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 20 Friday performers below a preview (and be sure to check out our Thursday list)! See you on the farm!
#20: KYLE DION
Friday | New Music On Tap Lounge | 8:45pm
While the distinction between Bonnaroo’s main/tent stages and club stages is a little less pronounced this year (they used to unveil them in separate lineups), it bears a mention that the fest’s smallest stages, the Who Stage and New Music On Tap Lounge, are an incredible way to discover new talent on the rise, and in many years past acts have swiftly graduated to much bigger spots upon return. Sometimes the best and most diverse performers on the weekend are tucked away in these spots, so we always make a point to scope them all out. With an evening slot, it might be easy to overlook LA based r&b/soul singer Kyle Dion, but with his sultry, smooth, and thoughtful sound, and a string of trendy singles that have been lighting up the blogosphere since 2016 mini album Painting Sounds, he’s a singer you should immediately brush up on (and thank us later).
LISTEN | “Hold On to Me”
WATCH | “Baby Esther” (Official Music Video)
#19: TYLER CHILDERS
Friday | That Tent | 3:15pm
Kentucky bred country, bluegrass, and Americana singer-songwriter Tyler Childers got an early start after a lifetime of performing with his self-released 2011 effort Bottles and Bibles, but it is last year’s Purgatory, co-produced by Sturgill Simpson and recorded in Nashville, that is fast making him an exciting act in the country scene to watch, his career trajectory reminiscent of Sturgill’s himself. A testament to his swift buzz, Childers is set to play a tent stage on Friday, and was also tapped by Bonnaroo to lead this year’s brand new Fan SuperJam Camp, where he’ll be facilitating musical connections between fans and fellow artists.
LISTEN | “If Whiskey Could Talk”
WATCH | “Whitehouse Road” (Official Music Video)
#18: PLAYBOI CARTI
Friday | This Tent | 8:15pm
After attracting early internet buzz and briefly signing to underground rap label Awful, young Atlanta MC Playboi Carti managed to catch the attention of A$AP Mob, who poached him for their major label imprint in 2016. An eponymous mixtape the following year helped boost the rapper’s presence, earning a string of collaborations with fellow young, experimental, and internet-bred acts. Also an avid fan of fashion, Carti has dabbled in modeling and earned praise for his style, further boosting a sense of cultural relevance and connection to the youthful zeitgeist with his well-received debut LP, Die Lit, earlier this year. Though hip hop offerings at Bonnaroo tend to be modest, they’re always well-curated, and Playboy Carti is an important rapper of the moment, much like Kendrick Lamar and A$AP Rocky were when they first bowed at the fest a few years ago.
LISTEN | “Shoota” ft. Lil Uzi Vert
WATCH | “Magnolia” (Official Music Video)
Friday | That Tent | 1:15am
Electro-funk Canadian duo Chromeo have dubbed themselves as “the only successful Arab/Jewish partnership since the dawn of human culture,” but, political tensions aside, these guys are also staples for all the dance music fanatics that frequent clubs in cities across the globe. Leaning heavily on disco influences, it’s almost like a trip back to the by-gone cocaine days of Studio 54, but it’s more like today’s EDM craze traveled back in time to tap into some Kool & The Gang. The genre-bending Bonnaroo vets appear just a week before their first album in four years, Heard Over Heels, is slated to drop, so expect new tunes as you dance the night away to their funky, disco-soaked vibes.
LISTEN | “Jealous (I Ain’t With It)”
WATCH | “Must’ve Been” ft. DRAM (Official Music Video)
Friday | That Tent | 7:15pm
Singer, rapper, songwriter, and producer T-Pain is certainly best-known for his auto-tune augmented features on dozens of massive hit songs over the years, particularly in his boom around a decade ago, as well as for his respectable solo career, which spawned legitimate cultural moments like “Buy U A Drank.” Though the Grammy winning performer managed to cultivate one of the most distinctive sounds and, in doing so, influence all of hip hop, a common misconception is that he leans on the auto-tune effect as a crutch. If you’ve heard T-Pain sing for real, it’s clear that the soulful, r&b rooted vocalist simply uses the style as an artistic decision, and with five distinct records, most recently last year’s Oblivion, is suited to be one of the most interesting sets of the weekend. For the T-Pain diehards, you can also catch him hosting a surprise hour of karaoke sometime in the middle of the night at Plaza 7 in the campground.
