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Bring on Bonnaroo! 

Seventh-annual music festival boasts some big names

The small town of Manchester, Tenn., is about to get a whole lot bigger. From June 14-17, the city with a population of just more than 8,000 will swell to 100,000 as the Bonnaroo Music Festival swarms on to a 700-acre farm.

With an artist list of approximately 100 bands, it's no surprise that the event has become one of the largest of its kind in the country since its inception in 2002.

Among those acts scheduled to appear this year are The Police, Tool, The White Stripes, Ben Harper, The Flaming Lips, Ratdog, The Roots, Wolfmother, Feist, Kings of Leon, Old Crow Medicine Show, Keller Williams, John Butler Trio, Wilco, Clutch and a whole heck of a lot more. There are also comedians such as Lewis Black, Dave Atell and David Cross.

A large part of the festival also involves camping. Why travel back and forth to the grounds when you can sleep there and enjoy the event 24/7? The music usually runs from noon until around 2 or 3 a.m. -- it starts later on Thursday and ends earlier on Sunday.

The Police, who recently reunited for its first tour in 21 years, have a Bonnaroo veteran in drummer Stuart Copeland. Copeland performed at last year's festival with the Les Claypool helmed project Oysterhead.

"We played for two hours and a lot of it seemed like we were completely lost," Copeland said of the performance during a recent conference call. "The audience likes that it's not polished. That is a whole different stage ethic, which is pretty much the opposite of The Police thing."

He's hoping he can convince bandmates Andy Summers and Sting to change things up, hinting the band would involve more improvisation at the festival.

"What Police is doing at Bonnaroo, I don't know," Copeland said. "I'm looking forward to it because I think it's going to be a completely different Police show from any of the other shows on the tour, because Bonnaroo is a very different kind of gig. I've almost got Sting and Andy convinced -- we're going to go on stage at Bonnaroo and we're going to play five songs for half-an-hour each. Bonnaroo is a jam-band culture. Oysterhead had a great time at Bonnaroo just making it up as we went along.

"The Police are going to play a completely different kind of show at Bonnaroo if I have anything to do with it."

Copeland isn't the only one returning. Comedian Black is also back from last year. Known for his angered routines and segments on The Daily Show, Black said he's glad to be back at Bonnaroo.

"The first time, I wasn't sure what it was going to be like," Black said. "I was just kind of overwhelmed. I hadn't seen anything like that for years. I used to do what those kids do -- stand in line and hang out. I think there's something comic about me being older and sitting on a bus before I go out. And I need a more private bathroom facility."

Black noted that he enjoys getting to see some of the bands that are performing while he's at the festival, such as Gov't Mule and The Police. "The Police are there and I don't have to go scrounge a ticket for a show in New York," Black said. "It's pretty phenomenal."

Of course, some of the fans will also be happy that the comedy acts will take place in an air-conditioned tent instead of outside in the Tennessee heat.

Making their third Bonnaroo appearance this year will be Tennessee-natives Kings of Leon, who is currently out on tour supporting its recently released third album, Because of the Times. Drummer Nathan Followill attended last year's festival, but only as a spectator.

"It's great to play at a festival that's so close to your house," he said. "You have the luxury of feeling like you're at home, but also in the festival environment. Bonnaroo is great for having a band go up there at 1 a.m. and blow your mind for three hours."

When asked what attendees should bring, Followill suggested, "Take sunblock. Take water. Take two-ply toilet paper. Take Xanax to help you come down."

Bonnaroo Music Festival is held in Manchester, Tenn., from June 14-17. Tickets for all four days are $214.50. For more information, log on to www.bonnaroo.com.

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  • On Saturday, Oct. 21, hundreds gathered at Camp North End on Statesville Avenue for Charlotte's first black alternative music festival. We captured some of the bands in action on stage, but mostly we surveyed the grounds as fans, families, vendors and more lounged around the sprawling, colorful Camp North End site. It was a great day of music, food, fun, and sweet, autumn sunshine. (Photos by Mark Kemp)
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