Inspired by one of the best in music festival coverage – Consequence of Sound (though specifically their recent Coachella predictions), I thought why not put together something similar regarding my one true love – the Bonnaroo Music Festival. Every year for about the past half decade, I’ve made extensive lists containing hundreds of bands I thought might be possible to play Bonnaroo at some point. Although to some my lists may appear to be just the name of every band on my iPod (which is true in some regards), I will say that this is because most of the bands I listen to are the types who play music festivals such as Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, Sasquatch, All Good and the now defunct Rothbury, amongst countless others.
While Consequence of Sound and their team has done a stellar job with their Coachella list (they’ve even calculated exact odds), I will say that my Bonnaroo list will be a bit different in that I will not include a numbered odds system (math was never my thing), and rather than only bands, I will single out certain musicians whom I suspect might show up on the Bonnaroo farm for the tenth anniversary in June. So without further adieu, I present some of my predictions for Bonnaroo 2011, or Bonnaroo X.
Anything Dead related
Artists/Bands: Bob Weir; Dark Star Orchestra; The Dead; Phil Lesh; Furthur; Phil & Friends; RatDog
Bonnaroo Appearances: Bob Weir in 2002 with Phil & Friends, with RatDog in 2005 and 2007; Dark Star Orchestra in 2008; The Dead in 2003 and 2004; Phil & Friends in 2002, 2006 and 2008
Why the music of the Grateful Dead should be represented there: Everyone knows that Bonnaroo was first a “jam band” festival and has since grown considerably to feature all styles of music, most notably indie rock. But the jam band aspect of the festival hasn’t or will never completely go away, partly because camping festivals like this cater to and were modeled after the festivals bands like the Grateful Dead and Phish (see below) put on. In fact, many that have worked on sound and stage crews for both the Dead and Phish are the same people who help set up Bonnaroo. Although the music of the Grateful Dead has been represented at all but the last two Bonnaroo’s, I just can’t imagine it not being represented in some form in 2011, especially for such a remarkable/joyous/special occasion as a tenth anniversary.
Odds: If Bonnaroo sticks with the traditional “jammy” Sunday night headliner, I see no reason why the latest incarnation that plays tribute to the Dead (called Furthur) would not be a top contender. The great thing about this particular lineup’s take on Grateful Dead classics is not just that it features founding members Weir and Lesh together, but it also stars brilliant musicians like keyboardist Jeff Chimenti and drummer Joe Russo, as well as lead guitarist John Kadlecik, who formerly acted as Jerry Garcia in Dark Star Orchestra.
Anything Marley related
Artists/Bands: Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley; Stephen Marley; Ziggy Marley; The Wailers
Bonnaroo Appearances: Damian in 2006 and in 2010 with Nas; Stephen in 2008; Ziggy in 2007; The Wailers in 2003
Why the music of Bob Marley should be represented there: What’s a music festival without being able to dance to some reggae sounds in the hot afternoon sun? Well, it just wouldn’t be Bonnaroo because they always seem to feature some of the best in reggae, whether they’re legendary artists or mainstreamingly unknown, like last year in Rebelution and the legendary Jimmy Cliff.
Odds: My guess is that the tenth anniversary sees a return to celebrating the life and music of Bob Marley, when The Wailers (although no Marley’s are in this band) return for just their second appearance, their first since 2003.
Anything Phish related
Artists/Bands: Mike Gordon; Page McConnell; Trey Anastasio Band
Bonnaroo Appearances: Mike Gordon in 2003 with Leo Kottke, 2003 SuperJam, in 2005 with the Benevento/Russo Duo, in 2006 with Ramble Dove, 2006 SuperJam, and 2009 with Phish; Trey Anastasio in 2002, 2004 and 2005, 2006 SuperJam, and 2009 with Phish
Why Phish should be represented there: Like the Grateful Dead and as I previously stated, Bonnaroo took inspiration in modeling the festival after Phish and the festivals they became famous for. Although Phish didn’t actually play Bonnaroo until 2009 when they headlined two of the three nights, Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon have graced the farm in various forms several times over the years. I think many would agree when I say it would just feel wrong not to have any of the members there to mark the tenth anniversary. Problem is when you really only have room for one headliner-worthy jam band you have to consider other potential contenders like Furthur and Widespread Panic, and make a pain-staking decision on who the right band is for that year. Of course they could always dig back to their roots and have multiple “jammy” headliners, although chances of that happening seem slim to none. Another thing to think about is the possibility of a jam band doing a late night show on either the What or Which Stage.
