When the sun rises at 6 in the morning and temperatures climb to 95 degrees by 9 a.m., it’s impossible to sleep in while camping at Bonnaroo, which means your buzz never really wears off after the first night. If you have any hopes of surviving Bonnaroo, this is a critical time to hydrate with a morning brew and lots of water.
Lines for portalets stretch painfully far in the morning, but the graffiti inside each one accurately captures the essence of Bonnaroo spirit and almost makes the wait worthwhile. Graffiti common in every portalet includes crudely drawn pot leaves and bold assertions like “Smoke Weed” and “Get Laid,” both of which are high on the priority list for most Bonnaroo patrons.
After eating breakfast, it was time to check out Conan O’Brien in the Comedy Tent. Conan drew such a crowd that his performance had to be broadcast on televisions at three separate stages. He explained that this was his first festival performance and reflected on his career, joking that it had finally reached its peak now that he was doing stand up comedy at a “refugee camp.”
During the hottest part of the day,
it’s smart to either stay close to the giant mushroom that pumps
out a waterfall of
dirty recycled water or check out
a movie in the air-conditioned Cinema Tent. Over the course of the
weekend, the Cinema Tent featured Jaws 3, Shaun of the Dead,
Superfly, Zombieland, Inglorious Basterds, The Hangover, Adult Swim
shows and a bunch of independently produced documentaries.
In all honesty, though, the Cinema Tent is primarily a place for people to sleep without feeling like they’re being tortured under God’s magnifying glass.
By 4 p.m., I was on my way to check out Damien Marley and Nas on the What Stage, the main venue set in a massive field that can supposedly accommodate every Bonnaroo attendee. Hordes of people showed up to bob their heads and groove out to the good vibrations that both Damien and Nas cast like a spell across the crowd.
Next in the lineup was Tenacious D, the satiric Rock outfit conceived by actor Jack Black and his partner in crime, Kyle Gass.
Michael Franti and Spearhead performed on Which Stage after Tenacious D’s set. The San Francisco-based Reggae/Funk group commanded the audience, which became a sea of moving bodies as soon as the band took the stage. Their set was uplifting and high energy throughout. Singer Michael Franti walked into the crowd several times to round up a handful of fans and brought them onstage to dance.
Feeling hot and exhausted after Franti’s performance — one of my personal favorites of the Bonnaroo experience — I took a nap under a tree with a bunch of strangers doing the same thing. This is another great part about the Bonnaroo experience — if you’re feeling faded, pass out anywhere you’d like without getting arrested. There are bodies all over the place, so watch your step as you seek out your resting spot.
After a bit of rest, it was time to change gears and check out the late night Electronic performances at This Tent and The Lunar Stage. Bassnectar, a freeform Electronic wizard from San Francisco, blew the audience away with a light show that put everyone into a trance and music that shook our skeletons. LCD Soundsystem performed on the same stage with their disco ball hanging high above them to set the mood for an all-out dance party. Finally at 2:30 a.m., The Crystal Method seized the Lunar Stage and proved to everyone that even after close to two decades of performing, they’re still bringing the heat in the Electronic music bracket.
Walking back to camp at the end of the night, I had the pleasure of trying to find my tent in the dark with $24 worth of alcohol (only four beers) in my bloodstream, which proved to be an unbelievably bewildering task. After aimlessly stumbling over others’ camp accessories for 15 minutes, nearly wrecking someone’s tent in the process, I found my home and laid down, knowing that the sun would be up in two hours and this wickedly fun daily routine would start all over again.
(Photo by Chuck Madden)