One of the most well-known music festivals in the US today, Bonnaroo is a 4 day musical extravaganza in Manchester, Tennessee. Everyone camps out, lives in (all states of) freedom and harmony, and listens to music ranging from classic rock to indie bands to rap to dubstep. It was glorious big ol' hippie fest, and the closest I'll ever get to experiencing Woodstock.
There's so many ways you can do a music festival - rent a RV, drive down and bring your own tent, rent a tent or RV on-site, fly down and avoid the whole long drive, etc. As three (poor) girls, we decided that borrowing my friend's parents minivan for the drive down and renting a tent through Bonnaroo was our best option. We did NOT trust ourselves to correctly pitch a tent after a 16 hour drive, nor did we own a tent to pitch. Though a bit more money upfront, renting through Tent City was awesome. I can't recommend it enough! The tents were huge and they had cots inside, so we didn't have to sleep on the ground. And the major bonus - we were super close to Centeroo, where all the action happened. If you bring your own gear, you have no idea where you will get to set up camp - you could be 2 miles away from all the stages. When there are upwards of 80,000 people attending, it's nice to have prime real estate.
Now, if you're not an expert camper, there are just some things you won't know 'til you go. Things I've learned for next time:
- You need an awning to set-up in front of your tent. Shade is your friend!
- Coleman makes these super cool freestanding shower stalls for camping. That's a bit extreme, but we would've given anything for one of those saline drip-looking bags that you fill with water that become a "shower." Even just a hose to hook up to the various faucets set up in the camping areas would have been lovely. We paid for showers twice, and washed in a trough/slop sink another day with the masses...next time, I'd love an upgrade.
- Sunscreen for your head. I was pretty good about applying sunblock, I really was. Nevertheless, my scalp is still peeling off in sheets. Um, gross.
- Even if you bring a lot of food, you're bound to want to eat and drink inside Centeroo. It may be a lawless utopia, but you still cannot bring any outside drinks or large amounts of food inside, so pocket money is recommended. Plus, at a hippie fest, imagine all the delicious treats!
Oh yea, and I heard fantastic music all weekend. One thing I loved about Bonnaroo (compared to what I've heard about other festivals -cough- Coachella), is that it's not scene-y or pretentious at all. In fact, it's the complete opposite. Everyone is dirty and sweaty and wearing as little clothing as possible (due to the heat). It's all about the music and having a good time.
My love for music began in the 5th grade, when my classmates and I decided we were into alternative, listened to 104.7 The Revolution religiously and spent recess talking about Pearl Jam, Alanis Morissette, Nirvana and No Doubt. I've loved listening and getting into new music ever since, but I'd never consider myself someone really into the scene or an expert on new bands.
Bonnaroo reconfirmed that. There were so many bands I was unfamiliar with! I saw around 18 shows during the 4 day fest, but there were so many more I wish I could've seen. I came home and instantly downloaded new music from other artists I wasn't able to see. Some of my favorite shows from the week:
- Girl Talk. Hands down, the most fun set ever. Pittsburgh pride all the way! He played from 2:30am - ? on Saturday night. It was a sweaty pit of crazy dancing people, confetti and balloons, and it was incredible. My face was stuck in someone's armpit for part of it. I didn't care.
- Mumford & Sons. What can I say? Their music warms my heart and I can't help but smile when I hear their songs. They are SO good live. They played some songs from their upcoming album, and from what I heard, I am positive it will not disappoint.
- Arcade Fire. They were awesome. They had such great energy, and they played all their big hits from The Suburbs, and a few of my faves - Keep the Car Running and Wake Up. Plus the show opened up with parachuters in the sky. So cool!
- Eminem. I was surprised I liked his set so much. The whole "Recovery" theme from his CD carried into the show, and had you rooting for him. Everyone was so into it. And whether I liked it or not, I knew almost all the words to his songs!
- Florence & The Machine. She sounded just as hauntingly beautiful live as she does on their album. We had to leave their set early, but I would LOVE to see her again.
- Wiz Khalifa. Again, Pittsburgh pride! He was great. So much fun. I can't wait to see where he goes from here.
- The Black Keys. So good live. We missed part of their show (erg), but they were excellent and I'd see them again anytime.
- J.Cole. St. John's alumni, woo woo! Another fun set, another young rapper that I'm excited to see evolve and grow in the scene.
- Robyn. I wanted to see Cold War Kids...my group wanted to see her, so I went with the flow. She was really good! As nice as it is to chill and sit on the lawn and listen to music, it's more exciting to dance the afternoon away to energetic tunes.
- Scissor Sisters. Apparently I like the gay disco scene. Who knew? They were a blast, and led right into Girl Talk's set, making up the most fun Saturday night imaginable.
- The Strokes. Love. Not only was their music great, but we got the pleasure of seeing two ugly (completely) naked girls jamming out in front of us. Anyone know why the sound was a little low, though? I felt the same way at the Which Stage during Buffalo Springfield.
Other super goodies - Freelance Whales, Chiddy Bang, Best Coast, The Knux, Smith Westerns...
Oh, and about that body paint...there were three of them. A guy in a dish towel loincloth, a girl in a sunhat armed with paints, and a guy with Braveheart face paint, a black denim kilt and a shirt that read 'Free Hugs' in duct tape. We offered them beer and a PB&J for their mushrooms, and they offered to paint us. I had no idea it would entail having my entire exposed skin (other than shorts and a bikini top) coated in paint. They called us warriors. It was hilarious...until we had to scrub our skin raw with a scour brush the next day. Oh well. We looked amazing.
What a week.