Most of Bonnaroo's 2016 lineup leaked last week through the festival's mobile app
. People were hoping some big surprises might not have made the leak but this appears to match what we saw the other week to a tee. Bonnaroo conducted its annual big announcement extravaganza last night on Conan O'Brien. I didn't watch it because I went to bed early cause I'm an old man (and knew pretty much every major point already). It's a great lineup with headliners that (minus LCD Soundsystem) aren't playing every festival this summer, but it does raise an important question: is it possible to distinguish yourself as a music festival in 2016?
If Bonnaroo is the only music festival that you're attending in 2016, you're in for a treat. You'll get to see Pearl Jam, LCD Soundsystem, the Dead with John Mayer, M83, Miguel, Haim, Father John Misty, Death Cab For Cutie, Tame Impala, Chris Stapleton, Chvrches, Jason Isbell, and that's only a handful of the band that are going to the festival. But if you're going to other festivals this summer, which of these acts makes Bonnaroo a must travel destination?
Bonnaroo announced it's lineup in January this year. It has traditionally dropped in February in years past. Why is it announcing earlier? Because the market has become more and more crowded. Bonnaroo is going to remain one of the big three American festivals (alongside Coachella and Lollapalooza) for as long as it chooses to exist. It's got the built in audience and mystique. But in the last four years, the number of second-tier American festivals pulling huge snags for headliners and their upper/midcard acts has grown exponentially. My money for the best festival lineup announced this summer so far is New Orleans Jazz Fest which dropped its lineup earlier this week
. Gov Ball snagged The Strokes, the Killers, and Kanye to headline alongside most of Bonnaroo's lineup. Firefly announced their lineup LAST YEAR and are gunning hard for the youth vote with the 1975, Mumford & Sons, Disclosure, Florence + the Machine, and more. How do you stand out in this crowd?
And the answer here is that unlike any other major American music festival, the music is half the Bonnaroo experience at best. Bonnaroo is a community. Bonnaroo is an ungodly endurance test that I volunteered to put myself through three years in a row (I missed last summer but will be back this year). And you go to Bonnaroo because for one weekend, you get to escape the Molly bros and rave girls that have taken over every other festival. You get to spend four days with a bunch of people who are as crazy about music as you are, and you make friends in the process. Some of my closest friends of the last four years have been people I met at Bonnaroo.
And Bonnaroo is never going to have trouble distinguishing itself in that regard. If you see someone wearing a Bonnaroo shirt, you're almost legally required to yell "BONNAROO!!!!!" at the top of your lungs at them no matter where you are. If you're at Bonnaroo, you know to offer strangers water if they need it because you know somebody would do the same thing for you. You know that if...chemical enhancers are your cup of tea, there's probably going to be somebody more than willing to share with you. And you know that at some point, a total stranger is going to wrap their arms around you and you'll do the same as you engage in a 100,000 person sing-along at the main stage during a headliner's set. But if Bonnaroo wants to distinguish themselves as much through their music as they do the Bonnaroo experience, this isn't the year.