Records of the Week: Bonnaroo Preview

Bonnaroo weekend is upon us in central Tennessee. Up to 80,000 people are heading to Manchester, Tennessee for the legendary American music and arts festival. There are over 150 acts playing, with Zeds Dead, Liquid Stranger, Kendrick Lamar, Odesza and Foo Fighters headlining the four nights. But who are those other bands that we want to see? How does one choose?

Our WNXP DJs have each picked one group or artist that has released some noteworthy music this year, who we would love to see at Bonnaroo this weekend.

Celia Gregory’s pick

Portugal. The Man is back this month with their first full-length since 2017, and it’s called Chris Black Changed My Life — a tribute to their late friend. PTM teamed up with another friend and Portlandian, Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Ruban Nielson, for this punchy little single called “Summer of Luv,” our second taste from Chris Black Changed My Life. I’m excited to see this band again at Bonnaroo 2023, which launches their summer tour, having enjoyed their first set on the farm in 2009 and also a psychedelic surprise set in 2011, when they performed atop a Mr. T parade float in CenterRoo. Were you there?

Justin Barney’s pick

The band in the fine print who I would love to see at Bonnaroo this year is Jupiter and Okwess. Jupiter is the bandleader, Jupiter Bo-kondji, and Okwess is his band. Okwess means “nourishment” in Congolese.

Jupiter was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, then spent his adolescence in Germany after his father was appointed to a position at the Congo’s embassy in Berlin. There he spent nights listening to James Brown and American and British bands in German clubs, and tinkering around with what would be his first band, getting some reps as a musician and mixing African and European sounds. Then Jupiter came back to the Congo and formed the first iteration of Jupiter and Okwess in 1990. They were a hit. The group built an audience and toured around Africa. Then civil war hit the Congo. Some of the band left the country. Jupiter stayed in Kinsasha. In 2007 a documentary was made about Jupiter, the “rebel general,” and he became a bit of a folk legend. Soon enough Jupiter and Okwess were back. And since then they have made music with Damon Albarn, Preservation Hall Jazz Band and toured the world.

There will be a lot of bands at Bonnaroo, but this is the band I want to see in the Tennessee heat, holding this groove while thousands of people dance in the sunlight.

Emily Young’s pick

What better way to celebrate the return of Bonnaroo than by revisiting one of the festival’s most iconic sets. My Morning Jacket recently released MMJ Live Vol. 3: Bonnaroo 2004, the latest installment in their live record series. The album was accompanied by a short documentary film called Return To Thunderdome, chronicling the band’s legendary performance during a torrential downpour at The Farm.

The album is special for many reasons. First and foremost, MMJ is at their best when live onstage together. But this particular set showcased what would become the My Morning Jacket lineup as we know it today. It was an early gig for newcomers guitarist Carl Broemel and keyboardist Bo Koster and solidified their role in one of the greatest live bands to ever exist. The record also captures the magic that can only occur at Bonnaroo — a field full of eager fans, drained by the heat but fueled by the love of music, risking their lives to witness a moment in history, and a band that’s willing to do the same.

Jason Moon Wilkins’ pick

There are lots of WNXP favorites on the lineup in big and small fonts, but I have to go with hometown heroes Paramore. Their no -rills record release set at the Opry House earlier this year was absolutely inspiring, so a bigger stage, bigger crowd and bigger production is sure to shine an even bigger spotlight on one of Middle Tennessee’s bona fide rock stars. When talking about the new album This Is Why, the band have cited many artists you hear on WNXP – Dry Cleaning, Genesis Owusu, Yard Act. While they may or may not have picked up on those by listening to their hometown station, we like where their heads are at. Here’s an example of those influences incorporated into the well-defined sound of Paramore.

Marquis Munson’s pick

Unfortunately, I will be missing Bonnaroo this year because I will be at one of my closest college friends’ wedding that weekend. But that doesn’t mean I can’t preview the festivities that will be going down in Manchester, Tennessee. Or a Roo-View, dad jokes in full force. Since love is certainly in the air, how about a little soulful Saturday at the Roo? From Danielle Ponder, to the southern California trio Thee Sacred Souls, and some local soul from an artist that released one of my favorite albums this year, Love You Anyway: former WNXP Nashville Artist of the Month Devon Gilfillian. I’m sure he’s going to have you in your feels, in a good way, of course, and have you grooving on the farm to songs like “Brown Sugar Queen.”