Boston to Bonnaroo
I was entering my 2nd grade summer when the first bonnaroo occurred back in 2002. Artists like Jack Johnson, Norah Jones, and Phil Lesh and Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead turned heads and wowed crowds at the first year of magic. Since my first Bonnaroo in 2014, following the completion of my freshmen year of college, I was able to see some of my favorite artists during the weekend of my 19th birthday. Every year, my best friends and I pack up the Toyota Highlander with all of the necessary Bonnaroovian gear, gadgets and mindsets and drive through the night for the best weekend of the year.
While the 12th of June happened to fall on a Thursday in 2014, this year it fell on the last day of the festival for my 21st birthday. Artists like Lord Huron, Charles Bradley & the Extraordinares, Death Cab For Cutie, Third Eye Blind, Ed Helms & the Bluegrass Situation, and most importantly Dead & Company (Grateful Dead, minus Jerry, plus John), closed out a beautiful weekend at Great Stage Park campgrounds.
From southern style homemade brisket in Nashville that made my mouth water to walmart gatherings in Manchester and the unbelievable food truck vendors at the festival, the experiences were plentiful.
The main sources of attractions were among that of the art around the farm, the atmosphere of it all, the artists who made the festival magical, and the Bonnaroovians who radiate positivity throughout.
ART, ATMOSPHERE & THE ACTION OF IT ALL
THE FERRIS WHEEL
Because everyone on the farm is a kid at heart that loves a good panoramic sunset view. Last year on my birthday, the only thing I asked my friends for was to ride the ferris wheel at sunset, which we did. While we were waiting in line, we noticed this fully bearded man dressed up in a wedding gown, twirling and dancing flamboyantly with a bouquet of flowers. Then two people in chicken and fox costumes came out of nowhere and joined him. When Robin Hood came out, crossbow, horse, and all, the camera crews started to roll in. We figured the Bonnaroo Staff was making a short film or video, until my friend Brian pointed out to me that Robin Hood was in fact Marcus Mumford. It turned out that Mumford & Sons was dressed up in costume filming their video for “The Wolf.” To this day, that was my favorite Bonnaroo memory, possibly life memory.
THE WALL (OF DREAMS AND HOPE)
The first year I was at Bonnaroo, the wall was a fill in the blank chalkboard to answer the question, “Before I Die…”, the following year it was “All You Need Is…” and this year it was back to “Before I Die…” It was full of inspiration, creativity, and motivation . My favorite quote that I found truly encompasses all of the positive ideologies behind the festival, and life in general was..
“Always remember, positivity is a choice, happiness is a choice, let the bad go. Life is what you make of it, so live it up and be EXTRAORDINARY. Stay true to Roo and most importantly, stay true to yourself.”
And then there is the Mushroom Fountain. This thing actually saves lives, especially with the scorcher of a weekend we had on the farm this year. It is a massive mushroom that spews out water at a beautiful water pressure.
From classes about creative/global story telling to learning how to be more sustainable and learning about certain plants and physically plant in the Bonnaroo garden, this was a beautiful integrative learning experience for days you wanted to just hangout in some shade for an hour or two. You could also taste some of the plants that had already fully grown, there were even raspberries!
The main entrance to center changes every year, but this was by far the most beautiful. Not only was the Bonnaroo Arch alternating through colors of the rainbow with a shimmering glimmer of light, but there was also a RABBIT IN A HAT on top of it. Crazy, right? The most ironic part for m personally, was that while driving through Kentucky, I listened to the audio book for Alice in Wonderland.
The ultimate conundrum of figuring out where you’re gonna rock out and dance. Its always funny overhearing conversations of people deciding what shows to see, “I think he’s playing over at This tent,” “Wait I thought that was at That Tent,” “No dude we have to go to the Other tent first, the bass is wild.”
The signature green bonnaroo sign lights up any night at the festival, but there is nothing more beautiful than the dusk sunset shows at What Stage. This year, Band of Horses, Death Cab, Macklemore, Pearl Jam, LCD Soundsystem, and JCole.
Solar Stage: I had the opportunity to spend more time at Solar Stage this year and it changed my Bonnaroo experience entirely. From Vinyassa Yoga classes at 9 and 10 to meditation and “The Art of Hugging”
Bonnaroo Cinema: Short films and documentaries by world class writers were shown throughout the weekend.
Kalliope:(pronounced kuh-leeh-uh-pee), which in greek mythology translates to “beautiful voice”, was the go-to spot whether it was following the Art Car and their magical dancers or to lay down after a crazy night of dancing
Christmas Club Barn: a place to cool off in the AC, and SNOW with some fun jams and people dressed up as car dealer balloon people.
New Music On Tap Lounge: aka free beer, charge up and up and coming artists
“What Kind of World Do You Want to Live in?”
Sign the wall after signing a promise to do one of the following (ride bike instead of driving car, don’t use straws or plastic cups, take shorter showers (or none at all), turn off lights when not being used, and a plethora of other options. By doing this, I signed the wall of the kind of world I wanted to live in, I wrote the typical one, world peace but also a world where the creative minds of our generation change the world for the better. There were lots of Game of Thrones references which I loved. For instance, a lot of people around the farm bring in flags or signs on sticks or pool noodles in order to have a place where friends can look for in crowds. My favorites were “This Is A Good Sign”, and “Hold The Door” with an arrow pointing down, while on the backside it said “What is Dead May Never Die.” I saw them every day.
This was an absolute game changer for the festival this year. Obviously going down to Bonnaroo you accept the fact that hygiene isn’t exactly a main factor, but the bathroom porta potties can get pretty gnarly, and scary at some points at night. Having the newly renovated bathroom facility was not only safer, but more efficient, healthier, and more sustainable. The heroes of the weekend were hands down the volunteers that cleaned the bathrooms almost 5-7 times a day or more. Thank you.
Overall, I ended up seeing 48 artists total, whether it was walking by Charles Bradley’s beautiful heartwarming performance following the orlando shooting, seeing Chance The Rappers surprise appearance during both Bryson Tiller and Macklemore (my friend was able to see 3 of his surprise performances), or walking by a show, asking someone who it was and realizing it was Two Door Cinema Club (one of the top 5 artists I wanted to see). This weekend was full of surprises, beautiful moments of clarity, and constant laughter.