The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival has announced the list of participants for its two 2016 Superjam performances, as well as its theme for the Saturday night Superjam. Both announcements should give any roots-loving Bonnaroo goers reason to be giddy.
For those who have never been, the Superjam is a Bonnaroo tradition that brings artists from different bands together for a once-in-a-lifetime performance of cover songs. One of the Superjams, usually held as a Late Night performance on the Saturday of Bonnaroo, is typically curated by one of the weekend’s artists. This year, jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington was given the task of heading up the Superjam and, because it’s Bonnaroo’s 15th anniversary, they decided to celebrate their home state with a theme being a tribute to Tennessee. While that might immediately conjure up thoughts of the Grand Ole Opry, the lineup seems to promise a wide range of musical styles.
Joining Washington in the Heart, Soul, and Spirit Superjam will be r&b artist Miguel, electronic producer GRiZ, Devonte Hynes from Blood Orange, AMA Emerging Artist of the Year nominees Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, funkster Eric Krasno and the Shady Horns, vocalist Allen Stone, funk act Vulfpeck, soul band The Internet, Chicano Batman, and hip-hop artist Lizzo. Obviously, there will likely be a few country and rockabilly tunes thrown into any Tennessee Superjam, the sheer volume of funk, soul, and horns leans toward a Stax Records style Memphis soul bent, which should be music to any Booker T fans in the roots community. There are always some surprise guests at any Superjam, so it’s not unreasonable to expect some old Stax mainstays to pop in.
But the more exciting Superjam for roots music fans comes at the end of the Bluegrass Situation’s takeover of Bonnaroo’s That Tent on Sunday. In addition to Ed Helms and some of the day’s performers which include Sara Watkins, Sam Bush, The Wood Brothers, and The Steep Canyon Rangers, the Bluegrass Situation Superjam will also include guitar wizard Buddy Miller, Lee Ann Womack, The Secret Sisters, and Amanda Shires. That alone is a lineup worth seeing, but the most intriguing part about this year’s Bluegrass Situation Superjam is that it’s listed as being co-hosted by Ed Helms and the Watkins Family Hour House Band. While that guarantees Sara and Sean Watkins, it also opens up numerous possibilities for guests as the standard Watkins Family Hour house band has included Heartbreaker Benmont Tench, Greg Leisz, Sebastian Steinberg, and Don Heffington, as well as sometimes including Fionna Apple, Booker T., and members of Dawes.
I will be on hand at Bonnaroo 2016, being held June 9-12 at Great Stage Park in Manchester, Tennessee, to bring you all of the action and surprise guests that happen. Also stay tuned for an interview with The Bluegrass Situation’s Amy Reitnouer on what to expect from this year’s Sunday takeover, coming next week.