Wednesday, June 8, 2011


The Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, one of the world’s great rock events, kicks off its 10th annual gala on today in Manchester, TN. By the time it ends in the pre-dawn hours of Monday morning, some 170 artists will have performed including Arcade Fire, the Black Keys, Buffalo Springfield, Eminem, Alison Krauss & Union Station, Lil Wayne, Loretta Lynn, My Morning Jacket, Robert Plant and Band of Joy, and the Strokes. Vevo will stream video of many sets and NPR Music will do the same with audio. If you’ll be at Bonnaroo or you’re eager to hear the music on your computer, here are 10 acts you won’t want to miss. For the complete Bonnaroo schedule – and to sample recordings by almost everyone on the bill – go here.
Band of Skulls: The U.K. trio is still riding the success of their debut album “Baby Darling Doll Face Honey,” issued in 2009. It’s a hard-hitting collection of bluesy garage rock with ample hooks. For a taste of what they sound like on stage, check out on iTunes the live set they recorded last year at the studios of KCRW in Santa Monica.
Beirut: For the most part, Zach Condon’s project straddles the worlds of chamber pop and Eastern European folk with an emphasis on brass and clacking percussion. But in 2009, he and his band released a package with two EPs – one reflected the music of the southwest U.S. and Mexico, the other a blend of layered electro-pop and French cabaret. Beirut’s new two-sided single, out earlier this week, indicates a return to the very appealing previous sound.
Bootsy Collins & the Funk Universe: The great funk bassist has been in a sentimental mood lately – his new album “The Funk Capital of the World” revisits the influences of his lengthy career including his late brother Catfish, James Brown and George Clinton. But Collins always delivers a fun, high-energy show featuring extended versions of his Rubber Band and P-Funk hits.
Iron and Wine: Sam Beam is a superior singer-songwriter, and on his ’11 album “Kiss Each Other Clean,” he expanded his sonic pallet with rich overdubbed voices – sure to please fans of Brian Wilson’s vocal arrangements – as well as sax, swooshy synths and snappy percussion. It’s a wonderful album and it will be a treat to hear how Beam translates the music to a live setting.
Dr. John with the Original Meters and Allen Toussaint: The festival takes its name from Dr. John’s ’74 album “Desitively Bonnaroo,” and he’ll play its songs with a band of New Orleans’ legends who recorded it with him – Toussaint, who produced it and played keys; and the Meters’s members Zigaboo Modeliste, Art Neville, Leo Nocentelli and George Porter, a fabulous rhythm section that hasn’t worked together in about five years. It could be a fantastic set.
The Low Anthem: When the New Providence, RI, group played Bonnaroo in 2009, a powerful rainstorm with gale winds attacked the tent, all but drowning out their set. Their latest album, “Smart Flesh,” continues their traditional of thoughtful, emotional and highly musical Americana. If the weather cooperates, they’ll excel.
Shpongle: Specializing in downtempo electronica with an Eastern vibe, the U.K. duo creates a mellow ambiance that borders on a psychedelic experience. The music is rich and textured, featuring looped voices, flutes, guitars, sitars and other stringed instruments. It’s a mystery why they haven’t garnered the crossover audience they deserve.
Ben Sollee: On his new album “Inclusions,” the singer-cellist celebrates his many influences – there are references to bluegrass, brass bands, indie rock, New Orleans blues and chamber pop – and thanks to Sollee’s gifts as an arranger, it comes together beautifully. Audiences love his live shows and the new songs will spice up his set.
Twin Shadow: The working name of George Lewis Jr., Twin Shadow revives the post-punk dance music of New Order, Joy Division and the like. At the Coachella Music and Arts Festival earlier this year, he and his band played a spry, flawless set, drawing from “Forget,” their ’10 debut disk. There’s no reason to think Lewis and company won’t do it again: Lewis is an artist on the verge of big things.
Wavves: Imagine Green Day without the polish or if Nirvana had been based in San Diego instead of Seattle and you’ll get a sense of Nathan Williams’s trio. Their latest “King of the Beach” is fun, sloppy and charming. On stage, they can be too.