The Bonnaroo black Friday early bird sale not only offered the first chance for superfans to get discounted ticket to the 2016 edition of the festival, it also kicked off Bonnaroo clue season in earnest. While the lineup won’t drop until January or February if recent trends hold, fans on Bonnaroo social media and message boards are already speculating about who will headline Bonnaroo’s 15th year. There haven’t been any early confirmations as there have been in some past years and, if it continues this year, the Bonnaroo Clue Game won’t be giving us pointers for a bit, so fans are left to make guesses about the lineup based on Bonnaroo trends and artists who are out on tour. We’ve already detailed some classic rock and modern rock artists we think might be in the running to headline. Now we’ll look at the hardest headliner to predict, the third “wild card” headliner. While Bonnaroo almost always has a classic and modern rock headliner, the third headliner could be anything. In recent years it has ranged from rappers like Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar to EDM stars like Deadmau5 to jam bands like Widespread Panic. Here are five acts from different genres who might fit the wildcard third headliner mix.
The Canadian rapper known as Drake has been one of the hottest stars of 2015. He headlined numerous festivals and released “If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late”, which has popped up on several early Best of 2015 lists. The number of reliable headlining rap or hip-hop acts is limited and currently Drake is near the top of that list.
Zac Brown Band
One musical style that Bonnaroo has never had in a headlining slot is country music. Most mainstream country acts are not well suited for Bonnaroo’s demographic and are likely already booked at Nashville’s CMA Festival. The one headline-level country artist who might work at Bonnaroo is Zac Brown Band. While his hits like “Chicken Fried” mesh well with the current bro country hits, Zac Brown is an artist who has gained respect by being willing to push the boundaries in concert. He regularly mixes elements of rock and jam into his shows and has even been known to break out a Black Sabbath cover or two. Brown pre-headlined Bonnaroo 2010 and drew a big crowd. His star has only gotten brighter since then.
Technically, LCD Soundsystem is broken up, having played their farewell tour in 2011, but some sources have stated that the electronic rockers will be reuniting in 2016. These sources say their reunion plans include “major festivals”, which could mean a return to Bonnaroo for the James Murphy led group. The band last performed at Bonnaroo in 2010.
2015 saw Bonnaroo not only invite its first EDM producer onto the What Stage, but also saw its first EDM headliner as Deadmau5 co-headlined a night with rapper Kendrick Lamar. With EDM’s popularity growing by the year, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see another EDM headliner in 2016. One major get would be Jack U, the Skrillex and Diplo collaboration that released one of 2015’s biggest pop hits in “Where Are U Now” with Justin Bieber. While Diplo is already booked at some festivals this Summer with his other group, Major Lazer, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Bonnaroo talked the two producers into doing a joint show for Bonnaroo. The festival certainly has a longstanding relationship with Skrillex, who has performed numerous late night sets at Bonnaroo and even led the 2014 Superjam.
There was a time when you could reliably pencil in the Sunday Night headliner slot as a jam band or at least a jam-friendly band. But as Bonnaroo has broadened, its jam headliners have dwindled. What better way to celebrate 15 years of Bonnaroo than by bringing back one of the few jam bands who could easily hold up a headlining slot even with Bonnaroo’s current demographic. Phish has headlined Bonnaroo twice, in 2009 and 2012 and Trey Anastasio has performed in various capacities on several other occasions. With Phish winding up their 2015 tour and having no current touring plans in 2016, it’s possible a festival blitz is in order, capped off with an appearance at Bonnaroo 2016.
Bonnaroo 2016 will be held June 9-12 at Great Stage Park in Manchester, Tn. Discounted early bird tickets are on sale now.
What wild card headliner would you most like to see? Let us know in the comments section.