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Eleven Acts I Can’t Wait For at Bonnaroo 2011

June 7, 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


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


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


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


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.


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


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


“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


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


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


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.


On Lil B’s Memorial Day Wishes

May 30, 2011

Lil B The Based God's Memorial Day Wishes

First things first, I love the way Lil B quotes himself in all of his tweets. It reminds me of one of my all-time favorite jokes from the U.S. version of The Office: when Michael Scott puts an inspirational quote up on the wall of the conference room. The quote: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky – Michael Scott. I.E., Michael Scott’s quoting of Wayne Gretzky is as important as the quote itself. Anyway…

It was only a couple of weeks ago that we lost M-Bone, a 22-year old kid from Cali Swag District who was gunned down outside a restaurant in Inglewood, CA. Dude just wanted to teach the world how to dougie. Just horrible. I know his friends and family are still grieving and my heart goes out to them all.

Lil B of course sent out wishes to M-Bone, etc. But I really love his take on violence in general: “Why would you want to take someone’s life when we all die anyway?” is a very Buddhist stance. Fitting that a rapper like Lil B, who, to make a grand understatement, approaches life from his own unique perspective, would put things this way. (Lil B is The Based God, after all. So really it’s just one deity speaking to another.)

Wayne and The Game

Lil B’s tweet reminds me of one of the most flat-out WHACK songs of the year: The Game & Lil Wayne’s “Red Nation.” There’s two things majorly off about this song. One, it samples Zombie Nation’s “Kernkraft 400” (no relation to Kern pharmaceuticals), one of the cheesiest “Jock Jam” eurotrash songs this side of Haddaway’s “What Is Love.” Oh wait, Lil Wayne appeared on a track that samples that song too. (Although I actually like that one a lot. It’s good to hear Eminem starving for a change.)

The other, more obvious reason “Red Nation” is whack is of course, the gang element. I’m not going to get all Al Sharpton in this bitch and type a bunch of anti-gang platitudes at you. All I’ll say is – for a rapper who claims he’s so unique he’s not even from this PLANET, Lil Wayne is awfully enthusiastic about joining a club where everybody dresses and thinks the same. I have respect for repping for the block, repping where you came from, etc. But Tunechi would be so much more of a badass in my eyes if instead of “Blood the fuck up” he just said “Fuck Bloods.”

Happy Memorial Day, everyone.

Title Imagery Explanation

May 29, 2011

The “saying something is pretentious is pretentious” paradox means I usually avoid that word. But allow me to act pretentious for a second as I explain the selection of artwork in this blog’s header. A lot of the time I see a blog with interesting, if opaque, design choices. The more interesting the blog is, the more likely you are to wonder “Oh, I wonder what they chose that for?”

The Simpsons is mankind’s greatest artistic achievement, but The Sopranos is my favorite television series of all time. I’m disheartened when newly minted The Wire aficionados stake their affection for that show and dismiss The Sopranos. I strongly believe there could be no The Wire without The Sopranos – the first three seasons of the show, and their pioneering season-length story structures, are models against which the best shows of the present are measured. Subconsciously if not directly. Or to put it another way, The Wire is so perfect that no one ever has a favorite episode! The Wire has no “Pine Barrens,” no “Pie-O-My,” or even a forgotten weak episode like when Tony n’ the gang get all up in arms about defending Columbus Day. The Wire has no fun diversions. Each episode is a perfectly selected move in its’ season-long chess games. The imperfections of The Sopranos deepen my affection for the show the way a flawless novel of a series like The Wire doesn’t.

So the header-image choice reflects that. Also, I like collecting TV shows on DVD. And New Jersey. And the colors. They’re pretty. Though I wish they made one season purple instead of using silver twice.

AAA – Album Artwork Appreciation #1: Cut Copy’s “Zonoscope”

May 29, 2011

Album artwork for Cut Copy's "Zonoscope"

I won’t lie. The first time I saw it, I found the artwork for Zonoscope so striking I was compelled to purchase a print of it. (In t-shirt form.) The buildup to seeing this image was magnified by the fact that the album was a followup to one that I would put in my Top 20 of the previous decade.

