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, still in the dark on making your schedule, and intent on making sure to show all the hometown talent some love, here’s a rundown of every Nashville artist appearing this weekend. Be sure to check out our Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday daily guides as well, and we’ll see you on the farm!
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)
THURSDAY: 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: 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)
THURSDAY: ERNEST K.
Thursday | That Tent | 3:15pm
Nashville native Ernest K. is part of the city’s ever-growing and vastly under-appreciated hip hop scene, amassing a ton of attention throughout the blogosphere with an accessible, genre-bending recent array of tracks. Attracted to music at a young age, Ernest credits discovering the Space Jam soundtrack and Eminem in elementary school for first getting him into hip hop, and spent his youth both learning instruments and crafting beats, forging his fusion of pop and rap that pulls from rock and singer-songwriter traditions.
LISTEN | “Twisted”
WATCH | “Trouble With Us” (Official Music Video)
CONNECT | Site | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
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: 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)
FRIDAY: STURGILL SIMPSON
Friday | What Stage | 8:15pm
While our name might suggest otherwise, we couldn’t be bigger fans of the new crop of revivalist and alternative country acts that have been gaining momentum in Nashville, and, especially with an unprecedented past few year of success, no one currently carries this torch more importantly than Sturgill Simpson. Born and raised in Kentucky, Simpson got his start more than a decade ago, performing as part of bluegrass band Sunday Valley. Though they achieved some success, the singer put his career on pause for a few years, taking a job at a freight shipping yard in Salt Lake City. An itch to perform would lead him to open mics and solo shows, before briefly returning to Sunday Valley for a final album. Sturgill and his wife relocated to Nashville in 2010, and, after finally opting to go solo, the rest is history.
Simpson self-funded and self-released his debut, High Top Mountain, in 2013, enlisting producer Dave Cobb to help capture a more traditionalist country aesthetic, quickly garnering comparisons to Waylon Jennings. Not only beloved by the country crowd, but able to cross over to broader appeal through his traditional, personal, unrelenting, and damn good knack for songwriting, Sturgill’s sound is the opposite of what the mainstream country scene has become; a breath of fresh air amidst a genre that has largely lost its way. 2014’s alt country leaning Metamodern Sounds in Country Music propelled the singer to new heights, earning spots on countless end of year lists, proving commercially and critically successful, and enabling Sturgill to perform on the late night TV and live festival circuit, bolstered even further by Grammy winning 2016 followup A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. Smart, philosophical, and unrivaled in talent, Sturgill returns to Bonnaroo as one of Nashville’s all-time greats.
LISTEN | “Turtles All the Way Down”
WATCH | “All Around You” (Official Music Video)
Friday | What Stage | 6:15pm
That Paramore have been a band for over 14 years, hail from the Nashville area, and have almost entirely remained based here for their whole run, and, yet, are only now playing Bonnaroo for the first time is a bit of a shock (really ‘Roo, you couldn’t even book them on a club stage back in the day??), but as they say, better late than never. Regular readers (and, you know, general music fans) should need no introduction to the group, who sprung from the mid-’00s pop punk and emo scene in their teens, inspired by acts like Jimmy Eat World and Sunny Day Real Estate, swiftly finding a cult following within the Warped Tour, Alt Press, and MySpace crowd, only to break out in a massive, widespread, and mainstream way with 2007 sophomore effort Riot!
The decade since has been a transformative one for Paramore, who have not only gone through some growing pains as they lost (and, in the case of Zac Farro, eventually regained) half of their founding lineup, but also have grown in more positive, personal, and profoundly artistic ways, now many years removed from their pop punk beginnings. 2009’s Brand New Eyes first showcased a more personal and adventurous shift in songwriting, more fully seized upon with the band’s triumphant, alternative, and Grammy winning eponymous record in 2013. After a series of hardships that nearly led to their split, the band regrouped, returned to their Nashville roots, and bounced back with their most deconstructed and nuanced effort in years, After Laughter, last year, adopting a new wave-infused synthpop bent and uninhibited creative focus that feels more sincere and true to their grounded, communal attitude than any prior release. A fun, joyous, and unbelievably earnest live act, Paramore’s long overdue Bonnaroo debut is one of the weekend’s most essential sets, and a must for any Nashvillian wanting to cheer on our city’s greatest rock band.
