Bonnaroo was one of the more eye-opening experiences of my life last year. While Coachella is much more commercialized and a lot more people there for the scene, Bonnaroo lives up to its reputation for “radiating positivity.” It was the perfect amount of weird I was looking for in a camping festival and I anticipated I’d be returning to Manchester, Tennessee in 2016.
The Bonnaroo lineup dropped Tuesday night on Conan, although most of it had already leaked early via the app (someone definitely got fired over this). Pearl Jam, Grateful Dead & Company and LCD Soundsystem are this year’s headliners. All three are top-level headliners and although jam-bands aren’t really my thing, if I’m going to see one, it might as well be at the original jam-band headlined festival. Tickets go on sale Friday, January 22 at 9 AM PT. General admission tickets are priced $324.50 and $349.50. VIP tickets are $1,598.50.
Grateful Dead & Company (feat. John Mayer) will play two sets, likely on the closing night of the festival. Pearl Jam is a bucket-list band for me and I’m excited to see them, especially since they’ll probably play two-and-a-half hours. LCD Soundsystem is making the festival rounds this year, but Bonnaroo looks to be only the second confirmed festival (though they are also locked in for Goldenvoice fests FYF Fest and Panorama to go along with Coachella).
The second- and third-lines of the festival are a little weak when compared to other lineups. There was a collective meh reaction to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis being a second-line act. J. Cole is one of the best rappers alive today and he could catapult himself into being a top-line festival act this year. Ellie Goulding is literally everywhere this year.
Tame Impala playing a late-night set as advertised on the poster will easily be one of the best sets at any festival in 2016. Having seen them back-to-back nights at the Hollywood Cemetery last year, Kevin Parker and his band’s trippy light show and psychedelic rock will pair perfectly with The Farm. Hopefully they play until the sun comes up.
As you plumb the depths of the lineup, that’s where the real value lies. Some of the better rare gets on the bill include Ween, Band of Horses, Grace Potter, and metal band Lamb of God. One standout act on the bill is The Claypool Lennon Delirium, a project between Primus bassist Les Claypool and Ghost of a Sabertooth Tiger’s Sean Lennon (son of John). There’s also the oddly-placed Third Eye Blind who will be a fun nostalgia-fest.
The deeper part of the lineup is just as solid. St. Lucia, Blood Orange, FIDLAR, Daughter and Marian Hill feature in the bottom 15 lines.
Bonnaroo is something every music festival lover should experience at least once. It’s understandable if the lineup doesn’t appeal fully to you – but overall, Bonnaroo was a festival that stood out to me for moments other than the music more than any of the other dozen festivals I attended in 2016. If you’re after “good vibes,” there are few places I’d recommend above Bonnaroo.
Words: Mark E. Ortega