Alice Cooper has a warning for fans planning to check out his midnight Bonnaroo set. "If you're in the first 20 rows you'll probably get some blood on you," the gory hard rock legend told a group of journalists during a recent festival conference call about the eclectic 2012 event, featuring everyone from Radiohead to Kenny Rogers and Phish performing at a sprawling Manchester, Tennessee farm from June 7–10. "The band is probably the best band I've ever had — [They] have the instructions, ‘Kill the audience.' "
Cooper adds he's looking forward to schooling the folk-loving kids in the crowd about rock ‘n' roll. "I think they might be expecting the old scary skinny guy. We're going to go up there and do a real Alice Cooper show," he says. "I just hope this generation gets a big shot of testosterone because a lot of the bands just don't seem like they want to be rock stars … I read articles that go, ‘This is the greatest new band. And then I look at them and I go, ‘They have an accordion in the band! Come on!' "
So, the squeezebox is out, but what about strings and a few back-up singers? Toronto songbird Leslie Feist will have both onstage for her Friday evening show. The performance will be pared down from recent Coachella and Radio City Music Hall appearances where she played alongside an orchestra, but she insists she prefers it that way. "It did give people the impression that was the band, but it was a one-off scenario," she says. "You don't feel a lack of anything. For me, I enjoy it. I wish I had done Radio City a little more true to what this touring band has become."
If nothing else, fewer people (hopefully) means less chaos. "Sometimes festivals can feel like you're riding out the turbulence," Feist says. "Some shows it can literally be getting electrocuted, it starts to pour and the roof is getting blown off or you see someone in the audience getting crushed up against the fence and you are the only one witnessing it happening and you have to figure out a way to get that person out of there. Sometimes it can feel like this is just not working on a really, really bad level. Hopefully that won't be the case, but there's a lot of pride in riding those scenarios out."
Although this will be fun.'s Bonnaroo debut, Jack Antonoff, guitarist for the New York indie pop act, has experience on his side. Back in 2005, the Tennessee festival became the first summer music fest he attended when he performed with New Jersey rockers Steel Train. "It was the first taste I had of that live music dream, getting up onstage [as] a pretty much unknown band, and oh my God there's 10,000 people there and they're all going nuts," he remembers. "That was the first time and you never lose that."