Alright Bonnaroovians, it’s finally summer and time to clear your headspace for another weekend of food, fun, friends and music. This year the 700-acre farm in Manchester, Tennessee will host the 12th installment of the world’s largest music festival and mecca for the artistically enlightened. For the uninitiated, I am talking about BONNAROO! Eight years ago, my wife/long-time Roo warrior and I drank the Kool-aid and have never been the same.
It’s always a blast to go with friends, but it’s especially entertaining when you meet new characters. You might get a visit from Brittany, the self-proclaimed sprite princess (she was, like, really into Skrillex); or, if you’re lucky enough, you might be stationed opposite five rowdy but fun- loving Aussies, who will regale you with authentic slang terminology (chillibox), plastic money and their love for “Asian food.” They may even show you how to construct a human Aussie tower to get a better view of your favorite bands.
It was going to be tough to outshine the billing of last year’s headliners and clear highlight, Radiohead, but you can’t get much bigger than Sir Paul McCartney. As many of our parents waited an entire lifetime to see (or not see) the icon perform, I can’t help feel a little guilty that I get a front row seat. I’m hoping we are at least graced with “Blackbird” and “Maybe I’m Amazed.” Sharing that prestigious headlining title is none other than the queen of electro-pop herself, Björk. Of all the incredible talent that was announced, this was the name that really punched my ticket. She is slated to play a two-hour set, which I anticipate will be packed full of career classics and newer material from the mind-melding Biophilia. Fans of R&B and golden showers will be fawning over R. Kelly’s late night set. I’ll probably go see this for the sheer novelty of it, but am secretly hoping this is just a new Dave Chappelle bit. The extensive list of hip-hop this year includes Nas, Kendrick Lamar, A$AP Rocky and the Wu-Tang Clan. If the late night Wu- Tang set is half as good as last year’s live presentation of Liquid Swords, then we’re in for a real treat.
If classic rock is more your speed (or even your guilty pleasure), then I’ll see you at the Billy Idol and ZZ Top tents. Animal Collective is slated for a 2 a.m. tent setting that will prove to be a more natural habitat than their undercooked 2 p.m. stage set four years ago. When I predicted Calexico’s 2013 Bonnaroo appearance in our interview earlier this year (September 2012, #98), frontman Joey Burns had to remain tight lipped on the details, but my proven Roo intuition read him loud and clear. The internationally acclaimed Americana darlings recorded their latest album, Algiers, in New Orleans and will be providing sounds of the southwest early Friday afternoon (at This Tent). Another act, high on my list of ‘can’t miss’ is the collaboration between David Byrne and St. Vincent. And while their new album, Love This Giant, continues to make waves among each other’s fan bases, I’m still expecting to hear “Burning Down the House” from Byrne and “Cruel” from Clark.
I can’t help notice the “jam band” presence that helped root this fest is all but absent from the lineup. With the addition of break-out bluegrassers, Mumford and Sons and The Lumineers, it would seem the gods of Roo are trading their sandals for suspenders.
But Bonnaroo isn’t all about the biggest names, though. While they all make a strong case for why they deserve to play right alongside the big guns, bands like Grizzly Bear, Japandroids, Maps & Atlases, Purity Ring and Alt-J are just a few in a long list of up-and-comers and established mid-level acts to round out the music for the weekend. Comedy has always been another major asset to the diversity of the Bonnaroo events and this year’s official MC, Weird Al Yankovic, is playing host to comedic veterans David Cross, Bob Saget, and Ed Helm’s Whiskey Sour Radio Hour. Youngblood comics Daniel Tosh, Eric Andre and Nikki Glaser are also sure to lift the tent with laughter.
Just like life, you are the curator of your own experience. Be open to your impulses, be safe and have fun. Go see your favorite band and be surprised by a new one. Discover that you, yourself, are an artist. Go see a comedy show, take a yoga class or get that falafel you’ve been chasing for a year! Clearly, there is no shortage of activities or things to see. I still haven’t seen it all and I hope I never do!
Comarda’s Golden Rools
• Arrive at the camping grounds late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning. The time of your arrival will dictate how near or far away your campsite is from the festival gates. Don’t get stuck walking a mile to the front gate everyday.
• Water! Water! Water! When you think you’ve had enough, drink more. You’re allowed to bring as much as you want into both the camping area and the festival. So take advantage! Every year, I see someone pass out from dehydration. Don’t be that person. It’s not a good look.
• Bring your own shade. In the last few years, the farm has made great strides in organic growth throughout the campsites, but I wouldn’t call it shady just yet. A pop-up canopy is a really easy solution, but I have also seen people get pretty creative with a tarp and a few bungee cords. Either way, you don’t want to be sitting in the sun for the first half of everyday.
• Make friends with your neighbors. They will return the favor. Remember, it’s close quarters with 80,000 people for the next 4 days. Nobody likes a rude neighbor, so don’t be one.
• Know the layout of the land. Study the provided maps and schedules. Being lost in someone else’s campsite at 3 a.m. is no fun for anyone. Consider marking your campsite with a tall flag or balloon, so as to find your way ”home” more easily.
• Don’t go in the fountain. The fountain is the center of the festival. It’s a great reference point and meeting area. It’s beautiful. But enter at your own risk! The color of the recirculated water can be significantly different by the second day.
• Splash-a-Roo is not a bathing area, although some folks use it as such. It’s an area that includes big water slides, kiddie pools and by the end of the day, probably hepatitis.
• No fold-out chairs inside the festival gates. Best rule ever! Bring a blanket.
• Stay fresh and energized. The weekend is a marathon, not a sprint. Take a shower. Take a nap. Drink a coffee. You don’t want to be stuck watching your favorite band while trying to convince yourself that you don’t feel like a mess.
• Have fun, but be smart. Try not to have a “wasted” weekend. You don’t want to spend Sunday regretting your decisions from Friday and Saturday.
• Wet wipes might save your life out there. Seriously, just bring some.
• And finally, if you’re looking to pick up a specific souvenir or event t-shirt, take care of that early in the weekend. They will sell out by the end.