Our Bonnaroo picks, from Radiohead and Rodrigo y Gabriela to Rubblebucket, The Roots and Here We Go Magic 

Clockwork Bonnaroo

Clockwork Bonnaroo

Page 3 of 3

MOGWAI

It's been 15 years since Mogwai taught pipsqueaks how to build a proper crescendo on Young Team, and the post-rock lifers have been stretching and rejiggering that template ever since. Sure, they can do the quiet, nuanced thing and hit sweeping, epic motifs, but is there any beating the first time you hit the 2:58 mark of "Like Herod" and nearly shit your pants? 7 p.m. at This Tent MATT SULLIVAN

RED BARAAT

Nailing down this Brooklyn band's sound is a tough one — it falls somewhere between North Indian and Nawlins traditions as if filtered through the playful, excitable jazz experiments of Raymond Scott. Maybe. It's funky and propulsive, prone to going into unexpected directions, prone to flipping your preconceived notions of genre on their head, filled with more joie de vivre than most bands can imagine mustering. Perfect party tunes for a Saturday night. 7:15 p.m. The Other Tent SEAN L. MALONEY

THE ROOTS

Why do we have the sneaking suspicion that The Roots' show on the main stage is going to turn into a superjam before Doc Severinsen, er, ?uestlove heads over to Which Stage to play the actual Superjam? Probably because they're one of America's most beloved hip-hop bands. Also because they're the kings of late-night teevee, what with that whole Fallon gig and what not. And lastly, because they're unrivaled in their badassery. 7:30 p.m. at What Stage SEAN L. MALONEY

ROBERT ELLIS

There's a perfect moment on "Cemetery," the third track on Texas troubadour Robert Ellis' remarkable Photographs. It's an emotional crescendo articulated by a sudden onslaught of strings and Ellis' simple acoustic plucking pushed to the point of dissonance. Then his voice swoops in with surprising force, and it's magic. Throughout the album, Ellis blends vintage twang and brilliant guitar work with an uncanny ability to surprise and delight. The guy is a genius. Go see him play. 8 p.m. at Great Taste Lounge LEE STABERT

JAMES WALLACE AND THE NAKED LIGHT

This year's Bonnaroo may not be local singer-songwriter James Wallace's first rodeo, but it is the first time us plebes are able to catch it. After impressing the bourgeoisie with a performance in the artist area last year, Wallace makes his jump to a real stage, albeit one of the smaller ones, where his tilt-shifted folk pop will fit in just fine among his fellow Nashvillians. Wallace and The Naked Light play clever, hooky sing-alongs that'll be certain to turn heads away from Dispatch. 9 p.m. at Cafe Where LANCE CONZETT

RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS

OK, so Prince and Paul McCartney aren't Bonnaroo's Saturday headliners, as festivalgoers may have initially hoped. But Red Hot Chili Peppers have battled crusty cock socks, heroin, the second departure of artistically legit axman John Frusciante, Dave Navarro's nipple rings and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to hit the What Stage with their uplift mofo party jams. A singular, unquestionably original musical entity, RHCP return to relevance every couple years like a rock 'n' roll herpes outbreak — indiscriminately giving away funky, freakishly styled scar tissue in song form. And 2012 is Bonnaroo's year to feel the Californication. 10 p.m. at What Stage ADAM GOLD

ALICE COOPER

Four dirty, dusty (or worse, muddy) days spent camping with hippies in Tennessee humidity is nothing compared to this welcome and anticipated performer's nightmare. At 64, Alice Cooper is on the precipice of Social Security eligibility. But age hasn't curbed the proto-shock-rocker-turned-golfer's macabre revue of cartoon gore and killer heavy metal — a perfect spectacle of fright to precede the surefire horror show that is Skrillex. Midnight at That Tent ADAM GOLD

