88Nine Radio Milwaukee

Today's stream is sponsored by Maxie's

The Good, the Great, and the McCartney: An Intern's Take on Bonnaroo 2013

Click to enlarge

Yesterday afternoon, the lineup for this year’s Bonnaroo Arts & Music Festival was revealed via webcast by the King of Parody “Weird Al” Yankovic. The hour long spectacle included guests, games, and a portrait of Kevin Bacon eating bacon in six degree weather. In other words, Weird Al hasn’t changed a bit. So grab your hippie frock, a bottle of your favorite SPF, and maybe a pint of the official Bonnaroo ice cream as I take you through the highlights, disappointments, and can’t misses of Bonnaroo 2013.

The Highlights

The Roo-mors Were True!

Hoping for Paul McCartney at Bonnaroo is almost as common for the festival as muddy feet and puns with “Roo” in them (of which I am very guilty). Year after year, fans toss out Macca’s name, especially after his electrifying performance at Coachella 2009. So when Pink Pop festival organizers claimed they tried to get Sir Paul a few months ago for their June 14-16 fest and lost the bid to an unnamed American festival, Bonnaroovians rejoiced. Barring any negotiation pitfalls, the former Beatle was confirmed.

Next came the announcement of Mumford & Sons’ Gentlemen of the Road tour which suspiciously lacked any dates near Manchester, Tennessee. Couple the tour gaps with this mysterious Roo Clue posted at Red Rocks Amphitheater late last month: “Eleven months wait/For entry to the prestige/The first rejected.” I will decipher this for you. Marcus Mumford and his alleged sons recently played a sold out show at Red Rocks and their sophomore album Babel was nominated for a few Grammys (they would later win Album of the Year). Still confused? Their 2010 debut Sigh No More was released just outside of 2011 Grammy consideration and lacked any momentum by the time the 2012 ceremony rolled around. So they released Babel well within the consideration for 2013 and waited for their inevitable win and entry into the prestigious realm of Grammy winners. I should become a detective after this whole internship thing.

The confirmation of Tom Petty was a lot less dramatic. Weeping Elvis, a blog that correctly reported the 2012 headliners, posted an article stating Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, ZZ Top, and Wu-Tang Clan would appear on the farm this summer. Initially considered pure speculation, the rumor picked up traction as Petty announced a headlining slot at Hangout Festival. In order to keep your attention, let’s pretend Bonnaroo had to pursue Tom Petty in a thrilling car chase before he agreed.

What? They’re Still Around?

What Bonnaroo lacked in surprises, they made up for with some pretty bizarre bookings. Scanning through the lineup poster, you might not notice Billy Idol, ZZ Top, R. Kelly, and “Weird Al” Yankovic himself. Even with Roo Clues teasing and eventually revealing Billy Idol and R. Kelly, the previously mentioned ZZ Top rumor, and Weird Al hosting the announcement, the idea of these artists seemed unlikely to say the least. R. Kelly is also booked for Pitchfork Festival in Chicago, but that was assumed to be a hilarious, one-time festival booking. Apparently not so! “Pavement sticks to feet/At front of hotel/Mixed from a blue book” was the clue that gave away the Trapped in the Closet creator/mastermind. You figure out that one on your own. The final Roo Clue of 2013’s answer was Billy Idol: “Generation What?/Who lives in Coral Castle/Mark is on the wall.” This one’s all yours as well, Idol fans.

The Disappointments

Pop Indie over Veteran Indie Rockers

This isn’t necessarily a bad disappointment, but still worth noting for me. Bonnaroo decided to appeal to a wider audience this year in terms of big name indie rockers. With Vampire Weekend, Modest Mouse, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and the Postal Service (!!!) floating about the potential acts pool, the fest took the safer route and booked Passion Pit, the Lumineers, Of Monsters and Men, and the xx. Everyone loves those bands, myself included, but it would have been nice to see one of the returning heavy-hitters rather than newcomers and the “last leg of the tour” types. I will commend Bonnaroo on booking the National, though. That’s a great grab.

