February 15, 2012


The Best of Bonnaroo, Genre by Genre

The lineup for the 11th annual Bonnaroo festival was announced today, and—guess what?—the four-day event known for its musical eclecticism is again bringing a wild assortment of acts to that lush 700-acre farm 60 miles outside Nashville, TN. Rad.

A look over the bill can be boggling, considering all the different genres, eras, styles all repped at Bonnaroo. So, to help your lazy ass out, I picked the must-see artist from each genre, from hip hop to dance to jam, and given you the reason why to circle them on your handy Bonnaroo concert calendar. Dig it.

HEADLINER: It’s a no-brainer: Radiohead. Sure, the Oxford, England, band’s latest LP, The King of Limbs, is only half good (that’d be the second half), but they beat out returning noodlers Phish and tired alt-funkateers Red Hot Chili Peppers, no questions asked. Radiohead’s catalogue is golden—um, OK Computer, Kid A, The Bends?—and the quintet are downright masterful live. Plus: Thom Yorke’s dance moves are priceless.

INDIE: It’s a really tough decision—seriously—but I’m going with Brooklyn songstress St. Vincent. (Honorable mentions go to The War on Drugs, Kurt Vile and the Black Lips). Her latest album, Strange Mercy, is one of my faves from 2011, marrying blasts of post-punk with tender moments of baroque pop. And live the girl born Annie Clark is a monster on the six string, and her petite frame makes the juxtaposition all the more awesomely jarring.

HIP HOP: Danny Brown. Detroit’s manic, drug-addled, foul-mouthed rap newcomer had heads ringing with his debut mixtape, XXX. His live shows are just as batshit, as proved by his recent trek with fellow hilarious hip hoppers Das Racist (who you should also check out at Bonnaroo).

ELECTRO: Yep. You’ve heard her before. She’s a Swedish-Japanese singer named Yukimi Nagano, and she sang and toured with Gorillaz last year, and provides the sexy-coo vocals to London DJ-producer SBTRKT’s breakout dance jam “Wildfire.” Her electronic group Little Dragon is playing Bonnaroo, so check them out, and expect her to pop up onstage during SBTRKT’s set, too.

FREAKOUT DANCE: Flying Lotus. Los Angeles’ laptop-totting DJ-producer is bringing crazy-wild sounds to the dance floor—think experimental jazz and thorny, schizo electronic skronks. It’s a unique sound and enough to lure in Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, his new collaborator. In fact, expect magic onstage at Bonnaroo from FlyLo and Yorke. 

PUNK: Bad Brains. The Washington, DC, pioneers brought all sorts of sounds—reggae, jazz, soul and more—to punk, and are considered one of the first bands of the hardcore genre. And 30 years into their career, they still kick ass live.

COMEDY: Aziz Ansari. Have you seen Parks and Recreation? What about that new Danny McBride flick 30 Minutes or Less? See them. Turns out Ansari’s good onstage and behind a mic, too.

BLUES: Gary Clark Jr. Everyone is going bonkers for this rootsy Austin, TX, bluesman and axe virtuso. His latest release The Bright Lights EP (which is totally great) is earning Clark apt comparisons to Jimi Hendrix. Also, my sister saw him last night in Seattle and texted me, “Holy sh*t… he shreds on guitar. Sooo good and amazing voice. Band was super tight.” I trust my sister.

JAM: Phish. When it comes to headliners, Radiohead rules all, but, still, the Vermont noodlers are the kings of the jam genre, and for good reason. Proof: I once went to Phish’s Halloween concert in Atlantic City, where I watched them play for seven hours. Yes, my judgement was… blurred. But it’d be a challenge to pick another band that I’d watch—and dance to—for seven hours. And I hate hippies!

FOLK: The Avett Brothers. The North Carolina trio write sweeping Americana ballads of love, love lost and love found (their Rick Rubin-produced 2009 LP is called I and Love and You) that aim to swell your heart to the point of explosion. I’ve actually witnessed numerous fans tear up at their concerts, or stand clenching their chests. It’s that moving. The Bros are prepping another LP with Rubin, too, so fans could be in for a special treat.

FEMALE SINGER-SONGWRITER: Feist. Her new album Metals is a total treat, one of my favorites of 2011, and she has an ace band on tour with her, including Broken Social Scene guitarist Charles Spearin. It’s gorgeously eerie, percussive stuff live. Also, be warned: she’s skipping her breakout hit “1234” live. Which is fine by me—more room for another Metals track.

LEGACY ACT: The Beach Boys. They’re America’s answer to the Beatles, and without the Boys—who are now reunited with the original lineup, including Brian Wilson—so much popular music simply wouldn’t exist. Also, do yourself a favor and go listen to “The Warmth of the Sun,” “Don’t Worry Baby” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” right now.

HARD ROCK: Alice Cooper. The makeup. The snakes. The fake blood, guillotines, electric chairs et al. And the lyric, “Your school has been blown to pieces!!!,” on his classic “School’s Out.” And what an awesome guitar riff that song has, right?

UNKNOWN NEWCOMER: EMA. Erika M. Anderson is the Northern California-based former singer of noise-folk band Gowns, who launched her own solo career with the harrowing, emotionally raw Past Life Martyred Saints last yearIt's a PJ Harvey-indebted chilling collection of furious distortion and pop smarts. She’s also known to play an unhinged cover of Nirvana’s “Endless Nameless” live.