For the better part of the last decade, Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tenn., has rocked the living sh!t out of jam-obsessed Americans in a part of the country that is largely uneventful the other 360-some days of the year. This is due in large part to the beautifully eclectic group of bands and performers who get their names on the bill from year to year.
I could spend all day talking about how awesome Weezer is and why you should fork over whatever seemingly insurmountable sum of cash it costs to witness one of their shows; and yes, I know how much you love Kings of Leon and how you have been listening to Jay-Z since you were studying phonics in grade school.
I could also spend an equally superfluous chunk of my day reciting the cavalcade of reasons why I would avoid watching Dave Matthews. One might postulate that because I’m surrounded by Dave fans on the goddamned “reg” that I would have built up some form of jam band inoculation, but this is little more than a pipe dream.
But alas, I digress.
That all being said, the real gems of this year’s lineup are buried deep in the cornucopia-like list of artists that make the proverbial cup runneth over. To elaborate, here are the top 10 artists that are an absolute must-see for the 2010 Bonnaroo Music Festival.
Against Me!: Hands down one of the most underrated rock/punk bands in the biz, Against Me! quite simply kicks @$$. I recently got the opportunity to see them live for the first time, and somewhere between dodging flying Bud Heavy bottles and being oddly infatuated with some of the punk chicks present, I found myself in one of the coolest concerts I’ve ever seen.
Their upcoming album, White Crosses, was recently leaked on a rather grandiose scale, so rather than trying to fight the infinite power of Al Gore’s World Wide Web, they chose to simply perform well over half of the new album during the concert. Very cool indeed.
Phoenix: The French alternative alt rock band Phoenix has been around for a decade, but they only really gained the fame to match their critical appeal with last year’s release of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, headed by the hit single “1901.”
The European pop rockers are more than just a one trick pony, though. One need only listen to the other three underappreciated albums that came out before people even knew who they were or before they won a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album.
Tenacious D: I’m confident that you need no reminder that the seminal duo of hard-hitting comedic rock is the epitome of entertainment. I have never seen Jack Black live, although I have been told that his onstage antics are even more outlandish than what you see onscreen.
You would be a bold-faced liar if you tried to tell me that you would not like to listen to Black and wonder-twin Kyle Gass as the two elegantly, sweetly serenade the crow to “F*ck Her Gently,” arguably the most romantic song ever written.
J.B. Smoove: This guy is hilarious. Destined to be one of the funniest comedians of the year, Smoove is best known for his role as Leon Black in TV’s funniest show, Curb Your Enthusiasm.
His unique brand of slapstick humor is what Aziz Ansari would be like if he were less annoying and about a foot and a half taller. Without a doubt one of the funniest men on the planet, JB Smoove is only just beginning to take off.
The Gaslight Anthem: Rather than being the next evolutionary stage of punk rock, the boys from New Brunswick sound like the bands punk lore upon which the genre was built.
Vaguely reminiscent of bands like the Stiff Little Fingers and The Clash, The Gaslight Anthem is heartfelt regional music that sounds familiar and unthreatening, but the kicker is that it comes with an abundance of attitude. They epitomize the Jersey Shore sound; as soon as I write that I realize that I should probably clarify: that’s a Jersey-style punk rock movement, and requires neither Ciroc nor Ed Hardy Water.
The National: Another tragically underrated band, The National has a dark and brooding sound that is an artwork of emotion and song. Yes, it is true that this type of slow, city rock is not the typical dirty hippy jam band that traditionally frequents music festivals, but their performance should be awesome anyway. They played Bonnaroo for the first time in 2007 when they were touring for their album Boxer and were met with much fan favor.
Regina Spektor: The Russian-American queen of anti-folk music is one of the performances about which I’m extremely excited. Few artists can claim to be half the songwriter this girl is, and even fewer can claim to have even a fraction of her attitude. Every song feels like a story, every performance an intimate serenade.
Think of an intelligent, attractive, talented version of Courtney Love without the guitar case full of emotional baggage and you’re still not quite there yet.
Nick Kroll: One name is all you need: Bobby Bottleservice. If you haven’t ever seen arguably the most quotable video on the web, check it out at Funny or Die immediately. Everyone else should probably recognize him from FX’s “The League,” which has been picked up for a second season. Kroll has several hilarious videos on Funny or Die and is undoubtedly one of the funniest new comedians around today.
The Flaming Lips & Stardeath and White Dwarfs perform Dark Side of the Moon: This is something that may never again be able to be witnessed a year or so from now. The unique pairing formed up last year to perform their own rendition of the Pink Floyd classic and put forth their own unique take on it. The result is a masterful reinterpretation of one of rock and roll’s most ambitious concept albums ever produced.
You think you were tripping listening to the original? Just wait until you hear this one; you have never hallucinated quite like this before.
Conan O’Brien: I hate Jay Leno. I really do. But now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, the real king of late night television over the last two decades has always been the comedic savant Conan O’Brien. Unjustly robbed of his Tonight Show spot by the 60-something-year-old cartoon character that is Leno, Conan is a genius.
As every other funny person SNL accidentally hires, he eventually left to pursue some face time. His standup is the stuff of legend, only surpassed in the realm of glory by his scientifically unexplained haircut.
Co-Co for life.