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Bonnaroo 2010's Essential Sets

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SUNDAY

12:00 p.m.—12:45 p.m.: Tinariwen
At a festival loaded with great guitar players, Saharan desert blues band Tinariwen sport several of the best. Robert Plant was floored by the group's ability, and their stateside profile has grown steadily, particularly over the last five years. The group turn out hypnotic lines of silvery guitar and let songs swell, mantra-like, over and over, grounded by low, rich, murmuring vocals. Their recent U.S. tour earned them deserved accolades, and in the middle of the afternoon in Tennessee, their spellbinding songs are the perfect way to open Bonnaroo's final day.

12:30 p.m.—1:30 p.m.: Japandroids
This Canadian two-piece punk band puts a premium on velocity. The songs on its breakthrough album, the thrilling Post-Nothing, whip by like cars speeding around a racetrack. Their songs exalt both the urgency and energy of youth and the terrible brevity of life. It's no wonder: last year, frontman Brian King was sidelined with a near-fatal perforated ulcer.

2:00 pm—3:00 p.m.: Lucero
Long-running, infinitely touring cowpunk band Lucero draws most of their power from frontman Ben Nichols' busted voice — it's a ragged, bleeding husk, bashing its way up the center of the group's galloping songs. The band strips down-home roots rock back to the basics — they're a dusty pickup truck with a Black Flag sticker on the window, Clash songs delivered with a Southern drawl.

3:00 p.m.—4:15 p.m.: Regina Spektor
Tori 2.0? On her sparkling second effort, Begin to Hope, Spektor made romantic longing feel deceptively whimsical, guarding her sweetest sentiments with light, skipping piano. Her latest, Far, is more ambitious; collaborating with a variety of producers — among them, ELO's Jeff Lynne — Spektor's songs have become proud and expansive, and her tiny voice puffs up proudly to match those ambitious arrangements.

3:30 p.m.—4:30 p.m.: Against Me!
The second song on Against Me!'s White Crosses is called "I Was a Teenage Anarchist," and that past-tense verb is crucial. Frontman Tom Gabel has slowly moved past the blunt didacticism of the group's early anti-folk to find a home in pissed-off, progressive punk — the kind of music that still has a message, but doesn't make that message its raison d'etre. What Against Me! are about these days are power, and their live show is one roaring rock anthem after another, where songs about social change bump brusquely up against songs about hard-won personal freedom.

4:00 p.m.—5:30 p.m.: John Fogerty
Though his songs deliver all that's right about heartland American rock, Fogerty's spirit and sentiment was always decidedly countercultural. Unlike many of his contemporaries, whose spirit of protest now seems almost quaint, Fogerty's songs ("Centerfield" excepted, obviously) still ring ragged and true. A 90-minute set affords him plenty of time for searing Creedence chestnuts as well as a smattering of his durable recent work. Here's hoping he nastily dedicates "Fortunate Son" to the fatcat, corner-cutting execs at BP.

6:30 p.m.—8:00 p.m.: Miranda Lambert
Whip-crack country songs delivered with a smirk and a snarl, Miranda Lambert is a wily country music iconoclast. Her songs have a higher body count than N.W.A's: 2007's phenomenal Crazy Ex-Girlfriend opened with her pumping an abusive husband full of lead, and last year's just-as-good Revolution found her covering a Fred Eaglesmith song that declared, "When the talking is over, it's time to get a gun." Make no mistake about it: Lambert is a badass, a hellraiser with a wry voice and jaded outlook; her white-hot upstart songs are sure to sound great at top volume.

7:15 p.m.—8:45 p.m.: Phoenix
If LCD Soundsystem provided Friday night's dance party, Phoenix are sure to do the same on the fest's closing day. Their songs are all clean lines, aerodynamic vocals, crackerjack beats and big choruses. These four Frenchmen are festival pros, still riding the strength of last year's soaring Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. And where many dance acts clutter all available space with sound, Phoenix know the value of allowing songs to breathe. They're a perfectly controlled body-moving machine.

9:00 p.m.—11:00 p.m.: Dave Matthews Band
At this point, DMB are practically Bonnaroo's homecoming kings, both a remnant of the fest's history as well as a testament to their own enduring legacy. Like Bonnaroo, DMB have long since moved past their jammy roots: their latest album, Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King, found them edging toward rockier territory, applying their elaborate instrumentation to strict pop structures. Their evolution has been an intriguing one, and what better way to close out the festival than with a band that embodies its past, present and future?

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Van Morrison | 1968

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