I’ve been trying to find a clever way to begin this and figure out where to even start discussing one of the best weekends of my life, but I have no idea how to so there’s only one thing to say: Bonnaroo is fucking amazing. Take it from someone who was reluctant to even attend this festival, torn apart from the schedule conflicts and trying to work on a budget, Bonnaroo 2014 was something beyond what I could’ve ever expected. I’ll admit it, I was an idiot for at one point thinking this festival isn’t worth it, that I have seen or could see almost any act on the lineup in the near future, for thinking I wouldn’t even be close to see my favorite bands/artists. Bonnaroo is something that everyone must experience at some point in their lives, regardless of age, interests in music or anything else, this festival caters to everyone and I find it hard to believe that people wouldn’t enjoy it.
I guess the journey really started around 10 PM last Wednesday when I realized I hadn’t even begun to pack anything. So I filled up one backpack with clothes and some necessities, grabbed a chair and a large container of Extra Crunchy Peanut Butter after my group was divided by creamy peanut butter lovers and the true peanut butter aficionados, the crunchy/extra crunchy ones. We departed on our 10 hour trek from Daytona Beach, Florida to Manchester, Tennessee the following morning, making necessary stops for the non-vegetarians on the ride up to Bojangles and even finding this beauty in the back-country of Georgia after pulling over for some gas:
My caravan of friends arrived at the farm in Manchester around 7:30 PM in a violent downpour that lasted for all of 10 minutes, giving us just enough time to pitch the mansion of a tent my friend Mitchell brought. The 30 of us who occupied our campground continually filed in over the next few hours eventually making it look something like this:
That night was the only ‘good’ night’s sleep I got for the next 4 days as we awoke somewhat early before Centeroo, the main grounds of the festival, opened. We ate some breakfast, lined up outside of the entrance and somehow were within the first 15 people to be inside of Centeroo this year only to see beautiful fields of luscious green grass speckled with canopies, stages and only the best of food vendors. Thursday is traditionally one of the more relaxed days of the schedule filled with small acts.
My Thursday was filled with wandering around the farm to get a feel for which stage is Which Stage and what tent is That Tent (actual names of stages and tents), watching the kickoff game of this year’s World Cup supporting my ancestors’ homeland, Brazil, with some surprising overwhelming support for Brazil from the thousands of others watching the game. After the game and becoming familiar with some beverages offered at the festival, I got in line to see one of my favorite comedians, Hannibal Burress who killed the Comedy Theater. Afterwards I sprinted to see my first real music act of Bonnaroo, Cloud Nothings, an indie rock/neo-grunge band whom I actually saw a few months ago in Orlando, who proved to be amazing once again. Jokingly, I started a circle pit during the song “Stay Useless” which ended up backfiring and destroying my ankle, but I quickly recovered to prepare myself for their hardest song, “Wasted Days”.
Afterwards, I had nothing I “had” to see and I got separated from the rest of my group so I wandered around into seeing Omar Souleyman, a Middle Eastern vocalist who works with electronic beats, which was a pretty interesting experience being exposed to something like Middle-Eastern EDM.
I then attended what would become one of my favorite events to relax at, the Silent Disco with a DJ set from Robert Delong. The oxy-moronic concept of a Silent Disco is hilarious, a tent filled with people going crazy, sometimes singing along to the song being played, but it can only be heard by those within the tent who are wearing headphones that the music is sent to. Bystanders can’t help but laugh every time they walk by and see what seems to be an audience’s reaction from a drop or hear them clapping along to the beat.
I then met up with a few friends to see the garage rock icon, Ty Segall, while everyone else was at the Pusha T show. I only stayed for a little over half the set so I could get back and get a ‘good’ nights rest to prepare for the overwhelming schedule of Friday.
I don’t know what made me think I’d be able to sleep well in a tent with a broken sleeping bag and no pillow so every morning I’d wake up as soon as the sun rose after uncomfortably falling asleep a few hours prior. Then every morning I’d take a 2-3 hour nap sitting in a lawn chair under a canopy, which I should’ve just done every night looking back.
The next day began with some venturing around to explore the more culinary side of ‘Roo as we just had to get the renowned Amish donuts. These are a staple to a Bonnaroovian’s diet, second only to the unique pizza known as Spicy Pie.
One of the beauties of Bonnaroo is its ability to offer distinct cultural displays, such as that of Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 whom I began my musical viewing of the day with. Seun Kuti is the son of Fela Kuti, a pioneer in the contemporary African music scene.
We only stayed for a few songs as we wanted to see a little of everything and joined the crowd vibing to the unparalleled vocals of the British neo-soul singer, Sam Smith. I really believe that seeing him at Bonnaroo will be the smallest audience I will ever be in at one of his shows, as I can guarantee he is going to blow up and become the artist every teenage girl wants to see while oddly being an artist everyone should see.
