Chicago – The end of winter marks one of our favorite things: festival season! In your best Oprah voice, let me hear you say, “Bonnaroo!” Okay, now that you’ve gotten that of your system, Best New Bands is here to help weed through the line-up for some of the bands you might not be hip to yet. We’ve compiled a list of the top ten newer bands to see over the course of the four-day festival, held in Manchester, Tennessee. Since 2002, Bonnaroo has been booking some of the finest bands around and has been dubbed by many as the best festival in the U.S. The line-up this year is killer. I mean, Tears For Fears and Billy Joel! But let’s get on with the best of the newbies, shall we?
Eighteen year-old singer-songwriter Raury Alexander Tullis, simply known as Raury, mixes funk, soul, hip hop and folk in songs like “Sunshine” and “God’s Whisper.” Last fall the Georgia native released the mixtape Indigo Child and signed with Columbia Records. Word on the street is he’s been working with Frank Ocean and Adele on his debut album. Perhaps he’ll play some new tracks? Either way, go see this talented teenager and help him celebrate his birthday! He’ll be turning nineteen the day before his performance. Thursday, The Who Stage (Communion Music) 7:45-8:30 p.m.
Canada’s resident weirdo Mac DeMarco will be closing out the first night of Bonnaroo. We just can’t get enough of the sweet, sweet weirdness of Mac DeMarco. Last year the twenty-five year-old released Salad Days and gained quite a bit of attention for auctioning off a pair of sneakers for over 20k. The rising indie-pop star is set to release his fourth album Another One this August. Will he play some new tracks, too? We don’t know, but we’re pretty sure he’ll surf his way through the crowd! Thursday, This Tent 12:15-1:00 a.m.
Photo by Coley Brown
We caught U.K. rockers Royal Blood at Lollapalooza last summer. Bassist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher put on one of the best performances of the weekend. The duo will no doubt do the same at Bonnaroo. Last year Royal Blood released their self-titled debut on Warner Bros. Records, mixing garage rock and a bit of blues in tracks like “Come On Over,” “Out of the Black,” and “Little Monster.” It was met with rave reviews and won the twosome “Best New Band” and “Best Live Band” at the NME Awards 2015. Go see why the legendary Jimmy Page calls himself a fan of Royal Blood. Friday, Which Stage 3:45-4:45 p.m.
L.A. glam rockers Mini Mansions just finished up a tour with Tame Impala. We had the pleasure of seeing the trio perform on that tour, while in Chicago, where they brought some fun and a bit of a dance party! Queens of the Stone Age bassist Michael Shuman and his good friends Zach Dawes and Tyler Parkford formed Mini Mansions back in 2009. This March, Mini Mansions released their sophomore album The Great Pretenders (Capitol Records), which includes the singles “Any Emotions,” featuring Brian Wilson, and “Vertigo,” featuring Alex Turner. The three-piece also do a mean cover of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass.” Take in a dance party before dinner, yeah? Friday, The Who Stage 5:30-6:15 p.m.
Photo of Mini Mansions live by Sarah Hess
Run The Jewels
Underground hip hop legends El-P and Killer Mike make up one of the best rap duos around: Run The Jewels. They’ve only been collaborating since 2013, yet they’ve already managed to break into the mainstream with Run The Jewels and Run The Jewels 2 (Mass Appeal Records). Oh, and for all you cat lovers, Meow the Jewels, a remix of Run The Jewels 2 featuring cat samples from Lil Bub, is in the works. Not a fan of cats? No worries, the twosome is also hard at work on Run The Jewels 3. Best New Bands caught these Jewel Runners in the act last fall, so we can guarantee this to be the set to see Friday night. And perhaps they’ll drop a new song or two! Friday, This Tent 11:15 p.m.-12:15 a.m.
Photo courtesy of The Windish Agency
Catfish & The Bottlemen
Frontman Van McCann of the U.K. four-piece Catfish & The Bottlemen once told NME his goal was to play for “10,000 people at a time.” Well, Bonnaroo can make that happen, right? These Welshmen have made it their goal to become one of the best bands around. Best New Bands witnessed McCann and his Bottlemen – guitarist Johnny Bond, bassist Benji Blakeway, and drummer Bob Hall – rock out in Chicago (where they bought a round of drinks for fans), so we can testify that they are well on their way. See for yourself! Saturday, This Tent 2:00-3:00 p.m.
Photo by Jon Stone
Best New Bands also saw Mr. Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino at Lolla last year. The 30 Rock writer and Community star proved that he is a man of many talents. The rapper did not miss a beat, even in the pouring rain. During a torrential downpour, Glover ran through the pit, high-fiving fans, all while spitting out those witty lyrics of his. His songwriting is just as clever as his comedic endeavors, so much so that 2013’s Because the Internet (Glassnote Music) received a “Best Rap Album” 2014 Grammy nomination. At a recent performance, Childish Gambino kicked some freestyle. Perhaps he’ll dish out another round at Bonnaroo? Saturday, Which Stage 9:15-10:30 p.m.
Photo of Childish Gambino live by Sarah Hess
Austin crooner Alejandro Rose-Garcia, better known as Shakey Graves, has one of the best voices around! The cowboy hat wearing Texan also plays a mean guitar. Two very good reasons why Shakey Graves earned the title of “Best New Male Artist” in Best New Band’s 2013 Newbie Awards. Rose-Garcia belts out Americana like nobody’s business. He’ll “blow you away with tsunami-like force” with tunes like “Late July” and “Bully’s Lament.” Set your alarm, get up early, and check out the one-man-band known as Shakey Graves! Sunday, That Tent 12:30-1:15 p.m.
Twenty One Pilots
If you haven’t yet heard of or seen the Columbus, Ohio duo known as Twenty One Pilots, now is the time to get with it! Lead singer and multi-instrumentalist Tyler Joseph and drummer Joshua Dun put on one of the best live shows around. They’ll jump off pianos, play drums in the crowd, and who knows what else because every tour they seem to kick it up a notch. Plus, Twenty One Pilots just released Blurryface (Fueled by Ramen), so their set is sure to include plenty of new material. Be prepared to be blown away, and get there early if you’d like a good spot because their devoted Skeleton Clique will surely start camping out come morning… you can thank us later! Sunday, What Stage 2:30-3:35 p.m.
After seeing Karen Marie Ørsted aka MØ perform, chances are you’ll be begging for more MØ please! The Danish punk rocker turned pop singer is so much fun to see live. Songs like “Glass,” “Pilgrim,” and “Lean On,” her latest collaboration with Major Lazer & DJ Snake, will have you dancing the afternoon away. Plus, she’s known for crowd surfing, climbing balconies, and dancing on bar countertops. See what she’ll find to climb up and dance on at Bonnaroo! Sunday, The Other Tent 4:15-5:15 p.m.
Photo of MØ live by Sarah Hess
To see the complete Bonnaroo line-up and schedule, click HERE.
After attending The School of the Art Institute in Chicago, Sarah went on to study education at Dominican University, earning a degree in history. When not teaching, writing, or taking in a show, she is most likely to be found with a camera to her eye or hanging out in a darkroom.
You can follow Sarah Hess on twitter at @Sarahhasanh and view her music photography on her website: smhimaging.com.