[The following words and photos have been submitted by Synthesis contributer Karen Dunbar, who recently attended the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee.]
Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival
Thursday, June 12th â€“ Sunday, June 15th
Bonnaroo isn’t just a music festivalâ€”it’s a mindset. This was the seventh year the tiny town of Manchester, Tennesseeâ€”a small, rural town 65 miles outside Nashville with a population of 9,500â€”was converged upon by 70,000 people. Arriving is a bit surreal; almost magically and suddenly the event explodes in front of you as you’re still driving through corn fields and family farms. The four days of Bonnaroo seem to meld together into an even more surreal, yet shared experience.
The event organizers seem to have thought of almost everything. Shuttles run from the airport on an almost continual basis as plane after plane empties music fans from all over the country. If you weren’t up to sitting in the hot sun watching one of the 158 bands, you could have your hair done, get a massage, go online or eat from a huge variety of choices, after you of course visited one of the many ATMs conveniently located throughout the festival. In the evening, the Silent Disco is better than many drugs: the aptly-named Ferris wheel offers a view of the entire site, and if timed properly offers the best views and sounds from either of two nearby stages. Speaking of drugsâ€¦Tennessee is an odd state. Possession of anything is still illegal, but if busted (and you don’t have a State sold tax sticker) you face tax evasion charges on top of the possession charge. Bonnaroo upholds all State laws. The price of this stamp is $3.50 per gram of pot and $50. per gram of cocaine. Bought anonymously, of course.
Almost every music genre was represented. You could watch Willie Nelson and then catch Metallicaâ€¦on the same day. Dweezil Zappa performing his dad’s songs, Vampire Weekend, My Morning Jacketâ€¦the list went on forever. Robert Plant, Alison Krauss, Jack Johnson, the Raconteurs, The Coup, BB King followed by Pearl Jam. Pearl Jam ripped Kanye West a new one, and then watched as Kanye ripped himself one. (Kanye had a bit of a prima donna thing going; Eddie Vedder had a bit of an anti-Kanye thing going. Vedder’s fuck you to Kanye included beginning to promote Kanye’s performance and stopping mid-sentence, saying, â€œI just can’t do it,â€ then continuing to play for an additional 50 minutes and asking the crew for a slow load-out. Kanye’s stage needed three hours for production; he didn’t go on until 4:30 AM and only played an hour without a word of apology or explanation. Let’s just say the chant of â€œKanye sucksâ€ was a unifying theme through the remainder of the event, shouted at several sets during the rest of the weekend.
More after the jump
Bonnaroo is hot. And dusty. And the showers get gross and the water lines get long. Two words of advice: Always find a porta-potty that hasn’t been sitting in the direct Tennessee sun all day long, and please don’t leave your friends in the middle of a field passed out after the last show of the night.
The weather was more entertaining this year. A several-hour downpour caught many off guard and left them fairly miserableâ€”but as Howlin Rains’ Ethan Miller put it: â€œFavorite moment: after performing, 2:30 AM in a field packing our van, thunderstorms, rain just pissing down in buckets, the Fender Rhodes and amplifier cases sinking into the mud. We were tired, destroyed, hungry, shivering in the cold and wet after burning to a crisp and drinking beer all day in the Tennessee sun. It was dark as hell. We still have to drive to catch our flights in Atlanta the next morning. Worst moment? See above.