Its time to talk about the experience that Brittany and I had been, more or less, planning for months. We bought the tickets at more of a whim than anything else. It didn’t feel real then. On the way there, it didn’t feel real. It didn’t feel real when I watched her set up the tent, because of course she is already sufficient and efficient enough to do it by herself. It didn’t even feel real as we saw the arch demanding our attention in bright colors of the rainbow stating that we were officially in the grasp of “Bonnaroo.”
For those that don’t know about this strange phenomena that overtakes the small town of Manchester, Tennessee every summer, let me tell you about it. We were seemingly welcomed like celebrities to Manchester. Beer signs stated that a certain type of beer was the only beer for Bonnaroo-vians. The urgent care sign said we didn’t need an appointment to come in; they treated overheated folks and over-sun-burnt folks anytime. There were signs that said that all roads lead to Bonnaroo.
In all reality, the farm was in what seemed to be the very east part of the town, seemingly hidden behind three or four turns that led to the farm where there were close to 90,000 people. Just going to round to 90,000, but the count should be a little over 85,000.
Bonnaroo includes a couple of different stages on a 700-acre farm where all of these thousands of people eat, sleep, pee, and puke together for four days. There’s also the ability to stay two extra days, really, to catch up on sleep, if you can handle all of the sunlight by 4:45 AM – 7 AM.
Brittany and I, mostly me, made it one night camping on the farm. We spent the other nights luxuriously living out of a Quality Inn that has already received my TripAdvisor review for how shitty it was for the price I charged to my credit card. We also stayed at a lovely Sleep Inn in Nashville the night before we went to the farm. Loved it.
Back to the beginning. We left on a Wednesday morning/afternoon, after running to Earth Origins. I got coffee at Chelsea’s before the day even had the ability to start. I was up way too early, trying to decide exactly what to bring food-wise that would work for the farm. If you’re doing Bonnaroo, you better be looking up survival guides.
We headed towards Tennessee. We’ve never wanted to get out of the whole “Georgia State of Mind” as we did that day. I kept saying that that state was chubby, and I was right. Look at that thing on a map. Imagine how many peach stands and Cracker Barrel’s there are. And how high the gas prices are.
Anyways, we finally get to a place just outside of Tennessee, that mixes with the Tennessee line, but we’re actually “still” in Georgia. We entered the central timezone and saw glorious hues of greens, browns, and blues right in front of us. The mountains were worth the wait. They were just so tall. I know that is such a simple sentence, but that’s all I have to give when it comes to mountains, being akin of West Virginia folks, but born in the flatlands (and raised there, too) of Florida. That’s all I’ve got.
We arrived to Nashville in search of a bathroom, a good place to eat and sight-see before bed, and just overall the “city” of it all, rather than all of the trees we had encountered, along with angry drivers and crazy street lights.
We found the Wild Cow Vegetarian Restaurant. I want to go into detail, and I may at another time, but currently I’m just saying: I don’t care if you’re a vegetarian or not, go eat here and get the reuben.
We fell asleep quickly at the hotel, after realizing the pool was very much not working. There was a free CMA round of concerts in the downtown area, that neither of us had the energy for after driving since 10:30 AM until almost 8 PM.
The next day we had a lovely breakfast of dessert that we didn’t eat the night before, CREMA coffee, avocado toast, and quiche. I think we had something else, too, but I’ll stop there. We ate too much and didn’t hydrate nearly enough. CREMA was worth it. Another stop that’s necessary for any coffee lover, the lover of the real stuff not the syrupy junk from Starbucks. Not trying to be posh or hipster, simply saying that most “coffee lovers” love frappes, not coffee.
Brittany and I drove to the farm, an hour and fifteen minutes away from our lovely nestled town of Nashville, with all of its odd architecture, gorgeous mountains and cityscapes, fashion, and coffee. We were onto the more backroads of Tennessee, nestling ourselves into no cell phone service and hot dry air without a whip of wind. That’s what got to Britt and I the most, the thing we commented on the most: we were landlocked. No rivers around, no lakes, definitely not any beaches. We finally felt what it felt like to not have the urgency of the waves pulling towards us. They were just too far away.