SKRILLEX

It's hard to figure what's more strange: the fact that Skrillex's "Bangarang" has 25 million YouTube views, or that the 24-year-old former hardcore punk singer with the off-axis buzz-cut played the relatively tiny confines of Mercy Lounge on his last trip through Middle Tennessee. Haters gonna hate on dubstep, but there's no denying the zip and swerve of Skrillex's vertigo-veering compositions, which shoot overcranked synths through a sonic turbine in the auditory equivalent of data moshing. 1:30 a.m. at Which Stage STEVE HARUCH

PEDRITO MARTINEZ GROUP

Late-night rumba party! For this we will indulge in the best rum money can buy, as long as that rum comes in a plastic bottle — which means it's probably not very good rum, but we'll drink it anyway! What can we say, we're sticklers about the camping guidelines. But back to the rumba! New York's PMG percussion explosion will keep things sweaty and steamy until the sun (almost) comes up. 1:30 a.m. at The Other Tent SEAN L. MALONEY


SUNDAY

GZA AND GRUPO FANTASMO PERFORM LIQUID SWORDS

Turn that shit up, the clan in the front want it! A late-night set from Grupo Fantasmo was the peak of our SXSW experience, The Genius is possibly our favorite MC from the Wu Tang, and it's motherfucking Saturday night — if that doesn't sound like the formula for an epic time, we don't know what is. Oh, they're performing one of the greatest rap records ever? Time to double down on the epicness. 2:30 a.m. at This Tent SEAN L. MALONEY

FLY GOLDEN EAGLE

One of three Nashvillian acts to win BMI's Road to Bonnaroo competition (along with Wild Cub and By Lightning!), dark horses Fly Golden Eagle earned their 'Roo slot with glossy, libidinous energy and dance-pop hooks. Music City isn't particularly known for its indie dance-pop scene, so telling you that FGE is the finest export we have in the body-moving segment of our rock 'n' roll scene may not mean a lot to non-locals, but it's still true. Catch these guys if you can, it's worth it. Noon at Great Taste Lounge D. PATRICK RODGERS

click to enlarge The Black Lips
  • The Black Lips

THE BLACK LIPS

Over the past decade, this Atlanta-based quartet of irreverent self-described "flower punks" helped put the Southeast on the map as a hotbed of garage rock revivalism. And while The Black Lips' collaboration with British producer Mark Ronson may have seemed an unlikely pairing, it produced one of last year's finest rock 'n' roll releases, Arabia Mountain. Hard to say how their lovably goonish antics will translate in the daylight, but I intend to find out. 1:45 p.m. at Which Stage D. PATRICK RODGERS

HERE WE GO MAGIC

After wowing early-bird festivalgoers as relative newcomers in 2010, this Brooklyn-based art-rock troupe returns to Bonnaroo on the heels of one of 2012's finest records — the Nigel Godrich-produced A Different Ship. For fans of über-catchy, densely textured interpretations of influences ranging from Talking Heads to The Sea and Cake, this is a "must see" set. 2 p.m. at That Tent; also playing Sunday, 4:45 p.m. at the Sonic Stage ADAM GOLD

BY LIGHTNING! 

By Lightning! is a rollicking Nashville outfit that combines twangy pop with a rhythm section to pay attention to (prolific Matt Moody on bass and drummer MVP Jerry Pentecost). Sunday afternoon usually sees a mass exodus of folks not interested in the jam-tastic finale, but this year's Sunday schedule is impressively stacked; you could shove through to The Beach Boys and leave disappointed (real talk), or legit enjoy something new and great. 2:40 p.m. at Great Taste Lounge ASHLEY SPURGEON

click to enlarge Beach Boys
  • Beach Boys

THE BEACH BOYS

The Beach Boys have a 50-year career that has produced as many member shake-ups and meltdowns as it has incredibly influential, brilliant pop songs. This week marks the release of The Beach Boys' 29th studio album, That's Why God Made the Radio, and with this year's world tour, members Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, David Marks and Bruce Johnston will hit the road together for the first time in more than two decades. It's anyone's guess what sort of performance we're in for — the Boys apparently have a backing band that does most of the heavy lifting, and Radio album-closer "Summer's Gone" was co-written with Jon Bon Jovi, oddly enough. But really. It's The Beach Boys. What else is there to say? They're living legends of rock 'n' roll, and you're either going to pay homage or you aren't. 3 p.m. at What Stage D. PATRICK RODGERS