I find the number of contradicting genre titles for music that employs electronic elements as confounding as the next guy. But under whatever category you place it, Cut Copy’s 2007 album In Ghost Colours is a masterwork. Songs like “Out There On The Ice” and “Hearts on Fire” are as emotionally resonant to me as anything disco has ever produced. And perhaps no dance song in the past 15 years can top the ecstatic peak of a rave like “Lights and Music.” (This coming from someone who can count on two hands the minutes he’s spent on a dance floor in the past year.)

A band like Cut Copy deserved the four years they took to craft their followup, and one of the first exciting tidbits about the new album to emerge was its otherworldly artwork. I know I’ve read elsewhere about Zonoscope’s resemblance to The Great Wave off Kanagawa, the iconic Japanese woodblock print. (Which I also owned a print of, in the form of a dorm-room poster.)  Zonoscope certainly does, but the striking circle-shaped frame of vision also recalls a porthole to a ship. Or a telescope. Or some fantastical instrument, a “zonoscope,” if you will.

I also love the way the wave forms off some unseen cliff that has apparently formed along 34th street, and reaches the height of halfway up the Empire State Building. From the angle the viewer sees the waterfall, it looks awfully similar to Niagara Falls.

There is also the message that society – here represented as New York City – is itself about to plunge off an unseen cliff. However we interpret it, it is a melding of sorts. Fitting that the artist who created the image was the late Japanese photomontage artist Tsunehisa Kimura. He melds nature and city with exhilarating, inspiring results for an album that melds musical genres the same way. (I’ll give you a dustpan and broom to wipe your exploded brain bits and skeletal tissue off the floor.)

BTW, here’s the full version of Kimura’s work. Truly awe-inspiring, no? In your face, Roland Emmerich.

The gospel production of No I.D.

May 28, 2011

Kanye West & No I.D. in the lab. (No I.D. is the dude on the left.)

I’ve been eagerly anticipating the release of Big Sean’s “Finally Famous: The Album” in a couple of weeks. Big Sean has been one of the most entertaining MC personalities to keep track of over the past couple of years. He’s the best kind of combination in hip-hop – His punchlines are actually funny AND he gets to land a lot of them on top of some of the best beats the game has to offer. My favorite single released in the buildup to “Finally Famous: The Album” has been “What Goes Around,” a look-how-far-I’ve-come anthem that sounds like an album-closer. It has the stomp, and soul, of a particularly lively gospel church service. So good it sounds like a sequel to “See Me Now,” my favorite track off of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. (The remix of which features a star-making verse from Sean.)

It’s no accident the production sounds so similar. The man at the boards in both cases is No I.D., “godfather of Chicago hip-hop” and mentor to Kanye West. Kanye landed Beyonce and Charlie Wilson for “See Me Now” but “What Goes Around” hits as hard regardless. I’d cherish the instrumental alone but the Big Sean bars are the icing on the cake.

Statement of Purpose

May 28, 2011

“I don’t give a shit where the stuff I love comes from! I just love the stuff I love!” an exasperated Patton Oswalt says to George Lucas in 1994, when the comedian and filmmaker met each other via time-machine to discuss plans for the Star Wars prequel-ology. Patton’s initial point is “Who cares where it came from as long as it’s awesome?” But that second italicized line is where this blog takes its name. “I just love the stuff I love” is Patton Oswalt’s “I Want to go to there!” A quasi-nonsensical utterance meant to convey “That! That right there! That’s what I enjoy.” And that’s pretty much the goal of this blog. A place to gush about stuff I like. Because glowing reviews are so much more fun to write than bad ones.

BTW, for those interested, that Patton Oswalt bit is from this track on one of the funniest stand-up albums ever recorded, Werewolves & Lollipops. You should probably just buy it!