Tuesday, June 16, 2009
I Survived Bonnaroo
We are back home from Bonnaroo. What a trip. I don't think I can even begin to explain what Bonnaroo is all about. You have to go there and truly experience it yourself to understand it. Bonnaroo is about the music, it's about recreational substances that I shouldn't talk about here. I will say that I thought I knew a lot, I didn't, but I do now. What an education for me as well as my sixteen year old! It's mostly about the people though. I don't like crowds, I really don't like to be around a lot of people, I am an only child and like being alone frequently. However, I just spent a week with 75,000 people and never saw an angry person, an unkind person or a thoughtless person. At Bonnaroo, I would say the majority of people attending are college students, many high most of the time, but in sort of a controlled way. If someone bumped into me or stepped on my foot, they apologized profusely. There were lots of smiles, many acts of kindness, sharing food, drinks, "recreational items", and mostly sharing an appreciation for art, music and a good time. There was very little law enforcement, the security was privately hired, there were almost no rules except for safety, and it was one of the most peaceful and joyful events I have ever been to. I've come to realize that to survive you only need to have food, water, shelter, a few clothes, a place to pee and other stuff, for some a little weed, for us books and music, that's it. We were extremely happy with very little. I was flipping TV channels this morning thinking about this. Why do we need the golf channel, ESPN, CNN, Fox News, blah, blah, blah. Why do we need the mall, Walmart, Target. Arghhhhh, it's making me sick!!!!! Anyway, here is a tiny taste of Bonnaroo............
We sat on the shoulder of the interstate for 4 hours waiting to get in. Luckily, we had the harmony Buddha, so it was all good. A light drizzle kept us cool and there was a lot to laugh at going on around us.
After you enter the gates and get your car searched for mostly glass and weapons, you proceed to the 700 acre farm and head for the camping area. This is bumper to bumper camping, hope for good neighbors. We literally shared tent stakes with the guys to the left of us. On either side we had a group of college boys who just wanted to smoke a little weed and see some good bands. They were polite, generous and really quiet most of the time. That is our VW van and our screened pop up canopy that saved us from the sun during the day. At Bonnaroo you sleep most of the morning, cook breakfast, eat a light lunch and head for the event tents around 3pm. Then it's non stop bands until 3-4am.
We had cloud cover much of the time so the heat was bearable. Hard rain when we got there on Thursday, but that was all. We had great weather the rest of the time.
There were vendors roaming around in the camping area selling t-shirts, substances that I shall not talk about and then there was this cute little lady from Japan. We bought some meditation beads that had been blessed with mantras and smelled like sandalwood. Really cool meeting her. She was adorable and totally represents the essence of Bonnaroo. The young woman she is talking to was my little girl. She is quickly turning into this beautiful young lady that I love getting to know! She seemed so grown up this week, even though every now and then you would get a glimpse of the innocent little girl still inside her. It was so great to be at Bonnaroo with her.
One of the first bands we saw was Bella Fleck with Toumani Diabate. This was amazing, but we couldn't get very close. Later, he did a small 30 minute acoustic set at the very small Sonic Stage, it was intimate and we were right at the stage. Great show.
This was the largest stage. Here we saw Wilco, Bruce Springsteen and Phish. Sunday night during the second Phish show, Springsteen came out and jammed with the band. Unreal.
This was a small portion of the crowd that showed up for Phish and Springsteen. I have never seen such a crowd at a concert in my life. And we only saw two people carried out by security.
A very cool sod building that was the Bonnaroo Post Office. There were a lot of tents dedicated to sustainable living and environmental concerns.
Also lots of vendors selling art, jewelry, clothing and stuff you never need but can't resist at a festival.
On the way home we stopped at the Nantahala Outdoor Center for lunch. Those of you in Western NC know this place well I'm sure. Do you remember the NOC of 20 years ago? We used to paddle here all the time, back when there was one little shack to eat at, even before Relia's Garden was built. It was a place for river rats and now it looks like an amusement park for rafting companies. Sad to see, they have lost so much of what made the NOC a truly magical place. Now it's just a tourist destination. Guess they are making a lot more money now.
It's still a beautiful place and a nice stop after being with 75,000 people for 5 days. I am now in a crazy funk from living outdoors with a bunch of stoned hippies and listening to music all day and all night. We saw twenty bands in four days including: Phish, MGMT, Animal Collective, Bella Fleck, Bruce Springsteen, David Byrne, Band of Horses, Neko Case, Merle Haggard, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Nine Inch Nails, Portugal the Man, Wilco, Of Montreal, and many more. The Troo Music Lounge was one of Wesley's favorites. This tent had small bands with huge talent and it was accessible. I think Wes has come home older and wiser and much less likely to try mind altering substances. It was all about the music for her. I would advise any parent out there with a teenage kid to take them to Bonnaroo if you want to truly get to know each other and have some lifelong unforgettable memories. The parent/child relationship was left at the gate and we spent the week getting to know the adult she is quickly becoming. Hopefully she saw her parents in a little more less than perfect human light as well. Thanks to the people that put Bonnaroo together! If the whole world could function like the community I spent the week with, it would be an amazing place to live. Gerry lost all of the stress that comes with being an AP photographer and was a crazy fool all week, I laughed almost nonstop, and Wes just walked around in stunned amazement at the whole thing. So, next year, get your tickets early and let's all meet at the ROOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!