Sunday, June 16, 2013

Checking in from Bonnaroo 2013

Posted By on Sun, Jun 16, 2013 at 9:14 AM

(Updated on Sunday morning.) Roughly 90,000 people have descended on the farmlands of Manchester, Tenn., for the 12th annual Bonnaroo Art & Music Festival. Along with the numerous bands comes lots of sweat and a lack of sleep. Oh, and you can almost smell the porta-johns in the air, can't you? Having been here five times before, I can easily say, "This ain't my first 'Roo-deo."

Being at Bonnaroo is a trade-off. You say goodbye to indoor plumbing and anything resembling a good night's rest in exchange for so much good music you don't even know where to begin.

On the music end of things, I'll be putting together an overall wrap-up when I get back to Charlotte - and get some sleep. For now, here's some random tidbits from "the farm." (This post will be updated daily - and in the meantime you can follow me on Twitter.)


* Yesterday's bottled water consumption count totaled seven. Yes, seven. Stay hydrated, folks. People are already passing out on a regular basis.

* Just as the heat of the day started to get firey, I passed two guys slowly walking down the dirt road between stages. As the two early-20-somethings held on to large waffle cones filled with dripping ice cream, one looked at the other and said, "Seriously, this is the best idea we've had all day ..."

* I purchased a banh mi for dinner last night. For $8, I got a large sub roll filled with barbecue chicken, Asian mayo (whatever that is ...), cilantro, cucumber and what might have been a few other vegetables (it's hard to see in the dark.) It was tasty, but pales in comparison to the $4 ones you can get at Le's in Charlotte.

* The grounds are a little muddy around the farmlands from rain earlier in the week. Fashion realization: Bonnaroo - it's the only place where Wellies and bikinis go together.

* The best use of the sign language interpreter so far (one is stationed in the front corner of each stage for the hearing impaired) was definitely by Killer Mike last night. As he spat his profanity-laced rhymes, he couldn't help but notice the woman at stage left keeping up with everything he said. Between songs, he gave her a high five before unleashing a long, rapid string of every profane word he could think of - she kept up again, with a smile.

* There are so many LED hula hoops here that I'm beginning to think they gave them out at the entrance last night.

* The big news of the day is that Jack Johnson has replaced Mumford & Sons as the headliner for Saturday night. Can't wait to hear what people have to say about that one...


* If you've never been before, here's a general rundown of Bonnaroo. It all takes place on a 700-acre farm - think a massive field with a few small rollling hills and sporadic trees and along the perimeter are tents and stages. Massive groups of people flood the tent and stage areas any time a band is performing. Sometimes those crowds are bigger than others, and there are always groups of people who will camp out in front of one all day. For others, the time is spent wandering from stage to stage to catch favorite or new bands. As soon as you start walking away from one stage, the music of another draws you in. The air is saturated from roughly noon until 4 a.m. every day. You don't see police, so it's no surprise that people are smoking pot out in the open quite often, but you also don't see fights or bad behavior. For the most part, Bonnaroo is a musical Disney World for grown-ups. People find time to hide in the shade, throw frisbees get sunburned or partake in one of the many activities that go along with Bonnaroo. In the end, it's a long, exhausting but fun-filled weekend. So, there ya have it...

* Yesterday, Jack Johnson was announced as the headliner replacing Mumford & Sons. Judging by the size of the crowd at the mid-day Of Monsters and Men, the Icelandic band could have easily done the job. The massive crowd covered much of the Which Stage area. The only crowds I've seen as large in the past were for Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers.

* DIIV, who was unable to perform on Thursday due to illness, was rescheduled to Friday when Earl Sweatshirt dropped out. It was no surprise that a couple of songs into their set, DIIV announced, "Hi, we're Earl Sweatshirt," but it was a surprise when they told the crowd, "Our keyboardist quit the band this morning."

* Charlotte's Matrimony tackled their set - which was going on during Paul McCartney and right before a bunch of big names including The XX, ZZ Top - and drew a couple hundred people to the small Miller Lite New Music on Tap stage. While a couple of people were singing along, the majority were up and dancing, and smiling. I ran into the band in the press compound earlier in the day where they were relaxing a couple of hours before the night's set. Singer/guitarist James Brown said the band had been busy with interviews and acoustic press performances for the majority of the day, including a Hay Bale Session and another one recorded on Ed Helms' tour bus for future broadcast. The band has another set and an autograph session on Saturday before leaving for its next tour stop in Chicago on Sunday night.

