Among the most widely recognized music festivals in Americas today, Bonnaroo is an annual throwdown held in the quaint town of Manchester, Tenn., on a 700-acre farm about 60 miles south of Nashville. Since its inception in 2001 as a niche, jam-band and folk-oriented event, Bonnaroo has evolved into a mid-country Mecca for music lovers, with a multi-stage lineup of chart-topping and buzzworthy acts that now draw upwards of 75,000 people each year.
The 2010 headliners — Dave Matthews Band, Kings of Leon, Jay-Z and STEVIE EFFIN' WONDER (excuse me) — are sure to bring an epic swarm of sweat-soaked human bodies, including my own, as I'll be covering the fest as Creative Loafing's honorary Bonnaroo virgin. What has always been a mere pipe dream due to my money-depleted pockets has become reality, and I'll finally get to experience the 'Roo in all its gritty, patchouli-scented glory next weekend. Along with a few other CL brethren, I'll be knee-deep in the action, looking for face-time with some of the fest's most notable artists and checking out as many sets of music as I can possibly absorb over four days. The following are those ones I'm almost peeing my pants in excitement to see:
Stevie Wonder Wonder-lover or not, you've got to appreciate this living legend of funk, R&B and soul. I mean, the man is blind and shreds on piano better than most key players ever will. Stevie rarely tours, so his set should be a top pick for anyone who appreciates his range of great tunes, from Innervisions classics like "Higher Ground" and "Living for the City," to the '80s-style balladry of "I Just Called to Say I Love You."
Kings of Leon After chatting with drummer Nathan Followill in a recent Bonnaroo tele-conference, my giddiness about seeing Kings of Leon reached Bieber-fan levels. Followill revealed there's a new "beach-inspired" album on the way akin to stuff from the band's Youth & Young Manhood days. "It will be tough to not play the whole [new album] at Bonnaroo," he continued. "We're going to try to be very selective of what we play, but there will definitely be some new tunes." Right on, brother. Right. On.
Phoenix Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix was one of the best albums of 2009; upbeat, infectious and just unabashedly fun. Phoenix not only holds up with repeat listens, but improves. Speaking of frequent Phoenix listens, you've probably heard their single "1901" on that Cadillac commercial, like a bajillion times by now. Regardless, it'll be great to see how these songs translate in a live setting.
Kid Cudi His collaboration with MGMT on the song "Pursuit of Happiness" sent my hipster heart all aflutter. Really, though, it's a great song from his fantastic debut, Man on the Moon: The End of Day. Kudi wears his heart, nay, demons on his sleeve like few big-name rappers ever have, and spits his rhymes over some of the most deliciously creative beats my whiteboy ears have ever taken in. A 2 a.m. Saturday set? Oohwee! It's gonna be hot, y'all (he says in requisite Tennessee drawl).
Of the more than 100 performers, these are the ones I'll be booking it through the mud and crowd to see. If you're headed to Bonnaroo, I suggest you do, too. If you haven't made your decision about going yet, you still have a week to make the right decision ...
Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival is held June 10-13 at Great Stage Park in Manchester, Tenn.; weekend passes are $249.50.
Andrew Silverstein is a CL summer intern. He is studying journalism at the University of South Florida/ St. Petersburg.