Eminem, Arcade Fire, Widespread Panic, The Black Keys, Buffalo Springfield and My Morning Jacket will lead the 10th annual Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival. The multi-band event returns to Manchester, TN from June 9-12, 2011.
While this year’s Bonnaroo will showcase numerous emerging indie rock, jamband, hip-hop and electronic musicians, the festival will also look back on its own history by presenting return appearances by many classic Bonnaroo performers. Most notably, jamband hero Widespread Panic—the first band booked at the first Bonnaroo—will return to the festival after a two year absence. Panic has headlined Bonnaroo more than any other group with two headlining slots in both 2002 and 2005 as well as single-set plays in 2003, 2007 and 2008.
“Widespread Panic really should get credit—they are the first band that said yes that first year,” says Ashley Capps whose Nashville-based company AC Entertainment promotes Bonnaroo along with New York City-based Superfly. “They said, ‘We think this festival is a really crazy idea but we will participate’—they are a really integral part of what Bonnaroo is and we’re excited to have them back for our 10th year and also their 25th anniversary.”
A first time Bonnaroo performer, Eminem is touring in support of his chart-topping comeback album Recovery, which was released last June. Eminem—who rarely plays festivals—is the latest in a series of hip hop Bonnaroo headliners like Jay-Z and the Beastie Boys. Arcade Fire—one of a handful of groups to move from clubs to arenas with the help of the modern festival circuit—will also make its first Bonnaroo appearance. The group’s 2010 album The Suburbs recently took home Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards.
Bonnaroo also boasts Buffalo Springfield’s only 2011 festival appearance. The recently reunited group’s current lineup includes 2003 Bonnaroo headliner Neil Young, as well as Richie Furay, Stephen Stills, Rick Rosas and Joe Vitale.
Other marquee names scheduled to appear at the 2011 edition of Bonnaroo include: Lil’ Wayne, The String Cheese Incident, Robert Plant & Band of Joy, Mumford & Sons, The Strokes, The Decemberists, Ray LaMontagne, Bassnectar, Iron & Wine, Girl Talk and Primus. The Original Meters will also reunite for the first time in over three years to back Dr. John during a set that will feature a complete rendition of his classic New Orleans album Desitively Bonnaroo. The festival’s promoters took the name Bonnaroo—a Creole slang term for good times—from the 1974 album’s title.
“The Meters recorded a lot with Dr. John during the 1970s and played on Desitively Bonnaroo , so it was a real coup for us to get them for our tenth year,” says Capps. “That record is out of print so it is hard to get your hands on a copy these days.”
Both The Black Keys and My Morning Jacket have also grown with Bonnaroo over the years, moving from more intimate performances on the festival’s tent stages to more expansive stage sets. The Black Keys have performed at the festival a total of four times since 2004 while My Morning Jacket has appeared at Bonnaroo five times since 2003 (including consecutive appearances from 2003-2006). Singer/songwriter Ray LaMontagne, indie rock group Cold War Kids and roots-oriented rockers Alberta Cross have also all moved up the festival’s billing over the years.
Several other groups that appeared at the inaugural Bonnaroo in 2002 will return this year, including The String Cheese Incident, Béla Fleck, Les Claypool, Warren Haynes and the Del McCoury Band, the latter of whom will play a collaborative set with fellow Bonnaroo alums Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Claypool—who will perform as part of the newly revitalized Primus—has performed with such projects as the Flying Frog Brigade, Primus, The Gabby LaLa Band, Col. Claypool’s Bucket of Bernie Brains, Oysterhead and The Fancy Band during his six Bonnaroo appearances. Likewise, Haynes has appeared at Bonnaroo as the leader of Gov’t Mule, a member of The Allman Brothers Band and as a solo acoustic artist over the course of six Bonnaroos. This year he will showcase his new soul-oriented Warren Haynes Band.
The festival will further honor its roots in the jamband scene with performances by STS9, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, Railroad Earth and Beats Antique, among others. Though no members of Phish or the Grateful Dead are currently booked for the festival, longtime Dead associate Bruce Hornsby will appear at the festival for the first time. (He turned down a previous offer to play Bonnaroo to attend a high school reunion).
“In many cases, we approached booking this festival this year with the same we approach we do every year, which is how can we create the best festival experience possible,” says Capps. “This being the 10th year of the festival, we wanted to celebrate that history but not at the expense of keeping the festival fresh, new and exciting—which is also part of Bonnaroo’s tradition.”
One tradition that will continue this June is the latest in a series of themed tents. Gogol Bordello frontman Eugene Hütz will curate a ‘Global Gypsy Punk Revue’ that will feature an international cast of artists, including DeVotchKa, Jovanotti, Omar Souleyman and many others. Hütz will also DJ between sets and collaborate with artists throughout the day. Past themed tents have included a world music stage, a bluegrass performance space and a Davie Byrne-led tent, among others.
Classic rock heroes Robert Plant and Gregg Allman—two legendary artists who have received career reboots with the help of producer T Bone Burnett—will also return to Manchester, TN with their current projects. Plant will bring his Band of Joy while Allman will perform with his solo band. The Allman Brothers Band appeared at Bonnaroo in 2003 and 2005; the group was also scheduled to take part in the 2008 Bonnaroo but was forced to cancel due to Allman’s health concerns.
After a two year absence, Bonnaroo’s trademark Super Jam will also return. Dr. John—who performed with Mike Gordon, Galactic’s Stanton Moore, North Mississippi Allstars’ Luther Dickinson and others at the Bonnaroo Super Jam in 2003—will co-host this year’s Super Jam with Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach.
“That was their idea—Dan and Dr. John were really excited about working together on a Super Jam—that’s how that came together,” Capps reveals. “The Black Keys are doing fascinating work right now— and a Dr. John concert is the most fun tutorial of the history of American music imaginable.”
Past Super Jams have seen Les Claypool collaborate with members of Gogol Bordello and Kirk Hammett, Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones jam with The Roots’ ?uestlove and Ben Harper, Phish’s Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon share the stage with The Duo and Phil Lesh and Herbie Hancock lead an all-star band that included ?uestlove on drums.
The Black Keys and Mumford & Sons are, as of now, the only two artists making return appearances from last year’s festival. “Their performances were two of the biggest buzzes to come out of the festival. We were so blown away we wanted to have them back—it is as simple as that,” Capps continues. “Usually, we pick one or two bands that had a transformative performance at Bonnaroo and bring them back.”
Here’s a look at Bonnaroo’s initial lineup
The Black Keys
Buffalo Springfield feat Richie Furay, Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Rick Rosas, Joe Vitale
My Morning Jacket
String Cheese Incident
Robert Plant & Band of Joy
Mumford & Sons
Iron & Wine
Dr. John and The Original Meters performing Desitively Bonnaroo
Alison Krauss & Union Station
Florence + the Machine
SuperJam with Dan Auerbach and Dr. John
Explosions In The Sky
Global Gypsy Punk Revue curated by Eugene Hütz
Warren Haynes Band
Old Crow Medicine Show
Bootsy Collins & the Funk University
Matt & Kim
Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
The Del McCoury Band & the Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Béla Fleck and the Flecktones
Cold War Kids
Portugal. The Man
Dãm-Funk & Master Blazter
The Black Angels
School of Seven Bells
Nicole Atkins & the Black Sea
Justin Townes Earle
Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses
Band of Skulls
Sharon Van Etten
The Low Anthem
Jessica Lea Mayfield
The Head and the Heart