Odds: With Phish headlining two nights just two years ago, I don’t think it’s likely they’ll be the “jammy” headliner for the tenth anniversary. I’d love to be wrong, but I see them going with either Furthur or Widespread Panic.
Bands: Fistful of Mercy; Innocent Criminals; Relentless 7; Solo
Bonnaroo Appearances: Solo 2002, with Innocent Criminals in 2003 and 2007, SuperJam 2007, with Relentless 7 in 2009
Why he should be there: There’s a lot of artists I like to think of as “Bonnaroo gods” (meaning they’ve played a lot over the years and in different incarnations), but Ben Harper is one of my favorites in that aspect. And his love of this festival is no secret either, so you know the great people who put on the festival love him too. I’ve actually only witnessed three of his five Bonnaroo performances, but they’ve been some of the most incredible performances I’ve ever seen not just at the farm, but anywhere. Whether it was his 2007 show on the main stage that included guests like John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin for Zep’s “Dazed and Confused” and Ziggy Marley for his father’s “Get Up, Stand Up”, or if it was the late night tent shows with Relentless 7 in 2009 and the 2007 SuperJam with John Paul Jones, and Questlove and Kirk Douglas of The Roots, Ben always puts in more emotion than any other artist I’ve ever seen.
Odds: I think I’ve said enough about just how special the upcoming Bonnaroo will be, and to have that go down without Harper, well it just wouldn’t be right. While I’d love to see a joint set with his pal and another Bonnaroo fav like Jack Johnson, I think the greatest chances are that we’ll see Ben in 2011 with his newest project Fistful of Mercy. If you haven’t yet heard this band, you must do so as soon as possible because it’s pretty much the greatest super group in recent times. It features Dhani Harrison (George’s son) and Joseph Arthur, as well as Jessy Greene on violin, and it’s a lot like a modern day CSNY (although rooted in soul music) because it’s primarily based around acoustic guitars and multi-part harmonies, though Greene provides the missing link with her violin. They’ve only released nine songs (which were written and recorded in just three days) but I wouldn’t worry about them coming up with material to fill a much longer slot, should they be at Bonnaroo in 2011.
Bands: Broken Bells; Gnarls Barkley; Solo; The Good, The Bad and the Queen
Bonnaroo Appearances: Solo in 2004
Why he should be there: There’s no denying Danger Mouse’s (aka Brian Joseph Burton) popularity and talent in the music world. He’s lent both hand and voice (as producer and artist) to a wide array of artists including Jay-Z (The Grey Album), Cee-Lo Green (as Gnarls Barkley), Gorillaz (Demon Days), MF DOOM (as DANGERDOOM), with members of Gorillaz, The Clash and the Verve (as The Good, The Bad and the Queen), Beck (Modern Guilt) and the late Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse. Danger Mouse is even said to be working as producer with a number of artists including U2 and the Black Keys.
Odds: But it’s his latest project, Broken Bells, with former Shins frontman James Mercer, that he’s putting most of his concentration into right now. To think that he’s graced the farm just once in nine years in just unfathomable, and while I’m sure we’d all welcome any sort of collaboration from Burton, the most likely to happen appears to be Broken Bells. Add the fact that Mercer or The Shins have never played Bonnaroo, and this collab seems to be a match made in Bonnaroo heaven.
Bands: Bucket of Bernie Brains; Oysterhead; Primus; Solo
Bonnaroo Appearances: Solo in 2002, 2006, 2008 and 2010, in 2005 with Gabby La La, also in 2008 SuperJam; with Bucket of Bernie Brains in 2002; with Primus in 2004; with Oysterhead in 2006
Why he should be there: Undoubtedly he’s the bass player of choice for Bonnaroo attendees, although for some reason I just never got him or his music.
