Eleven Acts I Can’t Wait For at Bonnaroo 2011

The Bonnaroo Arch

48 hours from now, the tenth annual Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival will be in full swing. As a writer and photographer, this is my third consecutive trip to the festival, but my first covering professionally, for the AV Club. The photographer-part of me is thrilled to have a photo pass and get up close to all the bands I want to see. But the music-fan part of me is a little intimidated, as the responsibility of getting as many photos as possible means more sacrifice. If there is one consistent feeling at Bonnaroo, it’s the pendulum-swing from “Oh wow, THIS band is playing right here” to “Oh no, THAT band is playing way over there.” You will not see every last band you came to see. But if you strategize, you’ll catch most of them, and have the good sense to duck out of a few of them early enough to catch something else.

Below, 11 acts that I’m excited For. Sorry in advance for leaving so-and-so off the list.

Wiz Khalifa


11) WIZ KHALIFA – SATURDAY – WHAT STAGE – 5:50-7:00 PM.

Could anyone have guessed a year ago that 2010 XXL Freshman Wiz Khalifa (the one with the Alfred E. Neuman grin tipping his hat back) would command a BIGGER stage at Bonnaroo than Lil Wayne? Lil Wayne’s on the 2nd biggest stage Friday night (Which Stage) and Wiz is on the main stage Saturday afternoon. (He’ll be competing against Mumford & Sons back on Which Stage.) Of course, these stage names and schedules are a fairly arbitrary way of ranking the popularity of a particular act. Still, the fact remains, over the past year, Wiz Khalifa has kind of become a huge pop star. Stargate – the gifted Norweigian production duo behind a bunch of great Rihanna songs – bequeathed the instrumental to “Black and Yellow” for Wiz Khalifa. And I’ll be damned if he didn’t take their track and turn it into the unofficial anthem of last year’s Superbowl. His debut album Rolling Papers (not to be confused with Domo Genesis’s) is in rarified air simply because it joins the dying breed of “albums that people actually purchase.” Also it’s got some dope beats on it. Too $hort pulls his best cameo since Big Boi’s album on “On My Level” and “The Race” is going to sound fucking fantastic rippling out over 90,000 fellow stoners.

Loretta Lynn


10) LORETTA LYNN – SATURDAY – THAT TENT – 6:45 PM – 8:00 PM

I didn’t even notice Loretta Lynn on the bill until a couple of days after the Bonnaroo lineup was posted. She’s buried in the eye-blurring middle of the bill, below Bruce Hornsby but above Cold War Kids. (Remember, don’t think too hard about the ordering of this stuff.) When I saw that Loretta Lynn was playing, she became one of my “Holy shit, I didn’t realize SO-AND-SO was going to be here too!” acts, a thrill that many a Bonnaroo-goer experiences.

Loretta Lynn’s last album Van Lear Rose, may literally be her last ever album. It’s crafted that way – encapsulating a lifetime of country, honky-tonk heartache and pathos into one record, sung with a voice that sounds like it had been preserved in amber some time in the late 70s. (When she recorded the last of her duet albums with Conway Twitty.)

And she’s not even the only Jack White-produced legend appearing at Bonnaroo! Hot off her own nostalgia-laced comeback album, Wanda Jackson (hopefully with the Third Man House Band) plays 5:45-7:00 on Friday in The Other Tent.

The Black Angels


9) THE BLACK ANGELS – FRIDAY – THAT TENT – 12:30AM – 1:30AM

Jim Jarmusch curated the Sunday lineup for the 2010 All Tomorrow’s Parties in New York. The director evidently has a thing for rough analog-equipment-sounding garage rock: selecting, among others that day: The Greenhornes, Girls, Kurt Vile (whose Smoke Ring For My Halo is only of my favorite albums of the year) and The Black Angels, a five-piece psychedelic-sounding band from Austin, Texas. I was there that day to see their fantastic set from Kutsher’s Resort in the Catskills.

