This past weekend (well, really from Wednesday night until Monday morning) my husband (Sloth), my best friend (Z), and I went to Bonnaroo for the first time, and we had a blast. We saw some great bands, ate some tasty food, and got super freaking dirty. I went back and forth between really looking forward to it and then dreading it. I knew it was going to be outrageously hot, and since I’m a pasty Irish kid I tend to roast like a Thanksgiving turkey if I set foot in the sun for more than 10 minutes. Excessive heat and second degree burns did not sound like a terribly fun experience, so by Tuesday (the day before we left) I was having some serious doubts about what I was getting into. We only live about 2 hours from Manchester, TN (official home of the Roo), so we spent most of Wednesday getting packed up and running some last-minute errands.
We left about 9:00 that night, and made pretty good time getting down there. We were cruising down I-24 East, and when we got around Exit 110, our hearts sank – there was a line of cars as far as we could see on the other side of the road. We kept going and noticed that all of the exits on our side of the road were blocked off. Finally we saw a sign that said “Bonnaroo traffic use Exit 127.” I’m not even joking – that traffic jam on the other side was backed up for SEVENTEEN MILES. There were a few different entrances though, so we ended up going through some Deliverance-worthy back roads until we got to the back of the farm. We got parked and started setting up our camp, which didn’t take long. It was just 2 tents and a little area for our chairs. We didn’t really get unpacked and settled in until about 2:30 am, and at that point I was pretty tired. I laid down, but it was pretty loud because everyone was partying and setting up their camp, so I really didn’t fall asleep until close to 6. Sloth and Z stayed up and had a couple of beers and met our neighbors, and they also went to bed around 6.
Our neighbors seemed pretty decent, though after the first night we didn’t really talk much (probably because our little group didn’t smoke weed, and their groups did). On one side, we had 2 girls and a guy who were all really quiet, and on the other side we had 3 guys who seemed really outgoing. Mellow stoners and party stoners, respectively. Anyway, we went to sleep around 6, and like I said, it’s so hot in your tent by 7:30 or 8 that you can’t sleep, so I was up at 7:30 thirsting to death. We got up, ate some breakfast, and then went to Centeroo when it opened up at noon. There wasn’t a whole lot going on yet, because most people didn’t actually get to the festival until Thursday night and there weren’t many shows yet either. We just checked out the vendors and food and the mushroom and waterslides, then we went back to our camp.
On Friday, we saw Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. Z saw Matt & Kim, and then we met back up for The Decemberists. I left my indie kid companions to their show and I wandered around Centeroo. I caught the end of Atmosphere, and then we met back up for My Morning Jacket and Primus. Primus was pretty awesome because in the middle of the show they had parasailers fly overhead and drop glitter on the crowd. After Primus, we went to What Stage for Arcade Fire. That was my husband’s favorite show of the weekend. After Arcade Fire, we went back to camp.
We started Saturday off with Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, then Z went to see The Low Anthem at That Tent. Sloth and I went to see the “You Choose the Cover” Rolling Stone showdown between Lelia Broussard and The Sheepdogs at This Tent (I liked the Sheepdogs best – Canadian Southern Rock? Yes, please). After that, we got some lunch and played under the mushroom for a few minutes, then we met back up with Z at That Tent for Portugal. The Man. My two indie friends were all excited about The Black Keys, so I went over to What Stage with them for that, but left early so I could get a good seat for Buffalo Springfield. I really enjoyed them. After they went off, I met Sloth to see Dr. John. Z had already gone back to camp, and after Dr. John ended, we went back too.
On Sunday, Sloth and I went to see G. Love and Special Sauce, while Z went to The Head & The Heart. G. Love did a good set and we had great seats, so that was a fun show. We met back up with Z, got some lunch, and saw Aunt Martha at the On Tap Lounge. Then Z and Sloth went to see Cold War Kids and I went to see Gregg Allman. He did a good show, but he came on kind of late, and I had to leave early for Robert Plant and the Band of Joy. That show was good too, but I had to leave early for Superjam. That was pretty frustrating, because Robert Plant and the Band of Joy, The Strokes, Explosions in the Sky, and Superjam all overlapped. Sloth wanted to see Explosions in the Sky, but Z and I convinced him to come to Superjam, since it’s a Bonnaroo staple. After Superjam, we headed over to What Stage for Widespread Panic, the last show of the festival. That was pretty awesome – jam band music, LED hula hoops and girls with crazy hula hoop skills, light shows, etc. After Widespread Panic, we were pretty exhausted and surprisingly chilly, so we went back to camp and went to bed.
We left Monday morning, and I was a little sad. Bonnaroo is fun because it’s so divorced from reality. It’s full of music, shiny lights, glitter from parasailers, and the childlike joy of Ferris wheels and waterslides (and also drugs, if you choose to partake). It’s a little sad to come back to reality, but reality has indoor plumbing and air condition, which is nice. It’s definitely a fun experience though, and we’ll probably go back next year.