Odds: Following his fourth (entitled “solo”) show at Bonnaroo last summer, I’d say we’ve seen enough of Les at Bonnaroo in this form. Besides, the big news right now for Claypool is the recent Primus reunion, which will tour into next year. His fans have been calling for a reunion like this at Bonnaroo for years, and there’s no better time than next summer for the festival’s tenth anniversary.
Luther and Cody Dickinson
Bands: Hill Country Revue; North Mississippi Allstars
Bonnaroo Appearances: with North Mississippi Allstars in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2007; Luther Dickinson appeared in the 2003 SuperJam
Why they should be there: From early on, the Dickinson brothers were just one necessary cog in the wheel that was Bonnaroo. Their southern charm and bluesy sound is only fitting for the atmosphere that is Bonnaroo.
Odds: Following a short stint with the Black Crowes (who are going on a indefinite hiatus), Luther will have more time to get back to the band he fronts, the North Mississippi Allstars. While I don’t think either NMAS or Cody’s Hill Country Revue are a definite lock for Bonnaroo X, it would be nice to have the Dickinson brothers present for this special occasion, even if it’s just for an appearance in a SuperJam or something. However, I can’t think of no better way to kick off the last day of the festival on the main (What) stage than with a set from the North Mississippi Allstars.
Bands: Buffalo Springfield; Crazy Horse; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Bonnaroo Appearances: with Crazy Horse in 2003
Why he should be there: A good portion of people have been calling for Uncle Neil’s return to the farm this year, though much of it is just speculation, some of it only because of Dave Matthews cover of “The Needle and the Damage Done” last year, which isn’t all that bad reasoning when you think about it – many artists have covered others who later played the festival. When it comes to classic rock acts that are still playing out live and still doing a great job of it, well Young is one of the better, maybe safer bets. And when you look at his underwhelming setlist from his lone Bonnaroo appearance in 2003, well you just know he can give the crowd a better song selection.
Odds: This year the big news for Neil wasn’t what he was doing on his own, but rather, it was the reunion of Buffalo Springfield with surviving members Stephen Stills and Richie Furay (they played the Bridge School Benefit in October). Though there are no current tourdates booked, speculation of a 2011 tour is just a rumor at this point. I say if we see Young and Stills together, why not bring on a CSNY tour. However, I’ll take my Neil anyway I can get him, and he’s one of the artists on my must-see list before I die.
Bands: Galactic; Stanton Moore Trio
Bonnaroo Appearances: with Galactic in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010; with his Trio in 2007; also appeared in SuperJam’s in 2002, 2003 and 2004
Why he should be there: Well if you look at that list above, you can see that Galactic is one of the bands to appear the most at Bonnaroo. Not only that, but one can’t help wonder just how close the relationship is between this New Orleans-based band and the New Orleans-based Superfly Productions, co-promoters of Bonnaroo. Finally, if Bonnaroo gave out awards for certain instruments, Moore would most likely take home the one for “Best Drummer.” I mean, being in three SuperJam’s may not sound like much, but believe me it really says something about his abilities.
Odds: Clearly there’s a close relationship between Moore, Superfly and the other members of Galactic (who bring a taste of New Orleans to the festival) but with a late night show just last year, and being on the main stage the previous year, one can wonder if there’s anything new the band can bring to Bonnaroo. With that in mind, I’m thinking Galactic gets a year off or does something crazy like their late night Krewe de Carnivale in 2005, although I’m dreaming about the return of the SuperJam featuring Moore on drums.
Bands: Allman Brothers Band; Gov’t Mule; Warren Haynes Band
Bonnaroo Appearances: Solo in 2003; with Allman Brothers in 2003 and 2005; with Gov’t Mule in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2009
Why he should be there: Warren Haynes pretty much defines the phrase “Bonnaroo god.” He’s certainly not shy about his love of the festival, nor is he shy about his willingness to perform with any type of artist, which he can do because of his abilities vocally and with his fingers. But even Warren needs a break now and then from Bonnaroo, and being absent last year has only made his fans more hungry for his return.
