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Bonnaroo Lineup Released: Caters to Eclectic Tastes…

February 16, 2011

With today’s release of the lineup to the 2011 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival at high-noon, staunchly loyal jam-band purists vomited everywhere.

For those music fans with a more opened sense of taste, it was quite a spectacle to behold. Eminem, Lil’ Wayne, The Arcade Fire, My Morning Jacket, the Strokes, Iron & Wine and Bassnectar were all staples to one of the most impressive lineups in the festival’s ten year history.

Die hard jam band fans shouldn't loathe Ashley Capp's move to open Bonnaroo to more commercially accessible acts. Rather, they should be proud of their ability to grow a once obsolete festival in the fields of Manchester, Tennessee into one of the biggest live celebrations of music in the world today.

However, some critics and Bonnaroo traditionalists are questioning the festival’s late tendency of “selling-out,” and moving towards a more commercially balanced music scene from it’s jam-band and folk roots. Others are pointing towards the event’s conscientiousness in it’s past, by including acts such as Widespread Panic, Buffalo Springfield and the String Cheese Incident.

Whichever way you look at it, there’s no denying that this year’s bill is quite an epic assortment of live music to choose from, regardless of your tastes. Where else can you see Primus, Big Boi and a reunited Buffalo Springfield (who are playing their only scheduled show this year) in one weekend?

Hell, this year’s tenth anniversary celebration will even include a crafty tribute to the festival’s name, when New Orleans native and jazz legend Dr. John joins funk icons the Meters to perform the 1974 album “Desitively Bonnaroo” in it’s entirety for the first time ever.

Perhaps most importantly, the return of Bonnaroo’s “Superjam” provides a highly intriguing act to catch. After a two year absence of the collaborative treat, Black Key’s guitarist Dan Auerbach and jazz legend Dr. John will unite onstage to bring a blues-bound jam session for the ages. One of the breed that you don’t find anywhere outside of Manchester.

I know.

I witnessed the 2007 Superjam, compromised of Ben Harper on slide guitar, ?uestlove on drums and John Paul Jones on bass. It was the type of epic performance that assuredly live in pure lore and infamy forever on, hardly to be repeated again.

Bonnaroo’s 2011 offering can be strange for the traditionalists; the purists who butter their bread solely with jammy, funky vibrations of Phish, the Dead and Dave Matthews. But the old-timers should not be discouraged. There is a strong folk and bluegrass presence in 2011, thanks to appearances by Robert Plant & Band of Joy, Allison Krauss and Union Station, Iron & Wine, Old Crow Medicine Show and the Low Anthem.

Ashley Capp’s hard work this offseason is not to be shamed, but applauded. Capps has taken the risk of alienating perhaps his oldest fans to allow access to a wider range of listeners.

I see it not as an insult to jam-bands, but a tribute to music as a whole. Music is not about one genre, or any focus for that matter. It’s the free-flowing and liberating qualities that set music apart from our other entertainments. Considering Bonnaroo’s growing popularity and wide-range accessibility, Capp’s made the obvious choice to open his arms to all, rather than remain a jamming pilgrimage.

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