30 Must-See Acts at Bonnaroo 2013
Once again, Bonnaroo has returned to bring good vibes, loud tunes, and environmentally responsible fun to the dusty and/or muddy expanses of Manchester, Tennessee. Here are the 30 acts that have us pitching a tent.
1. 30 Must-See Acts at Bonnaroo 2013
2. Action Bronson
Reason to Run, Not Walk: The Queens rapper will release his new mixtape Saaab Stories two days before Bonnaroo, arming him with tracks featuring Wiz Khalifa and Raekwon. But more importantly, as he proved at Coachella this year, Bronsolino is a captivating and unpredictable live rapper. His absurdist persona carries over onto the stage, nudging his shows from performance into something approaching performance art. Plus, if Coachella was any evidence, he's likely to bring out whichever of his friends (Earl Sweatshirt? Riff Raff?) happens to be hanging around to freestyle. Need More? Bronson will spend the first part of July doing overseas festivals, including Denmark's Roskilde, Germany's Splash!, Belgium's Dour, and Helsinki's Hustle. He'll then return back to the states for solo dates on the West Coast before hitting Hopscotch Festival in September. JORDAN SARGENT
3. Eric André
Reason to Run, Not Walk: Thirst for the kinetic, full-contact comedy of Eric André has been running high since the conclusion of Season One of the nihilistic, high-octane, desk-smashing Eric André Show — the weirdest program on television. The New York show we caught last year may as well have been a punk-rock gig given the amount of thrown food, partial nudity, and slippery moshing. There will be two chances to catch his unique brand of insanity in the Comedy Theatre, or you can catch Andre's comparatively more sedate Q&A session in the Bonnaroo Cinema.
Need More?: André will appear at Calgary's Sled Island Festival in June and do a pair of dates in California. Beyond that, you may have to wait until Season Two premieres in October. CHRISTOPHER R. WEINGARTEN
Reason to Run, Not Walk: Joy-sludge heroes Baroness have faced no shortage of tumult since releasing SPIN's favorite metal record of 2012. A horrifying bus crash (which you can read about here in agonizing detail) not only sidelined their momentum, but put them in the hospital. The rhythm section quit before they could put the pieces back together, but frontman John Baizley can't stop, won't stop, and reformed the group (with Trans Am's beast of a drummer). He's hitting Bonnaroo barely a month into their first post-accident tour. It's a Bonnaroo comeback-kid story that rivals even Earl Sweatshirt's.
Need More? Baroness are making up for lost time, hitting Lollapalooza, FYF Fest, Bumbershoot, and Musicfest NW, as part of a full U.S. tour from late July to early September. C.W.
Reason to Run, Not Walk: Between its sun-powered Solar Stage, Clean Vibes Training Post recycling program, and Planet Roo global-consciousness workshops, Bonnaroo has a greener footprint than most. But when it comes to achieving true oneness with the planet, those efforts pale by comparison to Björk's Biophilia Educational Program, a hands-on project designed to prepare children for "a revolution that will reunite humans with nature through new technological innovations." And her unusual pedagogical approach doesn't end at the classroom door: When SPIN caught the first show of her Biophilia tour at the New York Hall of Science last year, she employed bizarre contraptions like Tesla coils and a metronome-powered "gravity harp." A report from last week's Bay Area shows — which featured an intro from Planet Earth's Sir Richard Attenborough and cellular video clips — confirms that she's still the coolest, craziest science teacher you never had in high school.
Need More? Bjork's only remaining North American dates this summer include Ottawa Bluesfest, a Toronto show with Death Grips and Mykki Blanco, and Chicago's Pitchfork Music Festival. P.S.
Reason to Run, Not Walk: It would be easy to call Nigerian guitarist Omara "Bombino" Moctar a funkier version of fellow Tuareg desert-rockers Tinariwen — so we'll go with calling him a bluesier Queens of the Stone Age. Moving from hipster world-music label Sublime Frequencies to the plusher Nonesuch, his excellent new Nomad combines his songs of peace with piercing guitar solos and circular grooves. As Moctar told Express Milwaukee: "I am directing many of the lyrics to the Tuareg people and the people of Niger, but everyone who listens should be able to find the words relevant to their own life."