Odds: Like Galactic, Haynes has done pretty much all he can do with Gov’t Mule without repeating themselves (they’ve done the two main stages, as well as a late night tent show in 2007). With the Allman Brothers Band canceling late in 2008 due to Greg Allman’s health, everyone seems to think they will finally return to Bonnaroo. While I’d love to see that and won’t completely disregard it, I’m betting the version of Warren Haynes we’ll see is with his new super group band, entitled the “Warren Haynes Band”. The band features an all star cast including George Porter Jr., Ivan Neville, Ian McClagan of The Faces, Ruthie Foster and Ron Holloway, and they’ve put together a blues/soul album reminiscent of the 60′s and 70′s and artists like Albert, B.B. and Freddie King. With that album coming out in the spring of 2011, that may be just enough time to get fans familiar with the material before a Bonnaroo performance.
Yim Yames (also known as Jim James)
Bands: Monsters of Folk; My Morning Jacket
Bonnaroo Appearances: with My Morning Jacket in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008; also appeared with Bright Eyes in 2006
Why he/they should be there: I shouldn’t have to explain this one but I will. My Morning Jacket is the most beloved band in the history of Bonnaroo. Some people will say they were already on their way to great things when they first appeared at the festival, and that may be true, but the fact is that Bonnaroo helped push them over the edge.
Odds: When you look back at the types of shows MMJ have done at Bonnaroo, you might think they’ve done it all and there’s still no way they could top that four hour late night show in the rain in 2008. Sure that would be hard and that show will always hold a special place in the hearts of those who experienced it, but what you’re forgetting is that MMJ have yet to play the main stage. Like headliners Kings of Leon last year, I say MMJ finally get theirs and put on their biggest Bonnaroo show yet.
Bonnaroo Appearances: Never
Why they should be there: Because they’ve never played. No seriously, that is reason enough. Fans have been calling for them for years, and when it was announced in late 2007 that they would be taking a considerable amount of time off to work on their next record, it was much like a knife in the back. The good news is that this wait was so incredibly worth it, because the end result was The Suburbs, which if you don’t know, is not just one of the best albums of the year, but I’ll go ahead and put it next to anything released in the 21st century.
Odds: They’ve done all the other festivals but one wonders why not Bonnaroo, even though they had previous chances with the releases of Funeral and Neon Bible. I was fortunate enough to see them in Columbus on the Neon Bible tour, and I tell ya, that show had Bonnaroo written all over it (especially the neon-lit backdrop). My guess is in 2011 the stars finally align, Arcade Fire drops a bomb with one of the best shows the festival has ever seen and becomes the kings and queens of Bonnaroo indie rock.
Bonnaroo Appearances: Never
Why they should be there: No one knows what the next Daft Punk tour holds, but what we do know is they’ve said they won’t be doing music from the movie Tron: Legacy, but it will most surely top their previous “Pyramid” tour. Back when they were doing that tour, they actually played Bonnaroo’s sister festival, which was the short-lived Vegoose in Las Vegas. My guess as to why they did that one instead was all about location, location, location.
Odds: We know Daft Punk has a previously existing relationship with the guys who put on Bonnaroo, and like Arcade Fire, maybe 2011 will be the year the stars are finally aligned correctly. Let’s hope so because one of the most popular aspects of Bonnaroo are late night, electronica shows and there’s no better band to bring it like that than Daft Punk.
Bonnaroo Appearances: Never
Why they should be there: Just like Arcade Fire, Muse is one of those bands you question as to why they’ve done all the other festivals yet not Bonnaroo. Honestly, I’ve never been a big fan of these guys but if their current live show is any indication, this could be one of the most visually pleasing shows ever on the Bonnaroo farm. So much so that I’m convinced they’ll have no problem converting me.
Odds: While I have no proof that Bonnaroo organizers take stock in the Grammy Awards, one can only assume that with all the nominations they’ve garnered, they’ll follow in the footsteps of Kings of Leon, win big and end up being a headliner at Bonnaroo X.
Bonnaroo Appearances: 2006
Why they should be there: Did you know it took organizers three years to book Radiohead for the 2006 Bonnaroo Music Festival? Well that means they’ve probably known for years who they were going to get for the tenth anniversary. That actually makes me wonder as to who they’re planning on for 2013. Anyway, did you know that right after their 2006 Bonnaroo show, Thom Yorke came out and said it was the best show they’ve ever played? Wow! That really says a lot considering how long they’ve been playing and the fact that the shows on their home turf bring in so many more people than here in the States.
