Last year, Bonnaroo aimed for variety with headlining acts Tool and a newly-reunited Police. This year, it's bound to get even more excitement going with a lineup that includes Chris Rock, Kanye West, Willie Nelson, Jack Johnson, B.B. King and headliners Pearl Jam and Metallica.
Those last two may not seem like the perfect fit for a festival known for long jams and a hippy vibe, but that's what makes Bonnaroo so unique -- there's something for everyone. "I've heard good things about the festival over the years from people that have gone to it," Pearl Jam's Mike McCready says during a conference call. "It's exciting for me to know that there's that many kinds of bands playing on one bill over the years. And it seems like it will be a fun -- a real fun thing to be part of. I just want our band to play to the best of our ability and entertain the crowd. That's my expectation."
Like Pearl Jam, Metallica will also be a newcomer to the festival. While some have criticized the decision to have Metallica as a headliner, it's also a welcome addition to the eclectic lineup. "Criticism? That's unusual," Metallica's Lars Ulrich says with a laugh. "My initial thought was, 'Fuck yes, let's get it on!' It was just a no-brainer. Obviously, I know how [Bonnaroo] started and there's a lot of people that are sort of protective of its origins and we certainly appreciate and respect that. But at the same time, it's the spirit of these festivals. Everybody just shows up and gets along and has a great time."
Though both bands have been in the studio recently and have new albums planned for this year, only Metallica plans on showcasing some of the new music. McCready says most of Pearl Jam's new music is in its infancy. Meanwhile, everyone is excited about the idea of not having a curfew and letting the set go as long as they see necessary. "No one's going to tell Pearl Jam to quit playing," Bonnaroo promoter Ashley Capps says.
As far as set lists, McCready knows the band will be ready with favorites as well as a rare B-side or two. "I think that people would want to hear some[thing] old like 'Alive' and 'Daughter' and you want to give them some of the 'hits,' but you also want to challenge yourself so, you know, play some different stuff that you maybe haven't played," McCready says. "That stuff happens when you figure out -- kind of when Ed [singer Eddie Vedder] figures out what the vibe of the whole audience is, and that can change like that second, mid-set."
With Metallica, the band will be playing at festivals in Europe for a couple of weeks before their arrival in Tennessee, giving them time to brush up on some of the new music. Ulrich noted a lot of the new songs average around eight minutes in length. "I generally write the set list between 10 to 15 minutes before we go on stage, so it's not something that I really think a lot about," he says. "I mean, we just show up and do our thing, you know, and whatever mood we're in that day and whatever kind of a vibe is ... I don't think we have to radically alter anything specific."
People who are not able to attend this year's festival will be able to see highlights and performances on Fuse TV. The festival and television station have arranged a three-year partnership to provide prime-time coverage of Bonnaroo.
Among the other acts performing at this year's Bonnaroo are: Robert Plant with Alison Krauss, Widespread Panic, The Raconteurs, My Morning Jacket, Les Claypool, Sigur Ros, Levon Helm, Ben Folds, M.I.A., Rilo Kiley, Drive-By Truckers, Vampire Weekend, former Charlotte resident Nicole Atkins and local favorites The Avett Brothers.
The 7th Annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival will be held on June 12-15 in Manchester, Tenn. For more information, go to www.bonnaroo.com. For more thoughts on this year's festival, see the Turn On, Tune In column in this week's paper.