be at 7 festivals total this summer (one of them will be the Caochella offshoot Panorama in NYC). Ever since they very vocally called it quits five years ago, James Murphy’s band has only grown in stature. While they probably aren’t most people’s pick to be a headliner they would still be very highly billed even if they did not break up. They are reportedly working on a new album so you can listen to All My Friends right after hearing whatever new idea of dance Murphy wishes to take the world to. Last year the festival had Kendrick Lamar as an early headliner then Deadmau5 as a late night headliner on the same night and expect either Ellie Goulding or J. Cole to be the warm up act to a late night dance party on the What Stage.
It is hard to really pinpoint what genres Roo is targeting as it is all pretty evenly spread out. One trend that they seem to be going with more so than they ever have is the Indie Pop route. Ellie Goulding is clearly the biggest name on the list as she is trying to reach the upper echelons of pop stardom like Katy Perry and Rhianna. Her playing the festival will make her no bigger or introduce her to many new people that don’t already love her. With a more rock edge bands like Haim, Two Door Cinema Club and CHVRCHES all look to conquer their time slots. Both Haim and Two Door are expected to finally come out with new material so there should be some very eager ears in the audience. Last year Hozier was inexplicably a very high billed act that made people scratch their heads, this year’s turn is Halsey, someone who had mediocre album reviews and doesn’t have a clear cut super popular single making people question why is she only below the ten biggest names on the poster. There are some up and coming acts like BØRNS (who I got to interview in Toronto a few months back), Hundred Waters and Lucius, all of whom look to make the leap and become household names this year.
After Coachella having a bunch of Canadians on their bill I expected that to be a trend this summer, instead we are looking at the same few acts with Grimes not being on nearly enough lineups. The biggest repeat act of the summer is Purity Ring, who is doing their damndest to be popular outside of Canada. Maybe this summer I will finally get a chance to see them for the first time. Outside of Purity Ring, the only other Canadian acts will be found in the EDM genre with Toronto locals Zeds Dead and Keys n Krates along with Montréal’s Adventure Club.
Normally Bonnaroo books some real heavy hitters of the EDM genre, whether it be famous inside the scene, or cross over acts that will bring in a range of fans to the show something this year is severely lacking. In the past two years alone Roo has booked Deadmau5, Bassnectar, Flying Lotus, Skrillex, Kaskade, Disclosure and Zedd, while this year there is no big ticket act to fill this void. The highest billed EDM act is The Chainsmokers who look to become known for more than just #Selfie as Roses is fast becoming the song of the winter (if that is a thing). Along with the aforementioned Canucks Zeds Dead, Keys n Krates and Adventure Club, there are plenty of hidden gems to melt your face to. Flosstradomus and RL Grime will bring the trap, GRiZ will take funk to the club and Cashmere Cat will play all of his insanely popular remixes that you love. For a more pop route there is Shamir and The Knocks that will make you dance while still having some sick beats. I would be remiss if I didn’t also point out that M83 is also playing, an act every festival needs to be booked to ensure they have a quality lineup.
There is also no shortage of Hip-Hop, even if it isn’t as stacked as previous years either. J. Cole looks to be a co-headliner or pre-headliner act similar in vain to Kendrick Lamar was last year. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are about to have every other song heard on the radio once they drop their follow up to The Heist. While it is trendy to hate on Mack, he puts on a great live show and without a doubt will be bringing out guests to singe his hooks. Back in 2013 I saw him as Osheaga and he had Wanz come out for Thrift Shop, Ray Dalton came out for Can’t Hold Us and Tegan and Sara did a special guest appearance filling in on Same Love. Expect at minimum Eric Nally (from Foxy Shazam) to belt out the falsetto chorus and hook from the awesome song Downtown. Tyler, The Creator has a dedicated fan base and expect his set to be one of the more tightly packed ones even if he turns a lot of people off with his shock rap. Up and comers Vince Staples and the Internet look to command the spotlight and make new fans, while Big Grams (a combination of Big Boi from Outkast and Phantogram) will bring the party to town mixing their own songs and cuts from their respective solo discographies.
The lineup is stacked no question about it, but if you are like me and the three headliners do nothing for you, the $400 US is a lot to put down. This might be the year I skip Roo and wait to see who they have on next year’s lineup. This just about does it for the US festivals, but I will most likely have reaction pieces to Wayhome, Osheaga, TURF, Field Trip and maybe some other ones too!