Beastie Boys, Phish And The Rest Of The Bands I’ll Be Missing At Bonnaroo

I envy you … the unwashed masses, the blissfully unemployed, the bearded and bedraggled. You get to go to Bonnaroo, to revel in four days of unadulterated muck and music and mind-altering substances. I don’t, because I am stuck in meetings all week.

And this is most certainly a bummer. See, I love Bonnaroo. I think it’s the best fest in America, an experience every music fan must have at least once in their lives (and I’m not just saying this because, back in 2007, I got to fly a helicopter there).

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But this year, because of the time constraints due to back-to-back-to-back business meetings (read: impending adulthood), I’m not going to make it down to Manchester, Tennessee. I will probably regret this for the rest of my life, because Bonnaroo 2009 looks like it’s going to be a blast.

And, yeah, I know that the weather forecast for Manchester could charitably be described as “cataclysmic” — the phrase “strong storms” is bandied about, which should make camping in an open field with 80,000 other revelers a rather messy affair — but that doesn’t change the fact that there are tons of can’t-miss moments spread out over the fest’s four days. Which means that if you’re brave enough to, uh, brave the weather, you’re gonna be in for a treat.

So even though I won’t be down in Tennessee with you, I figured I could still lend a hand. I’ve thrown together a Bonnaroo Cheat Sheet, highlighting some of the fest’s best acts. These are the bands you probably can’t afford to miss, even if you have to trudge through six feet of water to check them out.

» Thursday: A bit of a light schedule, as most of the 80k will still be setting up their tents, but you’d be doing yourself a favor if you checked out Passion Pit, a much-buzzed electro-pop outfit from Massachusetts who just released their debut disc, a dazzler called Manners. If you can get past frontman Michael Angelakos’ pinched squeal, there’s plenty of goodness.

» Friday: And here we go. A packed day … you can’t miss early with Animal Collective or the ethereal St. Vincent, but it’s a bummer that the schedule-makers deemed it necessary to pit the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Grizzly Bear and Santigold against one another. And don’t even get me started about having to choose between Al Green, TV on the Radio and Amadou & Miriam. Oh, and there’s also evening sets from the Beastie Boys and David Byrne, a headlining performance (three hours!) from Phish, and late-night, super-party slots for Phoenix, Crystal Castles and Girl Talk. If you can’t already tell, I am jealous.

» Saturday: Things start early (like noon) with sets by the heavily buzzed-about Chairlift and shambling, rambling Elvis Perkins. The early afternoon features the kick-ass Heartless Bastards, the beatific Bon Iver and the smooove Raphael Saadiq. In the evening, why not check out Jenny Lewis, Wilco, the Decemberists, the Mars Volta or Elvis FREAKING Costello? The headliner is Bruuuuuce and the late-nighters are Nine Inch Nails, Yeasayer and MGMT. I also think that this is the night of the annual Bonnaroo SuperJam. You cannot lose.

» Sunday: Shake off your hangover, or have the Dillinger Escape Plan blast it out of your head for you. Really, there’s a full day of great metal (and whatever the heck you consider Coheed and Cambria) at the “That Tent,” so you can’t miss there at all. Erykah Badu is a definite must-see, as is Neko Case. Oh, and just in case you missed Phish the first time out, they’re closing the fest out with a three-and-a-half-hour set.