By Zach Goins
June 11, 2019
For five days, the rural town of Manchester, Tennessee will become the state’s seventh largest city, as over 80,000 prepare for the 18th annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. Expected to sellout for the first time since 2013, Bonnaroo has bounced back strong from the all-time low of roughly 46,000 attendees in 2016.
Every year, music lovers around the country make the pilgrimage to Great Stage Park, the 700-acre farm that’s home to one of festival season’s biggest and most storied events. The Farm first opened its gates back in 2002 when headliners like Widespread Panic, Trey Anastasio and Ben Harper took the stage. Back then, the emphasis was to provide opportunities for jam bands and folk rockers to shred in front of fans, but now the festival has evolved to host artists of nearly every genre.
Since its inception, Bonnaroo has both expanded its taste in music and its selection of activities. Whether it’s gliding down the “Big Ass Waterslide,” partaking in an early morning yoga session or gorging yourself on tons of eats in the Food Truck Oasis, there’s plenty to keep fans busy between their favorite acts.
With the passing of Dr. John earlier this month, Bonnaroo is sure to be filled with tributes and memorials to the legendary New Orleans rocker. After all, the festival got its name from his 1974 album Desitively Bonnaroo. Be on the lookout for pop-up performances and sets to honor his legacy.
This year’s festival is headlined by quite a few big-name performers, but we’ve highlighted some of the acts we’re really looking forward to catching at Bonnaroo 2019.
Courtney Barnett – Friday – 7:45 p.m. to 9 p.m. – That Tent
Australian indie rocker Courtney Barnett is bringing a little down under twang back to the Farm this year. With hits like “Pedestrian at Best” and “Avant Gardener,” featuring Barnett’s casual yet poetic lyrics and edgy tone, she’s sure to be one of the biggest acts in That Tent this weekend. While some artists may wish for a place on the major stages, acts like Barnett’s are perfectly suited for the intimacy of a tent set up.
GRiZ – Friday – 7:30 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. – Which Stage
Unlike a traditional DJ, GRiZ doesn’t like being confined to his turntables. Instead, he mixes it up playing the saxophone too, all while his 15-piece band jams out with him. GRiZ describes his blend of sounds as “future funk,” combining electronic music with his live elements. In case you miss his set at the Which Stage, you’ll still have another chance to catch him DJing Friday night’s SuperJam in This Tent. This year’s SuperJam theme is “G.O.A.T.: Music Legends,” and will feature a collection of secrets artists performing legendary songs, all DJed by GRiZ.
Childish Gambino – Friday – 8:45 p.m. to 10 p.m. – What Stage
It’s turning out to be a big year for Childish Gambino on the festival circuit, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone. After Gambino, aka Donald Glover, announced this year’s This Is America Tour will be the last under his current moniker, he’s been in high demand, headlining Coachella in April before Bonnaroo this week and Lollapalooza in August. Gambino is never one to disappoint and, with such high expectations for his grand finale, it wouldn’t be shocking if a few special guests turned up (wink-wink, Chance the Rapper).
Solange – Friday – 10 p.m. to 11:15 p.m. – Which Stage
Slowly but surely, Solange has been making her way out of her sister’s shadow, and March’s When I Get Home certainly helped her case. Unlike Beyonce’s pop anthems, Solange tends to scale things down to focus on mellow sounds and impactful lyrics. Scheduled between headliners Childish Gambino and Phish, Solange’s set should provide a nice, soulful change of pace Friday night.
Zhu – Saturday – 2 a.m. to 3:15 a.m. – The Other
You’re forced to make some difficult decisions at ‘Roo, but the toughest is choosing between sleep and music. For those Bonnaroovians who brave enough to choose the latter, Zhu’s set is the place to be on Saturday night. The mind-blowing laser light shows at The Other stage, combined with the Chinese-American artist’s beats, will most likely have fans dancing until the glaring sun rises.
Little Simz – Saturday – 1:15 p.m. to 2 p.m. – This Tent
Get your Saturday started with a healthy dose of experimental rap with British sensation Little Simz. With high praise from some of rap’s biggest stars, like Kendrick Lamar, Simz just might be the next big thing coming out of Bonnaroo. With two critically acclaimed albums under her belt at just 24 years old, it’s clear Simz has plenty to look forward to in the coming years. Don’t you want to be able to say you saw her before she blew up? Now’s your chance.
Bishop Briggs – Saturday – 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. – This Tent
Bishop Briggs’ childhood was anything but conventional. Born in London to Scottish parents, she grew up in Tokyo and Hong Kong before heading to Los Angeles for college. It’s clear her music has benefitted from an eclectic background, as she refuses to be defined. Instead, she blends together rock, soul, and pop to create a truly effervescent sound.
Kacey Musgraves – Saturday – 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. – Which Stage
After going four for four at the Grammys in February, including Album of the Year, it was clear 2019 was going to be huge for country music’s biggest star. Despite being over a year removed from the release of Golden Hour, Musgraves’ airy country-pop jams are still one of the go-to soundtracks for the summer, so her set at this year’s Bonnaroo should be packed. In the midst of all the craziness on the farm, an hour filled with Musgraves’ trademark simplicity will be much appreciated.
The National – Saturday – 9:45 p.m. to 11 p.m. – Which Stage
The release of The National’s new album I Am Easy to Find couldn’t have come at a better time for the indie rock group. Known for their profound and tranquilly sorrowful lyrics, a late-night performance by The National is the perfect opportunity to get a little introspective or just kick back and relax to the ambience.
Brandi Carlile – Sunday – 4 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. – What Stage
Brandi Carlile could be one of Bonnaroo’s most overlooked sets this year. Fresh off three Grammy wins in February where she was the most nominated female artist, Carlile heads to the Farm to help close out the festival on Sunday evening. It might not be her most popular hit, but be on the lookout for “Everytime I Hear That Song,” which made the cut as one of Barack Obama’s favorite songs last year. Carlile’s relaxing singer-songwriter vibes will be much needed after a weekend full of headbanging and partying.