Bonnaroo 2011 Top Artists to See

by Alex Gutkowski and Andrew Swartz, published June 7th 2011

photos by Andrew Swartz (Music Industry)

Who: Iron and Wine

When: 4:30 PM, Sunday

Where: Which Stage

Iron and Wine is one of our most anticipated shows of the whole Bonnaroo festival. The band, fronted by singer/guitarist Sam Beam, recently released its latest album, Kiss Each Other Clean, which has been quite well-received. Beam’s pure voice is sure to amaze amid the wide open Tennessee skies and will be a fantastic set to see.

Who: Wiz Khalifa

When: 5:50 PM, Saturday

Where: What Stage

Wiz Khalifa arrives red-hot at Bonnaroo this year, about three months after the prolific  release of his album, Rolling Papers. After headlining Northeastern’s Springfest, Wiz has proven himself as a worthy live entertainer and will surely host an unforgettable performance with his fresh, unique flow, including rhymes about girls, booze, partying and most abundantly, marijuana. His music has captivated college students for years now, and is a staple for any summer party mix, which is why his set will be a must for any party-loving patron at this year’s festival.

Who: Devotchka

When: 5:15 PM, Saturday

Where: The Other Tent

After seeing them twice in three years, I have seen Devotchka mature as a band and evolve into a successful live act. Using several peculiar instruments ranging from a theremin to a sousaphone to an accordion, Devotchka provides a unique performance with their folk-gypsy-rock-punk-dance-inspired sound. Front man Nick Urata’s voice is pure like honey; it’s been proven to be a spectacle in its own right. Be sure to catch them before Wiz’s set.

Who: Sleigh bells

When: 10:15 PM, Thursday

Where: The Other Tent

Sleigh Bells open up the first of the Late Night sets on Thursday, and they are destined to tear it up. With an intriguing mix of hip-hop beats, heavy-metal guitar effects, and a gorgeous female voice, Sleigh bells puts on a shorter (they only have one LP), yet intense set that is definitely worth checking out. Front woman Alexis Krauss is one of the most promising rising stars in the current indie scene, with Gwen Stefani-esque bravado and her own hip-punk swagger. Check them out for a raw, danceable set that will surely be one of your top memories of the festival.

Who: Ben Sollee

When: 1:00 PM, Friday/ 3:00 PM (Interview + Performance), Saturday/ 5:15 PM, Sunday

Where: The Other Tent (F), Sonic Stage (Sat), Sonic Stage (Sun)

The performers that I enjoy the most are the ones that are masters of their respective instruments. Ben Sollee is one of these few artists. Playing the cello and singing along side his two fellow performers, Sollee puts on a wondrous live show. I was fortunate enough to catch him at Philadelphia’s World Cafe Live for an intimate performance with only a hundred or so other audience members. He incorporates influences of Jazz, Bluegrass, Soul and R&B into his music, while singing about issues close to his heart like poverty and environmental consciousness.  His masterful show will render you speechless. Be sure to check out his interview on Saturday and performance shortly after.

Who: The Head and the Heart

When: 12 PM

Where: The Other Tent

The Head and the Heart is an up and coming band from Seattle, Washington that is sure to be a great show to catch.  Coming off a tour opening for Dr. Dog, the band blends a more modern alternative style with their folk background to create a cutting-edge sound.  The Head and the Heart beautifully meshes the vocals of two male singers with the voice of the sole female in the group, Charity Thielen. Check them out for a free-spirited show that is sure to start Sunday off right.

Who: Walk the Moon

When: 4:30 PM, 7:15 PM, Friday

Where: Cafe Where (4:30), Sonic Stage (7:15)

With stadium-ready anthems, Walk the Moon is ready to break into the indie-pop scene full speed ahead. Although they are possibly one of the most unknown bands of the festival, they will prove to the audience why they deserve to be there. I saw them open up for Starfucker in Boston and they almost stole the show with their funky rhythms and danceable tunes. Walk the Moon is one of the tightest bands I saw last year, with hooks catchy as they come. For a look into the future, check these guys out.

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