Bonnaroo 2011: Music Guide & Autostraddle’s Anticipatory Playlist

Autostraddle is going to Bonnaroo! Laneia has already talked about what we are/are not bringing this year, but we need to talk music. That’s what this is really about, right?

So let’s get down to it. Here are the bands we are super excited about, with the occasional interjectional feelings-based input from Laneia. Some artists are old, some are new, some we’ve never actually heard before. But we think they are all worth a listen, whether you’re actually going to Bonnaroo or not.


+ Eminem
11 p.m. Saturday, What Stage

Let’s start with the big names. Eminem is holding down the top spot on Saturday night this year. It’s a weird choice; rap just doesn’t seem like the type of thing that would suit most of the Bonnaroo crowd. Jay Z was the main headliner last year, though, and everyone seemed to love it. So maybe this will work, but idk, I love Jay Z and I hate Eminem.

+ Arcade Fire
11 p.m. Friday, What Stage

The Arcade Fire has the top spot on Friday, and unlike Eminem, they are an absolutely perfect choice. They’re an awesome band to hear outside, (espesh if you’re in an altered state like 3/4 of the Bonnaroo crowd), they fit the festival atmosphere, and they’re touring with The Suburbs, arguably their best album yet.

The Suburbs won best album of the year at the Grammy’s, spawning that lovely meme. I can’t decide how I feel about this. On one hand, I love the album so much that I want the entire world to hear it. But sometimes it feels like Win Butler let me in on some amazing secret, and I don’t want to share it. Alas, that is not how music works, so at least I get to see them perform it live. Laneia will have to hold me back from climbing on stage and tackling someone out of pure joy.

+ The Black Keys
8 p.m. Saturday, What Stage

These guys have been making the festival rounds for a while now. They were at Bonnaroo last year, then Lollapalooza, and now they’re back, with higher billing. I have loved them for a long time, and they rocked when I saw them a few years ago. But let’s be real, The Black Keys are just not a festival band. They belong in a small, intimate concert hall with wooden floors covered in beer, cigarette smoke hanging in the air. I’ve tried to give them a chance at festivals a few times, but for some reason, their music does not sound as good when they play outside. Give them a try if you want, and of course their albums, including Brothers, are always worth it, but I will be skipping them at Bonnaroo this year.

+ My Morning Jacket
8 p.m. Friday, What Stage

Does anyone have any feelings re: MMJ?

Laneia: “One time in 2002, I made a mix cd primarily focused on Mason Jennings and it included one song by My Morning Jacket. I think My Morning Jacket only exists at festivals. My Morning Jacket is a really good band name.”


+ Lil Wayne
1:30 a.m. Saturday, Which Stage

All right, I’ll admit it, I’m such a hipster that my only real exposure to Lil Wayne is from 500 Days of Weezy. But I firmly believe that album has given me a genuine love for Lil Wayne. Plus, he is playing until 3 a.m. right after Arcade Fire, and I appreciate the epicness of that scheduling. If ever there was a rapper that belonged at Bonnaroo, it’s Lil’ Wayne.

Laneia: “I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Lil’ Wayne song. Have I?”

+ Mumford & Sons
6:15 p.m. Saturday, Which Stage

Sigh No More was one of the best albums of 2010, and Mumford & Sons are still going strong with it. Like The Black Keys, they have been hitting the festivals hard. But these guys are actually good in an outdoor setting. I was lucky enough to see them play together with The Temper Trap at an after party at Lolla last year, and they fucking killed it.

+ Freelance Whales
5:30 p.m. Thursday, That Tent AND 4:45 p.m. Friday, Sonic Stage

Weathervanes is hands down my favorite album right now. I can’t believe it took me so long to finally download it. You really need to own the album so you can listen to “Location” on repeat for days, like me. Their talking-really-fast-how-has-he-not-taken-a-breath-yet style is really interesting, and I like the continuous ghost/death metaphors in their lyrics. Surprisingly, it remains a hopeful record.

These guys are playing twice: once on Thursday night and again Friday afternoon. Hopefully, this will be just like my special moments with Brandi Carlile last year, and I will fall even deeper in love with them.

+ Girl Talk
2:30 a.m. Sunday, This Tent

GIRL TALK! I thought I loved Gregg Gillis a lot, but then he released All Day, and the world became shinier and more awesome. It’s absolutely his best record yet; he took his mixes to a whole new level. Are you over I Want You Back + Lil Kim yet? I’m not. Also his concerts are amazing and make everyone feel super high on life. This can only be improved by being outside in a field in Tennessee, under the stars, surrounded by thousands of hippies.

Unfortch, he’s playing at 2:30 in the morning on Saturday night. I guess that means I will be bringing Red Bull and Five Hour Energy to Bonnaroo this year.

