I first learned about Bonnaroo Arts and Music Festival as a closet hippie in high school, a little over ten years ago. I knew I had to go.
I have always been a fan of many different kinds of music, with a predominant love of classic rock and anything related to jam bands. Bonnaroo seemed like a natural fit.
The Cross-Country Experience
Everything about my first music festival experience was great. At 19 years old, driving cross-country from Massachusetts to Tennessee made me feel as free as ever. I remember the excitement of packing, and listening to music we planned to see during the weekend, and making pit stops in multiple states to check everything out.
After 18 hours of driving and a sleepover stop at a friend’s house in Virginia, the Bonnaroo exit in Coffee County, Tennessee was an exhilarating sight. Back then, the lines stretched miles long into the interstate, but nobody cared (nowadays, it takes 30 minutes tops to get in).
Once we finally hit the wide, 700-acre fields of Great Stage Park, our hearts started beating anxiously. Endless rows of tents lined the sun-soaked grass, with fun-loving folks donning tie-dye shirts, bandanas and Birkenstocks.
I learned early on that the atmosphere serves as the greatest part of Bonnaroo weekends.
Everyone comes together at music festivals. If you need duct tape for your leaky air mattress, your neighbors lend a hand. If you run out of water during a show, strangers offer you hydration. Just when you feel you can’t take the 97 degrees heat any longer, someone comes to your rescue with a welcomed misting fan in your face.
And of course, there’s the music. I have seen a plethora of legendary musical acts in my life, thanks largely to four Bonnaroo festivals (2004-2006, 2012). What other experience allows you to see Radiohead, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Phish and dozens of other bands in the same weekend? Or Allman Brothers, Dave Matthews Band, Jack Johnson and Widespread Panic?
Bonnaroo pits some of the best acts of the best genres together, keeping people like me happy. I’ve been able to see a wide variety of acts, including reggae rappers like Damian Marley, hip-hoppers like Jurassic 5, funky rockers like Primus, classics like Tom Petty and Bob Dylan, and jam bands like The Dead.
The Vibes Define the Times
Festivals like ‘roo are all about the vibe. If you’re having fun, it’s probably because you’re around thousands of good people all looking for the same thing: good music and a good time.
Do your research before embarking on the journey, to ensure you will enjoy the people, bands and location. Once you purchase tickets, enjoy the ride and take lots of photographs!