Bonnaroo week is upon us, and, as we prepare to head down to Manchester this weekend, June 7-10, for what is shaping up to be a stellar 17th year for the nearby event, and as we wind down our 2018 Artist Spotlight series, we wanted to help you get ready by taking it a step further, with a guide to our most-anticipated performers for each day of fest. Complete with times, stages, and song previews, we’ve exhaustively done our homework and picked out artists we think should top your list, so if you’re scrambling to pack and still in the dark on making your schedule, give the 15 Thursday performers below a preview! See you on the farm!
Thursday | That Tent | 6:30pm
Country has historically not been a huge part of Bonnaroo’s lineup, but this year, as the festival seems geared towards attracting a larger crowd, several country leaning acts (and even the Grand Ole Opry) make a showing. Hailing from Illinois, folk country rocker Lissie first broke out about a decade ago, landing an early tour with Lenny Kravitz, some modest hits, and some major placements, thanks to her earnest, crossover appeal. After a stint in California, where she cultivated her folky, pop accessible sound, the singer moved to rural Iowa, which served as inspiration for her excellent recent fourth album Castles.
LISTEN | “Don’t You Give Up On Me”
WATCH | “Best Days” (Official Music Video)
#14: CHASE ATLANTIC
Thursday | This Tent | 9:00pm
Made up of brothers Mitchel and Clinton Cave and longtime friend Christian Anthony, Australian dark alt-pop/r&b trio Chase Atlantic have been building buzz for a few years now, finding breakout success across the native continent and earning praise throughout the blogosphere with a series of strong, independent early EPs. After first catching the eye of the Madden Brothers (of Good Charlotte fame) then subsequently inking a deal with Warner Bros., the band dropped their eponymous debut full-length last year, and have been fast becoming a global fixture ever since, with 2018 looking to be a transformative year, including hitting the festival circuit after their extensive tour earlier in the year with Lights. With their stylish, modern, electro-laced, and genre-bending style, Chase Atlantic are an interesting and young-skewing addition the lineup, and will be a cool evening option on the less crowded Thursday slate.
LISTEN | “Swim”
WATCH | “Numb to the Feeling” (Official Music Video)
#13: DURAND JONES & THE INDICATIONS
Thursday | That Tent | 9:45pm
Despite meeting at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, the story of Durand Jones & The Indications is an unlikely one. Originally planned as a one-off to explore the band’s love of soul music, they recorded demos in makeshift home studio, with a whopping $450 budget and a toy karaoke microphone. The result of that evening became their 2016 debut self-titled album,which harkens back to powerhouse forces in the r&b/soul world, like Charles Bradley, Lee Fields, and Al Green. Now working through tastemaking label Dead Oceans, the group are continuing their rise with tons of internet buzz, critical acclaim, and a mounting tally of radio plays. Tack on an aggressive tour schedule, which sees them stopping in on a number of festival appearances this summer, and it shouldn’t be hard to see why you don’t want to miss your chance to catch this exciting band on the rise.
LISTEN | “Is It Any Wonder?”
WATCH | “Smile” (Official Music Video)
#12: BLANK RANGE
Thursday | This Tent | 4:45pm
Local scene stalwarts Blank Range have been blog faves since they first formed in 2012. Five years and two EPs later, the road-tested band finally dropped their first full-length, Marooned with the Treasure, last summer, and have had a buzzworthy year since. The group first graced Bonnaroo’s smaller stages back in 2014, and have gone on to open for the likes of Death Cab for Cutie, Spoon, and The Mountain Goats, renowned for their garage rock sound that pulls from psychedelic rock and Americana. A definite local success story, their graduation to a tent this year feels well-earned.