Need More? Bombino's all over America this summer, including three Brooklyn shows, San Francisco's Outside Lands, Louisville's Forecastle Festival, and Carnegie Hall in December.
7. Cat Power
Reason to Run, Not Walk: Chan Marshall has been off the road since March, but she's still had an eventful three months. She's posted a hard-to-parse letter on Instagram, explained why America's political system has forced her to leave the country, joined the Weezer Cruise, canceled a Florida show, and performed a stunning new track called "Bully." It could be the highlight of her Bonnaroo set.
Need More? Marshall will play a solo date in Atlanta immediately after Bonnaroo. then head overseas for festival stops (Traumzeit, Glastonbury, Paradiso, Cruilla) and a smattering of solo stops (Berlin, London, Zurich, Munich).
8. Charli XCX
Reason to Run, Not Walk: The English pop singer has been honing her stage show on a U.S. tour with Marina and the Diamonds. Charli's debut album True Romance is one of the most acclaimed pop records of the year, and you've likely heard "I Love It" — a bonafide Billboard Top 10 smash that she wrote along with Icona Pop. Plus, she's been doing a perfectly goth cover of the Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way."
Need More?: You can grab a plane ticket to catch the handful of European dates on her schedule after Bonnaroo, or just hope they're still playing the "I Love It" Samsung ad. J.S.
9. Deap Valley
Reason to Run, Not Walk: This Los Angeles duo, discovered by Vincent Gallo, do ballsy, unhinged blues rock — like the White Stripes before the arena days. Their wild-eyed rage-outs come complete with a Robert Plant screech, an eruption of drums, and a decidedly feminist bent: "Brother, brother, brother / You're untrue, you're untrue / Brother, brother, brother / These legs are closed to you," singer Lindsey Troy stutters out on "Lies."
Need More?: After Bonnaroo, Deap Vally spend the summer making noise throughout Europe. Their major-label debut, Sistrionix, is out June 24. B.S.
10. Death Grips
Reason to Run, Not Walk: As the first band to work with the rhythms of the Internet, our 2012 Artist of the Year Death Grips are once again using a potential summer victory lap as another chance to confuse, confound, and intrigue. While not canceling an entire tour (like last summer), spastic drum Cuisinart and live-show powerhouse Zach Hill is M.I.A., taking time off to complete a feature film. At SXSW this year, he Skyped in his drums. Who knows what their biggest show of the year might bring?
Need More?: After Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, Death Grips have a handful of dates in big U.S. cities (New York City, Boston, Baltimore) before hitting FYF Fest. C.W.
11. Earl Sweatshirt
Reason to Run, Not Walk: The passage of time can only mean good things when it comes to Earl Sweatshirt's festival appearances. Despite the weight the once-elusive rapper's name carries, he's still an inexperienced live performer. But he's proven increasingly up to the challenge of playing to bigger crowds, which he showed when he headlined the Gobi Tent on the first night of Coachella this year. He's also begun to weave more new songs into his live show, including a track produced by Pharrell and another featuring Mac Miller.
Need More?: Earl will take a month off after Bonnaroo before jumping on the Northeast and Midwest leg of Mac Miller's Space Migration Tour, along with Chance the Rapper and Vince Staples. J.S.
12. Mac DeMarco
Reason to Run, Not Walk: You will not see a more fun indie-rock set at Bonnaroo. The sardonic Montreal tunesmith segues live from his own lovelorn pop to gloriously sloppy covers of classic-rock jams. (Or Weezer tunes!) And his stage banter will rival any hilarity happening in the Comedy Theatre.
Need More?: DeMarco is touring North America through August, still in support of last fall's sterling full-length 2 — Calgary's Sled Island Festival, Chicago's Pitchfork Festival, L.A.'s FYF Fest, and lots of places in between. DAVID MARCHESE
Reason to Run, Not Walk: Sister-act trio Alana, Este, and Danielle Haim have been chosen as touring partners for the likes of Ke$ha and Mumford & Sons — but don't hold that against them. The band's sweeping, deeply melodic pop-rock (for example, "Falling," one of our 40 Best Tracks of 2013 So Far) is arresting enough to hold its own beside any artist at any venue, including a mega-festival. As one of the most buzzed-about bands of 2013, with an appeal that goes far beyond the Internet, you should see 'em while they're still on smaller stages.
