Bonnaroo vs. Coachella: Which Lineup is Better?
Summer festivals are all about convenience. They exist to give folks from far-flung locales a way to see all their favorite acts in one place. They draw in thousands of fans, eager to see people who would never stop in their hometown, one on top of the other.
But in the past few years, that formerly convenient weekend experience has come with a bit of a caveat. Festival glut has left formerly reliable Bonnaroovians, Chell-heads and Lollapolacolytes with an unfortunate decision to make: which fest is the best use of their funds and time?
While we don’t have the answer for every festival on the calendar, we can help you make a decision if you’re on the fence about two of the stars of festival season. Would you rather party with the pretty people in the California desert at Coachella or get muddy with the camping hippies of Bonnaroo? In our minds, it all comes down to the lineup. So, we’ve placed them head-to-head in a few key areas to see where your hard-earned weekend pass cash should go.
Let’s start at the top. Coachella has a nice mix of pop, rap and R&B with sets from Childish Gambino, Janelle Monáe, Solange and Ariana Grande. They nod toward rock with headlining sets from Tame Impala and The 1975 and Weezer.
Bonnaroo, on the other hand, gives a ton of space over to its folky roots. Phish plays several sets alongside The Avett Brothers and The Lumineers. They also have Childish Gambino, as well as Cardi B, Post Malone and beloved rap collective Brockhampton. But ultimately Coachella’s insane starpower wins this one in a walk.
This one really depends on how much you love Cardi B. If you don’t think you could possibly see a festival without the “Money” rapper’s trademark trilling, you need to head to Bonnaroo.
Otherwise, Coachella has most of Bonnaroo’s rap acts covered and then some, with additional appearances by party starters like Sheck Wes, Pusha T, Lizzo and Playboi Carti.
It’s also worth mentioning that Coachella is the only fest here that accounts for the explosion of Latin trap, with sets from J. Balvin and Bad Bunny.
This depends on your taste. If you want to hear The National moan over glasses of wine, then you need to get yourself to Tennessee. If you want to see late-stage Weezer or Matty Healy’s try-hard opus, you need to head to California. This section is a wash.
This is one that Bonnaroo wins because the other side wasn’t trying to compete. The TN fest begins with The Grand Ole Opry and keeps it up from there with sets by Kacey Musgraves, John Prine, Maren Morris and Brandi Carlile. This is Bonnaroo’s bag.
It’s almost embarrassing how much stronger the Coachella undercard is when compared to it’s middle Tennessee counterpart. Coachella went above and beyond this year in getting a wide swath of acts, bringing in neo-flamenco stunner Rosalia, K-Pop superstars Blackpink and art-rap oddballs like JPEGMAFIA and Tierra Whack. The fest pulled a good bit of the United States’ indie buzzmakers as well, with small-print slots for Soccer Mommy, Hop Along, Boy Pablo and others.
Bonnaroo has Gucci Mane, Parquet Courts, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever and Beach House, but they simply can’t compete with the overwhelming size of their California cousins.
Ultimately, Coachella wins this contest pretty handily. The final score is 3-1 in favor of Indio. Take it how you will, especially if you’re more of a camper than a dancer.