To many, Bonnaroo reigns supreme among the North American summer festival circuit for more reason than one. For the past decade, this “revolutionary musical experience” has built a name for itself by never taking its schizophrenia medication. Bonnaroo pays little regard to theme, booking the best of the mainstream and underground instead of sticking to a general genre.
It’s worked. People can’t help but enjoy the conflicting nature of Death Cab for Cutie and Blackalicious playing within minutes of each other or even Kanye West and Zappa Plays Zappa blowing each others’ minds.
That booking mentality has also kept the crowd at Bonnaroo a varied pack of oddballs from across the nation. As a result, the campground culture at Bonnaroo goes unrivaled.
This year is more of the same. The possibility of the Strokes bumping elbows with Eminem backstage is high. We’ll be anxiously awaiting a duet between bass virtuosos Bootsy Collins and Les Claypool. Will Bassnectar and Girl Talk combine forces? We can only hope.
We’ve combed through the headliners and the supporting acts to give you a sample size of what to see at this year’s festival. But it’s not just about the music at Bonnaroo — it’s about the communal experience. So, for your sake, we’ve tossed in a couple of nuggets of knowledge to see you through Bonnaroo 2011. See you there!
Nugget of Knowledge #1: Wal-Mart Pre-Party
Don’t worry about arriving early. In fact, you should aim for arriving early. The annual pre-party in the Wal-Mart parking lot (Manchester, TN is nothing more than stretches of road, so people gotta meet up somewhere) is not to be missed. The cops will keep trying to kick everyone out, but hundreds of hippies slamming beers in the parking lot and buying cases of water from “the man” just can’t be told what to do. Treat yourself to some upgraded camping gear while your there — you can always return it later.
Thursday, June 9 / The Other Tent / 7:15PM – 8:15PM
Bonnaroo is kicking off the first day of their festival with an overload of indie acts — Twin Shadow, Deerhunter and Wavves are all worth a once over. But we’d place our bet on the garage rock girl group Best Coast to light up your first night out.
Thursday, June 9 / The Other Tent / 10:15PM – 11:15PM
We’ve seen this duo devour the club circuit with smoke machines, programmed drums, metal-frat guitars and female bombast. Transfer that to the festival stage and a prime opening night time slot and you’ve got yourself a full-on indie shit show.
Friday, June 10 / That Tent / 1:45PM – 3:00PM
Metalheads, rejoice! We didn’t forget about you and neither did the organizers behind Bonnaroo. They’ve never been shy about booking a brutal band or two and Kylesa is a fine example of their dedication to the dark arts of shredding.
Nugget of Knowledge #2: Getting Baked
No, it’s not what you think. We’re talking about your number one foe at Bonnaroo — the blazing hot sun tormenting you for four, heat-soaked days. The festival is on 700 acres of flat lane where shade is at a premium. Make use of the misting tents littered about and the abundance of frozen lemonade stands. You’ll thank us later.
My Morning Jacket
Friday, June 10 / What Stage / 8:00PM – 10:00PM
Hailing from Louisville, Kentucky, these guys are Bonnaroo perennial performers. In 2008, they knocked out a 3-hour set that still has people crossing their fingers for an encore to that mammoth and memorable performance. Their latest effort, Circuital, is the closest thing to psychedelic gospel that we’ve ever tasted and we can’t wait to see it unfold before us live.
Friday, June 10 / Which Stage / 1:30AM – 3:00AM
Wheezy tours more than the average MC. As a result, his live show is polished like the candy chrome cars he rides in. Be assured that he won’t waste his opportunity to blaze the stage at Bonnaroo this year. The forecast shows a 90% chance of special guests.
Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears
Saturday, June 11 / This Tent / 12:30PM – 1:30PM
These Austin, TX boys haven’t been buried in buzz, but their live show will rip your face off. It’s full-blown, brass-fueled soul replete with big distorted guitars and a dark sense of humor. They’ll be ripping up one of the smaller stages during the day on Saturday, so expect the type of spectacle you’d witness at a southern tent revival.
Dennis Coffey & Will Sessions
Saturday, June 11 / What Stage / 1:35PM – 2:35PM
After busting a seam on your dancing shoes at Black Joe Lewis, boogie your way over to the What Stage for a double-dose of funk. Dennis Coffey is an old Detroit cat with his fingerprints all over Motown. Will Sessions is a 12-piece funk group from the same city. If you’d like to dip your eardrums in the thick and rich musical oil of the Motor City — both past and present — this is your chance.
Saturday, June 11 / This Tent / 5:15PM – 6:30PM
This is modern gypsy music. This is the stuff you hear coming from the back of an abandoned circus late one night in some dream you had. It’s Tom Waits in a punk band with flare. It’s a live show that involves fists flying, face paint, an array of instruments you’ve never heard of before and lots of sweat. It’s one of the most anticipated shows this year at Bonnaroo.
Sunday, June 12 / Comedy Theatre / 3:00PM – 4:15PM
John Waters is the man responsible for such films as Pink Flamingos, Cry Baby and Hairspray. He’s been called the “prince of puke” on several occasions. Fair enough — his live show is perfect blend of vulgar one-liners and vivid storytelling by a man who has led an unreal life. The comedy tent this year also boasts Lewis Black and Henry Rollins and is a pillar in Bonnaroo’s festival kingdom, so make sure to beat the lines and grab a seat. It’s a great way to spare yourself from the sun for an hour or two.
Explosions In The Sky
Sunday, June 12 / This Tent / 6:45PM – 8:15PM
We wouldn’t call Explosions In The Sky usual festival fare, but Sigur Rós proved to us in 2008 that atmosphere, soaring instrumentals and elegant yet crashing crescendos have a place at Bonnaroo. EITS is fresh off a hiatus that stretched on for longer than we cared for, so we’re happy to see their mathematical post-rock melodies back in 2011.
Nugget of Knowledge #3: The Bonnaroo Block
This is for the festivalgoer on a budget or just for those who like to get loose — real loose. You see, the campground at Bonnaroo is like a little town. There’s a post office, corner stores hawking everything from sunglasses to lemonade, a general store, some restaurants that are better than others and rows upon rows of tents. Find a row with a good amount of activity and start walking. At each tent, ask if they have a beer to spare. Most everyone will say yes. Drink the whole beer before leaving their tent. Repeat. If you make it to your second row, you weren’t doing it right.
Sunday, June 12 / The Other Tent / 4:30PM – 5:45PM
Robyn is a bona fide pop star with actual chops. Don’t be fooled by the electro-pop backing or her adorable demeanor. Definitely a refreshing break from a whole lot of jam bands and, of course, the annual Widespread Panic show we can’t wait to miss.
Sunday, June 12 / Which Stage / 6:45PM – 8:15PM
The Strokes latest release, Angles, wasn’t exactly what we expected. Who can you blame? Their artists — they have to evolve in some musical way or another. But count on them to play your favorite leather jacket jams during their set. It’ll be like time traveling back to New York at the beginning of the millennium all over again. Where the hell are the White Stripes?
Bonnaroo 2011 is taken place Thursday, June 9 through June 12 in Manchester, Tennessee. Tickets, line-ups and general information is available at Bonnaroo.com.
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