Need More?: The hard-touring Haim hotfoots it to Europe not long after Bonnaroo, then are back for Philly's Made in America festival at the end of August. D.M.
14. Killer Mike
Reason to Run, Not Walk: Atlanta firebrand and OutKast associate Killer Mike had a career revival last year with his booming, El-P-produced album R.A.P. Music, and he is teaming with the Brooklyn rapper/beatmaker as Run the Jewels for a new album. Live, he's a commanding, open-hearted presence — he put on one of the absolute best sets at Primavera last month, where he lambasted Ronald Reagan before telling the crowd that he was taking them to "rap church." At his SXSW performance earlier this year, he declared, "I came to make your ass think, motherfuckers!" before adding, "I came to burn this motherfucker down!"
Need More?: Run the Jewels will tour throughout July into mid-August, hitting stops all over the United States and Canada. J.S.
15. Kendrick Lamar
Reason to Run, Not Walk: This Black Hippy crew's kingpin is having a sustained moment in the spotlight after last year's excellent good kid, m.A.A.d city, and is steadily moving towards "best rapper doing it right now" status. The Compton MC recently had Jay-Z appear on a remix of one of his tracks, and bravely declared "death to Molly."
Need More?: Kendrick continues the good kid, m.A.A.d city victory lap, touring the states throughout June, taking a break in July, and heading back out in August.
16. Paul McCartney
Reason to Run, Not Walk: In case anyone needed a lavish, remastered reminder, the recent reissue of Wings' 1976 live album Wings Over America proved that Sir Paul has been bringing it in concert for decades. And honestly, in the same way that if you're in Paris you should probably see the Mona Lisa, if you're at a music festival you should probably see a Beatle. Unless, that is, you wanna wait until his Moombahton album comes out.
Need More?: After Bonnaroo, McCartney's Out There tour shifts to European dates, starting with a June 22 show in Warsaw. If you're desperate to see and hear more mid-'70s Wings, the new Rockshow DVD compiles footage from a Seattle gig of similar vintage. D.M.
17. Kacey Musgraves
Reason to Run, Not Walk: It can be hard — if not impossible — to find mainstream country at major music festivals. But if you could only pick one country artist to see this year, it might as well be Texas' Kacey Musgraves. She follows Miranda Lambert and Brad Paisley as a trailblazer in the country world, singing with a progressive support of drugs and homosexuality. Her fearlessness extends to the stage — earlier this year, with the chance to play one song in front of influential Nashville radio programmers, she performed "Follow Your Arrow," in which she advises young women to "kiss lots of girls, if that's something you're into."
Need More?: Musgraves will tour the country with Kenny Chesney and Eric Church through August. She has dates in September in New York City and Nashville before heading overseas for solo shows in major European cities. She'll wrap up October at festivals in Arkansas, Texas, and South Carolina. C.M.
Reason to Run, Not Walk: A New York hip-hop legend who finally figured out how to age gracefully with last year's Life Is Good, Nas remains one of the most fervid and livewire MCs ready and willing to stand on a stage and simply rap. A 20-year career affords Nas plenty of classics that everybody knows and a bevy of deep cuts. But, in particular, the Illmatic-on-Broadway grandeur of Life Is Good tracks like "A Queens Story" and "Accident Murderers" are outdoor festival-ready.
Need More?: Nas remains the rapping guy at big-deal rock festivals this summer, also popping up at Glastonbury in June and then touring Europe into July. B.S.
19. The National
Reason to Run, Not Walk: Catharsis. There's a reason this Ohio-bred Brooklyn quintet has the ability to make grown-ass adults lose their minds. As testified to in our recent feature, "Not Your Dad's Dad-Rock," these dour dudes tap directly into melancholy with a romantic approach that emphasizes the beauty in life's sadness. Their just-out sixth album Trouble Will Find Me casts an orchestral glow and comforting numbness. Plus, singer Matt Berninger can actually be quite upbeat onstage, his lightheartedness helping to tell the larger story of a band who became an indie institution via songwriting and good old elbow grease.
Need More?: Bonnaroo is just one stop in a string of festival and amphitheater stops stretching deep into the fall, overseas and back again, with assists from Dirty Projectors, Daughter, and Frightened Rabbit.