LISTEN | “Last Crash Landing”
WATCH | “Opening Band” (Official Music Video)
#11: LEVEN KALI
Thursday | Who Stage | 12:30am
If you’re not avidly dialed into the hip hop and r&b scene, chances are you might not know the name Leven Kali. But if you’re a casual fan of artists like Drake, Playboi Carti, or Topaz Jones, there’s a strong likelihood you’ve heard his smooth, soulful voice gracing a recent track. Born Leven Simon-Seay in Holland, but raised in Santa Monica from a young age by two musical parents, Kali dabbled in music all his life, performing in jazz band throughout school and former collaborative partnerships with a variety of longtime friends, all the while seriously pursuing golf and eventually attending college. Along with manager and hometown friend Tommy Nowels, Leven began to more seriously focus on a full-time career in music a few years ago, and thanks to a series of high-profile guest spots, production and wiring credits, and a string of buzzworthy singles, the singer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist is fast becoming a must-know talent.
After three excellent singles, “Joy,” “Smile,” and “Yours,” managed to light up the blogosphere last year, Leven made even bigger waves with his recent “Do U Wrong,” featuring Syd. Bringing an infectious, upbeat vibe and influences ranging from jazz to hip hop to motown, neo-soul, rock, G-funk, west coast r&b, and dance worthy pop, the now 23-year-old has also worked with big names like Skrillex, Ty Dolla $ign, and Thundercat, wound up being sampled on a Drake track, and prominently landed a feature on Playboi Carti’s high-profile debut, proving versatile with both his production and performance chops, and well as his singular artistic talent. Late night sets for new artists on Bonnaroo’s smaller stages can sometimes get lost in the shuffle, but we can’t recommend enough you make Leven Kali a high priority- with his tight live band, positive vibes, and insanely cool style, he’ll sure to set the whole weekend off on a high note.
LISTEN | “Joy”
WATCH | “Do U Wrong” ft. Syd (Official Lyric Video)
Thursday | Who Stage | 8:00pm
From busking in Central Park to a fortuitous meeting with musical icon Jay-Z, who signed her (and the rest of her family) to his famed Roc Nation label, sounds like the dream trajectory for any aspiring artist, but for Victory, born Victory Boyd, it was simply the culmination of a lifetime of hard work and immense, well-honed, and unrivaled talent. Hailing originally from Detroit, Boyd’s parents and siblings are all musicians, and her father founded the Boys & Girls Choirs of Detroit, which Victory began singing in at age 4. In 2007, the Boyds relocated to New Jersey, and began singing every morning- all ten of them- at Central Park’s Bethesda Fountain, where they quickly earned viral attention from tourists and passersby, finding praise and countless views on YouTube and from a variety of media outlets.
After being alerted to their videos by a friend, Jay-Z requested a meeting with the family, and opted to sign all of them, singling out Victory in particular to develop for a solo career. The 23-year-old made her debut with last year’s It’s a New Dawn EP, quickly finding acclaim for her fusion of soul, folk, and jazz, and powerful, personal, and beautiful voice, which conjures legends like Nina Simone, whose track “Feeling Good” she covers and borrows the record’s title from. Victory’s full-length debut, The Broken Instrument, will arrive June 15, not long after Bonnaroo, and even early buzz and stellar lead single “Open Your Eyes” are any indication, it might just be one of the most powerful, resonant debuts in recent memory. Catch her on Bonnaroo’s intimate Who Stage while you can, because Victory is legend in the making.
LISTEN | “Feeling Good”
WATCH | “Open Your Eyes” (Official Lyric Video)
Thursday | Who Stage | 6:30pm
If you’re dialed into the up and coming local rock scene, you undoubtedly often see bands spring out of Belmont and MTSU, but Vanderbilt, perhaps the most academically prestigious local school of all, seems to less frequently incubate musical acts- which is why buzzy new group’s Arlie‘s alma mater (3/4 of them anyway- one member did, in fact, hail from Belmont) first caught our eye. The roots of the project trace back a few years, when frontman Nathaniel Banks started taking his solo music in a different direction, eventually recruiting Adam Lochemes, Jason Antwi, and Carson Lystad to fill out a proper band in late 2016. With the early 2017 release of their debut single, “Big Fat Mouth,” Arlie managed both to attract an enthusiastic local following (largely of fellow students) and to find national acclaim throughout the blogosphere, earning enough buzz to begin to tour.
