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Top Five Bands to Check Out at Bonnaroo Music Fest 2015

By Riley Kissee

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The dilemma of music festivals is that often artists’ set times overlap and they are simultaneously playing on different stages. You have to pick and choose the artists you want to see, as it’s impossible to see everyone. This can create a sense of frustration, while also creating a distinct quality of impulse and spontaneity. Whether you are making the trip down to Bonnaroo this year (June 11 – 14, 2015) or plan on watching the live streaming here, below are our top five must-see artists of the weekend.

  1. Jungle

To start our 2015 Bonnaroo list, we “bring the heat”. The funk revival has taken the world by storm the last few years, most notably by pop artists like Pharrell and Bruno Mars. But other artists are emerging from the indie scene with another modern funk sound, like that of Jungle, the seven-member group from London. Listen to “The Heat” and it’ll be a challenge not to nod your head to the groove.

With their debut album, there’s a sense that Jungle is just getting warmed up. A few years down the road when their sophomore effort drops, you might regret not having seen Jungle initially. Only time will tell. Regardless, their 2015 Bonnaroo performance should prove to be a funky dance fest to remember. And part of the fun of festivals is checking out emerging artists, not just embracing the familiar.

  1. My Morning Jacket

My Morning Jacket are Bonnaroo veterans. This will be their seventh time playing at the annual festival, which comes as no surprise, because these guys put on a killer performance. In fact, their 2008 set was a lengthy four hours long and included cameos by Zach Galifianakis as well as Kirk Hammett the bassist from Metallica. Their 35-song jamboree is regarded by many recurring festivalgoers to be one of the best Bonnaroo performances ever.

  1. Robert Plant

You can’t miss this. He’s one of the best vocalists of all time from one of the greatest bands of all time. And if we’re lucky, he might even perform a Led Zeppelin track or two. Granted we won’t have Jimmy Page shredding on his guitar, John Paul Jones destroying the bass or the late great John Bonham risking spontaneous combustion on the drum set. But really, it’s the next best thing.

While it’s unlikely Jimmy Page will make a cameo, it’s much more likely that Nashville resident Alison Krauss might stop by and perform a few songs from their 2007 Grammy award-winning collaboration album “Raising Sand”, which would be a welcomed addition to the performance as well.

  1. Alabama Shakes

Alabama Shakes is a five-person soulful garage rock band from, you guessed it, Alabama. The dynamic group is helmed by lead singer and guitarist Brittany Howard, who sounds like a grittier version of Etta James (more akin to James on “I’d Rather Go Blind” than “At Last”). Her ferocious vocals wail out songs of love and heartbreak, without coming across as overly sentimental or sappy. This is accompanied by the band’s hard-hitting guitar, bass and drums that collectively, will take hold of your adrenaline and emotions.

  1. Billy Joel

Sure he may be responsible for one of the most obnoxious earworms of all time (*cough We Didn’t Start the Fire *cough *cough) as well as the quintessential song on every dive bar’s jukebox rotation (we’re looking at you Piano Man), but the man is a legend. Billy Joel has an impressive catalog of songs that, for better or for worse, are catchy and memorable. You can’t help but sing along.

Personally I think his best work was done 1980 and earlier, with Glass Houses being his last great album. Only The Good Die Young, Captain Jack, It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me, Movin’ Out… these songs are iconic.

However, you can’t deny the captivating rhythm of later songs such as Tell Her About It, Uptown Girl, Pressure and For the Longest Time. Not to mention “This Is The Time”, a ballad with lyrics that resonate with millennial festivalgoers just as much as they did with vinyl listeners back in 1986:

“This is the time to remember / Cause it will not last forever / These are the days to hold on to / Cause we won’t, although we’ll want to”

Is he the edgiest artist at Bonnaroo? Absolutely not. Can you define Billy Joel as cool? That’s debatable. But what is certain, his music holds up to the test of time and I’ve been told he’s one hell of a performer. At Bonnaroo, we’re all in the mood for a melody, and Billy Joel, you’ve got us feeling alright.

Honorable Mentions

The War on Drugs: How do you describe The War on Drugs? Modern – new wave – psych – Americana rockers with Springsteen-esque vocals and a saxophone? While defining an exact genre may be difficult, their fierce yet dreamy sound is just as polished live as on their albums, with extended jam sessions that’ll be sure to please the senses.

Mac Demarco: Don’t let Mac Demarco fool you. While his slacker rock is chockfull of chill vibes that evoke thoughts of lounging on your back porch with an icy cold one, he’s also known for his on-stage antics, which is sure to be a sight to see.

Kendrick Lamar: He’s one of the best rappers of the 21st century. Not to mention his 2015 album has received outstanding critical acclaim and for good reason; the album possesses incredibly poetic lyrics and a very progressive sound.

Tove Lo: Fans of pop music should check out this Swedish singer and songwriter, who along with her recent fame in the pop world, has written songs for Ellie Goulding, The Saturdays, Icona Pop and MS MR.

Deadmau5: Because not only has he been one of the most prominent DJs of the last decade, his LED anthropomorphic cranium is a spectacle in itself.

Only a few days left before Bonnaroo 2015, see you on the farm! Check out the full 2015 lineup here.

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