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 Saturday performers below a preview (and be sure to check out our Thursday and Friday lists)! See you on the farm!
#20: MATT HOLUBOWSKI
Saturday | New Music On Tap Lounge | 1:15pm
Rising to attention with his appearance on Canada’s version of The Voice, La Voix, singer-songwriter Matt Holubowski sings in English and French, adopting a folky, earnest, and calming sound similar to Ray LaMontagne. His afternoon set at the On Tap Lounge is early, but worth getting going early for, especially after last year’s really excellent LP Epilogue.
.LISTEN | “L’imposteur”
WATCH | “The King” (Official Music Video)
Saturday | What Stage | 4:45pm
Formed as a bedroom project right in Nashville, indie, synthy, poppy, electro-r&b trio LANY (pronounced “lay-nee”) intentionally kept their origins and identities ambiguous for the first year or so of their existence. The group, made up of Les Priest, Jake Goss, and Paul Klein, released two buzzy EPs in 2015, after relocating to LA and choosing to be a bit less mysterious (a move similar to fellow trendy, indie popsters The 1975). After first meeting by happenstance, the trio kept in touch, and would work on music while Paul was in town; the first to move in pursuit of a solo career, before dedicating all of his energy to the group. After the band become a bit more series, Les and Jake followed suit and moved out west, and LANY were met with almost immediate buzz after dropping a handful of early tracks on their Soundcloud. A totally home-brewed effort, LANY’s mesh of styles, particular attention to design, aesthetics, and visual approach, trendy, dreamy branding, and refreshing, expansive sound have made them a buzzworthy juggernaut seemingly overnight, and they return to Bonnaroo bigger than ever thanks to last year’s huge eponymous debut LP.
LISTEN | “ILYSB”
WATCH | “Super Far” (Official Music Video)
#18: TOBI LOU
Saturday | Who Stage | 7:45pm
There are a handful of great smaller hip hop acts playing Bonnaroo this year, but none are as off-kilter and unique as Chicago’s Tobi Lou. Inspired by cartoons and the limitless opportunity they provide, Lou has crafted a particular conceptual, visual style and brand, and over the course of a handful of great singles and a recent EP, has proved to be a formidable music force to boot. Bonnaroo seems to have crammed a bunch of hip hop acts of different sizes around the same time Saturday night, but we urge you to drop by the Who Stage to take in something new.
LISTEN | “Game Ova”
WATCH | “Troop” ft. Smino (Official Music Video)
#17: MAVIS STAPLES
Saturday | Which Stage | 5:45pm
From the moment this year’s Bonnaroo lineup dropped, we were floored to see the inclusion of r&b/soul icon Mavis Staples, who, with crossover guest spots, high-profile appearances, and well-deserved accolades, has been experiencing a lot of extra attention lately. Her careeer spans all the way back to the 1950s, but the Bonnaroo crowd might be more dialed into her recent work with fellow Chicago artist Jeff Tweedy, Gorillaz collaborations, or any variety of the more recent artists who’ve cited her influence. Not just an icon, Staples’ history as an outspoken civil rights activist also feels especially well-timed, given our current political and social climate.
LISTEN | “Can You Get To That”
WATCH | “If All I Was Was Black” (Official Music Video)
#16: KALI UCHIS
Saturday | That Tent | 5:45pm
Fusing r&b, pop, and neo soul, Kali Uchis dropped her first mixtape shorlty after graduating from high school in Virginia in 2012, finding swift accolidies and internet buzz. Brushing shoulders with the likes of Diplo and Tyler, the Creator, she found increased attention for her 2015 debut EP, Por Vida, since touring with Leon Bridges and Lana Del Rey, and collaborating with Gorillaz. Earlier this year, she released her stellar debut, Isolation, and arrives at Bonnaroo at a time that feels like just the start of a massive career.
LISTEN | “Loner”
WATCH | “After the Storm” ft. Tyler, the Creator & Bootsy Collins (Official Music Video)
#15: JAIRA BURNS
Saturday | New Music On Tap Lounge | 2:45pm
Pittsburgh born, Los Angeles based pop singer Jaira Burns is another great example of Bonnaroo’s knack for curating the best up and coming pop, springing from YouTube cover fame in her teens to become a serious, young major label signee with a powerful voice and fiery personality, landing in the ballad-y, electro-drenched territory. We’ve discovered some seriously cool newcomers on Bonnaroo’s tiniest stages, and Burns’ outing seems primed to be no different.