+ Florence and the Machine
6:45 p.m. Friday, This Tent

Is Florence and the Machine over, or still a thing? I can’t tell. But I think they are still enough of a thing to go see at Bonnaroo. “Kiss With A Fist” is still a jam, right?

+ Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears
12:30 p.m Saturday, This Tent

Oh hey, these guys are going to be so so great. I love their sound, and their live show is supposed to be excellent. They have a soulful, old Southern rock feeling (and by that I mean Chuck Berry/Little Richard, not Lynyrd Skynyrd). Listen to the song below, and also this amazing version of “Bitch, I Love You.”


+ Sleigh Bells
10:15 p.m. Thursday, The Other Tent

They’re a Brooklyn duo, Derek Miller & Alexis Krauss. This stuff is noise pop at it’s finest, punchy and bright. They released their debut album, Treats, last summer. Intern Morgan says they are SO GOOD live, and definitely worth checking out.

Laneia: “When I need to work nonstop for hours, I play Treats on repeat and when I’m done, my thoughts have sort of flatlined and all I’m left with is a pile of sent emails, cleaned dishes and the lyrics of A/B Machines on an unrelenting loop in my brain. Bliss.”

+ Loretta Lynn
6:45 p.m. Saturday, That Tent

Loretta Lynn is basically a legend. She has more awards than any other woman in country music history. She was married at 13 and had four children before she turned 19, which makes songs like “The Pill” even more interesting and groundbreaking. She released an album produced by Jack White in 2004 — Van Lear Rose. This is gonna be live, uh-huh:

Laneia: “Oh my god you guys.”

+ The Strokes
6:45 p.m. Sunday, Which Stage

They released a new album this year, Angles, after a two-year break from the band.

Laneia: “I am filled with negative feelings about this new album! It’s totally uninspired and stale. Am I supposed to believe that after two years, none of these guys experienced a single thing that made them grow as artists? Under Cover of Darkness sounds like a songwritten by a Strokes cover band, from like five fucking years ago. I don’t know, I’m bitter. If you don’t have anything new to say, why not just wait until you do?”

+ Beirut
6:15 p.m. Sunday, The Other Tent

Musical Intern Morgan describes Beirut as “swelling vocals over Balkan folk and Eastern European-influenced melodies.”

+ Matt & Kim
3:15 p.m. Friday, This Tent

They’ve evolved over the years, getting more polished and more poppy with their latest albums, like Sidewalks. Fun fact: the police in the Lessons Learned video (see below) were real, and Matt & Kim only got out of being arrested by claiming they were filming a mayonnaise commercial.

+ Cold War Kids
5 p.m. Sunday, This Tent

Apparently, Cold War Kids are labeled as a Christian band, but you would never know it. They make fun, punk and soul-influenced rock. Check out their latest album, released this January, Mine Is Yours. Music Editor Crystal is a serious fan of Cold War Kids, and, slightly related, on May 7 they tweeted “Doc Martens have always been my favorite shoe, for guys & girls.” Instant love.

+ Best Coast
7:15 p.m. Thursday, The Other Tent

Best Coast includes former Vivian Girls drummer Ali Koehler. The album Crazy for You is summer in the form of music. Hipster Runoff describes Best Coast as a “fuzzy buzzy band that sings abt dank, California, boys, and kitty cats” SO THERE YOU GO.


+ Justin Townes Earle (@justintearle)
2:30 p.m. Friday, The Other Tent

JTE has released an album every year since 2008, a pace that can probably only be surpassed by The Mountain Goats. His style is polished blues and folk-influenced country. His latest is Harlem River Blues and Laneia says you should buy that right now.

Laneia: “You should buy Harlem River Blues right now.”

+ Ray LaMontagne (@RayLaMontagne)
6:15 p.m. Friday, Which Stage

Ray quit his shoe factory job to become a singer-songwriter, and then won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album with God Willin’ & The Creek Don’t Rise. His voice is soulful and amazing.

+ Hesta Prynn (@hestaprynnmusic)
9 p.m. Thursday, The Silent Disco

Hesta is an Autostraddle favorite! Former member of the all-girl hip-hop group Northern State, The New York Post called her “M.I.A. And Miike Snow’s lovechild,” which is a pretty damn awesome description. Check out her EP Can We Go Wrong.

+ Old Crow Medicine Show (@thelowcrow)
2 p.m. Saturday, Which Stage

These guys caught their break while busking outside a North Carolina pharmacy. Also, they were on the Transamerica soundtrack, which is sweet. Check out their 2008 album Tennessee Pusher.

Laneia: “If you’re gonna seriously listen to OCMS, you have to hear Greetings from Wawa. Everyone loves Wagon Wheel from the self-titled album, but there a couple of amazing tracks on Wawa, like Kitty Clyde and Oh My Love, that were seemingly recorded live at a radio station? Or possibly on a different planet? I don’t even know you guys, it’s so fascinating.”

