Main entrance to Bonnaroo/ Photo courtesy Kristin Luna, CamelsandChocolate.com
Bonnaroo has undeniably grown to become one of the biggest music festivals in the world. With its base in Manchester, Tennessee, we Southerners get to claim the production. “There’s a reason Bonnaroo happens in Manchester,” Cyndi Dupree of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development said in a press conference during the event, referring to the Southern hospitality, picturesque rural landscape, and festive spirit that make Tennessee an optimal setting for the festival. We’re already planning for our return next year!
If you’ve ever had doubts about checking out this musical feat that happens in our own backyard here’s why you should reconsider:
1) It’s safer (and more comfortable) than you’d think
And it’s getting to be more so every year. This year the Bonnaroo team added more free, drinking water stations where you could refill your bottle with fresh, cold water throughout the day. The staff planted 110 trees—all indigenous to Tennessee—to provide more shade; and more grass was planted to help with the dust situation. Messages graffitied throughout (e.g. “Don’t Be That Guy,” “Leave No Trace,” “Play As A Team”) remind festival-goers of the Bonnaroovian Code—a set of mantras that keep the experience safe and comfortable.
2) It’s all about community
For the four days of Bonnaroo, Manchester becomes the seventh largest city in Tennessee when more than 80,000 people join at this 700-acre farm in the middle of the state to celebrate music and art. The shared love for music creates a common bond that makes Bonnaroovians treat each other like kin. People make way as you navigate a massive crowd, staffers politely tell you where you aren’t allowed to go and sweetly reassure you they would let you backstage if they could; Ben & Jerry’s gives out free ice cream; neighbors offer you food, water, hand sanitizers. It’s a feeling of warmth and connectedness you won’t soon shake.
Lots of Avett Brothers love at Bonnaroo/ Photo courtesy Kristin Luna, CamelsandChocolate.com
3) It’s more than a music festival
The air-conditioned Comedy Theatre brings amazing acts like Aziz Ansari, Reggie Watts, and Steven Wright. There are also classes running all day in The Academy, which span from gardening to hula-hooping, and yoga; and when you can’t take the heat you can get out of the field by catching an indie flick in the Bonnaroo Cinema. We were happy to catch an advanced screening of the Louisiana-made Beasts of The Southern Wild set to be released this summer.
4) The food
You won’t be surviving on curly fries and funnel cakes; the Bonna-food is awesome. In the Food Truck Oasis, you’ve got trucks like Gastropod from Miami serving short-rib hot dogs; and Asheville’s Gypsy Queen serving Lebanese falafels. Around the various stages, there are Colombian arepas, fruit smoothies, and New York favorites like Roberta’s wood-fired pizza, and hot-dog joint Crif Dogs. In the Bonnaroo Broo’ers Festival beer lovers can sample dozens of brewers like Atlanta’s SweetWater Brewing, and Birmingham, Alabama’s Good People Brewing (our hometown brew was so popular, Good People ran out of beer after day one).
5) And, of course, the music
How often can you spend a day meandering from site to site stopping at your whim to catch a set from your favorite artists? For the amount of money that you’d spend on two big-ticket shows (four-day passes start at $210) you have access to hundreds of bands running the gamut from huge acts like Radiohead, The Beach Boys, and Red Hot Chili Peppers to more recent breakout artists like FUN., Major Lazer, and tUnE-yArDs, and rising artists like Caitlin Rose and Sarah Jarosz.
Bonnaroo streamed live videos of the shows throughout the weekend. Here are some of our favorite Southern artists that took the stage. We were thrilled to see the huge crowds these guys drew out.
Recent breakouts Alabama Shakes from Athens, Alabama had of the biggest crowds on Thursday.
The Civil Wars played one of the last shows of Bonnaroo on Thursday night—probably the last show they’ll play before eight-month pregnant Joy Williams has her baby.
Ben Folds Five played Sunday afternoon at the Which Stage. The band has its first record in 13 years coming out this year.
They may be based in Brooklyn, but the Punch Brothers’ bluegrass instrumentation is super Southern. Plus, we hear one of the guys is from Fredericksburg, Virginia. We’ll take it!
And how could you not love a music festival in which guys wear seersucker? Oh so Southern.