20. Pretty Lights
Reason to Run, Not Walk: When Pretty Lights played Bonnaroo in 2011, you could have been forgiven for thinking that you'd somehow teleported to the Sahara Tent at Coachella, given the energy in the crowd and the high-tech spectacle onstage. The Colorado producer gives his music away for free, which probably has something to do with the fact that to fully experience his glitch-streaked fusion of hip-hop, dubstep, and soul, you've really got to be there in person.
Need More?: After hitting festivals like Milwaukee's Summerfest, Michigan's Electric Forest, and San Francisco's Outside Lands, Pretty Lights will come home in August for a pair of headlining concerts at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
21. R. Kelly
Reason to Run, Not Walk: Kells is already responsible for one of the most surprising festival moments of the summer, when he emerged to do a live "1901"/"Ignition (Remix)" mash-up with Phoenix at Coachella as the entire crowd waited for a "secret" Daft Punk performance that was never going to happen. His set at Bonnaroo probably — probably — won't feature any live mash-ups (Sir Paul for "I Believe I Can Fly"/"Jet" perhaps?), but he'll still provide a potent mix of theatrics and craftsmanship. Plus, if you're thirsty, he may set a bar up onstage.
Need More?: He has three dates scheduled after Bonnaroo: The BET Experience at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Pitchfork Festival in Chicago, and Macy's Music Festival — yep, Macy's has a festival — in Cleveland. J.S.
22. Royal Thunder
Reason to Run, Not Walk: Even without singer-bassist Mlny Parsonz, the brutalizing, doom-blackened blues-metal of Atlanta's Royal Thunder might be the heaviest thing at Bonnaroo outside of a Boys Noize bass drop. But with her at the helm, they're an unstoppable force. On record and in person, Parsonz is a belter capable of delivering Ann Wilson-level heart. But she can also coo with calming grace or scream like a banshee, all while imparting seething badassery with genuine emotional depth. The band's full-length debut CVI was one of our Best Metal Albums of 2012 and they're the living embodiment of heavy music's newfound poptimism.
Need More?: In August and October (but not really September), Royal Thunder are on the road with labelmates Baroness. C.M.
Reason to Run, Not Walk: Solange will come to Bonnaroo much like she came to SXSW: as the best-dressed person at the entire festival, and with one of the best songs ("Losing You") to boot. She's grown into a captivating performer with a show that features her cover of Dirty Projectors (by way of Erykah Badu and Dr. Dre) and the playful, charming dancing of her and her band.
Need More?: Solange will hit the festival circuit all summer. After Bonnaroo, she heads overseas for festivals in Croatia and England, including Glastonbury. She'll hit Pitchfork fest in July before heading back overseas for all of August, with dates at Øya, Way Out West, and Pukkelpop, to name just a few. She then returns to the U.S. for dates in L.A., Detroit, and Brooklyn. J.S.
Reason to Run, Not Walk: This Bonnaroo tradition has long grown cooler than its hippy-dippy roots, eventually roping in luminaries like ?uestlove, D'Angelo, the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, and Kirk Hammett of Metallica. And while Zigaboo Modeliste, SPIN's 7th favorite drummer of all time, will anchor a rock-and-soul extravaganza with Jim James and John Oates, we're more excited about the line-up for the very first hip-hop themed Superjam ever: RZA, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Schoolboy Q, Earl Sweatshirt, Solange, Chad Hugo of the Neptunes, et al., will turn the Bonnaroo stage into an amazing midnight cypher. The whole crew will be backed by Brooklyn soul-funk revisionists Lettuce, whose taut, late-'60s/early-'70s sound leans close to the records that RZA likes to pilfer.
Need More?: Catch it now or wait for YouTube footage. C.W.
Reason to Run, Not Walk: Not for nothing did we deem Swans' 100-minute set the best performance at the massive Primavera Sound last month. Since releasing the SPIN Essential album The Seer last year, Michael Gira and his band have been touring heavily, and their surging waves of sturm und drang have never felt more oceanic. Gira recently announced an upcoming live album to be followed by a new studio LP that "will move forward from the live versions you've possibly witnessed (which have already changed nightly in the recent tours)," making Bonnaroo an excellent place to catch history in the making.