Sadly, they’re playing opposite Big Boi on Friday night. Technically they start 15 minutes before, so try and catch at least their first few songs if you can!

Jesse Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari in bank-robbing attire


8 ) JESSE EISENBERG & AZIZ ANSARI SCREENING 30 MINUTES OR LESS – SATURDAY – CINEMA TENT – 4:30 PM

You might think “I didn’t drive 14 hours to sit in a dark tent and watch movies”…but what if I told you that dark tent was also air-conditioned? You’ll see how enticing that sounds after a few hours walking around Bonnaroo. Also, if you’re going to catch relief in the Movie Tent, you might as well see some original programming. Aziz Ansari and Jesse Eisenberg (following up his career-making role in The Social Network) will be doing a Q&A and presenting 30 Minutes Or Less, the heartwarming tale of two friends who team up to rob a bank after one of them is strapped with explosives set to detonate in…well, the title pretty much says it all.

The Cinema Tent will also be screening the complete Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair (still not on DVD?!) a couple of times throughout the festival, if you need a full four hours to cool off.

J. Cole


7) J. COLE – THURSDAY – THIS TENT – 8:30-9:30 PM

“This the summer that our lives change. Hov’ asked me ‘Is you ready for it?’ I looked around at all his nice things – told him “Ni**a you already know it!”

That’s a couple of lines from “Return of Simba”, a self-released, self-produced track J. Cole released a few weeks ago. J. Cole is staring down the mouth of a hot summer. There’s a feeling in the air that a classic is being readied, and J. Cole is doubtless trying to steel himself the way Kanye did before The College Dropout or his mentor Jay-Z before Reasonable Doubt. When J. Cole’s NOT steeling himself, he’s usually touring. I’m absolutely thrilled that he’s making a stop at Bonnaroo. His set, on the first night, is sandwiched after The Knux and before Childish Gambino. That’s a pretty fantastic trio to set the festival off if you’re a hip hop head. If you ain’t one, become one. You’ll have more fun that way.

Bootsy Collins - From that one time when he battled Rodan using only the power of funk.


6) BOOTSY COLLINS & THE FUNK UNIVERSITY – SATURDAY – THE OTHER TENT – 7:00-8:30 PM.

The persona of Bootsy Collins is so outrageously funky that OF COURSE he had a short-lived mid-90s animated series. (Tearing the roof off this motherfucka is very costly in a live-action setting.) Bootsy Collins’ music defines the spirit of Bonnaroo as well as anyone – in that it’s a lot of fun and you should probably not think too much and just funk out. I believe this is Bootsy’s very first appearance at Bonnaroo. But as some aging hippie will tell you, his presence has been felt here for years.

Young Neil Young


5) BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD – SATURDAY – WHICH STAGE – 9:30-11:00 PM.

This incarnation of Buffalo Springfield – featuring original members Neil Young, Stephen Stills Richie Furay and longtime Neil Young bassist Rick Rosas – has reunited for just six concerts this summer. Thankfully, Bonnaroo is one of them. If the old-timers don’t melt onstage in front of our very eyes, it should be a great set. For what it’s worth, I’m looking forward to “For What It’s Worth.”*

*Trademarking that, since I obviously invented it. If you see any other music writer use that song’s title as a play-on-words, let me know.

Not sure if this is a picture of Donald Glover or Childish Gambino


4) CHILDISH GAMBINO – THURSDAY – THIS TENT – 11:30 PM-12:30 AM // DONALD GLOVER – SATURDAY – COMEDY THEATRE – SHOWS AT 2:30PM AND 4:30 PM.

“Damn bloggers argue ’bout whether or not I’m serious. It’s Nas’s Illmatic not Eddie Murphy’s Delirious!” – Childish Gambino

Actually, it’s both. Donald Glover is pulling a Conan O’Brien at this year’s Bonnaroo, slotted on Thursday night as Childish Gambino, and doing two shows in the Comedy Tent on Saturday. (If the ticket distribution for comedy shows is anything like last year, line up fucking EARLY if you want to see him do stand-up.)