LISTEN | “Ain’t It Fun”
WATCH | “Hard Times” (Official Music Video)
FRIDAY: SHERYL CROW
Friday | What Stage | 4:15pm
It’s been twenty-five years since Missouri born pop singer Sheryl Crow first erupted to worldwide recognition with her debut, Tuesday Night Music Club, and eponymous followup, cementing a career which has continued to spawn massive hits and a wide range of genre exploration. Though she spent many years in LA, the singer calls Nashville home these days, and even took a turn towards country with 2013 effort Feels Like Home. Her latest, Be Myself, however, is a return to Crow’s more pop and rock roots, and now a certifiable icon, just feels like the cherry on top of an impressive catalogue.
LISTEN | “Halfway There”
WATCH | “If It Makes You Happy” (Official Music Video)
FRIDAY: OKEY DOKEY
Friday | Who Stage | 9:45pm
We’ve been following the rapid rise of local psych pop outfit Okey Dokey since they first sprung onto the scene in early 2016. Formed by visual artist Aaron Martin and guitarist Jonny Fisher, formerly of Sol Cat and currently a live member of The Weeks, the band began fleshing out their unique and entrancing sound with the help of friends from other projects, including The Weeks, Sol Cat, Diane Coffee, Wild Child, and Desert Noises. They’ve come a long way since we hosted them at our No Country Presents showcase at Acme Feed & Seed that spring, and, following the release of their stellar debut album, Love You, Mean It, last year, have gone on to tour with bigger and bigger acts and landed spots at a number of regional and national festivals.
Though the buzz from their debut is still pushing the group to bigger audiences and new ears, Okey Dokey aren’t slowing down on the creative output, dropping a few non-LP singles throughout last year, and even drumming up some pre-Bonnaroo buzz with a brand new EP, Besides, on June 1. With a groovy, soulful, pop accessible psych rock sound, the band are vibey, engaging good time live, and a late night Friday set on an intimate stage sounds like the ideal way to soak up their sound at Bonnaroo. Don’t let the bigger stages zap all of your attention- this is a weekend gem, and one of many great Nashville acts on deck this year!
LISTEN | “Wavy Gravy”
WATCH | “Low Rent // Blue Skies” (Official Music Video)
FRIDAY: COLIN ELMORE & THE DANVILLE TRAIN
Friday | Who Stage | 5:45pm
Raised by a musical family and hailing originally from Missouri, Colin Elmore got his start performing gospel with his family and, later, in rock bands, before ultimately branching out as a solo performer and eventually relocating to Nashville, where some of his earliest close friends would become his future band, The Danville Train. Over the past few years, Elmore has scored a record deal and publishing deal, and as he prepares to release his debut EP with the rootsy, talented band, is an exciting name in the local singer-songwriter community
LISTEN | “Hallways (Never Alone)”
WATCH | “Hail Mary” (live)
FRIDAY: THE FOXIES
Friday | New Music On Tap Lounge | 1:15pm
After a tough fought Road to Roo competition (seriously– we didn’t cover it this year, but the format adopted for the past few has been multi-week knockout bracket style battle of the bands, with the Nashville winner then competing in the state finals for a chance at one single spot at the fest, as opposed to the one winner per show format of the similarly named predecessor showcase), Nashville’s own The Foxies scored a well-deserved chance to play Bonnaroo this year- something few bands can claim to have obtained through a merit-based voting system. Since landing on our radar with their blissfully poppy, retro, energetic debut EP Oblivion in 2016, the group have steadily become one of the coolest names in the Nashville pop scene, and Bonnaroo is just the latest stepping stone in their inevitable rise to broader acclaim.