Need More? Following Bonnaroo, Swans will leave a scorched-earth path across the Midwest before heading to Ireland and the U.K. in August. P.S.
26. William Tyler
Reason to Run, Not Walk: At the same time that Mumford & Sons roll out their Astroturfed version of bluegrass over at the What Stage, listeners looking for a sturdier, more tangled strain of roots music should head over to the New Music on Tap Lounge to catch William Tyler, whom SPIN profiled back in March. The 33-year-old Nashville guitarist's fleet-fingered guitar work channels maestros like John Fahey and Leo Kottke, updating the spirit of the old, weird America with lessons learned as a sideman for Bonnie 'Prince' Billy and Silver Jews. Meditative as a rushing stream, his instrumental compositions — Tyler calls the recent Impossible Truth his "'70s singer-songwriter record; it just doesn't have any words" — nevertheless tackle mountain-sized themes.
Need More?: Tyler will play across the U.S. until the end of August, then head to Europe and the U.K.
27. White Lung
Reason to Run, Not Walk: This Vancouver quartet can pack 20 years of punk history into two ferocious minutes ("Take the Mirror" ), and ten perfectly rip-roaring snarl-bombs into one EP-length album (last year's Sorry) — so imagine what they'll do with a 60-minute festival set. Sure, Mish Way and gang are best suited for graffiti-splattered DIY spaces like the infamous Emergency Room that raised 'em, but it's the band's gift for compact anthems — as much as breakneck drumming and unrelenting axework — that makes these hardcore students compelling.
Need More?:: You'll have to wait. The band is currently looking for a practice space in order to record their third album. C.M.
28. Wu-Tang Clan
Reason to Run, Not Walk: Wu-Tang weren't headliners by name at Coachella, but they were in practice. Their audience stretched back miles to see the complete, eight-living-member Wu as energized and banded-together as they have been in years. They kicked off their set with a run of tracks off Enter the 36 Chambers, a big, crowd-pleasing moment that these festivals exist to provide. Of course, no one ever knows what form a latter-day Wu set will take, but Bonnaroo is probably big enough to lasso the whole gang onstage.
Need More?: Wu-Tang — or, depending on who shows up, "Wu-Tang" — have festival dates all summer. They'll do Bluesfest in Ottawa and headline 80/35 in Des Moines. J.S.
29. the xx
Reason to Run, Not Walk: Though it doesn't seem like the xx's brooding pillow talk would translate to a festival stage, they proved at Coachella that their intimacy can still enthrall a big crowd, especially as night falls. They're also liable to cover any number of semi-forgotten '90s R&B hits — at Coachella, they brought out Solange for their cover of Aaliyah's "Hot Like Fire." Might Bonnaroo get an encore?
Need More?: The xx have two American dates in Charlotte and Columbia, Maryland, before heading to Asia for festivals through August. They'll be back in the U.S. in September for dates in Charlottesville, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Los Angeles. J.S.
30. "Weird Al" Yankovic
Reason to Run, Not Walk: Sure, Paul McCartney got to play with Nirvana, but perennial punster "Weird Al" Yankovic will actually get to play Nirvana. Yankovic's shows are post-modern extravaganzas with loads of costume changes so he can actually be Kurt Cobain, Devo's Mark Motherbaugh, or a very fat Michael Jackson, while subverting their sounds. In maybe the toughest decision of the fest, he's scheduled against Billy Idol and R. Kelly — so bet against either of them joining Al for "Alimony" or "Trapped in the Drive-Thru."
Need More?: Yankovic is on tour in California and the Midwest throughout July, hitting at least five county fairs. C.W.
31. ZZ Top
Reason to Run, Not Walk: Retro-futuristic bonkers bluesmen ZZ Top wear many hats: Electronic drums-in-rock pioneers; stalwart roots music-tinged guitar dude traditionalists; and as a DJ DMD "25 Lighters" cover on last year's Rick Rubin-produced La Future proved, low-key hip-hop heads (they also ride for the Geto Boys). But mostly, they are a no-B.S. classic-rock band who are still not content to coast as legends. They remain as crowd-pleasing and willfully weird now as they did when they grew out their beards and picked up some synthesizers 30 years ago.
Need More?: "The Top," as your guitar teacher called them, tour Europe in July, and the United States in August with Kid Rock. B.S.