Since then, they’ve only released two more official tracks, last year’s “Didya Think” and the more recent “blackboard.edu,” each release further honing their dreamy, indie, lo-fi, and alternative rock that simultaneously channels both retro psychedelic vibes along with more modern indie. Despite the small catalogue (a debut EP should be arriving soon), the band have already played SXSW, toured with Rostam, and have inked a deal with Atlantic, putting them on course to be Nashville’s next exciting rock and roll success story. In just a year, the group have jumped from a failed attempt to win a spot at Bonnaroo though the Road to Roo, to earning a debut spot on their own merits, and if their trajectory and quality of output continues at the pace of the past year, their next Bonnaroo outing will be on a considerably larger stage- catch Arlie now while they’re on the rise, and thank us later.
LISTEN | “Big Fat Mouth”
WATCH | “Didya Think” (Official Music Video)
Thursday | New Music On Tap Lounge | 8:45pm
Oregon forged, LA based indie popsters flor first turned heads with their debut EP, sounds, in 2015, rapidly building a fanbase with their accessible, stylish, electro-laced style. After inking a deal with Fueled By Ramen, the label home of acts like Paramore and Panic! at the Disco (whose fans should definitely flock to this group), the band dropped their first full-length, come out, you’re hiding, last year, and have continued to rise in stock ever since. It’s a bit of a surprise to see them on a club stage, but those who wander to see them Thursday night are in for a real treat- if you’re a fan of earnest, fresh, and pop-accessible songs, give these guys a shot.
LISTEN | “back again”
WATCH | “hold on” (Official Music Video)
Thursday | This Tent | 12:30am
When she emerged out of nowhere in 2015, LA electro-pop singer/producer Elohim took the route of absolute anonymity that a handful of internet-bred artists have experimented with in recent years, opting to keep secret her name, backstory, and even her face (we know she’s a lifelong aspiring musician with a humble upbringing, that her moniker is Hebrew for “God,” and not much else). Though her buzz has continued to grow, fueled by a stylish, synth-fueld eponymous 2016 release (dubbed an EP, despite its 10 tracks) and a hyped up series of singles that dominated the blogosphere, we still haven’t learned much more about the enigmatic singer, other than a better glimpse of what she looks like, revealed in press materials, music videos, and, of course, live appearances, which extend to a series of high-profile festival spots this summer.
Without the distraction of artistic image, Elohim pivots the focus and connection purely on her music, and with her eponymous debut LP, which just arrived in April, her knack for anthemic yet intimate hooks and huge, epic production makes her a pop artist you should be glued to. Appropriately, the singer’s first outing at Bonnaroo is a late night set, where both her mystique will stay better preserved, and her vibey, stylish sound will also keep you entranced until the wee hours of the night. Elohim is an essential addition to your Thursday must-see list at ‘Roo, and a great bet for fans of pop with an electronic flair, with a singer rather than a DJ at its core.
LISTEN | “Fuck Your Money”
WATCH | “Half Love” (Official Music Video)
#6: THE BRUMMIES
Thursday | New Music On Tap Lounge | 5:45pm
You may remember us raving about a promising duo called John & Jacob in recent years, who, after relocating from Alabama, found quick success as songwriters in the Nashville country scene, and leveraged that to craft their own eponymous full-length in 2014, which led to considerable acclaim and world tours as headliners, as well as with the likes of Kacey Musgraves. While not exactly the same band (think of it more as a 2.0, or spiritual successor), John Davidson and Jacob Bryant, along with longtime drummer Trevor Davis switched gears and became The Brummies (British slang for a resident of Birmingham, England- a clever nod to their home of Birmingham, Alabama) early last year, adopting a pretty stellar sonic shift and more focused image ahead of the project’s debut, Eternal Reach, earlier this year.