Odds: Well they’ve got an album in the works and Yorke feels Bonnaroo was their best show ever, however when I look at Muse and Radiohead, I can only picture one of them playing in the same year, and I feel 2011 is Muse’s turn. With that being said, I hope to see Radiohead in 2012.
The Roots (with or without John Legend)
Bonnaroo Appearances: The Roots in 2003 and 2007; John Legend has never played
Why they should be there: Speaking of Grammy nominees, here we have a collaboration for the ages in John Legend and television’s favorite house band, The Roots. Back in 2007 I saw a bit of The Roots performance, which included covers of Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” and The Police’s “Roxanne.” If you know me than you know I’m not big on rap/hip-hop (it’s just not my thing) but The Roots are anything but a typical sounding band of those genres. One of the great things about Bonnaroo is that I feel more inclined to check out other styles of music that I would not normally listen to, which is why I enjoyed their show that year.
Odds: Should they book these two acts together, I would definitely check it out to see what it’s all about, and I’m sure it would go down as one of the better collaborations the festival has ever seen.
Bonnaroo Appearances: Never
Why he should be there: Duh!
Odds: I can’t think of any artist I’d rather see anywhere than a Beatle. A definite must-see before I die. I know nothing about Bonnaroo’s finances, but if I had to guess I’d say Macca is well out of their price range, or maybe he’s just more fitting out west in Cali for a festival like Coachella. Odds of this Beatle being on the farm next summer? I’d say not bloody likely.
Bonnaroo Appearances: Never
Why they should be there: Love them or hate them (or Bono specifically), you can’t deny what U2 has done musically for decades. And you certainly cannot deny that they put on one of the most entertaining live shows ever. I’m not a big fan, but that’s a fact. Definitely one of the bands at the top of my bucket list.
Odds: Obviously with their current ”stage claw” set-up, it would be impossible for them to do a show like that at Bonnaroo because set-up/tear-down time is listed at three days. But that doesn’t mean they still couldn’t or wouldn’t play. And with summer tourdates already booked, as well as an interesting ten-day gap in between shows right at the time of Bonnaroo, one can only wonder what’s going on. Sure they’re playing in Nashville in early July, and there’s a supposed clause bands have to sign saying they can’t play within a certain radius in a certain amount of time, but that didn’t stop Phish in 2009 when they played in Knoxville right before Bonnaroo.
Bonnaroo Appearances: 2008
Why they should be there: The first day of Bonnaroo is typically reserved for bands who are just starting to break through, a lot of whom fit into the “indie” category. Two such bands in 2008 were MGMT and Vampire Weekend, who played in the same tent back-to-back, with Vampire Weekend closing the night. Both have since gone on to become some of the more current popular bands in this genre, although MGMT have since returned to the festival, playing a late night show in 2009 to one of the biggest tent crowds I’ve ever seen. Vampire Weekend released their second album (Contra) earlier this year, have increased their fanbase tremendously, and many have called the album the year’s best, although I prefer the sounds of their 2008 debut.
Odds: 2011 is the time to get Vampire Weekend back on the farm, and my guess is they won’t be shunned off in the corner of a tent, but rather, they finally hit one of the bigger stages (the Which Stage to be exact) and they play a mid-to-late afternoon slot to tens of thousands of people (like TV on the Radio in 2009 or The National last year).
Bonnaroo Appearances: 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2008
Why they should be there: Panic has headlined Bonnaroo more than any other band, and I’m sure there’s people still complaining about it and would still rather see someone else headline. But Bonnaroo’s always been good to Panic and they’ve always been good to Bonnaroo. I’ll never forget the first time I saw them at the festival in 2005 and they played for nearly four hours straight on Saturday night. Truly one of the first absolutely mind-blowing performances I’d ever seen.
Odds: Since Bonnaroo has always had that “jammy” aspect, because of the history between both band and festival and also because they have not played since 2008, I’d say the chances of one of the bands who built this festival into what it is returning is very likely. When it comes down to it, if they do continue with the “jammy” headliner, I really believe they’ll most likely go with either Panic or Furthur. A lot of people may not like it if it happesn to be Panic, but being the tenth year, you have to remember how and where this festival started.