The Avett Brothers
These veterans of all things “Festival” have built an emotional bond with their ever-growing fan base, thanks to their life-embracing lyrics and energetic live shows. They’re also one of the few Americana acts who can fill an arena. With a killer back catalog and two great recent albums to fall back on (The Carpenter and Magpie and Dandelion), seeking out their show is a no-brainer. The Avett Brothers once guest edited our magazine. Guys, let us know if you’d like us to guest edit your set list.
First Aid Kit’s A Lion’s Roar is so painfully good, we can barely listen to it all the way through on headphones. The two Swedish sisters sing in perfect harmony, and songs like “Emmylou” and “In The Hearts Of Men” display their talent for songwriting as well. They’ll likely be performing songs from their third album, Stay Gold. If we pass out from the sheer beauty of it, someone send us a medic.
One of our favorite Bonnaroo memories involved catching the last few songs of a transcendent daytime show from rootsy troubadour Phosphorescent, a.ka. Matt Houck and crew. We were expecting a placid singer-songwriter set, not a full-on Neil Young and Crazy Horse-style psychedelic assault. With songs from his acclaimed 2013 album Muchacho in the mix, we expect to be equally entranced.
This year’s big Superjam was either going to be a tribute to 60’s garage rockers ? and the Mysterians, or completely not that. In fact, it was just announced that “?” is code for Derek Trucks (The Allman Brothers Band, Tedeschi Trucks Band) leading an eclectic group of musicians in a late night jam session. What kind of musical gumbo do you get when you mix Susan Tedeschi, Chaka Khan, Taj Mahal, Soulive and Lettuce guitarist Eric Krasno, veteran R&B drummer James Gadson, Los Lobos’s David Hildago, Adam Deitch (another funky drummer), Andrew Bird, and Ben Folds? We have no idea, but we can’t wait to find out.
EDM isn’t usually our thing, but we can’t pass up Saturday’s Skrillex Superjam with The Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart, The Doors’ Robby Krieger, Janelle Monae, Damian Marley, Warpaint, and Chance the Rapper either.
Elton John should do what Paul McCartney did in 2013 – inspire an all-night sing-along. He’s got hits for days — and when we saw him at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena last year, it was clear that he’s still enthusiastic about singing them. From boogie down productions like “Benny and The Jets” to lighter-waving, sway-along ballads like “Your Song,” John’s setlist packs a mighty punch (and don’t worry – there shouldn’t be anything from the Lion King soundtrack.) In an era of classic rockers who have probably peaked in terms of live performance, John’s still standing, and standing tall.
Valerie June’s latest album Pushin’ Against A Stone lays out her tradition-tweaking vision of “organic moonshine roots music,” veering from girl group to gospel to bluegrass to folk with ease. We have a feeling that live, she’ll deliver the goods. Now if only she wasn’t playing at the same time as Seasick Steve with John Paul Jones. Damn you, Bonnaroo!
What a long, strange trip it’s been for the former Fugee. Lawsuits, a recent stint in prison for tax evasion, and a poorly-received (yet underrated) Unplugged album have all kept the once-revered rapper and R&B queen from reaching her full potential as a superstar artist. And unlike Guns N’ Roses, we’re still waiting on her version of Chinese Democracy – a new album is long overdue. Look for Hill to play heavily rearranged hits with her highly caffeinated funk-rock band. Don’t expect to be able to sing along, but do listen intently to one of the greatest vocalists of her generation.
Ed Helms’ Bluegrass Situation Superjam
Ed Helms’ loose, ridiculously funny Whiskey Sour Radio Hour show in the comedy tent was one of our favorite moments from last year’s ‘Roo. It ended with The Lumineers crashing the performance, bringing everyone to their feet with a rousing, pop-up version of “Ho Hey.” The Bluegrass Situation’s Superjam is light on laughs but heavy on star power — country artist Dierks Bentley will join a cast that includes Robert Ellis, Della Mae and members of Yonder Mountain String Band. In fact, the entire Sunday lineup at the That Tent is an Americana lover’s dream — from The Lone Bellow to Lake Street Dive to Shovels and Rope. We’ll be there twirling our mustaches.
Every time we’ve seen Jack White play the Ryman (our local concert hall), it’s like being caught up in a tornado of sound – where you didn’t touch the ground until it’s over. Look for White to electrify the Bonnaroo stage with songs from his new, as yet unheard album, Lazeretto, White Stripes favorites and the stomping, straight-ahead rockers that made his first solo album such a pleasure.
Speaking of the Ryman, we caught reunited indie cult favorites Neutral Milk Hotel there a few months back, and it was one of the best concerts of the year, hands down. When the famously reclusive Jeff Mangum hit the road in 2011 on a rapturously received solo tour, we sat on the sidelines instead of driving 300 miles to see him, knowing that one man alone could never recreate the fabled heights that In The Aeroplane Over The Sea and On Avery Island demand. Thankfully, the current lineup — the same one from 1993 — do just that, with a joy and energy and musical virtuosity that few can match. How good are they at recreating the past? Mangum was even wearing the same sweater he wore during his 90’s heyday.