Obsessed. I was obsessed with all of the outfits and tents and grass and people in their hats and sunglasses saying “happy bonnaroo”. The kindness was definitely there. We had never noticed this much kindness at a festival before. We’ve been a choice few of concerts, one festival, but nothing like Bonnaroo.
Summing up the first day/night. We met our next door neighbors. I know there is no possible way, even with the world wide web possibilities, that the guys can find this, so we met Eric, Tom, Ashton, and Jamel (Jamal?). Brittany and I were surrounded by dudes with southern drawl accents and good hearts.
Ashton, from the get-go, we learned would do pretty much anything to help. He was pouring out water bottles to use for vodka. We were drinking his water. We took shots with him and Jamel, because we couldn’t sleep in the heat and they were being so loud at 12 AM that we had to do something. I became quite tipsy over vodka that tasted like rubbing alcohol, with only hot gatorade as a chaser. Brittany didn’t sleep at all. With all of the water and vodka, I walked to the port-a-pottie that was about two minutes away, twice, in my sleep filled atmosphere.
The sun was awake by 4:45 AM, as per Britt. I felt it at 7 AM and inhaled the fact and tried to swallow it, by knowing that that was the only sleep I was going to be getting all day. We tried to go into Bonnaroo, specifically for coffee and yoga and breathing classes and meditation, but we thought we forgot our bracelets and walked back to camp, already sweating in bathing suits and shorts. By the way, the bracelets were in the camel pack, which we had with us, so…
By that time, I was feeling massively dehydrated and so ready for shade. We went into “town” and found a weird cafe to eat at, ate too much, dehydrated some more, and went to Wal-Mart. We didn’t really find what we needed and we were going to make-shift it. I took a nap in the sun and woke up feeling like a fish out of water. We got a hotel. Motel. Whatever.
I couldn’t rough it, and I remember the feeling of guilt and dread to tell Britt that I really couldn’t handle it. Because she can handle anything and I wish I could, too. But we went to the hotel, talked, got some junk out of our hearts, and went straight back to Bonnaroo to see Kendrick Lamar, Albama Shakes, and ODESZA. We felt apart of the community that night. We ate a lot of food, drank coffee, had dessert, sat near the hammocks of the Solar Stage, screamed along with the rest of the crowd, hustled into the port-a-potties, and walked back to camp like zombies.
And slept in real beds.
My timing was so off while we were in Tennessee, not so much for the timezone, but just because all of us had stepped away from our lives for four-five days to step into this realm of adult ravers that rage until dawn and sleep in the heat of the morning. Where we were getting lost amongst the herd of crowds and getting lost in the music, or trying to.
That night we saw Childish Gambino and Mumford and Sons, for a good couple of minutes for Mumford. We explored and we also quoted with a small crowd to Mean Girls. It was a great night. We were exhausted when we returned to the hotel. We were exhausted when we drove all the way to Florida the next morning, at dawn, because sleep wasn’t coming to me anymore.
Getting reconnected with Brittany during those couple of days was lovely. Getting out of town and away from the difficulties of work and life and too much “stuff” was fantastic. We were able to breathe and talk and laugh. That was worth it.
Bonnaroo was a lovely place to be. The heat is scorching, but it can be managed with hats and sunblock and water. And if you like drugs, then get drunk and have some drugs because that may help, too, though B and I didn’t go that route. We had the experience of being in the crowds and understanding that we are so small compared to massiveness of a festival. We are just two little people amongst thousands. A realization most of us need to have in life, if not just to help us remember that stress can be put away for another day, but mostly because it reminds you that we’re all interconnected by our foundation. Our humanness. There was no reason to be “mean” or “pushy” in the midst of this huge crowd because we were just two little people that had to work with what was happening moment to moment.
That’s what Bonnaroo was: for the moment. For the experience. For forgetting time and timezones and just living in-between concerts, food, comedians, and hula hoop dancing. Bonnaroo was for a cultivated kindness and a melting pot of people stopping their lives to come to a farm in Tennessee to relax and feel the community of lovers that we all really are.