2005 Bonnaroo to feature wide array of singers

Jason LeRoy

Credit: Jason LeRoy

In the three years since it first appeared in 2002, the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival has earned a reputation as a sort of Woodstock for our generation, minus the raping and rioting. Each year the festival has grown more bewildering, drawing bigger talent and greater crowds.

And now, the 2005 installment of Bonnaroo is posited to be the most notable one yet, perhaps even cool enough to merit the considerable chunk of cash you’d have to drop to attend.

Bonnaroo will happen over the course of one action- and pot-packed weekend on a huge, huge field in Manchester, Tenn. Many miles will be used for camping spots, where cars and RVs alike will park next to one another while their owners pitch tents between vehicles. From there it will be a short walk to Downtown Bonnaroo, where the lucky concertgoer will find a plethora of vendors, attractions and, of course, music.

While the festival has earned a reputation for consistently having a wide number of jam bands on its roster, Ashley Capps, Bonnaroo concert promoter and president of AC Entertainment, said that this reputation is not entirely deserved.

“We don’t set out to put on a jam-band festival,” he said. “What our intention has always been is just to have as much great live music as possible; we want musicians who put on great live shows musically. And so, as a result, you have a lot of jam bands, because they obviously invest a lot into their live shows.

“However, our roster certainly isn’t just jam bands. Modest Mouse is not a jam band. Herbie Hancock is not a jam band. The Mars Volta is not a jam band. And so while we do have jam bands on our roster, the spirit of Bonnaroo is just about great live music in general, regardless of genre.”

It is certainly true that just about any type of music fan will find something at Bonnaroo to engage their musical tastes. Among the confirmed performers at Bonnaroo this year, running the gamut from indie rock to folk to jazz to hip-hop, are such established and buzzed-about acts as Josh Ritter, Amos Lee, Madeleine Peyroux, M. Ward, Brazilian Girls, The Old ‘97s, Citizen Cope, The Perceptionists, Donna the Buffalo, Blue Merle, Joanna Newsom, Drive-By Truckers, Ozomatli and Iron & Wine.

Other announced artists include Toots and the Maytals, O.A.R., De La Soul, Keller Williams, My Morning Jacket, Jurassic 5, John Prine, Bela Fleck Acoustic Trio, Bob Weir and Ratdog, Alison Krauss & Union Station, The Allman Brothers Band and The Black Crowes. And the artist lineup is hardly complete; additional artists will continue to be added in the weeks leading up to the festival.

One artist performing at Bonnaroo this year is acclaimed singer/songwriter Ray LaMontagne. After performing at the festival last year, LaMontagne said he was very interested in playing again this year.

“I’m psyched about it,” the usually reserved LaMontagne said. “I’m not really much for festivals. I don’t know, I’ve normally shied away from that sort of thing. But Bonnaroo is a fun place. The guys who run the festival are really down-to-earth and cool. Last year was fun, and I’m hoping this year will be the same.”

Another hot-in-demand band playing Bonnaroo this year is Rilo Kiley, making their Bonnaroo debut. According to lead guitarist and former “Salute Your Shorts” actor Blake Sennett, this is RK’s first year playing the festival circuit; they are also playing at Coachella, the West Coast’s answer to Bonnaroo.

“I consider it an honor and a privilege to play these festivals,” Sennett said. “They seem like a good way to expose yourself to people who don’t know your band. The people at Bonnaroo contacted us and asked us if we would play, and we said yes because Bonnaroo is sweet. And the lineup is awesome — Joanna Newsom, Iron & Wine, Modest Mouse. I’m pretty excited about it.”

Rilo Kiley is just coming off of a European tour opening for Bright Eyes, which has left the band somewhat out of sync with American culture (this reporter found himself explaining to a puzzled Sennett exactly who Terri Schiavo was and why she was in the news). In addition to this recent European tour, RK also made their first official festival appearance at last year’s Glastonbury Music Festival in England. However, Sennett said that one doesn’t count.

“It was kind of a bummer,” he said. “They stuck us on at like nine in the morning. We were looking out at about six people in a field intended for 60,000. Hopefully Bonnaroo will give us a better slot.”

Capps said that while the music is one of the biggest draws to Bonnaroo, it is not the only one.

“I think one of the things that really sets Bonnaroo apart is just the sense of community that you experience there,” Capps said. “You can just sense these connections being formed amongst the tens of thousands of people, hanging out, playing in the rain and listening to great music. It’s really kind of magical.”

Contact Pop Arts reporter Jason C. LeRoy at [email protected].