This year I participated in my fourth trip to Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tennessee, and it was wonderful. (For those who don’t know, Bonnaroo is a four-day music and arts festival, and it’s pretty much the greatest thing on Earth.)
On June 10th, I traveled to the festival with my best friend Jaime, my cousin Robert, my brother Travis, and his best friend Drew. As always, our journey began in Indianapolis, where we rented an RV that would take us safely to Tennessee and house us for the duration of the festival.
We started our journey around noon on Wednesday, with the hopes that getting to Manchester early would better our chances of entering the campgrounds quickly. In years past we traveled for six hours, only to wait in a line of traffic for six to nine hours more. We arrived in Manchester around 8 pm, when the gates opened, and I was sure we were golden. Unfortunately, a misguided police officer forced our RV into an alternate traffic line, which caused our wait time to increase significantly. And to make matters worse, once we reached the entrance gate, we were told RVs had to enter at the gate on the opposite side of the campgrounds. UH DOY! So we had to drive around the festival site only to be forced into another line. However, the wait is never a terrible experience for me because my co-pilot Jaime keeps me entertained. This year I learned that she’s never seen Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and I had the honor of describing the like, totally insane plot to her, bro. We finally parked and settled in around 1am on Thursday morning, which made for a nice and restful night.
My Bonnaroo experience this year was particularly good because all the shows I wanted to see were later in the day, and Thursday was no exception. St. Peter gave us the keys to Heaven and our whole group entered Centeroo (the place where all the music and shenanigans happen). This was Drew’s first ever Bonnaroo, and we all watched his reaction as we entered. Robert went off to explore on his own, and the rest of our group went to the comedy tent to see comedians Ron Funches, Jaime Lee, Cameron Esposito, and Kurt Braunohler perform.
After the comedy show, I experienced the Silent Disco for the first time. The Silent Disco is an open-air tent with a DJ. The DJ’s music is not blasted on speakers, but instead is piped into individual earphones worn by the audience. From the outside of the tent you see people dancing and cheering in unison, but you can’t hear any music. It’s a very surreal spectacle to witness, and it was super fun for our group to join in.
Then it was time for the music! Jaime and I went to see Houndmouth, a band from our home state of Indiana. I didn’t know much about them going in, but I was very impressed. They covered Runaround Sue, which is one my favorite oldies. I also randomly ran into my friend Bryan at this show. I knew he was going to be at Bonnaroo, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to meet up with him. Through some magically random coincidence, he cut through the crowd right past me, I called his name, and we were both surprised by the chance meeting. (This is just the sort of cool, magic shit that happens at Bonnaroo.)
Next, we checked out another music act that we weren’t familiar with, Courtney Barnett. It turns out she’s a badass, head banging, rock goddess. Jaime and I give her two thumbs up. Finally, we ended the day with the band (or DJ?) Gramatik. At this show I experienced another Bonnaroo first: my first glove show. For those not in the know (which included me until this particular night) a “glover” is a person who goes to raves wearing gloves with LED lights in the fingertips, and they move their hands and wiggle their fingers to the beat of the music. And apparently they will give you an individual, up-close and personal glove show upon request. Travis insisted I receive a show from a near-by glover, and so I did. It was…interesting. Gramatik’s set ended at 1:15 am, and then it was time for me and Jaime to head back to the RV for some shuteye.
Friday started on a sour note. We woke up and were relaxing, when suddenly our RV’s generator stopped working. Without the generator, there is no AC. With no AC, the five human beings inside the RV become baked potatoes. (From this point forward, I will now refer to the RV as the RT, aka Recreational Turd.)
Despite the blistering heat, Jaime and I were geared up for our big day. Our goal was to get to the front row for one of our favorite new bands, Sylvan Esso. (If you want to be a super cool party person you will check them out right this minute.) We got to the tent early and pushed in to see Unknown Mortal Orchestra. They were just OK for me. When their show was done and most of the crowd left, Jaime and I made our move to the front. We got separated from each other, and I didn’t have it in me to fight my way over to her. It was hot and crowded, and my anxiety cup was about to runneth over. However, I was able to keep my cool, and Sylvan Esso performed an AMAZING set. The show was being filmed for TV, and Jaime and I got some screen time! Side note: if you’re one of those people who blow up beach balls at concerts, no one likes you, not even your own mother.
After Sylvan Esso, we had 15 minutes to run to the main stage to catch Alabama Shakes. This was another incredible show. Alabama Shakes front woman, Brittany Howard, is a space goddess, and I will worship her for all time.
Next up on the main stage was Kendrick Lamar. I was not very familiar with his music, but I was blown away by his show. It was definitely the most surprising set of the festival for me.
After Kendrick, we stayed at the main stage to see headliner Deadmau5. I was not sure what to expect from this EDM artist, but his set was VERY loud, and his stage show was super weird. It felt like a fun dream that was slowly turning into a nightmare. I loved it. After Deadmau5, the rest of our crew checked out Odeza’s set, as Jaime and I headed back to the RT.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Bonnaroo 2015 adventures!