Helmed by dynamic and enigmatic singer Julia Lauren Bullock, the roots of the project trace back to Phoenix, Arizona, and started as a band with early buzz thanks to single “Floods,” before more or less morphing into a solo vehicle for Bullock, and apparently back into a band as they’ve laid their roots in Nashville, resonating online thanks to further singles like “Wander in Lust” and “Box Wine,” and for their glam inspired, ’70s and ’80s referencing, unabashed pop sound, rooted with a modern indie pop flair. An electrifying, confident, and cool live experience (they did win a city-wide Bonnaroo contest, remember), and thanks to Julia’s one-of-kind, magnetic style and incredible voice, The Foxies are not just an essential rising Nashville group, but a must-see at this year’s Bonnaroo. Get your Friday going early, and thank us later.
LISTEN | “Floods”
WATCH | “Be Afraid Boy” (Official Music Video)
SATURDAY: OLD CROW MEDICINE SHOW
Saturday | Which Stage | 7:45pm
Though their origins trace back to Harrisonburg, VA, Old Crow Medicine Show have long been a Nashville staple, relocating to Music City after being discover busking on the street by Doc Watson not long after their formation 20 years ago. Of course best known for their massive, modern classic hit “Wagon Wheel,” the celebrated, award winning band have continued to fine tune their sound over six great records, pulling from Americana, bluegrass, old time music, folk, and alt country. The Grand Ole Opry inductees are largely credited with helping usher in the banjo and string folk craze of last decade, and remain a beloved fixture of the scene.
LISTEN | “Whirlwind”
WATCH | “Wagon Wheel” (Official Music Video)
Saturday | Campground Plaza 7 | 6pm
Saturday stands as the lightest on local acts, so we were delighted to see Luthi join as a late addition, for a special set in Nashville curated campground Plaza 7, The Ville. Fronted by Christian Luthi, the group are a fun, eclectic, funky, and soulful collective with an energized and dance primed live presence. We loved their first EP, Home Again, and recent debut album Stranger is without a doubt one of the year’s best local records.
LISTEN | “Milk and Honey”
WATCH | “Every Body” (Official Music Video)
SUNDAY: MOON TAXI
Sunday | Which Stage | 7:15pm
One of Nashville’s definitive rock and roll success stories of the past few years, Moon Taxi began just over a decade ago, while several members were students at Belmont. Quickly finding a regional audience following the 2007 release of their debut, Melodica, the group’s early days were characterized by a compelling and polished live show, and an affinity for jam-inspired rock with progressive tendencies. The group’s sophomore release, Cabaret, arrived in 2012, and really set the wheels in motion for the whirlwind of success they’ve since experienced. Finding a poppier balance, doubling down on their songwriting, and incorporating electronics, Moon Taxi quickly found a larger critical and commercial audience, going, in a matter of months, from local events like East Nashville Underground, to prominent spots at national fests, appearances on late night television , commercial placements, and nonstop touring.
2013’s Mountains Beaches Cities followed a sonically similar approach to proggy, poppy, alternative rock, and their sound became even more accessible with 2015’s Daybreaker, paving the way for recent fifth effort album Let the Record Play, their most pop primed, confident, anthemic, and polished record yet, and a perfect representation of the energy and excitement of their live show. With lead single “Two High,” the band scored their biggest bona fide hit, and they return to Bonnaroo at an exciting and important moment in their career.
LISTEN | “All Day All Night”
WATCH | “Two High” (Official Music Video)
SUNDAY: GRAND OLE OPRY
Sunday| That Tent | 8:15pm
While Nashville is, of course, so much more than country music, it’s still the home of and most important city for country in the world, and so much of that can be attributed to local institution the Grand Ole Opry, which began nearly 100 years ago. Seemingly in place of the Bluegrass SuperJam of recent years, the Opry has put together an excellent, eclectic bill of local country performers for a Sunday night jamboree (which we assume will flow like a typical Opry show), includes legends like Del McCoury and Bobby Bare, and newer favorites like Nikki Lane.
