Bonnaroo 2010: Above The City Noise

This town moves so fast, baby
Beyond my window glass
And inside my friends
And some get lost and don’t come back again
But in my head
Are my father’s words
And my mother’s voice
And they’re loud and clear above this city noise.
–Jill Andrews, “City Noise

The month of June has taken me all over the great state of Tennessee for live music. A couple weeks ago, I ventured to the historic Ryman Auditorium to see my favorite artist, Neil Young, deliver a legendary solo performance. It blew me away. I could have easily not seen another minute of live music for months and have been satisfied.

But, that’s not how I live. Because I live for live music.

So, I decided to go to Bonnaroo 2010 about three or four weeks ago. It seemed like a perfectly crazy thing for me to do: go there alone, see what I want, eat what I want, drink what I want, etc. I was a bit nervous for maybe thirty minutes when I set up my tent in the dark. The rest of my time at Bonnaroo was pure joy.

But, let me explain how it works.

Do not go to Bonnaroo if you hate traffic; you will be sitting in it for hours trying to get into the grounds. There is maybe a 2% chance you’ll get lucky and avoid it. Good luck.

Do not go to Bonnaroo if you can’t stand the heat and humidity. Honestly, I can put up with pretty much anything when I have something to look forward to. And I used to play three 90-minute soccer games a day in the blazing sun. The heat doesn’t bother me much.

Do not go to Bonnaroo if you think you will see every band on the bill. It won’t happen. Your feet hurt, you get hungry, there are lines for bathrooms, you get stuck at a show longer than expected because it’s so freaking good. There are no plans at Bonnaroo.

Do not go to Bonnaroo if you’re not willing to wake up at 7:45 every morning in a pool of sweat (that is, if you’re camping). If you have an RV or go the hotel route, then you’re in better shape. But really, survival is a part of Bonnaroo, so I’d recommend the camping route, at least once.

DO go to Bonnaroo if you’re willing to accept that weird stuff will happen. I broke one of my sandals trying to dance. Big deal. I got some sort of rash on my legs. So did almost everyone else. I had to walk 25 minutes from my campsite to enter the festival grounds. It turned out to be fun. Toilets overflowed, there was mud, there was some rain, there were bugs, there were drugs. I do not do drugs. So what — they are everywhere at Bonnaroo. You just keep walking. Most everyone you meet is nice and more than welcome to talk to you.

Jessie Baylin & Courtney Jaye (Click for video)

Over the course of the four-day festival, in some cases bits and pieces, I saw Jessie Baylin, Jill Andrews, The National, Stevie Wonder (for 10 minutes!), Jay-Z, Margaret Cho, Joshua James, Lissie, The Gossip, The Avett Brothers, She & Him, Tori Amos, Brandi Carlile, Calexico, Regina Spektor, Kings of Leon, The Black Keys, The Flaming Lips, Langhorne Slim, Norah Jones, Weezer, Jeff Beck, John Prine, Ozomatli, Mumford & Sons, Dan Deacon, GWAR, African Drum and Dance by Mawre & Company, Monte Montgomery, Ingrid Michaelson, Ween, and Phoenix.

I think I did pretty good.

See you next year, Bonnaroo!

Jill Andrews (Click for video)

Ingrid Michaelson (Click for video)

She & Him (Click for video)

Tori Amos (Click for video)

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