The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival always offers a multitude of stylistic and genre choices on its wide-ranging 150 band lineup each year and 2016 is no exception. One of the most anticipated parts of every Bonnaroo lineup is its list of genre defining legends. From household name headliners to lesser known but no less important legacy acts, these five Bonnaroo 2016 bands offer a chance to see the roots of five very different styles of music.
While Nirvana is rightly credited with popularizing Seattle’s grunge rock scene with their 1991 release “Nevermind,” it might surprise some to know that Pearl Jam released their breakthrough album, Ten, that same year and that it has sold over a million more copies in the United States. Singles like “Jeremy” and “Alive” were in constant rotation on both mainstream radio and MTV alike. Since that time, Pearl Jam has been one of the few bands from the grunge era to tour and release albums continuously, remaining an arena-level act by consistently tweaking and evolving its sound.
Dead and Company
Dead and Company are actually a relatively young band, formed in 2015, but the core of the band consists of three of the four surviving members of one of rock’s true pioneers, The Grateful Dead. Considered to be the granddaddies of all jam bands, The Grateful Dead were also instrumental in melding “hippie” rock with more traditionally conservative genres like bluegrass and Celtic music. Past Bonnaroo headliners like Phish and Widespread Panic, as well as perennial Bonnaroo favorites like Umphrey’s McGee and STS9 and even Dead and Company member John Mayer owe a debt to the trails blazed by The Grateful Dead.
Cymande is by far the least known band on this list, but that doesn’t make them any less influential. The British funk collective gave the world just three years, from 1971-1974, in its original incarnation, but in that time they broke plenty of ground in funk music. The group melded Caribbean sounds with London soul, jazz, and Latin rhythms to create a unique sound that found them touring with the likes of Al Green and Mandrill. But they were largely forgotten by many after their breakup, never hitting the mainstream in a way that contemporaries like Parliament and Kool and the Gang did. That changed in the ’90s when a new generation of genre benders like Fugees, De La Soul, and Wu Tang Clan started sampling the band’s catalog. Cymande reunited in 2014 and will be sure to remind yet another generation of Bonnaroo fans why they deserve the legacy they’ve long been denied.
Certainly the genres of gospel, r&b, and soul existed long before Mavis Staples and her first group The Staple Singers joined them. But that doesn’t mean Staples hasn’t exerted a major influence on all three genres, as well as rock, pop, and even hip-hop. Staples helped bridge the gap between soul-based gospel and rock, working with and covering songs by the likes of Bob Dylan and Buffalo Springfield. She and the Staple Singers also were leading lights in the civil rights movement, performing for Dr. Martin Luther King in 1963 and dedicating much of her career to continuing King’s message of an equal peace among all men.
There was a time when bluegrass music was considered the domain of old white men from the South. That changed with the formation of Newgrass Revival. The band was often shunned by bluegrass traditionalists, who objected to their hyperkinetic playing, long hair, informal dress, and use of instruments and arrangements that borrowed heavily from rock and roll. But not even the traditionalists could knock the band’s musicianship and founding mandolinist Sam Bush is still considered one of the greatest contributors to the evolution of that instrument into the style that has led to the formation of jamgrass bands like Yonder Mountain String Band, experimental bluegrass acts like Punch Brothers, and Americana hitmakers like The Avett Brothers.
Bonnaroo 2016 will be held June 9-12 at Great Stage Park in Manchester, Tn. Other acts scheduled to perform include LCD Soundsystem, Ellie Goulding, and Tame Impala. You can see the full Bonnaroo 2016 lineup here.