LISTEN | Bobby Bare – “I Drink”
WATCH | The Del McCoury Band – “All Abord” (live)
SUNDAY: BROTHERS OSBORNE
Sunday | What Stage | 4:15pm
Comprised of brothers T.J. and John Osborne, Brothers Osborne are yet another example of Bonnaroo’s higher concentration of country acts this year. The duo made waves with well-received debut Pawn Shop in 2016, and followed that up with Port Saint Joe earlier this year, both big hits in the country world. With a rock and roll bite, they definitely have crossover apparel, so it’s no surprise to see the band increasingly showing up at festivals.
LISTEN | “Shoot Me Straight”
WATCH | “It Ain’t My Fault” (Official Music Video)
SUNDAY: PARKER MILLSAP
Sunday | What Stage | 2:15pm
Oklahoma native Parker Millsap has been making waves in the Americana scene for years. Over the years, he’s received major accolades for his unique mixture of modern alt-country, folk, and rootsy old school rock and roll. His self-titled debut album landed on our Best Albums of 2014 list, and for good reason. The soulful, electric energy featured on the release evolved into an even more exciting sound on 2016’s The Very Last Day, and with brand new effort Other Arrangements, Millsap managed to further perfect his sound and grow as a songwriter. Although he’s only 25 years old, his artistry is hard to find in even the most seasoned of America-based musicians.
LISTEN | “Fine Line”
WATCH | “Pining” (Official Music Video)
SUNDAY: MIKKY EKKO
Sunday | Which Stage | 1:30pm
The son of a preacher, Mikky Ekko spent his childhood bouncing around the deep south, entrenched in gospel from an early age, before ultimately settling in Nashville to pursue a musical career. While he found early traction as a songwriter, producer, and budding solo artist, even performing with Nashville collective Ten Out of Tenn, it was an appearance on 2013 Rihanna track “Stay,” which he co-wrote, that really put Ekko on the national radar (and bagged an appearance at the Grammys).
After a couple years of continued buzz and a string of high-profile writing credits, Mikky released his full-length debut, Time, in 2015, a confident, poppy, and triumphant representation of many years of artistry. Opting to remain in Nashville, Mikky has continued to write and produce in balance with a solo career (which creates the occasional appearance that he’s laying low), but began to reemerge last last year with new music, resulting in an excellent recent EP, Advance Copy, ahead of a forthcoming Jay Joyce produced sophomore album, Fame. Easily one of Nashville’s most important pop artists, his afternoon set is worth venturing to Centeroo early for!
LISTEN | “What It’s Like Now”
WATCH | “Smile” (Official Music Video)
SUNDAY: *repeat repeat
Sunday | Who Stage | 5:15pm
Husband an wife duo *repeat repeat are longtime friends of the site and a longtime local fixture, helping forge and facilitate a space for exciting local acts on the rise with their beloved East Nashville Underground concert series, which also served as a backdrop for some of their earliest shows. Founded by frontman Jared Corder, the band’s nostalgic, harmonic, garage rock sound nods to ’60s California surf music, and is filled out by the harmonies of his wife Kristyn, who lent her vocals to early sessions at a producer’s encouragement, and soon became a permanent fixture.
Anchored by the Corders, the band went from local buzz to national with their debut record, Bad Latitude, in 2014, and after constant touring and mounting attention, inked a deal with Dangerbird ahead of last year’s more adventurous, confident, wistful, and pop primed followup, Floral Canyon. A joyous and engaging live band, *repeat repeat seem well on the way to becoming Nashville’s next big rock success story, and the must be witnessed in person to be fully appreciated. An intimate stage set is a treat, so don’t sleep on it!
LISTEN | “Mostly”
WATCH | “Girlfriend” (Official Music Video)
Sunday | Who Stage | 7:15pm
What began as a mysterious local production and a remix project a couple years back, indie/electro/r&b duo Biyo (pronounced like bio) have been dropping futuristic-sounding original singles since mid-2016, coming out of the shadows with some seriously cool tunes. Going only by their first names, Grayson and Sam (though you might recognize them from other musical endeavors), the band have amasscd millions of streams and love throughout the blogosphere for their sexy, r&b and pop drenched style, and while they seem to prefer to keep a mysterious vibe and let the music do the talking, their Who Stage set is a must-see.
LISTEN | “Fantasies”
WATCH | “Moments” (Official Music Video)