Bonnaroo Reveals 2017 Lineup with U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Weeknd, Chance the Rapper and Many More
Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival will march into its 16th year with a lineup that features the US festival debut of Irish arena rockers U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ return to The Farm, the first Bonnaroo set from The Weeknd, Chance the Rapper headlining his favorite festival and much more. The music, art and comedy festival will return to Manchester, TN’s Great Stage Park on June 8–11.
Also near the top of the list this year are Major Lazer, Flume, The xx, Lorde, Cage the Elephant, The Head and the Heart, Big Gigantic, Glass Animals and Future Islands, highlighting an electronic-leaning lineup for 2017. Other notable inclusions are Umphrey’s McGee, Portugal. The Man, Tove Lo, Crystal Castles, Cold War Kids, Royal Blood, Car Seat Headrest, Joseph, Flatbush Zombies, Claude VonStroke, Margo Price, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Greensky Bluegrass, Mandolin Orange, Kevin Morby, Khruangbin, Turkuaz, Twiddle, River Whyless, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, who will join many more artists spread out over 14 stages over the four-day event, which will also feature a yet-to-be-announced comedy lineup.
“I feel fantastic about the entire lineup this year,” says Ashley Capps of Knoxville, TN’s AC Entertainment, who co-founded Bonnaroo along with New York-based promoters Superfly. “There are nods to the Bonnaroo tradition while at the same time being something that’s fresh, new, bright and exciting. I think it’s so important for keeping the spirit of a festival fresh, to always reflect the moment, and I think there are a lot of acts in the festival this year that very much reflect this particular moment in our culture. It’s going to be exciting to have them play the festival—most of them for the first time ever.”
The big artist get for Capps and Bonnaroo, however, is top headliner U2, who will make a stop on The Farm as part of their recently announced summer tour celebrating the 30th anniversary of their seminal album The Joshua Tree. “U2’s been on the dream list for years, at least since six or seven years ago,” Capps says. “I can’t say there were ever really serious discussions, but they knew we were interested, and we kept being interested. This year, as they came up with their plans to celebrate The Joshua Tree, all the pieces fell into place.” Capps also notes that the typically massive stage show that U2 put on will not be infringed upon at Bonnaroo. “We’re intending to deliver a full-on U2 performance,” he says. “I think U2 on that main stage is going to be unforgettable. I hate to use the word ‘epic,’ but there are certain artists that word was meant to describe, and U2’s one of them.”
Red Hot Chili Peppers will make their second appearance at Bonnaroo, as the band debuted their brand of funk rock at the festival back in 2012 with what Capps remembers as “one of many highlights” from that year. The Weeknd, on the other hand, will be venturing to The Farm for the first time, though Capps says the Bonnaroo team has had their eyes on booking him for some time: “Even when The Weeknd just started to make some waves a number of years ago, we had some discussions with him playing, but they never came to fruition. Last year, we thought he was going to play, and then there were conflicts. It’s been one of those things we’ve been discussing for a while, and this year’s the year.”
Chance the Rapper will make his fourth consecutive appearance at the festival, making him the rare artist to appear at Bonnaroo multiple years in a row. The hip-hop star played a proper set of his own in 2014, participated in the ‘Roo’s signature SuperJam in 2015 and made several surprise sit ins throughout The Farm last year. This year he rises to a headlining position.
Although many fans see Bonnaroo as being solely steeped in the jam tradition that influenced much of their first years, Capps notes that even in 2002, the festival boasted an eclectic lineup that featured multiple DJs and electronic acts. This year, he and his team saw that sect amplified somewhat in the artists chosen, with a hefty portion of the top acts leaning that way. “Electronic dance music and other electronic music have always been a popular component of Bonnaroo,” Capps says. “We’ve always woven that into the programming. This year, it certainly took on a little bit more life, and there was some focus on that, but it evolved pretty organically. We decided now was the time to really highlight it. We have a lot of extremely strong feedback from many of the fans last year, and so we are continuing to move in that direction. And, let’s face it, that’s one of the things that’s so popular now in music culture.”