* There was a lot of online buzz about last year's food newcomer who makes Amish doughnuts, so around midnight when the air was getting chilly, a hot snack sounded good. I bought one of the "as big as my head" doughnuts and it was pretty tasty. I think most people who rave about them have never had a hot Krispy Kreme - it's the same idea.

* There is a ton of food to choose from - a food truck oasis, BBQ, pizza, Ben & Jerry's, kabobs, gyros, grilled cheese. Surprisingly, there's a ton of spicy food here, as well. From the cajun food stands to the legendary "spicy pie" - pizza with crushed red pepper, jalapenos and pepperoni. Can I just ask - who is eating all this spicy food? Don't people know the only thing around are portajohns you try to avoid as much as possible?!?

* It never fails. At some point during Bonnaroo, you go to sleep and wake up a la Wizard of Oz in a different land. What I mean is you unzip your tent, step outside and see something that wasn't there the night before. Yesterday morning, I awoke to a cooler with two Natural Lights in it and a garbage bag filled with work boots. This morning I awoke to an SUV with two people sleeping in back of it. Who knows what tomorrow will bring...

* Walking down the trail in my camping area, I noticed one shoe in the middle of the road. How does that happen? Later on, I noticed a bra... No explanation needed on that one.

* It's inevitable that people will find a nice shady place in the middle of the day and try to take a quick cat nap. It seems that most people forget that the shade moves with the sun. Yesterday, one man was asleep in the shade only from the shoulders down. That's not gonna be a good look...

* While walking past the medical tent last night I saw six medical staff driving off with one person who was lying down on the cart. Hopefully, he's ok. Meanwhile, people are still passing out from the heat at shows - it's usually due to the sardine-like conditions around the stages. And, it was inevitable, that I saw my first person projectile vomit over the barricade at the front of the stage - could have done with that.

* I laid down to go to sleep around 3 a.m. as Pretty Lights rumbled my air mattress. It felt like I was a kid again, lying down on the back seat of the car on a long drive for a family vacation.

* Yesterday's bottled water count... I lost count after six.

* I'm not sure when it started, but about six hours into my day the bottoms of my feet started throbbing from all of the standing and walking. It's only going to get worse before the festival is over.


* R. Kelly got in a cherry picker and was lifted above the Which Stage to kick off his performance. A spotlight shined on him as he sang the beginning 60 seconds of "Ignition (Remix)." And then it got quiet. For roughly two minutes everything went dark and got quiet as Kelly was slowly lowered down to the stage, at which point he picked up the song where he left off. It could have been a great moment, but instead came across as poor planning.

* The Tallest Man on Earth, a musician by the name of Kristian Matsson is actually only 5-foot-7. Oxymoron or false advertising?

* I hate to bring up food again, but it's come light years from what it used to be the first time I was here in 2007. Last night I had "Smokey Chicken Mac and Cheese" - mesquite chicken, gorgonzola and green onion. A bit expensive at $7 - isn't all festival food overpriced though? - but definitely worth it.

* I've gotten roughly four hours of sleep each night. Being the father of a 6-month-old prepared me well.

* So, why aren't there more photos up online yet? I'm only one person... Here's my typical day - wake up around 7 a.m. when my tent starts becoming an oven; eat a breakfast bar and walk to the press tent by 8 or 8:30 a.m. carrying a laptop and my photo cards; download all the photos from the previous day and type up this blog by around 10:30 a.m.; walk back to the campsite to put the computer away and grab my camera gear; walk back out to the festival grounds to shoot the first bands around noon; stage hop all day while trying to find spare time for food, press conferences, water until 3 a.m.; repeat the next day. Exhausted? Me too. So, there simply isn't enough time to go through the photos, edit them and get them uploaded through sketchy wireless. So, stay tuned - there'll be a big photo gallery up this week.

* One of the fun things about Bonnaroo, and one of the frustrating things, is the "surprises" which happen constantly. Usually unannounced, these range from Jack Johnson showing up at ALO's set on Thursday night to Alabama Shakes singer Brittany Howard appearing at the soul Superjam on Saturday night or Portugal. The Man appearing for an impromptu set at the fountain. While some of them are announced via Twitter, I can't help but wonder - who's paying attention to Twitter when there's so much great music going on, and such poor wireless service? It's not worth draining my cell phone battery to constantly update my phone and see what's going on.

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