While John & Jacob had country ties, they never cleanly fit under than genre label, and as The Brummies, the talented artists eschew that connotation even further, tapping into an affinity for retro, psychedelic rock and soft indie folk. The group’s bread and butter has always been their incredible songwriting chops, and with Eternal Reach, they make an incredibly strong and confident debut, crafting lush, dense, breezy and melodic arrangements and dense, lovely harmonies, both tapping into a style of golden eras of music past, while still finding a worthy place in the contemporary landscape. More or less plugging into where John & Jacob left off (they even tapped Kacey Musgraves for an inspired duet), The Brummies have already been touring at a steady clip, and when they make festival rounds this summer, including at Bonnaroo’s New Music On Tap club stage, they’re primed for a quick ascent.
LISTEN | “Drive Away” ft. Lacey Musgraves
WATCH | “Norway” (Stripped)
#5: JADE BIRD
Thursday | Who Stage | 11:00pm
Slotted for a primo set at the intimate Who Stage on Bonnaroo’s first night, British singer-songwriter Jade Bird heads into festival season as an artist to watch, also set to appear at Firefly, Bumbershoot, and the nearby Pilgrimage Fest, among others, with her first-ever headlining tour on tap for the fall. While she only made her debut with last year’s buzzed-about Something American EP, and more recently turned heads this year with single “Lottery,” Bird, a 20-year-old self-described army brat, expected to drop a full-length later this year or early next, is already seeing her name tossed in among some musical greats.
Crediting a lifelong love of powerful songwriters, and the prevalent influence of strong women- her young mother, grandmother, and then early musical role models likes Alanis Morissette and Loretta Lynn- Jade found her way into the folk and Americana sphere through The Civil Wars, Chris Stapleton, and aforementioned Lynn, and while she’s certainly been buzzed about in that musical scene, perfectly falling into an American-esque style like fellow Europeans First Aid Kit, with whom she recently toured, to simply call Bird a folk or Americana artist would be to undersell her immense pop and singer-songwriter chops. An eclectic, confident, and immensely gifted songwriter with an unbelievable voice and wisdom beyond her years, Jade Bird should be a permeant fixture on your musical radar, and an essential must-see this year at Bonnaroo.
LISTEN | “Cathedral”
WATCH | “Lottery” (Official Music Video)
Thursday | This Tent | 5:45pm
Born Cynthia Nabozny in the suburbs of Detroit, just a few short years ago electropop newcomer CYN was simply a midwestern teenager with musical aspirations and dreams of outgrowing her typical, small town life. After working with producer Felix Snow in 2015, gravitating towards a more synth-drenched, pop rooted sound on transformative single “Only with You,” Cynthia soon found herself showcasing the track for Katy Perry in Los Angeles through a lucky and serendipitous series of circumstances, wowing the pop icon and inking a deal with Perry’s Unsub label imprint.
More or less a protégé of Perry’s, CYN, now 24, has transformed into a buzzworthy, confident, and unique pop fixture, working with Katy and the Unsub team on her forthcoming debut EP, which spawned a series of early singles last year met with widespread critical acclaim. Often promising pop up and comers wind up on the Who Stage or On Tap Lounge, a great “you heard it first” opportunity, but with her swift traction, CYN is already slated to debut on This Tent- first night with no main stage competition to boot. Small to mid-tier pop doesn’t always get its due attention at Bonnaroo, but year after year we catch some serious gems who might otherwise float under the radar, and whether or not you’re a Katy Perry fan, you’re sure to fall in love with CYN’s substantive, hook-laden, and earnest style.
LISTEN | “Together”
WATCH | “Only With You” (Official Music Video)
#3: TOPAZ JONES
Thursday | New Music On Tap Lounge | 11:45pm
Raised in New Jersey by a musically inclined, Harvard scholar, Holistic doctor, social activist mother and a ’70s and ’80s funk musician father, Topaz Jones, born George Jones, developed both an early affinity for classic funk and soul, as well as pop, hip hop, and the contemporary sounds of his youth (notably, he started a “boy band” with childhood friends, and released his first “mixtape” at a mere eight years old). An avid fan musically well-versed, retro-checking, and unique hip hop acts like Outkast, Jones, a graduate of NYU (and a social activism and music business scholar in his secondary school years), began making waves in the hip hop world with his 2014 effort The Honeymoon Suite, finding further, more widespread acclaim for 2016’s Arcade and some excellent more recent singles.