LISTEN | “Ugly”
WATCH | “Sugarcoat” (Official Music Video)
#14: REGGIE WATTS
Saturday | That Tent | 1:45pm
As much a musician as he is a comedian, Reggie Watts is a Bonnaroo vet, and is fittingly playing an actual stage this year. Best known, perhaps, for his time as the bandleader on IFC parody talkshow Comedy Bang! Bang!, Reggie recently made the jump to “serious” bandleader and sidekick for James Corden’s reign on CBS talkshow The Late Late Show. Born in Germany to a military family, Watts was raised in Montana, and moved to Seattle at 18, where he began branching out through years of musical experience, studying jazz at Cornish, and performing with a variety of genre-spanding acts. One of his signature live staples, the use of a looping devices to produce rhythms and background vocals all with his voice, began to develop during this time, first as a way to incorporate extra harmonies into live shows. It wasn’t until the early ’00s, after relocating to New York, that Reggie really began to take comedy seriously, but soon after incorporating comedy into his songwriting, scoring and participating in web shorts, and setting his sights on film and television, he found a quick, cult audience. A decade later, and Watts has released numerous standup specials, toured with everyone from Devo to Conan O’Brien, performed on virtually every late night show, and worked with networks like Comedy Central, Adult Swim, and PBS. His live show is surreal, his musicianship top notch, and his oddball sense of humor very fresh, if not disorienting. If you only have time to catch one comedy set during Bonnaroo, you can’t go wrong with Reggie Watts.
LISTEN | “Thus Far”
WATCH | “Runin” (live)
#13: MOSES SUMNEY
Saturday | What Stage | 2:45pm
A native of Los Angeles, soulful, folk-infused indie artist Moses Sumney is able to seamlessly fuse genres, captivate audiences, and connect with listeners in a profound and meaningful way. One of the most buzzed-about up and coming acts on the west coast, the singer earned resoundingly positive praise for his early music, landing on tour with the likes of Solange, Sufjan Stevens, and Erykah Badu. His debut album, last year’s Aromanticism, is nothing short of a masterpiece, and it’s no surprise to see the singer easrning a main stage spot so early in his career.
LISTEN | “Seeds”
WATCH | “Quarrel” (Official Music Video)
#12: SYLVAN ESSO
Saturday | That Tent | 7:45pm
The swift success of North Carolina indie pop duo Sylvan Esso might be one of the most pleasant musical surprises of the past couple years. Vocalist Amelia Meath originally wrote the hit song “Play It Right” for her previous band, Mountain Man. However, on a fortuitously booked bill at a small club where Mountain Man was playing, she shared the song with electronic producer Nick Sanborn, then playing solo as Made of Oak, and the genesis of duo Sylvan Esso sprung to life. After slowly and organically coming together as a formal project, they worked out the rest of their eponymous debut in Durham, North Carolina, before its near-overnight buzz helped make them the darlings of taste-making festivals. By the time their debut album arrived in 2014, Sylvan Esso were already a rapidly rising force in the blogosphere, and even made their national television debut soon after. Catchy, electro-infused indie pop tracks like “Coffee,” “Play It Right,” and “Hey Mami,” helped the group quickly become staples of the indie world, and on the strength of their fantastic live show, they’ve become a beloved, extensive touring act. The duo’s highly-anticipated and critically-acclaimed sophomore effort, What Now, arrived last year, with standout tracks “Radio,” “Kick Jump Twist,” and “Die Young” helping further cement the group’s well-deserved attention.
LISTEN | “Coffee”
WATCH | “Die Young” (Official Music Video)
#11: KNOX FORTUNE
Saturday | That Tent | 3:00pm
Chicago singer and producer Knox Fortune rapidly grew to mainstream recognition thanks to frequent associations with Chance the Rapper, winning a Grammy to his contributions to 2016 breakout effort Coloring Book. Also known for his work with Vic Mensa and Joey Prup, Fortune has recently been stepping out as a solo artist, earning widespread acclaim for his new album Paradise, which showcases his genre-bending, vibey sound and enigmatic vocal delivery. He might not be a household name, but you’ll very likely recognize his voice, so get familiar and add Knox to your must-see list for Saturday.