As the crowd shuffled out at the end of Smith’s performance I moved up to get a good view of one of my favorite rappers and performers, Danny Brown. This man never delivers a disappointing performance, coming on stage rocking a Guns N’ Roses shirt with a leather jacket as he then performed a medley from his latest album Old, picked some classics from his masterpiece, XXX, and some singles thrown in there.
My overwhelming thirst and hunger drew me away from the stage afterwards as some friends stayed to wait for The Naked and Famous to get front row for one of my group’s favorite bands, Chvrches. I got back just in time to hear the final songs of The Naked and Famous’s set, which was surprisingly awesome and was able to move all the way up to being front row for Chvrches who proceeded to blow us away with Lauren’s beautiful vocals (and beauty in general) and Martin’s stunning dance moves who in such a humbling manner, thanked us from the bottom of his heart for getting them ‘so far from home’.
Unfortunately I had to leave Chvrches set early in order to get to Phoenix, who I made the decision to see over one of my favorite bands, Vampire Weekend (but I’ve seen them twice so it’s okay). Now here’s a quick little side-note on what makes Bonnaroo amazing, I ran from being front row at Chvrches, past Neutral Milk Hotel’s performance of “April 18th”, past a metal band, Animals As Leaders, into the crowd for Phoenix. Phoenix had a stunning performance just as expected and as it ended I remembered that this day was Friday, a day I have been looking forward to for months, the day I got to see Kanye West, again. I don’t know whether to call it paradoxical or hypocritical, but the Bonnaroovian philosophy of absolute love and positivity seemed to take the back seat to the pseudo-avant-garde and obnoxious spectator from the 2008 ordeal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_Bonnaroo_Music_Festival) spreading hate and harsh words on Kanye West. If there’s one complaint I have about Bonnaroo, it’s the people who went there with the sole purpose of attempting to shame Kanye West. Seeing the words “Fuck Kanye” spray painted on innumerable surfaces (including Port-a-Potties) over the weekend really began to drag on me, I had felt that I was in a different atmosphere, a place that radiated unconditional love, an honestly genuine place that had been infected by the pathogen of hate.
Kanye is not a stranger to this onslaught from this brand of people and as soon as he felt was the right opportunity cut the music and call out those who spray painted Fuck Kanye on the Port-a-Potties, saying we’ll be ‘pissing all over them tonight’. His most memorable quote as I’m sure you’ve seen, “Where the press at?” became the mantra of Bonnaroo 2014, with people chanting it harshly in favor or artists such as Wayne Cohen of the Flaming Lips sarcastically saying it during his set. No matter how you verbalize it, those words registered something in all of us, “fuck-the-press!” we chanted, despite your feelings towards Kanye, these words held some sort of truth within us, as in the modern age we are done with mass media attempting to alter our perception for profit and their own agenda through every means of digital social interaction.
Kanye’s performance will go down in history as one of the most memorable acts in contemporary music. His minimalist backdrop of just a gigantic, beaming red cube behind him or projections of his own body through a negative camera filter as he went through his discography playing essentially a greatest hits set with some Yeezus thrown in (the inverse of the setlist of the Yeezus tour). Walking into Centeroo the first day I noticed “you should be honored by his lateness” spray painted amidst the anti-Yeezus attacks, and its true although it took years for a full Kanye set at Bonnaroo, it was an honor to be a part of it and I want to thank Kanye West for putting a big setback in his performance past to allow the people he loves more than anyone, his fans, a chance to see him at work in the most cohesive music festival in the world.
The metal block was schedule after Yeezy’s set with Mastodon, Deafheaven and Meshuggah all playing in the same tent. I immediately left Mastodon after hearing the vocalist say “Fuck Kanye West” and went to wait for one of my favorite punk ensembles, Diarrhea Planet, who played at the smallest tent on the farm. Let me start by saying, if a band is classified as being good by how fun their shows are, Diarrhea Planet is the best band on Earth. I’ve never seen such athleticism from a band or a pit where everyone has a smile on their face. Crowd surfing and ‘stage diving’ (the stage was barricaded so we jumped off these small pillars near the pit) never seemed to stop, even between songs people would be thrown upon our heads, this is quite possibly the most fun show I’ve ever been to and I cannot wait to see this sextet from Nashville again.
As we wrapped up the night I got to see Deafheaven who are potentially my favorite band of the metal genre as last years Sunbather changed the game. Following this was the heavy Norwegian metal act, Meshuggah who tore Bonnaroo a new one, bringing out all the festival’s metalheads in the late hours of the night.
Walking back to the tent I got to hear 2 songs from the South African rave sensations, Die Antwoord and came to the revelation of astounding it is that so much happened in only two days. Bonnaroo 2014 wasn’t even close to being over and I came to the realization this fest really is a marathon not a sprint, just a marathon at about 4:45 min/mile pace.
Part 2 coming soon