LISTEN | “Textin’ My Ex” ft. Tiffany Evans
WATCH | “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’)” (Official Music Video)
#15: TASH SULTANA
Friday | This Tent | 6:15pm
The ascent of young Australian multi-talented singer-songwriter Tash Sultana has been staggering to witness, fueled largely by the viral success of videos recorded of her jamming her most prominent songs alone in her bedroom. Born and raised in Melbourne, the 22-year-old began learning guitar at the age of three, and her skills have since expanded to more than 20 instruments, plus a knack for singing, looping, beatboxing, songwriting, and more. First cutting her teeth in bands, Sultana turned to busking several years ago after recovering from addiction, honing what would become the genesis of her unbelievable, expansive one woman show.
After sharing videos of herself performing, Tash quickly found viral fame online in 2016, and with the release of her debut EP, Notion, later that year, and managed to amass hundreds of millions of streams, charting in her native Australia and even earning platinum certification for her breakout track “Jungle”- all jaw dropping feats for a young, independent artist on her first formal release. Propelled by the subsequent attention, Sultana began to tour the globe last year, managing to sell out every single headlining show based on her online traction. She’s a performer who must be experienced live to truly appreciate the breadth of her talent, and one of the most unique, if perhaps slightly under the radar, additions to Bonnaroo’s bill.
LISTEN | “Jungle”
WATCH | “Murder to the Mind” (Official Music Video)
#14: LOW CUT CONNIE
Friday | Who Stage | 3:45pm
Formed in 2010 by frontman Adam Weiner, who cut his teeth with solo outfit Ladyfingers, performing in clubs, bars, and alternative spaces around New York City, and across the world in even more punk, DIY, difficult, and under the radar spots, Low Cut Connie began as an organic recording session for a new batch of music under the pretense of a full project, their first record eventually self-released in 2011 to widespread acclaim. 2012 sophomore effort Call Me Sylvia, however, marked a more focused and deliberate shift, and the band have spent several years and three more LPs becoming critical darlings and fan favorites.
Renowned for their wild, unpredictable and raucous live shows, Low Cut Connie have been compared to everyone from Jerry Lee Lewis (for Weiner’s wild piano playing) to the Replacements (for their earnest writing style and on stage antics), adopting a sort of retro rock informed sound with modern sensibilities, which has enabled the band to brush shoulders with the likes of The Dap Kings, Gene Ween, and Tune-Yards, and even catch the attention of President Obama, who added them to his personal playlist. Celebrating a new two-part record, Dirty Pictures, released this year and last, the Philly group are one of the best under the radar finds of all of Bonnaroo, and their Friday afternoon set on the intimate Who Stage is sure to be a weekend highlight.
LISTEN | “Rio”
WATCH | “Beverly” (Official Music Video)
#13: WESTSIDE GUNN & CONWAY
Friday | This Tent | 1:15pm
Westside Gunn and his brother Conway, a.k.a. Conway the Machine, hold the distinction of being the first rappers from Buffalo, NY to ink a major label record deal- and one with none other than Slim Shady himself, Eminem, to boot. After rising to acclaim with a series of EPs, albums, and mixtapes since 2012, the pair, who make music together but not exclusively, have been cultivating a scene, forging a sound, and drumming up acclaim for their old school hip hop sensibilities, comparable to greats like Mobb Deep or Wu-Tang Clan. While they’d be primed to lend some hip hop flair to The Other, the pair are instead playing an early afternoon set on This Tent. They may not be a household name yet, but if you enjoy quality hip hop, you’d be remiss to let this one slip under your radar. Doubly so if you’re an Eminem fan.
LISTEN | “Empire”
WATCH | “Air Holez” (Official Music Video)
#12: 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)
#11: A R I Z O N A
Friday | Which Stage | 3:15pm
Despite the name, emerging electropop group A R I Z O N A (yep, that’s the preferred spelling) actually hail from the Northeast, stationed in Jersey and having met while attending Berklee College of Music in Boston. The trio, who operated separately as songwriters and producers before opting to form a group, were discovered by their manager through Reddit, and through early buzz scored a record deal with Atlantic ahead of last year’s debut LP, GALLERY.
Energetic and upbeat, the band’s dance-primed, layered indie sound lands somewhere between The 1975 and Nashville’s own COIN (with whom they’ve toured), and with hundreds of millions of online plays and early acclaim, especially for breakout single “Oceans Away,” the band are quickly becoming a prominent name in the indie rock scene. This is the second summer they’ve made festival rounds, and we’re glad to see yet another trendy, of the moment, talented and youthful act on the Bonnaroo lineup for your consideration.