LISTEN | “Help Myself”
WATCH | “Lil Thing” (Official Music Video)
#10: POST ANIMAL
Saturday | Who Stage | 9:45pm
While yes, Post Animal does count Joe Keery, best known as Steve from Stranger Things, among their lineup, the actor’s recent fame shouldn’t overshadow what is, in fact, an excellent up and coming psych rock group on their own (plus, Keery’s involvement has seemingly dwindled, and he opts out of live shows these days- it’s unlikely you’ll see him at Bonnaroo unless he makes a surprise appearance). Hailing from Chicago, the band earned positive praise for their early efforts, particularly 2016’s The Garden Series, and inked a deal with Polyvinyl ahead of their excllent full-length debut, When I Think of You in a Castle, earlier this year. The road worn outfit have broken out of the DIY circuit to appear at an increasing number of festivals over the last year, and with mounting hype, their Who Stage debut is likely to be a wild, packed, memorable affair (and the last time you’ll see them on such a small stage at Bonnaroo).
LISTEN | “Ralphie”
WATCH | “When I Get Home” (Official Music Video)
Saturday | New Music On Tap Lounge | 8:45pm
Los Angeles based rapper Duckwrth has amassed a cult following and honed a uniqe sound, which fuses more conventional and underground hop hop with genre-bending rock and alternative, merging these two realms with his recent effort, a collaboration with Brooklyn producer The Kickdrums (Alex Fitts). Definitely influenced by classic hip hop in his flow and lyricism, Duckwrth, especially when paired Fitts, adopts an artistic, fast-paced, genre-bending sound, not out of place in the contemporary landscape, but unlike most everything else. With 2016 debut LP I’m Uugly, and last year’s followup An Xtra Uugly Mixtape, he’s fast becoming an essential fixture in the alt hip hop scene, and with a evening set in the On Tap Lounge, he’s a performance you don’t want to let fly under the radar.
LISTEN | “I’m Dead” ft. Sad Money & Sabrina Claudio
WATCH | “MICHUUL.” (Official Music Video)
#8: BILLIE EILISH
Saturday | Which Stage | 3:45pm
At only 16, LA electropop up and comer Billie Eilish is barely older than Bonnaroo itself (she’s got them by 6 months), and is certainly one of the youngest performers to ever grace a main stage. Don’t let her youth fool you though; Billie hails from a talented, artistic family, and has been an aspiring performer since her preteen years. She released her breakout single “Ocean Eyes” in 2016, amassing millions of plays and inking a deal with Interscope for her 2017 debut LP Don’t Smile at Me. A confident, youthful, uncompromising, and supremely cool new performer, Eilish seems primed for a long and successful pop career, and she’s exactly the type of fresh face we love to see at Bonnaroo.
LISTEN | “Ocean Eyes”
WATCH | “Lovely” ft. Khalid (Official Music Video)
Saturday | This Tent | 2:45pm
While Australian psych rock outfit Pond share members with, and definitely harbor a sound similar to Tame Impala, to simply lump them together would be to undersell the band. Formed a decade ago as a sort of collaborative collective, the group have released seven great LPs, and have especially become critical darlings in recent years. The Nick Allbrook led outfit released their latest, The Weather, last year, na with their revolving lineup, vibey, psyched out sound, and stellar live show, they’re particularly primed for Bonnaroo, so don’t overlook their afternoon set.
LISTEN | “Paint Me Silver”
WATCH | “Man It Feels Like Space Again” (Official Music Video)
#6: FIRST AID KIT
Saturday | This Tent | 8:45pm
Comprised of sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg, Swedish folk pop duo First Aid Kit have been on our radar since their hauntingly gorgeous 2010 teenaged debut, The Big Black and the Blue. Over the past few years, the group have hit the ground running and have never slowed down. Among their impressive list of accomplishments is an association with Jack White and Third Man, a Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes) produced sophomore effort, collaborations and tours with Conor Oberst, numerous television and music festival appearances, and much more. Their third album, Stay Gold (also produced by Mogis) arrived in 2014, and after a bit of a wait, they dropped gorgeous new LP Ruins this year. Fusing traditional folk with indie rock, Americana, and pop music, with the occasional psychedelic or experimental impulse, it’s sometimes easy to forget First Aid Kit’s Scandinavian roots. But, though it’s overshadowed by their affinity for more Americanized folk, the influence of their upbringing is definitely there, and lends a uniqueness and depth that few other groups can claim.
LISTEN | “The Lion’s Roar”
WATCH | “Fireworks” (Official Music Video)
#5: THE REGRETTES
Saturday | Who Stage | 5:45pm
The latest project from precocious 16-year-old high school student Lydia Night, Los Angeles group The Regrettes are fast establishing themselves as a formidable force in the rock scene, combining an affinity for retro pop and doo-wop with grungy, contepomnry garage punk stylings, all laced with unabashedly feminist themes and riot grrrl vibes. Though definitely raw and reflective of the teenage experience, the group’s music and message are wise and relatable beyond their years, and their debut LP, Feel Your Feelings Fool!, is a defiant, bombastic, and unapologetically honest triumph, positioning the band as not just the latest young group of rockers to attract some buzz, but as a likely candidate to be the next champions of the future of their scene.
