10 Bands We Fell in Love With at Bonnaroo 2012

by Bradley Phillips

Bonnaroo is more than just a music festival, it serves as a barometer and a ouija board for both the current state of music and what’s to come. Ninety six hours is all it takes to take a glimpse into the next year.

Luckily for you, we did it for you. Here’s our Top 10 Bands from Bonnaroo 2012 in no particular order.

1. LP

Laura Pergolizzi or LP as she is known, hails from New York to California. She’s an accomplished songwriter and musician, having written for Christina Aguilara and NBC’s The Voice. She’s known best for her song “Into The Wild” which is featured in a Chase Credit Card Video.

LP’s performance blew me away. It was an intimate set in front of 300 or so people in a lounge tent. LP stands tiny in a white button up shirt and white suit vest with shades. While few in the audience were familiar with her, folks began scrambling for their cameras when she began performing. Most were there to get some shade in the Miller Light tent but everyone left blown away. She incorporates a complex Southern California sound with cellos, banjos, and uke’s. Her songs and voice are big, way bigger than she is. Her vocal range could be compared to Florence Welch, of Florence and the Machines. The style is mildly folk influenced So-Cal rock with blues and classical undertones.

We’ve got a video from Bonnaroo but honestly, it’s not very good. Check out another of her live performances instead.

2. Dawes

Yet another band from California. I knew something was up when I heard “Dawes” on several lips. I missed their larger set, opting to catch them on a smaller stage. As the case a few times over the course of a Bonnaroo, you get to witness that rare moment when a band realizes that they’re going to make it. You literally get to watch a band see itself blow up.

The music is great. Its So-Cal rock, it has a vintage sound due to the equipment they use (their first recording was recorded to analog). They literally blew an amp right on stage only to laugh and talk about how old it was. Dawes fans are passionate, helping to affirm that your really should like this band.

“When My Time Comes” was a crowd favorite. Check out our video below:

3. K-Flay

Having only heard K-Flay’s remix of Young the Giant’s “My Body”, my interest was piqued enough to try and catch her set. Arriving late, my steps quickened when I heard the mix of hip hop, hard guitar licks and power chords and deep bass. K-Flay was an undeniable crowd favorite, not only playing her large set on That Stage, but DJing two additional nights at the silent disco.

K-Flay mixes electronic, hip hop and rock elements. She’s angry sometimes, she talks about drugs and being sick in the head a lot. She transitions quickly from a rapid fire rap delivery to harmonies quickly, showcasing her versatility.
Listen to her new EP, Eyes Shut and her title video “We Hate Everyone” below:

4. Skrillex

I finally get this whole dubstep thing. Ive heard it described as “power tools”. In fact, one of our companions this year who went to bed early swore that someone with a power wrench was working on the adjacent RV. Of course, it was the 1:30am Skrillex set taking place at Which Stage.

If you’re looking to dip your toe in the Dubstep pool, Skrillex is probably like jumping in head first. Dubstep mixes ultra low bass and “wubs” with high pitched grinding and whirrs. It has trancendental elements that are usually shattered when the dubstep DJ “drops it” and lays down the breakdown. If you dont listen to it with ample bass, you miss the point. Skrillex has predictable beats, making it a favorite to dance to.

Check out Skrill’s highlights from this year’s Bonnaroo on Saturday night. You either love it or you hate it.

5. Two Door Cinema Club

Two Door Cinema Club was virtually unknown to me. Again, I became aware of them after listening to their remix of Young the Giant’s “My Body”. I had heard “Something Good Can Work” and “What You Know” and thought they were instantly catchy. Many may compare TDCC to Phoenix but I think thats unfair. Granted, the lead singers have similar voices. TDCC is a return to that era 10 years ago when Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party dominated the airwaves with high pitched, fast paced Brit Pop. With that being said, if you like Phoenix, you’ll love TDCC. Take a listen to my two favorites, “What You Know” and “Something Good Can Work”.


6. Childish Gambino

Better known as Donald Glover, who plays Troy Barnes in NBC’s Community, Childish Gambino may have you scratching your head over whether he’s a better rapper or actor. His set was full of energy and freestyles. He blended comedy. However, dont let his innocent demeanor on Community fool you, CG is hardcore and nothing is off the table. His music features controversial themes (Casey Anthony), profanity and high sexual overtones.

BillBoard Magazine did a pretty good job highlighting his set in the video below.

7. Phantogram

Blending heavy, electronic, atmospheric sounds, this duo from New York took Roo by storm. Few had heard of the band but as soon as the sound flooded from their tent a mass migration occured with festival goers wondering where this wonderful sound was coming from. Viewers were greeted with a beautiful lead singer owning her keyboard with her partner on guitar. The music is orchestral, woozy and atmospheric. Fans of other guy/girl, keyboard/guitarist combos like Crystal Castles and Sleigh Bells will also like Phantogram, a much more organized and toned down version of the new electro/trance-rock.

Phantogram’s performance of “When I’m Small” at Bonnaroo 2012 will give you a pretty good idea:


8. Fun. (duh)

You’ve heard of fun. They’re follow up album, Some Nights, was a breakout success this year with “We Are Young” being vastly overplayed. The Bonnaroo booking agents erred with the Sunday night booking, pitting fun, the Civil Wars, Young the Giant and The Shins against each other in the same time slot. I opted to catch the fun. show in its entirety and I dont regret it.

This, well, fun trio puts on the ultimate sing-a-long show. As you can tell by the video below of We Are Young, most of the crowd opted to miss the other bands in lieu of this show. If you havent listened to the other fun songs, check out “One Foot” below. The following video should show you just how fun fun. really is.

9. Blind Pilot

Blind Pilot lays somewhere between Mumford esque folk and So-Cal rock. The band is big, using everything from accordions to xylophones. Their follow up album contains numerous signals. Although the Which Stage might have been too big for their sound, their music is solid although somewhat anti-climactic. It’s pretty chill, making it the perfect music to sit on a blanket under a big oak tree on a Tennessee farm.

Blind Pilot would play a second set on the smaller Solar Stage. The lead singer, Isaac, said that they’d picked some of their more mellow songs for the smaller stage to which the guitarist responded, “Do we have any songs that ARENT mellow? Take a listen to “Always” and then see their live performance of “Half Moon” from Bonnaroo 2012.

10. The Lonely Forest

Thursday was a pretty lackluster day at Bonnaroo. The Lonely Forest was a buried gem. I’d heard “We Sing In Time” and it was enough for me to make an effort to catch this show. Although they lacked a little bit in stage presence, their music is an ear pleasing return to guitars and drums, reminiscent of early REM. Their lyrics are honest and they dont take themselves too seriously (one song, Two Pink Pills, is about benadryl and the quest for a quiet night’s sleep). I took a few companions to the show and although they didnt come away superfans, they enjoyed themselves.

The Lonely Forest (not to be confused with Andy Samberg’s “The Lonely Island”) puts on a great show. I reccomend familiarizing yourself with this great, young band in case they come to play near you.

Take a look at “Turn Off This Song And Go Outside” at Bonnaroo 2012, followed by their single, “We Sing In Time”.