Photo: aLIVE coverage
The 18th annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival is just around the corner. For four glorious days, Manchester, Tennessee will be transformed into a hotbed of some the world’s best artists and bands. By no means are we being flippant when we say that this year’s Bonnaroo is one of the best yet, with The Killers, Muse, Eminem, Future, Bon Iver, and Ones To Watch alumni Khalid and Dua Lipa rounding up the top of the lineup.
Yet, this is only scratching the surface of what Bonnaroo has to offer music fans this year. With well over 100 acts playing and festival outfits to coordinate, how is one supposed to find the time to find those hidden gems in the undercard? Well, that’s exactly what we’re here for. Below are our absolute, must-catch acts of Bonnaroo 2018, as well as a helpful Spotify playlist to help you get familiarized with these stars in the making.
Jade Bird is living proof as to why the word songwriter exists. The British artist instills every one of her songs with the thematic precision of an expert novelist, delivering something that exists halfway between song and story. Nowhere was this more apparent than the singer-songwriter’s debut, 2017’s Something American, a spellbinding collection of five songs that showed of the young artist’s talent for crafting grand narratives with the simplest of tools. Therein lies one of Bird’s strongest talents–her innate ability to entrance a crowd with nothing but her robust voice and exquisite guitar playing.
Topaz Jones exudes the comic hubris of a young Kanye with lyrical content aimed towards those of an everyman. The New Jersey artist brings a wide array of funk and soul textures to his grand brand of hip-hop, as he expertly delivers verse after verse backed by astoundingly layered production. The rapid-fire and clever delivery coupled with funk-filled, astounding production makes for music that is anything but low energy. Simply put, Topaz Jones makes the type of music you can’t help but groove and move to. For what is sure to be an all-out dance party, that brilliantly combines the world of funk and hip-hop, there is no other set to be at than Topaz Jones. Can’t make it out to Bonnaroo this year? Don’t worry. You’ll be able to catch Topaz Jones at our upcoming Baño Flaco at The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on June 20.
One of music’s most infamous moments is the day Johnny Cash played at Folsom Prison. It’s hard not to feel a similar sentiment of pending infamy when hearing the story behind bluesy indie folk artist Matt Maeson. The Chesapeake Bay native gained his start at an early age, playing for high-security prisons as part of his father’s prison ministry. The time clearly had an effect on Maeson and his music, as he channels a tremendous sense of emotive depth in every one of his songs. There’s a confessional nature underlying all of Maeson’s work that makes for a truly heart-piercing experience that is surely not to be missed live.
R&B and pop artist Bazzi received his first taste of fame after his breakthrough single “Mine” became a viral sensation. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that “Mine” was a mere fluke. Bazzi quickly followed-up the viral success of “Mine” with the outstanding debut album Cosmic. The appropriately titled album serves as proof that Bazzi is a star in the making. Over the expansive 16-track debut, Bazzi showcases his R&B songwriting chops to brilliant effect, evoking the raw emotion of superstar R&B giant The Weeknd. Take our advice and take your chance now to catch this rising star before he’s playing stadiums across the world.
“I’M DEAD.” This serves as both title of one Duckwrth’s most dance-inducing tracks and what people are likely to utter after catching the rapper, singer, and visual artist. Born Jared Lee, Duckwrth creates high-energy and increasingly impressive amalgamations of hip-hop and R&B. The artist’s critically-acclaimed debut I’M UUGLY, was the world’s first introduction to an artist that was truly different from his peers, bringing a sense of fluid creativity to his project. This sense of unrestrained creativity permeates everything Duckwrth does, from his gender-neutral clothing line, graphic design, and most of all his live performance. For a performance absolutely oozing ingenuity and energy, look no further than Duckwrth.
Photo: Nolan Knight
If “Frustrated” were the only song R.LUM.R were to have ever released, it would serve as ample enough reason to see him live. Thankfully, the Nashville artist has released plenty of other must-hear tracks, courtesy of his 2017 EP Afterimage. The R&B artist brings a fresh take to the genre, as his grand vocal range always adds an immaculate flair to the captivating and varied production found throughout tracks like “Close Enough,” and “Love Less,” and the aforementioned “Frustrated.” The captivation of R.LUM.R’s music definitely translates to his live performance, and he is sure to bring his A-game to this home state performance.
The amount of emotion and soul Bruno Major manages to pack into a single song should be downright criminal, and he will be making his U.S. festival debut at this year’s Bonnaroo. The British singer-songwriter interweaves classic narrative songwriting elements with refined, delicate electronic production for an absolutely superb listening experience. Take his debut, 2017’s A Song For Every Moon. The album is a masterclass in drawing out a wellspring of emotion through its superb use of minimalism. Then there’s the beautifully understated guitar that weaves in and out of A Song For Every Moon, which only adds to the artist’s gift for crafting heart-wrenching numbers. This is the set designed to be experienced with a lover, a dear friend, or anyone close to you.
The projected weather for this year’s Bonnaroo is in the high ‘80s, also known as the perfect weather for Los Angeles-based punk outfit The Regrettes. Meshing together the guitar-centric focus of punk rock and the sun-soaked nature of surf-rockers like The Beach Boys and Buddy Holly, The Regrettes music feels perfectly crafted for jumping and moshing around under the summer sun. Combine this with the band’s down-to-earth, diary-like approach to perfection, and you have a band that radiates an undeniable sense of honesty in their songs and live performances. Plus, they certainly have the skills to back it all up, as their live performance gives ample argument that punk is not dead.
Tobi Lou is creating a musical universe that you will want to lose yourself in. Through a series of upbeat hip-hop productions and animated characters, Lou is steadily rolling out music that is hard to ignore. Take “Buff Baby,” the lead single from Lou’s 2017 EP, tobi lou and the loop. The song takes its title and opening hook from Cartoon Network series Adventure Time, yet still manages to be a repeat-worthy track that is more than deserving of serious attention. The effervescence that permeates Lou’s work harks back to a golden age of rap, where Adult Swim and animated accompaniments served as the breeding ground for some of today’s hottest hip-hop stars.
Last but certainly not least, there’s flor. The band’s unique blend of indie rock and irresistible synth-pop makes their humble origins all the more surprising. Emanating from the small town of Hood River, Oregon, Zachary, Grace, Dylan Bauld, McKinley Kitts, and Kyle Hill make the sort of music perfectly fitted for the scenic nightscapes of shimmering cities like Los Angeles or New York. The band’s synth-laden style, reminiscent of ‘80s new wave, coupled with a forward-thinking indie sensibility, makes for a musical experience that not only spans decades but bridges them. And as we bore witness to personally, during their All Eyes On performance, flor’s live set is nothing short of captivating.