LISTEN | “Seashore”
WATCH | “Come Through” (Official Music Video)
#4: ANDERSON .PAAK & THE FREE NATIONALS
Saturday | What Stage | 8:45pm
Eclectic, genre-bending hip hop and r&b artist Anderson .Paak has seen a meteoric rise over the past five years, but it’s come on the back of a lifetime affinity for music, early work as an artist and educator, and several years kicking around in the LA underground before blog hype and fan buzz helped propel his first record Venice to critical acclaim. 2016’s Malibu helped further expand .Paak’s mainstream reach, and in recent years he and his stellar backing band The Free Nationals have become standout festival favorites, while Anderson has scored huge guest spots, major placements, and more. If you’re craving more expansive and artsy hip hop than Eminem’s subsequent headlining set, show up early for Anderson .Paak.
LISTEN | “Am I Wrong ft. ScHoolboy Q”
WATCH | “Bubblin” (Official Music Video)
Saturday | What Stage | 10:45pm
One of just a handful of rappers to have ever headlined Bonnaroo before, Eminem is one of the most successful musical artists of all time, and is often mentioned on a short list of hip hop greats. Honing his skills in Detroit’s underground scene before landing on the radar of Dr. Dre, who signed him and produced his first major label LP, Eminem erupted onto the scene in the late ’90s, immediately becoming part of the cultural zeitgeist thanks to his shocking lyrical focus, abrasive attitude, and genuinely impressive talent. More or less remaining a mainstream pop star, albeit a controversial one, into the early ’00s, the Grammy winner has been a bit more reclusive, mature, and selective in releases over the past decade, chronicling struggles with addiction, overcoming personal demons, and striving to grow as an artist. He’s unbelievable live, so whether you’re a longtime fan or not, make this headlining set a priority.
LISTEN | “The Real Slim Shady”
WATCH | “River” ft. Ed Sheeran (Official Music Video)
#2: CHIC FEATURING NILE RODGERS
Saturday | What Stage | 6:45pm
Founded and led my famed musician, producer, and songwriter Nile Rodgers over four decades ago, Chic, who currently go by Nile Rodger & Chic, are one of the most important, well-known, and influential acts of the disco era. Famous for massive hits like “Le Freak,” “Good Times,” and “Everybody Dance,” the band have seen numerous lineup changes over the years, and split for much of the ’80s and again for half of the ’90s, more or less remaining active once more for the past 20 years. As history has propelled them to legend status, and disco has gained critical favor decades removed, Rodgers alone and Chic as a band feel as cool and relevant as ever, even prepping a new LP for the first time in more than 25 years, and in a year short on legacy performers, they hold the crown for best retro act on the Bonnaroo bill.
LISTEN | “Good Times”
WATCH | “Le Freak” (Official Music Video)
#1: BON IVER
Saturday | Which Stage | 9:45am & 12:25am
If you were to look up the definition of an indie artist, a dictionary would probably say “see: Bon Iver.” Largely the songwriting vehicle of Justin Vernon, the project began with a musician struggling with his health and a broken heart, who holed himself up in a cabin in Northwestern Wisconsin for a winter, and it was there that his first record For Emma, Forever Ago began. Vernon notoriously played all of the instruments on that highly acclaimed release, which ultimately landed Bon Iver on Jagjaguar, and notched record of the year accolades from influential music outlets across the globe. There was no sophomore slump for Bon Iver either, as the follow up Bon Iver, Bon Iver nabbed Best New Artist and Best Alternative Album Grammy’s in 2012, and saw Vernon collaborating with a number of musicians to create a highly layered sound that captured the heart of even more listeners.
Over the next few years, Vernon & co. dialed back with a three year hiatus, where, presumably, the band were working on their 2016 third LP, 22, A Million, which released in late 2016. The latest record saw Bon Iver take a turn towards experimental effects that surely caught some fans of the traditional indie folk sound off-guard. However, with further listens, the off-kilter, highly processed sound still harkens back to Vernon’s roots. Bon Iver are touring again in support of their latest release, and return to Bonnaroao for not one, but two sets, directly before and after Eminem. No word on how they’ll differ, but smart money is on one more weird and electric, one more acoustic and intimate. Expect plenty of special guests, surprises, a career-spanning set, and so much more, it what could be the best performance of the entire festival.
LISTEN | “33 ‘God'”
WATCH | “Holocene” (Official Music Video)