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Bonnaroo 2015: The Ultimate Guide

Our annual picks for rockers, hip-hoppers, ravers, jammers and weirdos

Bonnaroo

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 31, 2014: Music fans watch Steve Aoki perform at the Made In America Festival on Sunday, August 31, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times

Bonnaroo is reliably the most eclectic of all of America's mega-festivals, and the lineup for its 14th year is no exception. In that spirit, here is a genre-hopping guide that picks essential bands, films, DJ sets and comedy for five very different kinds of fans prowling the event's Manchester grounds: classic rockers, hip-hop heads, EDM freaks, jam band devotees and arty folks. 

Tanya Tagaq

HAMILTON, ON - MARCH 15: Singer Tanya Tagaq presents an award at the 2015 JUNO Awards at the FirstOntario Centre on March 15, 2015 in Hamilton, Canada. (Photo by Sonia Recchia/Getty Images)

Sonia Recchia/Getty

Bonnaroo for the Arty Fan

Sets You'll Probably Catch: Canadian whirlwind Tanya Taqaq has been completely flooring audiences with her one-of-a-kind, high-intensity blend of Inuit throat singing and exploratory avant-rock. Hearing her throat contortions from a Roo-sized festival P.A. might be transcendent or terrifying or both. Immediately after her Friday performance, scurry from This Tent to That Tent for Between the Buried and Me, the mathtastic prog-metal space cadets whose upcoming seventh album Coma Ecliptic is a 68-minute cosmic opera that's part Stravinsky, part Queensrÿche. If you're not too exhausted or dizzy from Flying Lotus' Friday-night blend of Seventies fusion jazz, contemporary bass music and brain-scrambling visuals, don't miss New York's ambitious new music quartet So Percussion on Saturday morning. A very rare taste of modern classical in a big American summer festival setting, the four-drummer crew be playing the latest minimalist work from the National's Bryce Dessner, Music for Wood and Strings, a bell-like shimmer of funkily smacked "chord strings" that splits the difference between drone and disco. Further closing the loop between American minimalism and dance music, So Percussion will also play the first movement of Steve Reich's early Seventies masterwork Drumming. It should then be a quick walk over to the Cinema Tent for a screening of Birdman with its frenetic, tense, Golden Globe-nominated free-jazz score played live by drummer Antonio Sánchez

You Might Also Like: If you're into the low, metal-tinged drones of SunnO))), Boris or Kevin Drumm it's really about time you caught a Bassnectar show: The death metal expat has turned his love of decibels into what might be the most stomach-rumbling festival show on the planet. Shabazz Palaces joins hip-hop with avant-garde free-form and Afrocentric poetry; Pallbearer lives on the edge where heavy metal turns into hypnotic slush; and Rustie makes semi-danceable electronic music with twisted, nostalgic textures that sound like a rave in the uncanny valley. 

Best-Kept Secret: Bonnaroo's Head of Visual Design, Russ Bennett will be leading the first Roo Art Walk, kicking off at the Fountain, 4 p.m. on Thursday. Says Nashville Scene, Bennett "oversees the appearance of every stage, tent, vending booth, kiosk, lamppost, fountain and sculpture, not to mention the color schemes and lighting design for the actual shows." He'll be playing festival docent, providing commentary on some of all of the above. Christopher R. Weingarten