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We Saw (And Reviewed!) Bonnaroo 2015's Five Least-Attended Acts

FilmMagic/FilmMagic for Bonnaroo Arts And Music Festival
 Joel Woods performs onstage at The Who Stage during Day 2 of the 2015 Bonnaroo Music And Arts Festival on June 12, 2015 in Manchester, Tennessee. 

Most Bonnaroovians came to this year's fest for the big name acts -- Billy Joel, Mumford & Sons, Kendrick Lamar, etc. But if they only stuck to the main stages, they would've missed out on a ton of great music -- and perhaps even an act or two who stood on the cusp of widespread recognition, only needing a stellar performance to push them over the top into the mainstream (in other words, Bleachers).

Bonnaroo 2015: All Our Coverage

Last year we sent Billboard's Dominick Grillo around the fest to check out the five acts that had received the least number of "check-ins" on the official Bonnaroo app. This completely unscientific approach (the numbers tend to fluctuate by day, time and inclination of attendees to pay attention to their phones) brought us into the audience for James Bay's 2014 show at Bonnaroo, a stunning performance that heralded the English singer-songwriter as an artist on the rise. That promise was fulfilled over the past year, with "Hold Back the River" hitting No. 2 on Adult Alternative Songs and "Let It Go" popping up on radio stations around the country.

Bonnaroo 2014's Five Least-Attended Acts: Who Was Worth Watching? 

Would 'Roo 2015 help launch another talented act into the mainstream? After picking the least-checked-in artists (as of Thursday afternoon), Dominick headed back to the small stages to find out.

1. Raising Caine
Thursday, June 11th 
Solar Stage
How many scheduled? 118 

With eight members crowding the small Solar Stage and each seemingly having their own style, expectations were high for Raising Caine. One female singer paired a fantastically colorful dress with a huge afro-Mohawk, while lead singer and frontman Nathan Caine McDonald in his long beard and checkered shirt, could pass for Iron & Wine's Sam Beam. Two other backup singers wore matching black cocktail dresses.

But within a few moments it became clear Raising Caine were not the eclectic genre-splicers they may have seemed. Their folksy, railroad style country rock instantly brought to mind Johnny Cash and offered an early reminder that although year by year 'Roo tends to include more hip-hop, pop and electronic acts, there is still a home on the farm for traditional country jams.

2. Joel Woods
Friday, June 12th 
Who Stage
How many scheduled? 33

After Thursday evening's soft start, the full festival opened up in earnest on Friday. Joel Woods took the Who Stage under the scorching early afternoon Tennessee sun and entertained the sluggish crowd with a set of (mostly) pop covers. 

Unfortunately, the Woods brothers seemed to have an almost complete disregard for adding vitality to the remade versions of hits by Rihanna, Frank Ocean, and Nick Jonas. With Joel gently strumming his guitar and his brother lightly tapping on his keyboard -- each taking turns singing lead -- the songs seemed to flow at a cruelly slow pace. 

Sure, the brutal 2:30 p.m. set time probably meant most of the 'Rooers attending were still nursing hangovers and rubbing the ache from their sleep-deprived eyes, but Joel's affinity for turning upbeat pop jams like "Diamonds" and "Jealous" into drippy ballads left much to be desired. 

That being said, a mashup cover of John Legend's "All of Me" and The Script's "Breakeven" worked well, and one of the brothers' originals, "Lemonade," (which, unfortunately, had nothing to do with Gucci Mane's song of the same title) showed the duo could create their own catchy music for themselves. 

Bonnaroo 2015: All Our Coverage

3. Jason McMillian Band  
Friday, June 12th 
Miller Lite New Music On Tap 
How many scheduled? 64

Slotted in an early afternoon set time but not content with keeping things low key, Jason McMillian and the four other members of his self-named band brought their funky rock to the Miller Lite tent and quickly inspired many of the onlookers to get up onto their feet. The Auburn, Alabama-based crew began their set with songs that seemed to reflect their Southern roots (the rocker "Catfish," for instance) before diving into the kind of beach-ready funk that is usually more commonly associated with Southern California bands like 311 or Sublime

With a cover of Bob Marley's "Stir It Up" and some extended funk jams, the band clearly knows what to do to keep its audience happy and grooving all afternoon long.

4. Homemade Wine 
Friday, June 12th
Miller Lite New Music On Tap
How many scheduled? 113

Sounding something like the Allman Brothers Band if it had been born in the 21st century, this six-member Southern rock band has the look and feel of an outfit that is almost perpetually on tour: tight musicianship, deftly constructed solos, and the ease that comes only from hanging around with the same group of people for long periods of time. 

The group was this year's Tennessee winner of the "Road to Roo" competition, which was held by Miller Lite and some local radio stations, and the band seemed ecstatic to have reached the same hallowed grounds that have hosted some of the biggest bands in the world. 

Daily Bonnaroo Recaps: Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday

5. Grey Season
Sunday, June 14th
Who Stage
How many scheduled? 138 

What happens if you are given, quite arguably, the worst time slot at Bonnaroo? If you are Grey Season, you rock out like you're headlining the main stage, that's what. The young Boston folk rockers did just about the impossible at 1 p.m. on Sunday -- they successfully drew a grooving, writhing crowd out into the open sun when most of those on hand were likely recovering from a weekend's worth of wild nights. 

With their five-part harmonies bringing to mind bands like Fleet Foxes or Dirty Projectors, their folk and punk influenced rock makes them difficult to pin down and put an exact label on their music. But maybe that's for the best. Why try to completely analyze their performance and their sound when they seem more concerned with simply creating great music? Grey Season were picked for 'Roo through Sonicbids, but we would be surprised if they don't return to the farm in the coming years. Maybe next time they'll be on a bigger stage?