The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival is somewhat typified as the festival that spurs all things hippiedom — a weekend-long event distinguished as drug-soaked and full of good vibes. Sure, Bonnaroo is set in middle-of-nowhere Manchester, Tenn., which might give millennials the idea that this it their Woodstock and the chance to imbibe as much as they can now before reality comes back in four days’ time. What can I say? Bonnaroo has a personality, which is a large portion of the reason why I plan to attend for a second year in 2014.
It’s wrong to say the fest on the farm is all about that, though. Bonnaroo, coming up June 12-15, is one of the most versatile of the summer’s biggest festivals, exhibiting a lineup of classic rock, folk, stand-up comedy as well as the modern day’s hype bands. Many music fests share a lot of the bands they book, but below are the five artists that generally discern the ‘Roo and will be well worth sifting through the crowds.
1. Sir Elton John
Bonnaroo lovingly seeks after a “classic” act for at least one of its headliners, usually one that not only appeases the old folks but also one with which its younger goers can get down. Last year, it was Paul McCartney and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, this time around it’s Sir Elton John, making his American festival debut. Though he’s no McCartney, a few piano ballads and a performance of “Tiny Dancer” during the live show will presumably place him in similar esteem.
2. Kanye West
Despite the Bonnaroo-Kanye West debacle of 2008, when the rapper didn’t take the stage until 4:30 a.m. — several hours after he was scheduled — West is undoubtedly one of the biggest pulls for this year’s festival. Knowing West’s reputation for bombast, I don’t really expect his set in 2014 to go off without a hitch. Even so, if this year happens to be a repeat of his last visit, I have no qualms about staying up late for this guy, and I am certain I’m not alone. Coming off of 2013’s “Yeezus” and a decade-long career of producing excellent records before that, Bonnaroo, and more importantly its attendees, have struck gold.
3. Ty Segall
San Franciscan garage rocker Ty Segall is set to make it over Tennessee way for a set that comes highly-anticipated for this writer. I am clueless as to what Segall’s show will look like, as he’s no exception to the prolificity that comes with these riff-dominant of musicians. If any of his work from the last two years is to be played, be it from his other band Fuzz, the records (namely “Slaughterhouse” and “Twins”) that he puts his name on or honestly, from anything for that matter — he just has to show up for my sake — I will be front-row present and elated.
4. Seasick Steve
Underrated and supremely talented, Seasick Steve is perhaps the most fitting artist for Bonnaroo’s lineup. Steve is largely a one-man band, dawning blue overalls and a cap, playing guitar that’s as crusty (typically with a string missing) as the tunes he writes. He’s a blues virtuoso, mostly because he’s an embodiment of such a sound. Stressless and only occasionally overdriven, Steve plays sunshine blues that practically soundtrack Bonnaroo’s “chill, man” ethos.
5. Andrew Bird & The Hands of Glory
Andrew Bird blurs the line between indie-rock, classical and folk, though if he’s playing with his Hands of Glory, I would foresee much of this latter type. Bird assuredly won’t be exclusive, balancing the relatively new down home sonics with some of the tremendous, spiraling compositions of earlier days. Whether it’s fiddle or violin, Bird will likely be putting on a true, theatre-esque performance — one that might be apt for laying out and absorbing Bonnaroo’s aura.
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