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We're only halfway through 2011, and it's already been a strong year for the local music scene. The presence of Nashville-based and Nashville-related artists at Bonnaroo 2011, as a matter of fact, is stronger than ever before. Now in its third year, BMI's Road to Bonnaroo series at Mercy Lounge culled an especially diverse trifecta of locals to play the fest, from party-hop MC Chancellor Warhol (Friday, noon, at The On Tap Lounge) to lilting, powerhouse pop ensemble Cheer Up Charlie Daniels (Saturday, noon, at The On Tap Lounge) and electro-pop wunderkind Ross Wariner's outfit Uncle Skeleton (Thursday, 1 p.m., at The On Tap Lounge). Uncle Skeleton, as it happens, has the honor of playing the whole damn festival's opening slot, meaning the very first notes to ring through Centeroo shall be the resounding blips of a Nashvillian's synthesizer.
Several local up-and-comers have earned national praise, landing on the "Must-See at Bonnaroo" lists of big-name music rags like Spin and Rolling Stone. There's the sludgy, psychedelic garage-punk of JEFF the Brotherhood (Friday, 10:40 p.m., at The On Tap Lounge), who recently inked a deal with Warner Bros. and are now fetching more attention than ever before. There's the thoughtful folk-pop of Nashville songstress Tristen (Saturday, 9:20 p.m., at The On Tap Lounge), who has been touring relentlessly behind her critically heralded Charlatans at the Garden Gate. Then there's the old-timey crooning of trad-country-leaning roots artists Abigail Washburn (Friday, 4 p.m., at The Other Tent) and Justin Townes Earle (Friday, 2:30 p.m., at The Other Tent) — the latter of whom skipped town for The Big Apple a while back, but we won't hold it against him.
Also playing are indie power-pop ensemble The Kopecky Family Band (Thursday, 2 p.m., at Solar Stage), heartland rock-inspired Americana outfit The Apache Relay (Sunday, 8 p.m., at The On Tap Lounge) and the Nashville-frequenting former Tennessean Jessica Lea Mayfield (Friday, 12:15 p.m., at This Tent), whose band features beloved local and Ghostfinger frontman Richie Kirkpatrick. Mayfield's brother's outfit, The David Mayfield Parade, will play Thursday, 11:30 p.m., at The On Tap Lounge. There's also, of course, supermodel-turned-alt-country-songstress Karen Elson (Thursday, 5:45 p.m., at The Other Tent), an English-born Nashvillian whose notable spouse we'll be keeping an eye out for throughout the fest. —DPR
So, how big a deal is it that the surviving members of Buffalo Springfield — Neil Young included — are counting Bonnaroo among the seven down-Memory Lane reunion gigs they have on the books for this summer (Saturday, 9:30 p.m., at Which Stage)? Well, considering how the Canadian ensemble wholly launched the legendary rock careers of elder statesmen Young and Stephen Stills (and LOL-endary soft-rock career of Jim Messina), contributed the indelible, seminal '60s staple "For What It's Worth" to the classic-rock canon and played their farewell show in 1968 ... well, it's a really big fucking deal. But apparently not a big enough deal to merit a primetime, main-stage slot.
Even more than other festivals, Bonnaroo has a reverence for classic-rock, pop and (sigh) jam-band elders. Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Tom Petty, The Police, Elvis Costello, The Allman Brothers, John Fogerty, Neil Young, Robert Plant, David Byrne, Buddy Guy, Jimmy Cliff and Metallica are among the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-honored artists who've graced the festival's marquee as main-stagers. And with this being the festival's 10th installment, names like Prince, Paul McCartney, U2 and The Rolling Stones were thrown around the 'Roomer mill with highly concentrated levels of believability. None of them was true.
That's not to say this Bonnaroo won't be without its fair share of legacy acts. Spread across the bill are names like Robert Plant and his Band of Joy (Sunday, 6 p.m., at What Stage), Dr. John (who, in effect, named the festival to begin with) as backed by Allen Toussaint and lifelong funkifiers The Original Meters — a New Orleanean justice league of Teflon blues, boogie, funk and soul (Saturday, 12:30 a.m., at That Tent), the Jack White-made-over queens of rock and country, Wanda Jackson (Friday, 5:45 p.m., at The Other Tent) and Loretta Lynn (Saturday, 6:45 p.m., at That Tent), Gregg Allman (Sunday, 4:30 p.m., at That Tent), James Brown bassicologist Bootsy Collins and the Funk University (Saturday, 7 p.m., at The Other Tent), famed bluegrass picker Del McCoury (Friday, 7:30 p.m., at The Other Tent), noted knob-twiddler Daniel Lanois (Sunday, 3:30 p.m., at This Tent) and Stax songbird Mavis Staples (Sunday, 1:15 p.m., at What Stage). Dr. John will also participate in Superjam with Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach (Sunday, 7 p.m., at That Tent).
Still, this year's throwback nods to Monterey Pop will mostly be momentary. With the exception of Buffalo Springfield — playing on The Which Stage sandwiched between The Black Keys and Eminem on What — 2011's Bonnaroo headliners are in an incoming class of legacy acts: ones who just might still fill halls when this generation is old enough to feel the side effects of all that ecstasy they've ingested.
With the exception of Widespread Panic (Sunday, 8:30 p.m., at What Stage) taking Sunday night's jam band-obligatory granola-and-acid-eaters' closing slot, this year's big-ticket draws — Eminem, Arcade Fire, The Strokes, Mumford and Sons, Lil Wayne, Girl Talk, Gogol Bordello, The Decemberists, Big Boi, et al. — are mostly artists that emerged in the past two decades, while '90s luminaries like The String Cheese Incident (Saturday, 12:45 a.m., at Which Stage), Primus (Friday, 9:15 p.m., at Which Stage) and polka-pop-punkers NOFX (Friday, 7 p.m., at That Tent) fill in the gaps between zeitgeisty lineup dominators like Deerhunter, Deer Tick, The Walkmen, Wavves, !!!, Robyn and Cold War Kids. —AG
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