Bonnaroo's 10 Toughest Scheduling Conflicts (And Who You Should See)
Frank Ocean or Flaming Lips? Zedd or Lauryn Hill? Here are the most painful set overlaps, and which artist to see.
Picture this: it's Friday night at Bonnaroo. The daytime heat has broken and you just filled your stomach with something from a nearby food truck that's healthy, artisanal, gourmet and bloggable at the same time. It's time to see some sets, but there's a dilemma! Your friends are dying to see Neutral Milk Hotel because "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" changed their lives when they were college freshmen, but you just met a very cute guy/girl who wants to go dance to CHVRCHES. What to do?
Well, Billboard isn't going to give you any Bonnaroo hookup advice, but as for those tricky scheduling conflicts, help is on the way. This year's 'Roo schedule is a particularly loaded one -- especially on Friday and Saturday night -- with some tricky decisions to make. This is your Bonnaroo experience, so feel free to go your own way, but the Billboard staff happens to have a wealth of festival knowledge that would never lead you astray. Just saying!
Check out our round-up of the 10 toughest scheduling showdowns at this year's Bonnaroo festival:
10. Yonder Mountain String Band (Sunday, 2:30 PM, What Stage) vs. Capital Cities (Sunday, 2:30 PM, Which Stage) vs. Okkervil River (Sunday, 2:30 PM, This Tent) vs. Sarah Jarosz (Sunday, 2:30 PM, That Tent)
The Conflict: Four artists, starting at the exact same time! Yonder Mountain String Band will bring the bluegrass to the main stage, Capital Cities has the biggest pop hit of the bunch with "Safe & Sound," Okkervil River has a formidable catalogue and Sarah Jarosz is a virtuoso musician.
The Right Choice: Give the nod to Will Sheff and his Okkervil brethren. If you're feeling especially fancy-free, wander across the grounds and catch a little of all four -- just be sure to make it to Okkervil River in time to hear "A Stone."
9. HAERTS (Saturday, 3:30 PM, The Other Tent) vs. First Aid Kit (Saturday, 3:00 PM, This Tent) vs. The Bouncing Souls (Saturday, 3:00 PM, That Tent)
The Conflict: Long-running Jersey punks Bouncing Souls play up against a couple of buzz acts -- Brooklyn-based synthpop group HAERTS and the Swedish sister country-folk duo First Aid Kit.
The Right Choice: If you like punk rock at all, see the Bouncing Souls, as the genre is heavily underrepresented at Bonnaroo this year. If you don't particularly like punk, see one of the other two. Out of HAERTS and First Aid Kit, go with the latter, as their new album "Stay Gold" is absolutely lovely. Rest assured, HAERTS will tour plenty when their debut album drops later this year, so there's no need to stress in that area.
8. Real Estate (Thursday, 7:30 PM, That Tent) vs. MS MR (Thursday, 7:45 PM, The Other Tent)
The Conflict: As dusk begins to settle into night, the easy, breezy indie rock of Real Estate (touring behind this year's "Atlas") goes up against the highly contemporary synth-pop of MS MR (hyping last year's "Secondhand Rapture").
The Right Choice: Odds are, you'll be pretty pooped Thursday evening. After a long time spent traveling and getting a campsite in order, you're going to need some time to recharge. An hour of Real Estate's harmonic tunes to vibe out to before a night of EDM and hip-hop sounds good to us.
7. Sam Smith (Friday, 2:15 PM, The Other Tent) vs. Dr. Dog (Friday, 2:30 PM, Which Stage) vs. The Wood Brothers (Friday, 2:00 PM, This Tent) vs. Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 (Friday, 2:00 PM, That Tent)
The Conflict: Dr. Dog might have the biggest stage of these four acts, but can the long-running Philly collective overcome the momentum of British soul crooner Sam Smitth? Don't discount the sprawling folk of the Wood Brothers or African funk blasts of Seun Kuti & Egypt 80, too.
The Right Choice: Sam Smith, because his voice has to be witnessed live to be fully appreciated. Swing by Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 at 2:00, dance your face off for 15 minutes, and then stroll by Smith for a nice, long cry.
6. Lionel Richie (Saturday, 8:00 PM, What Stage) vs. Chromeo (Saturday, 7:30 PM, Which Stage)
The Conflict: Oldster dance versus new-school dance! "All Night Long" versus "Night By Night"! Saturday night will be a time to get your groove on, and while Lionel Richie commands the main stage with his 80s touchstones, Chromeo will be at the Which Stage bringing the noise, bringing the electro-funk.
The Right Choice: Lionel, of course. Chromeo slayed at Coachella, but how many times can you dance to "Dancing On The Ceiling" in the middle of an endless crowd? Catch the first half-hour of Chromeo, then dart over to the main stage and settle in.
