Pearl Jam, Dead & Company, LCD Soundsystem, J. Cole, Ellie Goulding, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Tame Impala, Ween, Lettuce, Touchpants, The Claypool Lennon Delirium and More Confirmed for Bonnaroo
Pearl Jam, Dead & Company, LCD Soundsystem, J. Cole, Ellie Goulding and Tame Impala are among the marquee names slated to perform at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival this spring. 2016 marks “15 Years of Magic” for the music, art and comedy festival, which will return to the Great Stage Park in Manchester, TN, on June 9–12 with more than 150 acts across 12 different stages.
Other notable artists set to appear at the festival include: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Death Cab for Cutie, M83, Haim, Halsey, Ween, Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton, Big Grams, Band of Horses, Leon Bridges, Grace Potter, Father John Misty, Tyler the Creator, Mavis Staples, Touchpants, Kurt Vile, Cymande, Lettuce, Sam Bush, The Wood Brothers, Kamasi Washington, Bully, Vulfpeck, Papadosio, The London Souls, Waxahatchee and many more, making for a characteristically eclectic mix of established acts and up-and-comers from an array of musical genres. The festival has also offered a taste of its comedy lineup, most notably Judd Apatow & Friends. Bonnaroo’s lineup was officially announced this evening on a broadcast of TBS’ Conan.
“It’s really about the whole overall breadth and depth of our booking for the last 15 years,” says Ashley Capps of Knoxville, TN’s AC Entertainment, who co-founded Bonnaroo along with New York-based promoters Superfly. Capps stresses that the festival’s organizers are looking to make this year a celebration of both the history and the future of Bonnaroo, holding strong to it’s roots while making sure the event continues to grow and evolve.
Headliners Dead & Company represent some of the deepest roots of Bonnaroo, a direct tie to the Grateful Dead tradition that both the festival’s organizers and attendees hold close to their hearts. “One of the strong threads and one of the great influences on Bonnaroo’s development was the ethos of the Grateful Dead and everything that they inspired,” says Capps. At the first Bonnaroo in 2002, Grateful Dead members Phil Lesh and Bob Weir performed onstage together, putting the official Dead seal of approval on the festival. The reassembled Dead played in 2003 and 2004, both Lesh and Weir have appeared with their respective bands and Weir will return this year with Dead & Company. (Mickey Hart, another Grateful Dead member that’s part of Dead & Co., participated in Skrillex’s 2014 Bonnaroo SuperJam.) “To see that tradition continuing under the banner of Dead & Company, that was an opportunity we simply couldn’t pass up,” Capp says. “It was an obvious way to celebrate the 15th anniversary.”
Enjoying their place at the very top of the billing, Pearl Jam return for their second trip to Bonnaroo after their previous appearance in 2008, which yielded a marathon set that included three encores. Capps revels in the return of the alt-rock gods. “We certainly wanted Pearl Jam to return to the festival for years,” he says, “so having them back is a great highlight.”
Two big-name reunions in 2016 will include slots at Bonnaroo, as both LCD Soundsystem and Ween are set to perform. Both groups have a history with the festival, with Ween’s relationship dating back to the inaugural festival in 2002. “They were long associated with the festival back in the early days, so we’re especially excited to be welcoming them back,” Capps says. “Lot of great memories from Ween at Bonnaroo. They were part of a number of Bonnaroo highlights over the years, so we’re really thrilled that they’re back in action this year.” Another Bonnaroo mainstay since year one, Primus frontman Les Claypool has also used the Bonnaroo lineup to formally announce his new project with Sean Lennon and Les Claypool, The Claypool Lennon Delirium. The musical friends are working on a collaborative studio project and spent time together in the New York/New Jersey area this summer.
Looking further down on the list it’s obvious that Capps and company hope to keep the traditions of Bonnaroo alive, namely with some selections from the jamband community that has long been seen as one of the key components of the festival. “The jamband ethos that Bonnaroo has been associated with has always been an important thread for us with the festival,” Capps says. “I think the strong thing about that umbrella, the concept of jambands, is that it really embraces an extraordinary range of musical styles. Those artists draw from electronica, they draw from blues, from jazz, from all sorts of international folk music, bluegrass.” Some of those bands on this year’s lineup include Lettuce, Grace Potter, The Wood Brothers, Papadosio, Vulfpeck and The London Souls. Drummer Jon Fishman will also return to the festival for the first time since Phish’s last Manchester stop 2012 with his comedy-rock project Touchpants. This will be Fishman’s fourth year at the festival—Phish performed in 2009 and 2012 and he joined Jazz Mandolin Project at Bonnaroo in 2004.
“That jamband thread has also offered a lot of tangents for us to explore and develop as a festival,” Capps says. “If there’s a tradition that’s emerged at Bonnaroo over the past 15 years, it has been one of continuing to explore and reinvent ourselves in terms of the offerings—keeping it fresh, keeping it exciting, keeping it vital, that is really what’s at the heart and soul of the Bonnaroo experience.”
In that vein, Capps also loves that many bands continue to return to Bonnaroo year after year, and both he and the festival-goers get to see these bands evolve as time passes. On the subject of booking up-and-comers along with the big-name headliners, Capps says, “It’s enormously important, because we want to be celebrating the present as well as the past. Looking toward the future and nurturing future bands and having the Bonnaroo audience have the opportunity to experience some of these bands early on—it’s important in keeping the festival healthy, it’s important in keeping the music business healthy. The exciting thing about our business is the emergence of new bands and the way that the world of music continues to reinvent itself.”
One artist of whom Capps is especially proud is Chris Stapleton, who comes to this year’s Bonnaroo after having a banner year that included a cross-genre collaboration with Justin Timberlake. “It’s exciting to see Chris coming back with what’s happened to him in the past year,” Capps says. “He’s released one of the great albums of the last year or two. He is taking country music back to a really rich and vital place. So seeing an artist like Chris come back to the festival again after all that he’s accomplished, it’s one of the many pleasures of booking and working on this festival, seeing artists develop like that. And he’s been working at it for a long time—he richly deserves it. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.”
Besides the lineup itself, Capps and Bonnaroo fans are both looking toward to the structural improvements that are coming to the Farm this year. “It’s a process that’s beginning this year,” he says. “It will not be completed until at least 2017, but people will be able to experience fresh, running water for the first time, and that’s a huge step forward for us. And of course, permanent bathrooms, permanent showers, which will add to the overall comfort of the experience. It’s a big step.”
Overall, Capps and his team continue to take pride in what they do, in creating a festival experience that matches or exceeds any other offered in the world. After 15 years of Bonnaroo, the roots are holding strong, and the future looks bright. Capps sums it up humbly: “We’re looking forward to a really amazing year.”
Tickets for Bonnaroo will go on sale this Friday, January 22. See the full lineup below.
Bonnaroo 2016 Lineup
Dead & Company (2 sets)
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Tame Impala (Late Night)
Death Cab for Cutie
Judd Apatow & Friends
Big Grams (Big Boi + Phantogram)
Band of Horses
Father John Misty
The Claypool Lennon Delirium
Two Door Cinema Club
Tyler The Creator
Lamb Of God
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
Kurt Vile & The Violators
The Bluegrass Situation Superjam Featuring Ed Helms and Friends
Piff the Magic Dragon
Third Eye Blind
Goddamn Comedy Jam
Keys N Krates
Sam Bush Band
The Wood Brothers
Boy & Bear
Judah & The Lion
Steep Canyon Rangers
The Oh Hellos
Whilk and Misky
The London Souls