Bonnaroo Preview


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Kings of Leon
  • Kings of Leon
The Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival will sprawl across 700-acres of nearly shade-less farmland in Manchester, Tennessee this week, bringing tens of thousands of music fans to Middle Tennessee June 10th through 13th. This year, I'll be representing the Flyer amid the sea of of acid-ingesting, sunburned, barefoot hippies, and will be filing reports throughout the fest. Stay tuned.

Some of this year's performer's recently held court at a press conference promoting the event, and we had a chance to listen in.

Friday headliner Kings of Leon has been working on a yet-to-be-released “fun record,” which drummer Nathan Followill says “has songs that are beachy; songs that are a little more like our Youth & Young Manhood days. It’ll be tough not to play the whole thing at Bonnaroo.”

Followill says the members each have their “go-to songs — the songs that we get to show off on,” but they will perform a nice mixture of oldies, goodies, and a few more new ones than fans may expect. “We might have a couple of aces up our sleeves, maybe a couple of cool covers, so it’ll be interesting,” he says. “It’s in our backyard, in Tennessee, so it’ll be fun.”

Despite their growing popularity and numerous festival performances in Europe, Followill says he's still nervous about playing to such a huge, hometown crowd.

“Obviously there’s going to be some jitters, but if you’re not nervous getting up there playing, then you should quit because it’s not fun anymore,” he says.

Followill, a veteran of the festival, says Bonnaroo is a fest for music lovers. “No matter what kind of music you’re into, there’s going to be a tent or stage somewhere playing what you’re wanting to hear.”

He’s probably right. This year’s lineup isn’t quite the mega-hippie fest of Bonnaroos past. Slated to perform: Stevie Wonder, Jay-Z, Tenacious D, Norah Jones and (one I’m really stoked about because I LOVE this man) Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers.

“The great thing about it is you end up discovering cool bands that you had no idea even existed,” Followill says. “Get a little buzzing on and just kind of wander from stage to stage.” When he’s not doing that, Followill says he will spend his spare time at the batting cages. So, now you know where to find him.

Dave Matthews
  • Dave Matthews
Sunday headliner and fest closer Dave Matthews, also a returnee, described one of his best Bonnaroo memories: “I remember when we played right after [Bob] Dylan, and he said to me, ‘I didn’t play 'Watchtower' because I thought you could play it."

“I suppose everybody is a crazy fan for Dylan,” Matthews says. “So to have him acknowledge my existence in any way was kind of sweet, but then to be that specific was kind of a high point.”

Matthews shared his excitement about taking a year off after the current round of shows is over in September. He feels that after 20 years of on-and-off touring, he and his band are finally in a good place to take a break.

“I want to look at music not as a professional,” Matthews says. “I’d like to do it for a year where I’m just an amateur; where the only reason I’m doing it is out of love, and so I can come back with this group of people I’ve played with for 20 years and have something more.”

Because of the impending break, shows on this year’s tour may be a little different —including the Bonnaroo performance. Matthews likens big festivals to first dates. There are sure to be many hardcore fans, but there will be those who aren’t as familiar with the band.

“I want to put my best foot forward. Not to say that I’ll play all the songs that have been on the radio — that would be a moronic maneuver,” he says. “You have a different way of greeting someone you’ve never met before. You’ve got a couple of smooth things you can do and a little different swagger than if you’re saying hello to the same old face.”

Matthews plans to bring it big at Bonnaroo, as well as his final few dates on this tour. “And then next year, hide behind a tree and hope that anyone that’s hunting me doesn’t find me,” he says. Then he can “come back to these same people and reconvene, just having taken a little time to stare at the stars and stare at our kids.”

Jeffrey Ross
  • Jeffrey Ross
Finally we talked with comedian and celebrity roast host Jeffrey Ross, who Matthews jokingly says, “always looks like he’s mildly unemployed.”

Ross will be performing in the Comedy Tent Friday and Saturday. He’ll be doing a “Bonnaroast” — his first festival roast.

“I’m like a kid in a candy store,” Ross says. “I love music; I love music fans. I hear Dave Matthews is doing like a super, killer long show, so maybe I’ll make fun of him for a while.”

In this environment, Ross will have lots of material to work with. “All those crazy hippies out there; it’s like a feeding frenzy,” he says.

He plans to try something different, too. He’ll bring up random audience volunteers and “speed roast” them for 60 seconds. “So anybody who reads this who’s going to be there, I suggest you get your stupidest outfit on and show up at my show.”


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