Entertain Your Ears: or Why you need to go to Bonnaroo 2010

Today marked the unveiling of the lineup of artists that would be performing at this year’s Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, TN.  What is Bonnaroo you ask? Up until the summer of 2009 I couldn’t.

Courtesy of Bonnaroo’s web page here is their take on the what their festival is all about.

“Bonnaroo brings together some of the best performers in rock and roll, along with dozens of artists in complementary styles such as jazz, Americana, hip-hop, electronica, and just about any contemporary music you can think of. In addition to dozens of epic performances, the festival’s 100-acre entertainment village buzzes around the clock with attractions and activities including a classic arcade, on-site cinema, silent disco, comedy club, theater performers, a beer festival, and a music technology village.”

I would contend that while Bonnaroo is indeed everything that is mentioned above, it is also so much more.  This festival which last year attracted some 75,000 people is as much about music as it is about spending time with your fellow Roo-ers.  I will say this right now.  If you do not like camping or feeling a little dirty, then Bonnaroo might not exactly be your cup of tea.  That being said however, if you are in any way a fan of music and don’t have qualms about hanging out with a few thousand strangers, then this festival might be right up your alley.  Last year I went to Bonnaroo with one of my best friends, and two girls that I had met not even a week before at concert here in my hometown of Columbus, OH.  These girls were Bonnaroo veterans and had been the last three years.  The plan was simple, drive as close as we could the night before the festival was set to open, crash at a hotel, and meet up with the rest of group.  “The rest of the group” consisted of another 8 people that our girls had met in previous adventures down to Bonnaroo.  Despite the weather’s best attempts to stop us made it to Manchester in one piece.  We all set up one big campsite and spent much of our time together, seeing as many bands as we could.  If I had just camped with my buddy, and not with this giant group, I think with relative certainty that I would not have enjoyed the festival as much as I did.  Forging new friendships is just as important as the music.  I still keep in contact with many of the people I met that summer thanks to Facebook, and many of us are returning to enjoy the festival together again this year.

At Noon today, the @Bonnaroo twitter feed, along with a Bonnaroo Myspace page, began drip-feeding artists that would be performing at this year’s festival.   Now before I list some of the highlights from this year’s lineup, which itself caters to a wide range of musical taste, I feel compelled to frame the lineup by briefly discussing last year’s.  The 2009 Bonnaroo lineup, the first that I attended, had two headliners that can only be described as meteoric in their level of stardom.  Phish and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.  Phish headlined Friday night and Sunday night to close the festival, while The Boss himself reined supreme on Saturday night.  These were some of the best shows I have ever seen in my life.  Here is a video I shot on my camera at the start of Springsteen’s set, this might give you an idea of what I mean.  In addition to these two musical titans, the festival was peppered with many other performers inlcuding Beastie Boys, NIN, Wilco, moe., MGMT, Passion Pit, Snoop Dogg, GirlTalk, Paul Oakenfold, Public Enemy, and many others.

I almost thought that this lineup could not possibly be topped and how wrong the Bonnaroo festival organizers have proven me.  Now in list format some the highlights out of this year’s lineup.  Some of these are names you will definitely recognize and some of them are certainly acts that have more niche followings, but I assure you they are all great in their own way. I will also include a brief blurb after each performer.  In no particular order…….

  • Jay Z – In my book the undisputed King of hip hop
  • Kid Cudi – If Jay Z is the King, you can call Kid Cudi a possible heir apparent.  Cudi’s Man on the Moon album was easily one of my favorite front-to-back albums of 2009
  • Blues Traveler – This is the kind of band that suits Bonnaroo well, and frankly any band that has a horn section is ok in my book
  • OKGo – Ever since that music video with the treadmills hit the internet I have wanted to see these guys live.  Don’t act like you don’t know the video I’m talking about.
  • Gaslight Anthem – A band that I didn’t know much about until about a year ago, but they are worth a listen and come across like they would be a great live act
  • Rise Against – If Swing Life Away is the only Rise Against song you know then you don’t know what you are missing.  Loud guitar and angsty lyrics are right up my alley
  • The Dead Weather – Jack White’s latest side project, but one where he takes a backseat to firecracker Allison Mossheart’s vocals.  An overall great collection of talent
  • Tori Amos – I really don’t think I need to say anything on this one
  • They Might Be Giants – Ever since my father played their album Flood for me I have loved this band and their quirky lyrics.  You know you’ve heard Particle Man before.
  • Jeff Beck – Listening a guitar wizard like Jeff Beck ply his craft in a festival setting sounds nothing short of awesome to me.
  • Manchester Orchestra – I like any band whose lyrics ring true and this band is a great example of that
  • Dropkick Murphys – Old school irish punk, gotta love it
  • Kings of Leon –  Seeing these guys play has been high on my list for a long time, and now I will finally get to see them
  • Weezer – Say what you will about Rivers Cuomo’s eccentricities, but the guy writes amazingly catchy songs with some truly clever lyrics, should be great
  • Phoenix – An up and coming band that is going to see big dividends from the exposure that the Roo can provide
  • Dave Matthews Band – As modern jam bands, Dave Matthews Band is relatively without peer or equal

And I will leave the final artist that was announced out of the bullet list since I think that I could write several paragraphs on why I think this next artist is a big deal.

STEVIE WONDER

When I had read the initial rumors that Stevie Wonder would be playing several festivals this year I could scarcely believe it, but now here it is confirmed for all the world to see.  For many of the reasons that I was excited to see Al Green at last year’s Bonnaroo, I am just as excited, if not MORE excited to see Stevie Wonder.  If were told to come up with a list of true music icons, respected both by musicians the world over and by fans, Stevie Wonder would have to be on that list.

The festival this year takes place from June 10th-13th this year and I recommend buying your tickets now and asking your boss for that vacation time as soon as you can.  The lineup that has been announced thus far is merely a preliminary lineup. The festival organizers like to save some surprises for announcement closer to the festival itself.  Who could they be holding back that can top the likes of Stevie Wonder, Jay Z, and Dave Matthews?  We will have to wait and see.   I heard a rumor about Paul Simon at one point……. As always feel free to leave comments and please chime in on the poll below. Would be interested know your thoughts.  Until next time….

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