MAC MILLER

Before you drop in to see what condition your Botoxed-and-roasted First Edition frontman's condition is in, why not peep one of the hottest acts in contemporary hip-hop? If you've somehow missed the entire World Wide Web for the past few years (Luddite!) the Pittsburgh-based Miller has built a massive following around party-friendly, pop-leaning new-school backpack raps and an undeniably affable personality on tracks like "La La La La" and "Frick Park Market." 3 p.m. at Which Stage SEAN L. MALONEY

KURT VILE AND THE VIOLATORS

Like a casually stoned, bedroom-confined Lou Reed singing over some of J. Mascis' less deafening guitar parts, Philadelphia's Kurt Vile had a breakthrough with last year's Smoke Ring for My Halo. His headspace-dwelling tunes do indeed hearken to the aforementioned art- and college-rock dudes pretty headily and readily, but tunes like "Jesus Fever" absolutely cannot be denied. And how's about a fun Kurt Vile drinking game? Take a swig every time you catch a glimpse of the guy's face behind all that hair. You won't get very drunk. 5 p.m. at That Tent D. PATRICK RODGERS

click to enlarge Bon Iver
  • Bon Iver

BON IVER

Bonnaroo has landed yet another Grammy-winning act that sent the awards show-watching Twitterverse into fits of bewilderment and apoplexy. "Who tha fuck is Bonny Bear?!?" I'll tell you. He's a Midwestern dude named Justin who turns seclusion, heartbreak and illness into stunning music and displays a Philip Glass-like evocateur's ability to transform a few simple notes into an emotion or a scene. When your synapses are crackling after four days of sun, hard drinking and drug use, his unmistakable falsetto is a dip in some serious pathos and cool, cool water. 5:30 p.m. at What Stage BRANTLEY HARGROVE

THE CIVIL WARS

With their heartening melodies and haunting harmonies, this Grammy-winning Nashville folk-pop duo's star-crossed, Southern gothic ambiance is perfectly suited for a pleasant Sunday comedown sesh at Bonnaroo. If there was ever a chance that Taylor Swift (a noted Civil Wars superfan turned collaborator) would make a Bonnaroo guest appearance, this is it. So bring the kids. 6:15 p.m. at The Other Tent ADAM GOLD

THE SHINS

Eight years ago, The Shins were hovering dangerously close to overexposure before anybody really knew what their deal was. The cutesy scene in Garden State that cemented them as balladeers for new sincerity and Gen Y lonely-hearts (and made them instant enemies of snide punks everywhere) could've sunk a less ambitious band, but the five-year hiatus between Wincing the Night Away and this year's brilliant Port of Morrow made them stronger than ever. 6:30 p.m. at Which Stage LANCE CONZETT

FUN.

NYC's intentionally lowercased-and-punctuated fun. has taken the torch from Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks" with their own No. 1-selling "We Are Young" as this year's indie-pop summer anthem. With the help of R&B innovator Janelle Monae and Kanye West co-producer Jeff Bhasker, they've successfully used all the right footnotes from Arcade Fire's anthem-core how-to guide, not to mention extra high notes struck in climax of the chorus at a tempo just fast enough to move to. 6:45 p.m. at That Tent SETH GRAVES

PHISH

While Bonnaroo has broadly evolved in scope from its early jam-band daze, nothing embodies the festival's original spirit quite like four hours of Phish ... even if the band didn't make its 'Roo debut until 2009. For the festival's faithful contingent of granola- and acid-eating neo-merry pranksters, Trey & Co. will surely make Bonnaroo 2012's swan song a noodle dance to remember. 8 p.m. at What Stage ADAM GOLD

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