+ Phosphorescent (@Phosphorescent)
1:45 p.m. Friday, This Tent

They release Here’s to Taking It Easy in 2010, and one of their songs includes the line “naked, swirling like otters (you know how they are).” Sold.

Laneia: “A Picture of Our Torn Up Praise is just the most beautiful, haunting song. I would try to explain how much I love it, but I can’t wave my arms around in this post and shout ‘DOESN’T THIS MAKE YOU WANT TO DIE BUT LIKE, IN A GOOD WAY??’ so you’ll have to pretend I did. To Willie is Phosphorescent’s tribute to Willie Nelson, in which they cover the lesser-known, sort of inherently sad tracks, mostly dealing with addiction and loss, like Too Sick to Pray and The Last Thing I Needed (First Thing This Morning). Fucking amazing tribute album END OF STORY.”

+ Deerheart

Intern Morgan wants to recommend Deerheart, who she is friends with, so of course we’re doing that here and now. They opened for Against Me!, the Dropkick Murphys and Bruce Springsteen a month or so ago. That sounds very exciting!

Next: A special Bonnaroo Playlist just for you!

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Sarah lives in Chicago with her partner and her big white Great Dane. She is a lawyer by day and a beer brewer/bread baker/knitter by night. She & her partner are currently learning how to grow their own food, and eventually they hope to move to a small farm outside the city. In 2009-2010, before jetting off to law school, Sarah was Autostraddle's Managing Editor.

Sarah has written 127 articles for us.


  1. Ah, Why didn’t I buy a ticket this year!!! What a great line up. Also the guy playing the xylophone in Freelance Whales is Darren Criss’s brother Chuck. That family is seriously talented.

  2. I just discovered Black Joe Lewis & the Honey Bears, and they are indeed awesome. This is making me wish I was going to Bonnaroo– I hear their live show is great!

  3. Anyone and everyone should see GIVERS because they are the best slash I am completely obsessed with them. If you like pretty girls or Dirty Projectors or things/people/music from Louisiana, you would like them. They’re super fucking optimistic and danceable and I expect them to blow up soon, cause they’re signed to the same label as Phoenix and Mumford & Sons and a lot of other great bands. I could gush all day, but honestly, GIVERS are a must-see at Bonnaroo.

    • Yeah, Bonnaroo seems like a really strange place for Opeth, but they’re probably badass enough to pull it off. Those guys are super nice, too.

      • oh they will probs have the best set at bonnaroo BUT i am fairly biased so yeah.

        and as much as i would’ve loved seeing them at bonnaroo, the fact that they are touring with katatonia this fall = WTFAMAZINGNESS.

  4. You guys seem unenthused about Best Coast, but I think that you should give her a shot live unless there’s a major conflict. Bethany’s awesome live (but, then again, I saw them in a really small basement venue so it was a totes different atmosphere). Also, “When I’m With You” is such an amazing song and I play it in my car all the time.

    • I started getting super into Best Coast at some point over the endless winter – maybe because they so beautifully conjure feelings of summer.

  5. I’m jealous! I’d love to see Hesta Prynn & Childish Gambino live! I have to wait til the 21st to see Matt & Kim. Have fun ladies!

  6. i absolutely cannot get over these total awesome stage name. so cool. but i can imagine also total useless when talking to someone..

  7. I’m not going to Bonnaroo, but the playlist helps me feel like I’m almost there. Sort of.


    i want to be in the states now and go to bonnaroo. also. florence + the machine is a must see! she’s so good live; her vocals probably are even better live than on record.
    also, matt and kim! SO COOL! they were the support of the sounds in munich once and after the show she was out and just so cute! and a bomb live too! they like climb up on their keyboards and stuff :D
    and arcade fire. oh arcade fire.

  9. I’m have so many feelings about this (mostly jealousy), I wish I could return this year, it’s such a good line up! (Just as good as when I went in ’08…but actually probably even better because Kanye wont be there to fuck up your acid trip by advertising his EXTREMELY late- he did not come on until SUNRISE -‘performance’ as a ‘light show’…)

    And Sarah, Freelance Whales are fucking awesome live, enjoy!!!!!

    • …having. Probably should have proof-read, or re-written, or something. I guess I was having too many feelings to use proper grammar.

  10. I would want Laneia to be my festival buddy if i were to go to bonnaroo this year. nice picks.

  11. My band my friend is in is actually The Parkington Sisters, they just have a song named Deerheart!

  12. Whaaattt, no indie band love? You can see Best Coast, Matt & Kim, Beirut, Mumford, The Strokes, and Arcade Fire at any North American festival (*cough* Coachella).. COME ON! What about bands that make Bonnaroo, Bonnaroo!?!

    Also, did you know that Bonnaroo is run/established by Red Light Management (Owner is an EX Live Nation top executive).

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