No Surprises

Like I said in the headliner discussion, all the big names were predicted well in advance. It’s great because festival attendees will see top notch talent, but Bonnaroo took all the fun out speculation and reveal by being a bit too loose-lipped about their lineup. It would have been nice to get Atoms for Peace’s first US show, or maybe a left field headliner like The Cure or someone along those lines. The undercard is pretty standard for this year’s festival circuit, too. Again, there is amazing talent on the lineup, but if you want to save the time and money coming from Milwaukee or hate camping festivals, you can easily wait for Lollapalooza, Pitchfork, or Summerfest for a bulk of these musicians. Bonnaroo is definitely a whole different experience with late night sets, zany antics, and strange folks abound, though.

Things You Can’t Miss

David Byrne & St. Vincent

Where else can you see “Cruel” and “Cheerleader” within the same set as “This Must Be the Place” and “Burning Down the House?” Either you’re at an awesome cover band’s concert, or you’re lucky enough to be seeing the duo of David Byrne and Annie Clark a.k.a. St. Vincent. If you missed them at their sold-out Riverside Theater show last fall, you can catch them at Bonnaroo this summer.

Superjams (There Are Two!)

Everyone loves My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James. Not only is he doing a solo set this year, but he’s been invited to play in Bonnaroo’s signature set, Superjam. James will be joined by John Oates (yes, the John Oates!), Zigaboo Modeliste, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band for a guaranteed great set from some amazing performers. This one’s billed as the Soul Superjam because we’re fortunate enough to have two Superjams this year! The second set focuses on bluegrass and is being headed up by Ed Helms. I know you’ve heard that name before, so think for a second. If you’re mind is blanking or you are tired of reading, it’s Ed Helms the actor/musician from The Hangover, The Office, and The Daily Show. He can play a mean banjo and demonstrated his singing prowess as Andy Bernard on The Office, so it’s sure to be amazing. The billing officially reads “Ed Helms’ Bluegrass Situation Superjam with Special Guests” and upon researching the Bluegrass Situation, those special guests might include the Punch Brothers and a certain other famous comedian/banjo player… Steve Martin.

Mike Birbiglia

No, he’s not some indie songwriter you’ve never heard of. Bonnaroo is one of the last major festivals to have a comedy tent and aside from being air-conditioned, the comedy stage has a ton of talent every year. From Conan O’Brien to Louis C.K., Bonnaroo knows how to book funny people. I’m about to sound hypocritical, but this year’s completely skippable headliner is Daniel Tosh, but that hasn’t stopped Roo from grabbing some great comedians. The full list isn’t out, but hidden on the lineup poster is Mike Birbiglia. If you haven’t heard of Birbigs, you have time to research. Not only is he my absolute favorite comedian, but he’s got years worth of material to talk about. His recent film based on his standup routine, Sleepwalk With Me, has garnered great reviews and currently sits at 87% on Rotten Tomatoes. I know I’m supposed to be talking about music, but if you need a break at Bonnaroo, check out Mike Birbiglia.


If you plan on going, do not wait to get tickets. Festivals have been selling in record time this year and I would hate for anyone who really wants to go to Bonnaroo to have to pay exorbitant prices on the secondhand market. Coachella sold out in 21 minutes, Sasquatch in 90 minutes, and Belgium’s Mecca of dance festivals Tommorowland sold out in an unbelievable one second. Since Bonnaroo did a presale, there are only about 75% of total tickets left, so work quickly this Saturday at 11:00AM CT. Hop on your computer and snag a ticket if you want to go. Though that means less of a chance for me, I will do the selfless thing here. You can thank me later when we all hang out on the farm.


There’s only 113 days until the 2013 Bonnaroo Arts & Music Festival, so start researching the artists, planning a theme for your camp, and practicing your hippie dance moves. Keep your eyes and ears on 88Nine for updates and more!

See you in Manchester!