LISTEN | “Electric Touch”
WATCH | “Oceans Away” (Official Music Video)
Friday | What Stage | 10:30pm
Proggy alt rock icons Muse formed in 1994 in Devon, England, after first meeting while playing in different bands. Developing a cult following through the late ’90s, the trio achieved critical and commercial success in their native UK for their promising early efforts, but really became a worldwide phenomenon with 2013 third LP Absolution. In the decade and a half since, the band have become rock juggernauts, renowned for their huge, bold, and genre-bending sound and epic, arena and festival primed live shows. There’s a reason they’re still such an in-demand festival get, and it’s not just their impressive back catalogue: Muse can work a stage and connect with a crowd like few other rock bands alive, and whether you’re a longtime fan or a casual newcomer, their set (like all headliners, generally) is one you don’t want to miss.
LISTEN | “Supermassive Black Hole”
WATCH | “Thought Contagion” (Official Music Video)
#9: INTO THE GREAT WIDE OPEN – A SUPERJAM CELEBRATING THE MUSIC OF TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS
Friday | This Tent | 1:15am
A signautre Bonnaroo tradition, the late night SuperJam, which has, in recent years, adopted a different yearly theme, is a unique, exciting, and unforgettable way to catch a ton of incredible artists, both on the festival lineup and otherwise, together for some seriously cool performances and festival-stealing moments. Fittingly, this year’s jam is a tribute to the late, great Tom Petty, who notably headlined ‘Roo several times over the years. Patrick Hallahan of My Morning Jacket and Craig Pfunder of VHS or Beta are this year’s bandleaders, and the performing lineup includes Tom Blankenship (My Morning Jacket), Pat Sansone (Wilco), Mark Charles Heidinger (Vandaveer), Daniel Creamer (The Texas Gentlemen), and The Watson Twins, with special guests Sheryl Crow, Hayley Williams (Paramore), Sameer Gadhia (Young the Giant), Amelia Meath (Young the Giant), David Shaw (The Revivalists), Moon Taxi, Vanessa Carlton, Langhorne Slim, Japanese Breakfast, Frenship, Rayland Baxter, Bucky Baxter, Durand Jones & the Indications, Larkin Poe, The Wild Feathers, and Jalen N’Gonda, though you can always expect many more excellent surprises.
LISTEN | “American Girl”
WATCH | “Free Fallin'” (Official Music Video)
CONNECT | More
#8: 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)
Friday | Which Stage | 9:30pm
Since appearing seemingly out of nowhere in 2016, and dropping what many consider to be the best album of 2017 in his debut, last year’s American Teen, r&b singer Khalid, now barely 20 years old, is without a doubt a superstar in the making. After uploading music to Soundcloud in high school, Khalid’s early single “Location” managed to attract major critical attention throughout the blogosphere, making him a truly buzzworthy act, selling out tours before he even dropped an album. With Grammy nominations, VMA Awards, television appearances, placements, and platinum certifications, the young artist, whose youthful and modern sound fuses r&b, alternative pop, and hip hop influences, has had one of the most exciting career starts in recent memory, and his high-profile Bonnaroo main stage debut is incredibly well-deserved.
LISTEN | “Location”
WATCH | “Young Dumb & Broke” (Official Music Video)
#6: ALEX LAHEY
Friday | What Stage | 2:15pm
Part indie rock, part disaffected garage rock, and part pop punk, Melbourne, Australia’s Alex Lahey is fast becoming the next DIY up and comer you should be keeping an eye on (it’s too obvious to compare her to fellow Aussie indie rocker Courtney Barnett, but the buzz feels similar to when Courtney was about to really break). Clearly not that much of a secret, as she debuts at ‘Roo on the main stage, Lahey first stepped out as a solo artist, following a stint studying saxophone then dabbling in bands in Melbourne’s art scene, in 2016 with her B-Grade University EP, following it up last year with a phenominal full-length debut, I Love You Like a Brother.
Conjuring a smart, personal, wry, and relatable writing style, Alex has perfected an ability to distill millennial angst and her own personal life struggles and triumphs into brisk, poppy, and punk tinged tunes that pack an earnest punch. She’s already shared the stage with big names like Blondie, Tegan and Sara, and Catfish & the Bottlemen, and though she might not yet be a household name stateside, the young singer has all of the makings of a profound and long-lasting new artist. She’s one of the best performers of the entire weekend, and certainly the most compelling reason to get into Centeroo early on Friday.
