The initial lineup for Bonnaroo 2011 has been released and this year’s lineup is stacked from top to bottom like none other in the festival’s history. While we won’t likely see a schedule until sometime in May, the sheer number of great acts makes having to make hard choices between shows an extreme likelihood.
In this two part series, we will bring you the ten bands from the initial lineup release who we feel should not be missed at Bonnaroo 2011, either because of a reputation for great live performances, once in a lifetime status, or the high chance for sit-ins by other artists. We will be excluding the Bonnaroo 2011 headliners, Eminem, Arcade Fire, and Widespread Panic, from this list since headliners are typically unopposed and do not cause schedule conflicts. You can find part 1 of the series, where we told you about My Morning Jacket, Dr. John and the Original Meters, Opeth, Buffalo Springfield, and Old Crow Medicine Show here.
At 73 years old, Wanda Jackson seems an unlikely candidate to put on the dance party of Bonnaroo 2011 but if her blistering appearance at the Americana Music Festival and her rocking new Jack White produced album The Party Ain’t Over are any indicator, that may be exactly what those who attend her show get. Jackson has shown herself to be in fine form on stage and in a voice that has barely deteriorated from her heyday in the 50’s. Besides, you might be able to see other Rock and Roll Hall of Famers at Bonnaroo, but we seriously doubt Dr. John or Robert Plant ever kissed Elvis Presley, as Wanda Jackson admitted to doing on a recent Conan O’Brien appearance. While her show is just billed as “Wanda Jackson”, Jack White has been a part of her touring band in recent months and considering that two women he produced (White and Jackson) and the woman he’s married to (Karen Elson) are all on the Bonnaroo 2011 bill, we think a Jack White appearance at Wanda Jackson’s set is about as close to a “lock” as any surprise appearance can be.
Mumford & Sons
Every year at least one Bonnaroo performer goes from virtual obscurity to superstardom after their show. At Bonnaroo 2010, that band was Mumford & Sons. Their Bonnaroo 2010 tent opening performance was billed pretty far down on the lineup and was mostly attended by people there to see later artists Dave Rawlings and John Prine. But their show so impressed attendees that it was billed by many websites as the surprise hit of the weekend, and even got singled out by Bonnaroo founder Ashley Capps at an Americana Music Festival panel as a band who surprised a lot of people with an extremely strong set. This year is a very different Bonnaroo appearance for Mumford & Sons, who are now listed on the third line of the bill just after Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Robert Plant. They are just off a strong appearance at the Grammy Awards with The Avett Brothers and Bob Dylan and their album has taken off in recent months. Mumford & Sons isn’t going to sneak up on anyone this year but that doesn’t mean they won’t be putting on a strong show wherever they are.
Bootsy Collins and the Funk University
Bonnaroo 2011 is a very good place to be if you are a fan of the bass guitar, with some of the best bassists in the world making an appearance including Victor Wooten, Les Claypool, and George Porter, Jr. but quite possibly the best of them all is former Parliament/Funkadelic bass master Bootsy Collins. Collins has been acknowledged as an influence by both Claypool and Wooten, both of whom have served as guest professors at Collins’ online bass school Bootsy Collins’ Funk University. While Bootsy would be recommended here for his skill alone, the real interest here is finding out exactly who makes up the “Funk University” part of Bootsy’s band. Considering the huge influence Parliament and Bootsy Collins himself have had on a number of the musicians making up the Bonnaroo 2011 lineup, we wouldn’t be surprised to see an all-star band full of names you’ve heard of before.
Grace Potter & the Nocturnals
Another artist in the Mumford & Sons category is Grace Potter. Potter has gone from virtual obscurity to sold out shows across the country via some very strong television appearances and word of mouth about her energetic live show. Potter’s blend of blues, soul, and rock and her extremely strong singing voice have led her to be called “this generation’s Janice Joplin” by some critics. If Potter’s Bonnaroo 2009 appearance is any indicator, you will likely either see guests at Potter’s set or Grace guesting on other sets. At Bonnaroo 2009, she appeared on stage with Gov’t Mule, whose bandleader Warren Haynes will be at Bonnaroo 2011, and the entire band guested for several songs with .moe.
Robert Plant and the Band of Joy
Robert Plant alone should be enough to make this a must-see set for most people. Robert Plant joined by an all-star band of Americana heavyweights that include Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller should make it a lock. Plant’s last appearance at Bonnaroo, in 2008 with Alison Krauss, was one of the most highly reviewed shows of the weekend and word of mouth reviews on Plant’s new Band of Joy concerts have been strong. The Band of Joy sets have been heavier on Led Zeppelin material than the sets with Krauss and have been described as much more upbeat than the mellow material from Raising Sand. Even if Plant only performed material from his new Band of Joy cd, this would be a must-see show as the album has been getting very strong reviews and has been popping up on some Best of 2010 lists.
Who are you most excited to see at Bonnaroo 2011? Let us know in the comments section!