Sitting at my computer this morning, waiting for the post-Bonnaroo fog to lift, I’m guessing this is how Dorothy must have felt when she woke up from her Land of Oz dream. Did I really just spend three days hanging out with 100,000 of my closest, sweaty friends, sleeping –if you can call it that, given the bugs and the drugs and the M-80’s firing at 4 AM– on a blowup mattress out in the middle of Coffee County in a tent? Nope, we’re definitely not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy, but boy, was it ever fun!
I realize most of you will never make it to Bonnaroo (perhaps a good thing, or maybe not) so I thought I’d share some of the highs (certainly wafting through the grounds) and the lows (any Porta-Potty in the general admission area) of my trip.
Bonnaroo is one of those experiences where you think you know what you’re signing up for until you go.
And I am sure I did what most people do their first time there: find a hillside, gaze incredulously at the sea of humanity (tents, trucks, rv’s, tour buses), which stretches for miles and miles and think, “what I am seeing at this moment completely blows me away.”
Bonnaroo’s appeal is broad reaching: at this three-day music festival, you’ll find young, old, black, white, rednecks, preppies and Jerry Garcia fans alike, all crammed into 700 acres near Manchester, TN. Bonnaroo promises to titillate your senses beyond anything you’ve ever experienced.
From the smell of Black Angus burgers grilling on food trucks, to the gorgeous visuals flashing on Jumbotrons at the main stage, to cell phones lit in unison (yes, like the lighters we used to hold up à la Freebird waaay back) while Eminem urges the crowd to scream profanity to the complete stranger next to you, to feet so grimy and black, it seems completely normal to hit the showers at 3AM — all of this is the experience of Bonnaroo.
I spied cute, young girls, topless with daisies painted on their, um, petunias, as well as plenty of Nashvillians who you might not necessarily expect to bump into in the aromatic, earthy mosh pit that is Bonnaroo. (Really, I didn’t know So-and-So was so into “music.” Not to worry. Vegas rules apply. What happens at Bonnaroo, stays at Bonnaroo. Scout’s honor.)
And oh, the tattoos—intricate and gorgeous, raucous and angry—and they’re everywhere. I found myself wondering more than once, “Did your Mother approve of this?”
I can attest, Bonnaroo is one of the most well-run organizations I’ve ever seen. The food is astoundingly delicious, the grounds maintained daily, the music is phenomenal and everyone has a great time.
Without doubt, the highlight of the festival for me was the performance by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. She commanded the stage and owned the crowd. But for this Bonnaroo neophyte, you can’t beat dancing to the Scissor Sisters at 2AM to finish out the evening. If you want to see their magic tune in:
Bonnaroo is the only reason Coffee County isn’t dying on the vine like so many other small, rural towns in Tennessee. Bonnaroo supports the local theaters, the churches, the school bands and brings a whopping 24 million to the area.
When I think of Bonnaroo, first I start to smirk, then smile, then laugh hysterically. Forever changed, for the better, having experienced it.
Enjoy the ride!