5. Fitz & The Tantrums (Sunday, 4:15 PM, Which Stage) vs. Warpaint (Sunday, 4:15 PM, This Tent) vs. A$AP Ferg (Sunday, 4:15 PM, The Other Tent)
The Conflict: This is all about priorities: do you have to hear Fitz & The Tantrums play "The Walker"? Are you terrified of missing A$AP Rocky possibly come out for "Shabba" with Ferg? Have you yet to witness Warpaint play "Love Is To Die"? Tough calls abound.
The Right Choice: A$AP Ferg. Sunday is pretty quiet on the hip-hop front, so put in some "Work" before strolling over to the main stage to catch the back half of Arctic Monkeys' set at 5:15.
4. Zedd (Saturday, 9:15 PM, Which Stage) vs. James Blake (Saturday, 8:45 PM, That Tent) vs. Ms. Lauryn Hill (Saturday, 9:00 PM, The Other Tent)
The Conflict: EDM-to-Top 40 crossover star Zedd plays almost simultaneously with the truly one-of-a-kind Lauryn Hill. Playing a little sooner (but still overlapping considerably) is an artist who appeals a little to indie, hip-hop and EDM crowds -- James Blake.
The Right Choice: If you're too young to remember the days when the term "neo-soul" got used a lot in music journalism, do yourself a favor and see Hill, as she'll likely play cuts from two hip-hop classics (the Fugees' "The Score" and her own "Miseducation of Lauryn Hill"). And if you are old enough to remember those days, chances are you're not a huge fan of contemporary EDM, anyway. So check out Hill, as Blake is much less likely to drop quotable knowledge about the downfall of American society.
3. Mastodon (Friday, 11:30 PM, This Tent) vs. Ice Cube (Friday, 12:00 AM, Which Stage) vs. Derek Trucks Superjam (Friday, 12:00 AM, That Tent) vs. Disclosure (Friday, 12:00 AM, The Other Tent)
The Conflict: Although pile-ups like this one can make for painful decisions, the something-for-everyone vibe at Bonnaroo is also one of the festival's most essential qualities. Want to soak in punishing hard rock, snarling hip-hop, epic rock riffs or stylish U.K. dance after Kanye's headlining set? The choice is yours.
The Right Choice: No wrong choice here, but that Derek Trucks Superjam lineup is insane -- Chaka Khan! Andrew Bird! Ben Folds! Susan Tedeschi! -- and will never be duplicated, unlike the other three artists' sets.
2. Vampire Weekend (Friday, 7:30-8:45, What Stage) vs. CHVRCHES (Friday, 7:30-8:45, The Other Tent) vs. Neutral Milk Hotel (Friday, 8:00-9:30, This Tent) vs. Phoenix (8:45-10:00, Which Stage)
The Conflict: Indie big shots Vampire Weekend and CHVRCHES play at the exact same time, which is a bummer, considering the big-time overlap in their fan bases. The reunited Neutral Milk Hotel overlap between the last 45 minutes of Vampire Weekend/CHVRCHES and the first half of Pheonix's set.
The Right Choice: CHVRCHES just announced a fall U.S. tour, while Vampire Weekend are wrapping up their last few U.S. dates for last year's "Modern Vampires of the City." CHVRCHES are awesome, but get your fill of Vampire Weekend while you can. After that, you'll still have time to catch almost half of Neutral Milk Hotel's set. And if you're an NMH diehard, you can always skip out of Vampire Weekend early, since no one really knows if they'll tour again after this round of dates. If you've got any energy left after all of that (of course you will!) check out Phoenix's last few songs over at Which Stage, since there's a good chance they'll save the hits for last.
1. Frank Ocean (Saturday, 12:30-1:45 a.m., The Other Tent) vs. Flaming Lips (Saturday, 12:30-2:00 a.m., Which Stage) vs. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds(Saturday, 12:30-2:00 a.m., That Tent) vs. Skrillex Superjam (Saturday, 12:00-2:00 a.m., This Tent)
The Conflict: Skrillex leads 'Roo's daily Superjam, along with guests like Zedd, Chance the Rapper, Thundercat, Damian Marley and Robby Krieger of the Doors. Also up after midnight on a busy Saturday night are festival standbys the Flaming Lips, well-respected indie rockers Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds and millennial master Frank Ocean. This scheduling conflict just… isn't… fair.
The Right Choice: There's no way you can go to Bonnaroo and not see one of these Superjams, and since we just advised against seeing Zedd, you can catch him jamming with Skrillex & Friends. But bass drops can get tiresome after a while -- even star-studded bass drops! -- so we advise skipping out at some point to see Mr. Ocean, as he might be playing some new material from the very hushed-up new album he's working on.