The rootsy side of the coin will always have its place on The Farm, of course, and this lineup doesn’t stray completely away from that scene by any means. Many of the bands could have been on the lineup year one, and the return of Ed Helms and the Bluegrass Situation tent and SuperJam are reminders that the Americana spirit in Bonnaroo will continue to persist. “Certainly Bonnaroo was very jamband focused in its first year, but I will say that none of us ever sat around saying, ‘We’re gonna create a jamband festival’—we wanted to create a music festival,” explains Capps. “And we felt that the jamband culture at the time—in the early 2000s—was the perfect foundation on which to build a camping festival in particular.
“The beautiful thing about the term ‘jamband,’ to me, is that is incorporates so many different types of music. Jambands are influenced by and celebrate bluegrass, blues, jazz, rock, African music. There are so many influences that come to bear on the various bands that fall under the jamband umbrella. That gave us the opportunity, from the beginning, to program the festival by exploring those tangents and having Baaba Maal and King Sunny Adé and Del McCoury and Béla Fleck be as integral to the Bonnaroo experience.”
One of Capps’ favorite parts of being involved with music and music festivals in particular is getting to know the younger artists and seeing them grow as they become familiar faces in the Bonnaroo lineup. “Introducing new acts to audiences is one of the real pleasure of programming Bonnaroo to begin with,” Capps says. “We’ve had a number of acts where it’s been exciting to watch grow with the festival—from Kings of Leon to My Morning Jacket, and certainly Big Gigantic, Umphrey’s, Portugal. the Man. It’s really exciting to see a new artist emerge and capture people’s imaginations with their music and to see that snowball as we have in so many instances. It’s the most exciting thing about the music business, to me, the way new artists emerge and catch hold and change music as a result of what they do.”
Umphrey’s McGee are veterans of the inaugural Bonnaroo, while members of fellow improvisers Big Gigantic, Greensky Bluegrass and Twiddle attended the festival as fans before scoring slots of their own. Preservation Hall have returned numerous times since their first Bonnaroo slot in 2006 and even co-authored the event’s official theme song with McCoury.
This year, Capps points out one lineup addition in particular that he’s proud of and eager to highlight as part of the festival. “Of course, being a Tennessee boy, Americana and bluegrass are near and dear to my heart,” he says. “This year, one act that I’m especially excited about shining a light on is Margo Price. She’s one of the most exciting artists out there, and it’ll be great to have her at Bonnaroo.”
As Bonnaroo grows into its late-teen years, with a still relatively new partner in Live Nation that brings burgeoning collaborations, the focus of the lineups grows and broadens—along with the improvements that The Farm itself sees, like the running water and permanent bathrooms and showers installed last year and more amenities to come—but Capps wants to assure fans that he and his team aren’t really changing the way they do things. “The motivating principle behind Bonnaroo, the guiding principles behind planning the festival, have really continued to be the same,” Capps says. “We’re always trying to plan the most unforgettable festival experience that we can think of, and one that we would be eager to attend ourselves. We’re always looking for ways to create those special moments for people during the weekend down on The Farm. Those principles and that desire to create that special experiences are still at the heart of what Bonnaroo’s all about.
“For me, the most rewarding thing about being so connected to music is it keeps you on your toes. It’s continually reinventing itself. There are new artists emerging every year with new ideas, creating new music in new ways. That, to me, is just exciting as hell. It really keeps me engaged and excited about what’s going on in the world of music. It’s that embracing of the moment while still celebrating the past and having a little bit of an ear toward the future that’s shaped the way we’ve tried to program Bonnaroo from the very beginning.”
Tickets for Bonnaroo 2017 are on sale now via the festival’s website. See the full lineup below.
Bonnaroo 2017 Lineup
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Chance the Rapper
Cage the Elephant
The Head and The Heart
Portugal. The Man
Tegan & Sara
Cold War Kids
Car Seat Headrest
Louis the Child
James Vincent McMorrow
Francis & The Lights
The Front Bottoms
Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Rainbow Kitten Surprise
Albin Lee Meldau
The Lemon Twigs
Lukas Nelson & Promise of The Real
Ganja White Night
Aaron Lee Tasj