So many rappers play the “ain’t nobody else on my level” card, but honestly, who out there in the game can we reasonably compare to Donald Glover? He’s on the flat-out funniest show on television, Community. And he wrote for three seasons for the show that used to be the funniest on TV before Community, 30 Rock!

In the midst of all that, his not-that-alter-of-an-ego Childish Gambino has put out five albums worth of material packed with increasingly sophisticated production and punchlines. His untitled EP released earlier this year contains one of the hottest beats of the year: “Freaks and Geeks” – a three-minute string of Tunechi-quality punchlines delivered with equal swagger. (Or whatever word replaces “swagger” by the time I publish this.)

The Decemberists


3) THE DECEMBERISTS – FRIDAY – WHAT STAGE – 5:30-7:00 PM.

I saw the Decemberists at Bonnaroo in 2009, when they were touring the country playing The Hazards Of Love in it’s entirety. They turned their already-theatrical (but rocking) concept album into a true spectacle, with costume changes and dramatic lighting effects to boot. When they finished, I ran like hell over to the main stage to catch Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band. (Which was, flat-out, one of the most amazing performances I’ve ever seen. And I’m already something of a Deadhead but for Springsteen shows.)

This year I can take my time with the Decemberists. And since now they’re touring off their more traditional (but rocking) The King Is Dead, they’ll have a more rounded set list with hopefully a couple (or several) deep cuts thrown in, from Her Majesty and Picaresque.

An hour after The Decemberists on the main stage, it’s time for…

My Morning Jacket


2) MY MORNING JACKET – FRIDAY – WHAT STAGE – 8:00-10:00 PM.

Not that I take it personally, but My Morning Jacket played every single Bonnaroo from the start until I started coming. This is their first time back since 2008. And since they’re such Bonnaroo OG’s AND they represent Tennessee*, they are as close to royalty at the festival as it gets. Expect epic shredding. And be ready to sing along.

*Yes, they’re from Louisville, KY. But their first album is called The Tennessee Fire.

Lil Tunechi


1) LIL WAYNE – FRIDAY – WHICH STAGE – 1:30AM-3:00AM

Part of me is apprehensive about this set – I’ve been burned by A-list rappers in concert before. If it’s just Lil Wayne rapping the setup and 3 hypemen yelling the punchline, this won’t be any fun. But if this performance by Lil Wayne and Rick Ross at Summerjam this past weekend is any indicator, I think we’re in for something special:

I’m ready to see Lil Wayne come out with (figurative) guns blazing, blowing through classics from Dedication 2 and Carter III, and tantalizing us with cuts from his ever-delayed Carter IV. Yes, the album was delayed a fourth time (till August now) a few days ago. But Tunechi fans can take comfort in the fact that between his own singles and numerous collabo’s with other MCs, Lil Wayne has released at least an album’s worth of material since getting out the joint. His killer bars on “Look At Me Now” (Diplo and Afrojack’s distorted computer-blip masterpiece is my favorite beat of the year), his ‘A Milli’-redux on “6”7″ and Young-Money bombast with Birdman on “Fire Flame (Remix)” should all sound insane at 1:30 in the morning in a muddy field in Tennessee.

I’m expecting rapper-eating Martian-mode from Wayne. Or at the very least, the dirty South equivalent of the spectacle Kanye unleashed at Coachella this year.

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One Response to “Eleven Acts I Can’t Wait For at Bonnaroo 2011”

  1. E.W. Shuldman Says:

    Dogma is still a favorite on so many levels.
    I have to believe Mr. Smith is evolving.
    The great rivals Matisse and
    Picasso
    Were both artists
    only one
    was a better painter
    and one
    was a better artist…..

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