At only 25, Topaz Jones has already developed a reputation for crafting personal, poetic, and expansive music that feels true to his retro funk roots, fusing a sort of adventurous, bold Afrofuturism with a more modern, honed, and intellectual flavor of hip hop, akin to but not quite like Kendrick Lamar, Kid Cudi, and the aforementioned Outkast. While certainly more heavy on hip hop in some years than others, Bonnaroo has maintained a pretty good track record lately in nabbing interesting, substantive, up and coming rappers carving a niche outside of the mainstream (you definitely won’t hear an ounce of trap in Jones’ sound). Set to close down the Who Stage at the fest’s first night, Topaz Jones is an exciting find you’ll want to make a must-see.
LISTEN | “Winona” ft. Pell
WATCH | “Tropicana”
#2: RON GALLO
Thursday | That Tent | 5:00pm
Though he cut his teeth a decade ago with eclectic, Philadelphia based group Toy Soldiers, local rocker Ron Gallo has been both cultivating an impressive solo career and cementing his place as a fixture in the Nashville scene since relocating to Music City a few years back. After an exploratory first record, RONNY, not long after his prior band’s demise, Gallo found what has become his defining style, voice, and attitude with 2017’s absolutely phenomenal HEAVY META, an inspired, bold, and passionate fusion of garage punk, indie, and art rock, which we named the best local record of 2017.
The record’s newfound critical attention and Gallo’s subsequent time on the road inspired this year’s followup EP, Really Nice Guys, which both satirizes the industry and pokes fun at Ron himself, while still managing to push his garage, punk, and psych rock tendencies with some solid, albeit more lighthearted and meta, new material. Known not only for his frequent performances, often in DIY and off the beaten path spaces, but also for his excellent video output, which wavers between fun, parody, and earnest punk rock poetry, often using Nashville as a backdrop, Gallo is one of our absolute favorite local artists to emerge in recent years, and perhaps the most important new fixture in local rock. He debuted on a club stage in 2016, but we encourage you to make his larger ‘Roo return a priority!
LISTEN | “Young Lady, You’re Scaring Me”
WATCH | “Really Nice Guys” (Official Music Video)
Thursday | That Tent | 11:30pm
We’ve been following Nashville based r&b/pop artist R.LUM.R since buzzy track “Be Honest” grabbed our attention back in 2015, and it feels only fitting to kick off this year’s spotlight series with an introduction to one of Music City’s most exciting new acts. The incredibly talented singer/songwriter/producer keeps blowing things through the roof with new music and increasingly frequent tours, and ahead of the release of his debut EP, Afterimage, which dropped last summer, the rising star in the making managed to capture national buzz. Thanks to hypnotic, breakout track and playlist favorite “Frustrated,” the guitarist turned pop r&b singer, born Reggie Williams and originaly hailing from Florida, has earned praise from everyone from Rolling Stone to Billboard, amassed millions of plays and acclaim throughout the blogosphere, and even made his television debut last year on Jimmy Kimmel Live!
While many a promising new Nashville pop singer has seemed primed to become the city’s next big breakout act over the last couple of years, R.LUM.R’s inevitable widespread success feels like a foregone conclusion, and the fact that he’s one of the highest-billed performers on Bonnaroo’s first night (which lacks main stage headliners, and is an excellent opportunity to give medium-sized artists on the rise more room to shine) is a testament to how fast Reggie’s musical ascent has been. With his stylish, modern, r&b sound and more eclectic influences ranging from from a background in indie and alternative rock, propelled by a commanding and unbelievable vocal prowesses, R.LUM.R is a singer we’ve been thrilled to watch grow form the start, and his Bonnaroo debut, a definite must-see at this year’s fest, is sure to be one of the weekend’s biggest highlights.
LISTEN | “Love Less”
WATCH | “Frustrated” (Official Music Video)