Last weekend, a group of friends and I road tripped to Manchester, Tennessee, a small town of about 10,000 people, which, for four days every June, swells to a population ten times that as people from around the country flood the town for the annual music and arts festival, Bonnaroo. It is a difficult setting to describe. When I told people that I was going to spend four days in the Tennessee heat, sleeping in a tent with no toilet and $7 showers, they scoffed at me more often than not. Yet as nightmarish as it sounds (and at some points it was just that – let’s just say I never want to see a port-a-potty ever again), my time was also filled with remarkable and warm strangers, exceptional music, unforgettable performances and even better friends.
When my Bonna-crew and I arrived on Wednesday afternoon, we were directed to our camping spot by volunteers, and I felt a little like I was back at NSO, being shepherded by smiling and dancing volunteers, who cheered at me while I attempted to navigate the new world I had just entered. The 700-acre farm on which Bonnaroo is held was a veritable maze of tents, vendors and stages. Of course stage names such as “What Stage” and “Which Stage” didn’t help as I tried to coordinate with my friends at “This Tent” and not “That Tent” or “the Other Tent.”
Nonetheless, everyone was plainly excited to be there, and that energy never seemed to subside. Everywhere we went I was greeted with “Happy Bonnaroo” and a high five. I swear I have never given more high fives in one weekend since I was seven and still playing soccer. Tom Brady should come to Bonnaroo next year and I promise even he won’t be left hanging.
In between shows, we scavenged for shade to sit and watch the throngs of people. The weekend included Friday the 13th and there were costumes abound, and Bonnaroovians certainly did not forget their national pride on Flag Day (although whether everyone was aware that it was Flag Day I’m not too sure). We also got to know our neighbors in the campgrounds, who included a expert group attending Bonnaroo for the fifth year and whose camping space would befit Khaleesi herself. On our other side was a dude who lived with his parents and saved up his money every year in order to show off his skill with those LED fingertip gloves at music festivals (I’m not kidding). I even ran into some Syracuse fans who recognized my Georgetown shirt and had some choice words concerning our upcoming 2015-2016 encounter. I responded appropriately.
With five stages playing from around noon to 4 a.m., it was impossible to see everything that I would have liked to. However, some of my personal highlights included:
- Dr. Dog An eclectic group of just genuinely talented musicians, check them out.
- Disclosure If you haven’t already, go listen to their album Settle beginning to end.
- Vampire Weekend Two words – Ezra. Koenig.
- Flaming Lips There were huge dancing rainbows and mushrooms… ’nuff said.
- Arctic Monkeys Currently one of my favorite bands and I was only three rows away from the front!
- And of course the one-and-only Elton John He closed the festival on Sunday night and played for a full two hours, yet somehow he seemed to never run out of classic songs.
This post brought to you by Katarina Malmgren, a rising sophomore in the College, our latest guest blogger, and NOLA’s resident cool kid.