LISTEN | “You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me”
WATCH | “Every Day’s the Weekend” (Official Music Video)
#5: 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)
#4: EVERYTHING EVERYTHING
Friday | That Tent | 1:30pm
Manchester, England’s Everything Everything hail from the same off-kilter, pop-soaked, artsy indie rock cloth as peers and fellow UK acts alt-J, Django Django, and Glass Animals. Formed in 2007, the former schoolmates and longtime collaborators sought to craft something with r&b and future-thinking influence, rich with social commentary and an intention to widen in scope and style over time. After enthusiastic buzz from critics and fans for their early singles, the band nabbed a major label record deal and released their debut, Man Alive, in 2010, to mostly widespread acclaim.
They’ve remained prolific ever since, with three more full-lengths, a handful of EPs, and worldwide touring to their name, best known in their native Europe, but steadily becoming a more global fixture like some of their aforementioned peers. Firmly rooted in the rock sphere, the band have honed a mathy, synth-drenched, nostalgic aesthetic, with fresh and ambitious songs anchored by social and political discourse, especially on more recent records Get to Heaven and last year’s A Fever Dream. Equally as compelling live, the band’s long overdue outing at Bonnaroo is a compelling reason to get your Friday afternoon going early.
LISTEN | “Regret”
WATCH | “Can’t Do” (Official Music Video)
#3: JAPANESE BREAKFAST
Friday | This Tent | 2:15pm
The solo musical vehicle of Michelle Zauner, who cut her teeth performing in indie pop project Post Post and, later, Philly indie/emo group Little Big League, Japanese Breakfast is a project initially born from grief, which has blossomed into a personal, earnest, and singular artistic expression of a phenomenal talent. After relocating suddenly to her hometown of Eugene, Oregon, after her mom was diagnosed with cancer, Zauner continued to write music to occupy her time. The result, her debut as Japanese Breakfast Psychopomp, arrived after her mom tragically passed, and within its lo-fi, bedroom pop was a nuanced, poignant navigation of grief, sexuality, and personal transition. For awhile, Michelle expected to leave music behind, and to find a more conventional job path that her mom would have approved of.
However, the record’s unprecedented success prompted her to keep her creative career going, and with 2017 followup Soft Sounds from Another Planet, Japanese Breakfast really matured both musically and in more cosmic, adventurous lyricism, both navigating how grief is processed beyond the immediate aftermath of trauma, and also exploring life in a broader context. With her experimental, indie pop sound, Japanese Breakfast has become a darling of the underground scene, beloved by critics and fast attracting a cult following. Herself a Korean American (the “Japanese” in the name came from a connection to Japanese pop culture growing up), Zauner is a worldly artist with an unrivaled ability to express herself and live, she’s just as complex, dreamy, and wonderful.
LISTEN | “Everybody Wants to Love You”
WATCH | “Road Head” (Official Music Video)
#2: MANCHESTER ORCHESTRA
Friday | Which Stage | 5:15pm
Though they’ve long swirled around the pop punk and emo world (likely bolstered by close former associations with Brand New, and tours with acts like Blink-182 and My Chemical Romance), Atlanta’s Manchester Orchestra have, from the start, always been an indie rock group, and perhaps one of the best, and certainly most beloved, of the last decade and half. Formed in 2004 by singer Andy Hull during his last year of high school, the band released their first full-length, I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child, in 2006, and were immediately praised by critics and fans, enabling them to tour on a broad scale ahead of sophomore effort Mean Everything to Nothing.
Subsequent years would include continued critical attention, Hull’s side project Bad Books with Kevin Devine, placements and television appearances, and major festival sets, including a 2010 first at Bonnaroo. More recent releases, particularly 2011’s fan-favorite Simple Math and 2014’s Cope have distilled the band’s intimate, indie sound and helped them broaden their reputation and appeal, enabling last year’s A Black Mile to the Surface land them squarely in the buzzy contemporary indie sphere, also bolstered by Hull and guitarist Robert McDowell’s score for cult hit film Swiss Army Man. An electrifying and resonate live act, Manchester Orchestra bring an element to Bonnaroo that feels often under-represented, and despite the daunting task of playing a main stage, we have no doubt they’ll be a weekend highlight for anyone lucky enough to catch them.
LISTEN | “I Can Feel a Hot One”
WATCH | “The Gold” (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)