Eminem, The Killers and Muse are among marquee acts confirmed for the 17th annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. The music, art and comedy event will return to Manchester, TN’s Great Stage Park on June 7–10. Though the eclectic-as-ever festival will offer everything from wistful Americana and folk to heart-thumping electronica and dance music, this year’s lineup will also honor it own roots thanks to Roo veterans like Rebelution, The Revivalists, Nile Rodgers & Chic, Chromeo, STS9, Moon Taxi, Old Crow Medicine Show, Broken Social Scene, Manchester Orchestra, First Aid Kit, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Thundercat and Mavis Staples, among others.
Filling out the top portion of the lineup are artists like rapper/producer Future, summer festival mainstay Bassnectar, renegade Country singer-songwriter Sturgill Simpson and Justin Vernon’s experimental-folk project Bon Iver—playing two unique sets throughout the weekend—plus Paramore, Khalid, Kaskade, alt-J, Dua Lipa, Sheryl Crow, Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals, Sylvan Esso, T-Pain,Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Spafford, Pond, Southern Avenue and many more, who will be spread out on over 10+ stages throughout the four-day festival.
“Having a lineup that is rich and deep in its diversity is really what Bonnaroo’s always about, says Ashley Capps of Knoxville, TN’s AC Entertainment, who co-founded Banner along with New York-based promoters Superfly. “And I think this year we’ve really got that. There are so many great new artists on the lineup, and artists that we’re excited to welcome back to the festival.”
That sentiment is reflected in much of the lineup, beginning with the three top headliners, iconic rapper Eminem—returning to Bonnaroo for the first time since his 2011 performance—and two big-name first-timers, Las Vegas rockers The Killers and arena-shaking English trio Muse.
“The year that Eminem played the festival in 2011 was one of the biggest Bonnaroos ever,” Capps recalls. “The response to his show was amazing. He wanted to come back, and who can say no to that? The Killers and Muse have of course been discussed many times in the past, but the stars didn’t align until now. So it’s exciting to have an artist the stature of Eminem coming back, but also very exciting to have artists who’ve never played the festival headlining as well.”
Even with so many artists revealed on the lineup, there are still some aspects that remain mysteries. Besides typical ones like the SuperJam details and Comedy Tent lineup, there’s the rare double-billing of Bon Iver, who Capps says will play one regular set and one set that will be “something special.” “We’re really, really excited about this,” Capps says. “I don’t want to let too much of the cat out of the bag, because this is Justin’s project and he’s going to want to tell people about it as it evolves. We all can’t wait to see exactly what it is—I don’t even know myself. But Justin’s such an amazing artist that I know it’ll be something that no one will want to miss.”
Other acts that Capps is especially excited for include Sturgill Simpson, a Country artist in name but a renaissance man at heart. “From seeing Sturgill’s recent shows, he almost transcends genres at this point,” Capps says. “There’s such a remarkable breadth and depth to what he’s doing as an artist. He’s incredible. Nile Rogers and his classic ‘70s act Chic are also high on his radar: “I don’t know if you’ve seen any of Nile’s recent live shows with Chic, but it’s really, really amazing. We’ve tried to get Chic to Bonnaroo for the last two or three years at least, so it’s exciting that it’s happening finally.” Capps could probably go on naming favorites until he exhausted the full lineup, also noting his excitement for Anderson .Paak, the return of “one of the greats” in Mavis Staples, Thundercat, Moses Sumney (“one of the most exciting young artists out there”), Amadou & Mariam and more.
One of Capps favorite parts of his job, though, is touting up-and-coming and lesser-known artists and helping them grow their audience with the signal boost of a Bonnaroo slot. Two bands fitting that bill this year are The War and Treaty—“An absolutely fabulous band that I saw at the Americana Music Festival in Nashville back in September; they’re going to blow people’s minds”—and Noura Mint Semali, a group out of Mauritania—“An incredible, bluesy, African psychedelic band that just defies description, and I think they’re going to rearrange people’s synapses when they hear them.”
