In case you were on the fence about trekking down to Tennessee to spend four days having your ears massaged, here's a list of 25 obvious reasons to attend the 2012 Bonnaroo festival. I barely scraped the surface. Rodrigo y Gabriela, The Cave Singers along with surprises galore await you.
Let's get down to the BIG reasons to be there.
25) Red Hot Chili Peppers: Love 'em, hate 'em, but you can't ignore them. New guitarist Josh Klinghoffer apprenticed alongside John Frusciante long enough to be the right guy to keep this obnoxious crew in check.
24) Phish: Will they break out the trampolines or the vacuum cleaners? In any case, jambands were born to play festivals and no doubt these guys will be just what the H.M.O. ordered when it comes time to hang back on the lawn and sway.
23) The Word (John Medeski, Robert Randolph and North Mississippi AllStars): Festivals are a great place to see the unexpected. Too many musicians in one place for it not to happen. Randolph's a mean slide player and with Medeski and the All-Stars joining in, it could get loud and messy.
22) Skrillex: Who doesn't need a little electronic music in their life? The entire point of spending four days at a festival is to keep yourself entertained and variety is the spice of life, say old people who know. If things get too intense, you can always try to pick somebody up at the chillout tent.
21) Feist: Every festival needs its Melanie to encourage us to light candles in the rain and while Feist might not be that trippy, she does provide a relief from all the testosterone. Of course, there should be more women on the stage and we shouldn't have to wait for Lilith Fair to come back to get it. What's the appeal of watching sweaty dudes all day trying to outdo one another?
20) The Avett Brothers: Used to be you had that one uncle who slicked back his hair and drove his classic car to the local parking lot to hang out with his fellow greasers. Nowadays we have nostalgia for things we were never a part of. Fans of churning their own butter and shoveling their own coal will love these guys.
19) The Shins: James Mercer never struck me as the kind of guy who would one day lead fields of people to rock. He seemed like an unassuming fella likely to go quietly about his business. Rock stars, these days! Not like your father's rock stars, that's for sure! Gonna give you every inch of my detachment!
18) Steven Wright: Will the humor seem dated by decades of cultural changes or will the deadpan still bring out those awkward silences that make him the funniest dead guy alive?
17) The Roots: They've already proven they can play anything and now they won't be shackled by the time constraints of late-night TV. Now, they can jam. Hopefully, they'll include a couch on stage for guests to sit on and exclaim, "Let's give it up for the Roots!"
16) Bon Iver: Choir music has been making a comeback for years. Kids today have a spiritual thirst that can't be slaked by the rock and the roll. They need to believe in something and the goblins of Eau Claire are waiting to take everybody home.
15) Kathleen Edwards: There are too many Americana singers out there. But that shouldn't prevent you from enjoying a my-t-fine one like Ms. Edwards. She sings with genuine affection and her name isn't Lucinda.
14) Robert Ellis: There are too many Americana singers out there. But that shouldn't prevent you from enjoying a my-t-fine one like Mr. Ellis. He sings with genuine affection and his name isn't Steve Earle.
13) Alice Cooper: If Alice Cooper is willing to interrupt his golf game to give the kids what they want then who am I and who are you to forego the chance to see a living legend sing "School's Out"? Hope he brings a snake or two!
12) Alabama Shakes: As a band who were receiving rapturous reviews before their record was officially released, Alabama Shakes are now in the position to deliver on what has been promised. Having something to prove often forces a band to, ahem, shake up their game. (Universal groans all around…)
11) Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings: They've already proven they can take roots music and twist it six ways to Sunday. I don't know what that actually means, but then I'm just dancing about architecture here.
10) Marc Maron: Anyone who's listened to his captivating WTF? podcast knows Maron's neuroses and humanity run deep. What his stand-up will be like after all that self-reflection is but one question to be answered by seeing him on an actual stage. Nearly every interview he does seems to mention how he hated or was hated by the person about to be interviewed. So, is he a jerk? As long as he's an entertaining one, who cares?
9) Tune-Yards: Critical darling whose music has been filed with the difficult-listening crew, Tune-Yards, that is Merrill Garbus and now Nate Brenner, will have a lot to live up to. Don't chase them back into the studio, ok? We don't want another Laura Nyro or Andy Partridge on our hands.
8) Foster the People: "Pumped Up Kicks" was worth its streetwalk and despite the hype and glossy production they likely have something more to give you. Why am I so confident? Because they're Foster The People and the People are rarely wrong. Let your voices be heard and be counted!
7) Dawes: Their Jackson Browne mellowness also means they have the kind of melodies that stick to the ribs like comfort food. It may not be sexy, but Dawes are like the tortoise, slow and steady and likely to attract more fans the more people actually listen. Sometimes the gimmick is the band play music.
6) Unchained "The Mighty Van Halen Tribute": OK, I don't know how these guys got in when my band, "The We Could Be So Good Togethers," an eleven-piece Doors tribute band, were rejected. I would have guessed they're holding a spot for the actual Van Halen, but they just announced they're postponing their summer tour dates. If Johnny Thunders could play most of his shows, why can't pampered rock stars?
5) The Beach Boys: It was Ronald Reagan's Secretary of the Interior who claimed the Beach Boys attracted the "wrong element" and looking around I see what he meant. Dude, you can't bring a surfboard into a concert. That's what firearms are for.
4) Laura Marling: The UK press have been singing Ms. Marling's praises for some time now and like it or not the U.K. press is usually more reliable than what exists stateside, who rarely praise anyone beyond the obvious. Are you an artist looking to get a break? Move to Europe and sell it back to us at a later date.
3) Bad Brains: As one of the greatest hardcore punk bands the world has ever rented, Bad Brains can also play reggae. Will they play nice or will they heat up the mosh pit beyond the boiling point? When the cup runneth over, Jah will rule the land. Now, Come to Jamaica!
2) The War On Drugs: This gets confusing. Critically acclaimed Kurt Vile is now playing with The Violators at this festival and The War On Drugs have actually improved without him. Is this even possible? I guess it just shows that big market East Coast bands have an unfair edge over the competition. Even when they let go of their homegrown talent, they can replace it with equally strong options.
1) Radiohead: Had you said back in 2002 that one day Radiohead would be headlining the festival, you likely would've been met with blank stares. Can we afford them? Now, they can't afford not to play the festival! So, bless that double negative and see the positive of having your life changed by the musical equivalent of a stationary bike. As Bob Dylan once sang, "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere!"