What Stage, Which Stage, This Tent, That Tent, The Other Tent and… Sonic Stage? Even if the organizers at Bonnaroo make their stages sound interchangeable, it’s easy to know that that not all shows are created equal.
For the most part, fest-goers turned off by one headliner or another will have their choice to abstain and head somewhere/what/which else. Below is my take on the headliners, and reasons to skip or keep your feet planted where they are (with the prospect of mud helping you out).
Jay-Z (Saturday 11:30pm-1:30am): Hov’s been hitting the road hard in the last few months, still promoting his “Blueprint 3” from last year. At this point, it’s doubtful new material will crop up in his pretty set setlist, though the name of the game at Bonnaroo is on-stage collaborations: no telling who shows up. Wife Beyonce sang a little at Coachella earlier this year, though neither were on the scheduled slate of appearances. As far as hip-hop goes at ‘Roo, B.o.B., Kid Cudi and Nas and Damian Marley are the only big names on hand, so it goes that Jay-Z may tackle a 30-ish-song set by his lonesome or with some very special imports. Heck, Stevie Wonder’s playing only an hour before him…
Not your thing? Head to Dan Deacon 12:30-1:45. He proved to me last year he and his ensemble know what to do with a festival crowd.
Stevie Wonder (Saturday 8:30-10:30): Little Stevie’s only 60, and it doesn’t look like he’s
disappearing from the road any time soon. That being said, this Manchester stop is his only U.S. date on slate, as he’s heading overseas for a number of other festival appearances, but not here so much. There’s rumblings he’ll be collaborating with new friend Usher over in Glastonbury, and he’s never been the against the idea of just anybody jumping on to “Superstition.” As for premonition, I’m gonna say that he’ll stick to the hits for his two hour set, and lay off the latter-day material he’s leaned on for the more city performance arts festivals, the ilk, that I’ve seen him in.
And I hate to think that it’s been about a year, but: Wonder’s friend Michael Jackson passed last June. This might be a good time for him to be (tastefully) visiting the King of Pop’s material.
Not your thing? Take your time walking back from Weezer or sitting tight on the same grounds to wait for Jay-Z, or head to the Budweiser “lounge” for Harper Simon, son of Paul, and have a beer.
Kings of Leon (Friday 9:30-11:30): These guys play the record, but I wouldn’t put it past them to bust out some enjoyable covers or some Nashville-centered favorites, considering this is their homestate and all. Don’t expect jumping around or calls and responses, but if you like “Sex on Fire” that much, you should stay put of those body-aching “ooohs.” Plus, there’s an almost-guarantee they’ll be previewing “dark” new material.
Not your thing? Check out Michael Franti at 8pm, then stay put for prime real estate for the transcendent performance of “Dark Side of the Moon” by Flaming Lips featuring Star Death and White Dwarfs. Otherwise, you may want to watch Conan MC the in-betweens on the main stage then… “Robot Chicken?”
Tenacious D (Friday, 6:30-8): Seriously. Ronnie James Dio died. Aside from the gift of juvenile hilarity, the starpower of Jack Black and theatricality of a full band, Tenacious D owe, like, their lives to Dio. It will be the best memorial service you never went to.
Not your thing? Go see The National again for the 10th time. They just can’t stop getting better and better, swear.
Dave Matthews Band (Sunday 9-11:30): Dave just started his 2010 tour after having made the announcement that, for the first time in 20 years, he’s going to take a year off from the road (in 2011). That may put the band in an extra celebratory, fan-favoring mood, but more important for non-DMB fans, that means fanatic fans will be out in fine fan form. And Dave fans don’t have the best reputation, at least among non-DMB fans. So if you don’t like fire, stay out of the kitchen. Otherwise, consider “Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King” from 2009 is one of Dave Matthews Band’s best in years, and as far as jams go, the group is very giving.
Not your thing? If you stuck it out ’til the end of this four-day fest, but don’t like Dave Matthews Band… just go home. You look like crap.