Bands gearing up for Bonnaroo

Musicians talk about preparation for music festival

With just over eight weeks before tens of thousands of music fanatics swarm into Manchester, Tenn., the bands on the lineup for the 2010 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival are getting ready to put on quite a show.

This year’s festival lasts from June 10-13 and will feature a variety of bands and artists and many different genres of music. The festival also showcases artists and craftsmen and offers a wide array of food options. This is the ninth year for Bonnaroo.

Scott Shriner, the bassist for Weezer, said he is looking forward to the band’s first appearance at the festival.

“I get a little more excitement playing at a festival,” Shriner said. “I’m extra inspired by all the talent and energy around.”

The lineup for the festival is more eclectic this year than in past years, and Shriner is confident that the diversity is good for the event.

“There’s a little bit of something for everybody. I’m into the non-mainstream kind of thing,” Shriner added, “There’s just a lot of great music to be heard. It seems like a win-win situation.”

As for Weezer, Shriner said, “We are trying to be more diverse. Playing more poppy stuff, more darker stuff.”

When asked if he thinks that the Bonnaroo crowd will welcome Weezer, Shriner said, “I just take it as a challenge. I enjoy coming out in front of a crowd where we feel we have something to prove.”

Shriner said he is looking forward to hearing many of the other artists and bands play at the festival, and he said he would not be disguising himself when in the crowd.

“I like meeting people,” Shriner said. “I’m looking forward to meeting whoever wants to meet me.”

Aaron Dessner, a multi-instrumental member of the indie-rock band, The National, said he also enjoys playing for the festival crowd, but the band will adjust its set list to fit the occasion.

“The set list is more compressed timing wise,” Dessner said. “We are playing to a wider audience. Some of the nuances and subtleties of our music get lost outdoors. The balance will be weighted more toward big rock songs.”

The National is a veteran group at Bonnaroo, making its first appearance in 2007. Dessner said the atmosphere at the festival has a great appeal.

“Bonnaroo is unique because of where it is and get gets a lot of people from all over the country, especially the Midwest and South,” he said. “The feeling at Bonnaroo is unique, it feels like a good place. There is a good vibe.”

Dessner said he thinks the new, more eclectic lineup is “a brilliant mix of artists,” and as a lesser-known band, there is the opportunity to expand their fanbase.

“We are not one of the biggest artists by any stretch, we’ll have to convert a lot of people,” he said, which is another reason why the band adjusts its set-list.

Tim McIlrath, lead vocalist for the punk-rock band Rise Against, said he feels no pressure for the band to fit in at the festival.

“In my experience, it’s always good to stand out from the crowd,” McIlrath said. “It makes your band different. Being the black sheep is kind of the reason we are the band that we are.”

McIlrath said it’s opportunity to capture the attention those who are unfamiliar with his band’s music.

“The challenge is to grab people with what you are doing. I expect to have Rise Against fans in front of us, but also a lot of other people,” he explained, “very diverse music fans from all walks of life. I want to be able to give them a show that’s going to stand out to them.”

McIlrath said he was recently asked what he does for a living, and he replied, “I scream five nights a week and don’t lose my voice, like that was my God-given talent.”

McIlrath said his band “doesn’t play in the South enough,” and they are all looking forward to the opportunity to play at Bonnaroo.

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