I’m a concert/festival veteran but Bonnaroo was a different animal all together. I had never attended a four day festival and more specifically a four day camping festival. I embarked upon my Bonnaroo journey with high expectations but absolutely no idea about what I would experience.
After 4 days of making new friends, refusing to wear pants, enjoying a wide variety of my favorite music, and living without a care in the world, I left my heart there and developed a profound desire to roam the U.S going from festival to festival while living out of an old-school VW van.
What was most outstanding about Bonnaroo is their keen attention to detail. Every time a light bulb turned on in my head about what I would like to see at a music festival, I turned around and voila! Bonnaroo already had it. I remember thinking to myself that the showers would be really gross and how I’d rather someone hose me down every day before the musical adventure began. They did exactly that with the group shower fountain. Not only did this keep horrible body odor away, it also served as a great way to cool down in the burning Tennessee sun and a haven for naughty people!
My only critique of Bonnaroo was that it lacked a bit in sound engineering. I am spoiled with the superior sound quality I’ve experienced at Ultra and other festivals but at Bonnaroo it was different. If you weren’t center stage inside the tents, you could barely hear anything but the roaring bass. This varied a little for the more acoustic performances but given the packed schedule getting to the front of the stage was almost impossible unless you trampled your way to the front or came to that particular tent a set in advance at the expense of another performance you may have wanted to see.
Nonetheless, go grab your bucket list and add Bonnaroo to it. A life without having attended Bonnaroo at least once is a waste and here is why:
- Free Water: If all music festivals did this, a lot of heat stroke/ dehydration issues would be solved. One water station is not enough either (ahem cough cough Ultra). Bonnaroo had several, to ensure that they could be easily found and that getting the water did not involve losing valuable set time to making hour-long lines.
- Schedule was well thought out: For the music junkie like me, this was most important. Nothing sucks more than 2 acts that you, really really really want to see, playing at the same time. Although Bonnaroo wasn’t entirely void of this dilemma, it certainly did a good job at minimizing this issue.
- Camping Setup: At first I didn’t understand why they forced us to park so close to our neighbors, but it is absolutely brilliant. If forced us to talk and create bonds with our neighbors. Waking up to Mumford and Sons commentary on whether their songs are about Jesus or blowjobs was definitely one my highlights. Thanks JP!
- The Community Feel: I didn’t see a single fight at Bonnaroo. Every time I stood by a new person, they started a conversation with me. As you enter into Centeroo the herds of people high five each other continuously until the entrance. People who saw my pee pee dance let me go before them to the potty. Overall, everyone was there for the same reason and disturbance of the Roo Vibe was not to be tolerated! In fact if you lose your friends in the crowd, you need not worry, you can make new ones in fewer than 5 minutes!
- Tits: lots and lots of bare tits. It’s like a modern day Woodstock
- Jimi Hendrix tributes: Everywhere I turned some artist included a Hendrix tribute into their performance. My favorite of course was Sir Paul McCartney’s Foxy Lady. It still amazes me when I hear people say they don’t like Paul McCartney…. They are fools in my eyes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-_8Eadi400
- Covers: Almost every band included a cover in their set. One of my faves was Capital Cities’ cover of L.O.V.E, Staying Alive, and Pink Floyd’s “Breathe”.
- Foooooooood: Of course your typical festival food like hot dogs and pizza were present but Bonnaroo vendors offered so much more than that; delicious Cajun soul food, Chinese, Tacos and a vegan dish called Haberdash that made me consider going vegan.
- Music Variety: It’s quite simple to explain; Paul McCartney, Kendrick Lamar, Porter Robinson, Wu-Tang Clan and Of Monsters and Men all at the same festival… It’s a music junkie’s ultimate playground!
- Stage Names: The What Stage, The Other Tent, This Tent… you get where I’m going with this. Asking where an artist was performing got extremely difficult but funny as sobriety slipped past us.
- Centeroo Open 24 hours: If you’ve attended Ultra or any other Music Festival, you know how much of a buzz kill it is to herd yourself out of the venue and then walk or worse have to drive to your next party location. At Bonnaroo the music plays till the wee hours of the morning and the activities and socializing continues well past sunrise. This is how I met Lisa. A lovely older lady that taught me about the benefits of different herbs at a garden near the Solar Stage! When in doubt go into the Christmas Barn and you will surely find the sun warriors still going at it.
- Stage Check-ins:. Time and time again I’ve spent hours trying to retrieve memories of lyrics or tunes in order to find a song I really like from some DJ’s set. No such thing at Bonnaroo. At every performance you attended, you could check in with your wristband and have access to that bands entire set list after. Not to mention the free trial of Spotify premium that came with it!
- The Post Office: You can mail shit to yourself. Imagine if you leave your favorite pair of assless chaps at home. Problem solved; just have mom mail it to you!
- Non-Music Attractions: A giant water slide, a Ferris wheel, the Adult Swim Arcade, yoga, the comedy tent, the cinema tent and even a hair salon guaranteed that there was absolutely no dead time at Bonnaroo. They even played the NBA finals games!
- Super Jams: Go to youtube, type in Bonnaroo Superjam” and take a listen. These performances bring artists together from different bands and genres for soulful sets that give everyone in the crowd happy feet!
Bonnaroo 2014??? See ya on the farm!
I went to Bonnaroo 2011 and 2012 and everything you just said was spot on. Everyone everywhere has a little Bonnaroo in them and needs to go at least once. We all have walls we put up. Bonnaroo has walls too, but their filled with original art surrounding Centeroo. Behind these walls are something beautiful. Behind these walls you can turn off your mind and turn on your heart ! Just like behind our walls, there too lies something beautiful. Cheers fellow Roovian!
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