One of the biggest surprises of the 2018 Bonnaroo lineup might be the appearance of the legendary Grand Ole Opry, the weekly concert series that started in Nashville (just up the road from Manchester) back in 1925. “The Grand Old Opry is, of course, such a musical institution,” Capps says. “And it’s such an institution for southern music—and Nashville in particular—so we’re really excited that for the first time ever, the Grand Old Opry is going to come to Bonnaroo and perform and broadcast live. I think people will discover some pretty exciting surprises around that show. That one’s going to be really fun. I can’t tell you how many artists talk about growing up and listening to the Grand Old Opry and being inspired to become musicians. To have an institution like that coming to Bonnaroo and to be able to celebrate their incredible history is certainly one of the most exciting things on tap for this year.”
As Bonnaroo evolves with the changing landscape of summer festivals, The Farm has seen all sorts of acts come through its fields, but coming off a somewhat electronic-leaning offering in 2017, the meat of the 2018 lineup features a good number of acts hailing from the Bonnaroo-roots worlds of jambands, Americana and New Orleans music. Among those, Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals, The Revivalists, STS9, Moon Taxi, Old Crow Medicine Show, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong and Spafford stand out as artists set to make a splash in Manchester.
Old Crow performed at the first Bonnaroo in 2002 while STS9 appeared the festival’s sophomore year. Members of St. Paul and Moon Taxi represent a growing list of musicians who attended the festival early on as fans before returning as performers.
Beyond the music, though, one of the best parts of Bonnaroo that repeat visitors always seem to come back to is the community spirit, which Capps notes the Bonnaroo team is always trying to cultivate with new endeavors, including the last couple of years’ efforts to create unique camping neighborhoods (formerly known as “Pods,” now called “Plazas”). “Every year, we’re working to transform the Bonnaroo experience even further and really capitalize on the unique immersive aspect of the festival,” Capps says. “Because when you’re at Bonnaroo, you’re all-in. It’s a real community; almost everyone is there 24/7, living together, experiencing the time of their lives together. So, as we plan Bonnaroo each year, it’s like, ‘How can we enhance that experience?’”
Included in their continuing expansion of the Plazas and Groop Camping, which brings together Bonnaroovians who want to share the festival experience with like-minded individuals (sober, family, all-female camping and more), Bonnaroo is building new barns to serve as community centers around which the campgrounds are based. “We’ll probably have people who’ll never want to leave the campgrounds, because it’s so fun and exciting what’s going on out there,” Capps says. “I like for people to discover it themselves; Bonnaroo is an ever-evolving experience.”
When asked about what part of Bonnaroo he’s most excited for, Capps gives an expected—yet very ‘Roo-appropriate—response: “I’m most excited to see my friends and all the Bonnaroovians. This is Bonnaroo number 17 for me—hard to imagine. It’s the ultimate family reunion and gathering of friends. It just defies description. So many people that are spread all across the world coming to gather for this weekend, and we all create wonderful experiences and memories with one another. The music’s a huge part of that, and the other activities on the side, but the people are what it’s all about. That’s what I now look forward to the most every year.”
Tickets for Bonnaroo 2018 are now on sale via the festival’s website. See the full lineup below.
Bonnaroo 2018 Lineup
Bon Iver (playing 2 unique sets)
Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals
Nile Rodgers & CHIC
Rufus Du Sol
Old Crow Medicine Show
The Glitch Mob
Broken Social Scene
Grand Ole Opry
First Aid Kit
What So Not
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
St. Paul & The Broken Bones
Amadou & Mariam
Noura Mint Semali
Billy Kenny b2b Mija
Durand Jones & The Indications
Boogie T b2b Squnto
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong
Said the Sky
Conway + Westside Gunn
The Spencer Lee Band
Justin Jay’s Fantastic Voyage
The War and Treaty
The Texas Gentlemen
Colin Elmore & The Danville Train
The Blue Stones
Low Cut Connie