Two weeks from today, everybody heading down to Manchester, Tennessee for their annual sojourn to the Roo will be baking in the Tennessee sun and likely frothing at the mouth in excitement at the thought of seeing Sir Paul McCartney live. The Bonnaroo fever is getting closer and closer to becoming a reality which means it's time to draw our series on some of the week's best under-the-radar acts to a close. After looking at Thursday
, and Saturday
, it's time to put the magnifying glass on Sunday. Big names like Kendrick Lamar, Tom Petty, Edward Sharpe, and The National will be making an impact, but there are still plenty of opportunities to look for gems hidden on the dust covered Farm.
1. Holy Ghost!
Sunday: The Other Tent (4:30 PM - 5:30 PM)
The dissolution of LCD Soundsystem three years ago can be considered one of the great musical tragedies of the last decade, and considering James Murphy's consistent refusal to even discuss a reunion, seeing LCD Soundsystem live again seems about as likely as a White Stripes reunion. Then, thank the heavens for LCD Soundsystem's DFA label colleagues, Holy Ghost!. These Brooklyn electro sophisticates probably have more in common with Cut Copy than LCD Soundsystem, but for anybody missing the presence of dance-pun in their lives, Holy Ghost! has you covered.
2. Action Bronson
Sunday: The Other Tent (1:30 PM - 2:30 PM)
On the main stage Sunday, there's a certain white rapper performing with an omnipresent mega-hit about second hand clothing. And, if you're part of the group whose skin crawls every time you hear "Thrift Shop," here's a different, more talented underground hip-hop talent to help pass the time. Queens-bred Action Bronson used to be a gourmet chef, loves to rap about food, and doesn't look like your typical rap star. But with a flow like Ghostface Killah and an insane vocabulary on the mic, Action Bronson's set should bring the roof off the Other Tent.
3. Lee Fields and the Expressions
Sunday: What Stage (12:30 PM - 1:30 PM)
In what I considered to be the sleeper set of last year's Roo, British soul singer Michael Kiwanuka lit up the stage with his earthy mix of Otis Redding via Van Morrison in an intimate performance that outshined even the headliners. Classic soul revivalism is partially in vogue these days, and so what could be better than the genuine article? North Carolina blues/soul artist Lee Fields has been touring for over forty years now, and though he's never achieved the recognition of men like James Brown or Otis Redding, his music is classic soul through and through. Sunday's opening bloc of performances aren't thin by any stretch, but Lee Fields was the only one to really make me sit up and pay attention.
4. The Mowgli's
Sunday: New Music on Tap Lounge (5:30 PM - 6:20 PM)
Bonnaroo's Sunday line-up this year up until about 4:30 PM is thin on marquee names until it gets overloaded with them for the last two big time blocs. And to that extent, I'm shocked they couldn't find room for southern California rockers, the Mowgli's, in a proper tent. The band has experienced some mild fame thanks to their single, "San Francisco," and the rest of their EP Love's Not Dead
is equally exciting. Their proper full-length debuts two days after Bonnaroo ends, and the Mowgli's are a band that's officially on our radars.
5. The Rubens
Sunday: This Tent (12:15 PM - 1:15 PM)
It's been a couple years since The Black Keys made an appearance at the Farm, and in the absence of those blues/garage rock heroes, walk on over to the This Tent first thing Sunday morning. Australian rockers The Rubens should be putting on a clinic in how to make blues rock exciting again. Their full-length isn't available in the States yet, but check out their My Gun EP
which is equal parts The Black Keys meets The Heavy which makes for as instantly invigorating a sound as you'd expect. Their singles "My Gun," "Lay It Down", and "The Best We Got" are all stellar exercises in blues/garage revivalism, and for anybody looking to start their day with some pure rock, the Rubens are the band for you.
Sunday: This Tent (3:15 PM - 4:30 PM)
It's safe to say that I don't qualify as a "metal-head." Other than the occasional Pelican record here and a Mastodon record there, metal and I don't cross paths on a regular basis. But, Savannah, Georgia, progressive metal act Baroness produced one of last year's most exciting and adventurous records with their double LP, Yellow & Green
. Marrying the intensity and edge of modern metal with what I can only call Joy Division-influences, Baroness helped to shoot metal off into new and interesting directions. I don't know what their live shows are like, but if Baroness can harness even half of the excitement and energy of their albums, their This Tent set should be something to see.
7. Matthew E. White
Sunday: The Other Tent (12:00 PM - 1:00 PM)
Matthew E. White's Big Inner
is becoming one of the sleeper albums of the year. His alchemical mixture of Southern rock and gospel comes out like a softer and cleaner spin on Girls (RIP), and if you don't like layers and layers of noise in your rock, you may even prefer Matthew E. White to the defunct San Francisco rockers. "Big Love" and "Steady Pace" are nearly perfect takes on the kind of songs that Levon Helm might have written forty years ago. And if you're dropping The Band comparisons, it must mean the man's on to something.
8. Staying for the Weekend
Sunday: New Music on Tap Lounge (12:00 PM - 12:50 PM)
The vocals from frontman, Mitch Davis, might be an acquired taste in the vein of Billy Corgan. Local Tennessee band, Staying for the Weekend will be the first band of the day at the Miller Lite presented New Music on Tap Lounge. A more melodic take on post-rock acts (think Explosions in the Sky), Staying for the Weekend shreds with highly impressive guitar work and some prog tendencies. The band's highly textured sound makes for great listening on a record, and if you're looking for a less crowded way to start your last day at the Roo, they're a band worth taking a chance on.
9. The Sheepdogs
Sunday: Which Stage (3:30 PM - 4:45 PM)
Last year, Canadian classic rock revivalists Zeus put out the criminally under-the-radar Busting Visions
, and fellow across-the-border rockers, The Sheepdogs operate in the same vein. Were it not for the fact that the Band were also mostly Canadian, it might seem odd that a band from the Great White North sounds like they stepped right out of the American south circa 1970. But, that's exactly what the Sheepdogs do. Single "I Don't Know" is something that would have fit right in on 1970s rock radio, and "Feeling Good" feels very similar to "Gold on the Ceiling" by The Black Keys. So, if you want some Southern rock while you're in the South, The Sheepdogs should take you there.
10. Black Prairie
Sunday: That Tent (2:45 PM - 3:45 PM)
As we continue to painfully wait for a new Decemberists album, it's nice to discover that there is a Decemberists side-project from members Chris Funk, Nate Query, and Jenny Conlee. A bluegrass folk act, Black Prairie finds the communal feel that we all love in the Decemberists but wraps it in even more explicit country influences than The King Is Dead
. However, one of the things that truly sets Black Prairie apart is the gorgeous voice of vocalist Annalisa Tornfelt who lends a slight Laura Marling feel to the whole proceedings.