The Bonnaroo 2011 Lineup: Five Acts You Must See

With Coachella already set to go and a handful of Lollapalooza acts already leaking out, the summer festival season is already shaping up to be one of the biggest and best of all time. But what of Bonnaroo, the rural Tennessee camping adventure that began as a gathering of jam band obsessives but has evolved into one of the best music events in the world? On Tuesday morning (February 15), the Bonnaroo lineup was unveiled, with Eminem, Lil Wayne and Arcade Fire serving as the big headliners at this year’s model (which will run June 9-12 in Manchester, Tennessee). The top line is rounded out by the likes of the Strokes, the Black Keys, My Morning Jacket, Florence and the Machine and a reuniting Buffalo Springfield (making their only festival appearance).

That’s an eclectic lineup, for sure (there’s more hip-hop on the bill than ever before, especially in the headlining spots), but there’s still plenty for the Bonnaroo purists. No matter who you are, you’ll be able to find something.

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But what if you don’t even know what you’re looking for? Here are five acts on the Bonnaroo bill who should be circled, highlighted and checked off on your agenda as you make your way into the wilderness.

Lil Wayne
Sure, he’s a headliner and a major star, but how often do you get to see him in a festival setting? With a crowd that size and a sound system of that magnitude at his disposal (not to mention an exceptionally mellow crowd), Lil Wayne could turn in one of those transcendent performances you always end up hearing about later. Except this time, you’re actually there.

The Sword
For the uninitiated, the Sword play the sort of zonked-out, sludgy, chugging hard rock sometimes referred to as “stoner metal,” but they’re far more dynamic than that reductive moniker suggests. Their live show is legendarily sharp, and they should provide some much-needed evil amidst all the good vibes in Manchester (because you need balance, you see).

The Black Keys
Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney are secretly one of the best festival bands working, able to stretch their tunes into sweaty, fuzzy orgies of sound that dart, groove and explode. Their set at Lollapalooza 2008 was a revelation, and they’ve only gotten better since then.

Girl Talk
For a group that consists of little more than a guy and a laptop, Girl Talk is always shockingly dynamic. At festivals, Greg Gillis turns his anything-goes approach into the red, and his set at Bonnaroo is likely to end in mass hysteria and free hugs. So, you know, greatness.

Wiz Khalifa
If nothing else, this show should be an excellent test for one of the most buzz-worthy new MCs on the scene. Can Wiz handle the big crowds? Can his claustrophobic tracks work outdoors? Whether Wiz succeeds or fails (and the former is far more likely), it should be a heck of a party.