It's that time of year again. The time of year where hippies, hipsters, EDM bros, and music lovers of all stripes make their pilgrimage to Manchester, Tennessee. Bonnaroo week has arrived.
As always, we're going to have boots on the ground capturing the ins & outs of America's most beloved East Coast festival (a title that may be up for grabs after last year's historically low attendance
). But before we join any of our loyal readers that are making the sojourn to the Farm, we thought we'd put together our list of can't miss sets from this year's magical mystery extravaganza. It's gonna be a great weekend baking in the Tennessee sun.
10. Hippocampus: This Tent - Thursday 5:45-6:30
Hippocampus caught our attention in 2015 when we saw them open for Night Riots and the Mowglis at Music Hall of Williamsburg
. They low-key put on the best set of the night, and we've been following the youthful Minnesotans' careers ever since. Thursday is slept on by many folks that attend Bonnaroo cause the headliners don't show up til Friday, but Hippocampus is a reminder how much great music you can catch in the festival's smallest tents.
9. Léon: What Stage - Friday 2:45-3:45
The Swedish singer-songwriter hasn't even released a proper album but is playing the main stage of one of America's premier music festivals. If that doesn't get your attention, her Amy Winehouse-esque vocals and sinuous soul pop will. Bonnaroo's What Stage is a major opportunity for young talents, and we can't wait to see if Léon reaches for that brass ring. She's got the voice and tunes to do it.
8. Michael Kiwanuka: This Tent - Saturday 6:45-7:45
Last year's Love & Hate
was an appreciated reminder that although Michael Kiwanuka is still looking to make an audience here in the States, he's one of the most talented musicians to come out of the UK in years. We saw him at the Bowery Ballroom last year
in the weeks leading up to the record, and his mixture of 70s soul, acid jazz, and surgically precise hooks has been a favorite for years now. Sadly, Kiwanuka conflicts with our #4 choice on this list but if turbulent electropop isn't your scene, Kiwanuka will be putting on one of the sleeper sets of the fest.
7. Big Gigantic: The Other - Saturday 2:00-3:00 (AM)
As much as some folks love to complain about Bonnaroo's increasing reliance on EDM acts to draw younger audiences, Bonnaroo knows how to book the best of the bunch. Big Gigantic makes a strong claim for the best working band in EDM, and we emphasized "band" for a reason. The group's combination of live brass instrumentation (those sexy, sexy sax solos) alongside melodic dubstep make for extraordinarily danceable tunes even for folks who aren't into EDM. We caught them at Terminal 5 last year
, and you can be damn sure we'll be staying up for this late Friday night set.
6. Tegan & Sara: Which Stage - Saturday 5:45-6:45
June is Pride Month. Music festivals tend to horrifically under represent women, let alone queer women. So if you're like this queer trans music lover and want to make sure Bonnaroo and Live Nation know it's high time that they start booking more women and more LGBTQ artist, make sure you make your way to Bonnaroo's second biggest state Saturday and catch an hour from one of indie pop's most consistently excellent acts of the last 20 years.
5. The Weeknd: What Stage - Sunday 10:15-11:35
The Weeknd becoming one of the biggest pop stars on the planet was apparent the moment "Can't Feel My Face" shattered the Billboard charts, but for those of us who have loved Abel Tesfaye since his initial mixtape trilogy, it's hard to be any happier for the Weeknd's meteoric rise. Sunday has traditionally been reserved for Bonnaroo's classic rock headliners, but we're ready for the main stage field to turn into a 60,000 person dance party.
4. Future Islands: What Stage - Saturday 6:45-7:45
Future Islands had enormous expectations for The Far Field. This year's follow-up to Singles had a lot to prove for a band that shot to immediate viral fame courtesy of The Late Show with David Letterman. What did they do? They made sure they dropped a record that was even better this time around (even if it missed a single with as much Best of the Decade potential as "Seasons (Waiting On You)." Anyone who's seen the Letterman performance knows Samuel T. Herring can't be missed live. We expect this to be one of the most mesmerizing sets of the weekend.
3. Lorde: What Stage - Sunday 8:15-9:15
No matter how you feel about the New Zealand megastar, there's no denying that she helped usher in the wave of high-profile alt-pop that is taking over Top 40 radio. It's been four years since Pure Heroine
was released and "Royals" turned Lorde into a household name. Nobody knows how much of Melodrama
we'll be hearing this weekend, but the record drops the week after Bonnaroo so here's hoping Lorde is feeling generous with the previews.
2. Chance the Rapper: What Stage - Saturday 8:45-10:00
Chano still hasn't released a proper "album" and he's playing the main stage of festivals around the world. It's not hard to figure out why
. The Chicago rapper has been working tirelessly for years. Whether it's his mixtapes, his collaborations with Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment, or his endless resume of top-tier features, Chance is the only rapper working today that can rightfully vie with Kendrick Lamar as the best in the game. We can only imagine what he's got in store now that it's his time to own the big stage.
1. U2: What Stage - Friday 11:00-12:30
We had the chance to catch the Irish rock legends at Madison Square Garden in 2015
, and we named the show our top concert of the year
. This year U2 are celebrating the 30th anniversary of their landmark record, The Joshua Tree,
and the setlists we've seen from this tour have been nothing short of phenomenal. Bonnaroo's commitment to booking classic rock acts as headliners has been blamed for their declining ticket sales in recent years, but trust us. U2 puts on shows for the ages. Friday night is gonna rock.