Saturday, June 19, 2010


OK.  So a not quite 40-year-old mother of three and her sidekick Kristina decide that they want to go to Bonnaroo this year.  What is Bonnaroo you ask?  For those of you that don't know, Bonnaroo is a 4-day explosion of craziness that invades the little town of Manchester every year for the past 9 years.  It's on a 700-acre farm just miles from my house.  So for the past decade, I have put up with the traffic and the weird crazy college kids walking naked in Wal-Mart.  I thought they were nuts.  Since this is my last summer in Manchester, I decided to see what it was all about.  There were some great bands headlining, so I decided to give it a chance.  We got to work the Chamber of Commerce booth for 7 hours and in exchange got a $250 wristband for the whole weekend.

Day 1:  We both have to work our regular jobs on Thursday, but NeedtoBreathe was playing at 8:45 and Kristina really wanted to see them.  So home to change and off to the chaos.  After dodging a few really long lines of traffic (keep in mind - 80,000 people coming to a town with a population of 17,000), we make it in the gate in about 20 minutes.  The truck gets searched (I guess soccer mom and her sidekick don't look dangerous because they only opened the doors and glanced inside).

Off to day parking and a long walk through the car camping area.  Things are starting to get interesting now.  First of all, the campgrounds are filled with tents decorated with various signs of peace, love, and rock-n-roll.  College kids who think this is Woodstock again.  Everyone is either dressed for the beach or sporting dreadlocks and cargo shorts.  We pass a school bus with a blow-up doll on top.  Another campsite with a pirate skeleton.  Various whiffs of not-so-legal substances and lots and lots of beer.

We pass a line of port-a-potties (an ominous look into our future to come) and food vendors and then we finally make it to the gate.  Another cursory search of our backpacks (no hemp necklaces on us, so no body cavity search) and we are finally in.  We're near the Ferris wheel, so we should be able to find our way back if we need to make a quick exit.  We check our map because we're tourists and have never done this before.  NeedtoBreathe is at the first tent we come to.  Yeah!  We stock up on water and other various drinks and head over to the stage.  We wriggle our way into the crowd and get an awesome view of the band.  They were great!  I definitely need to check them out and add them to my playlist!

 It's time for a bathroom break.  Now I've been camping a million times so outdoor bathrooms are nothing new to me.  What I didn't think about was that there are about 100 port-a-potties for 80,000 people.  That's about 800 people per toilet.  Add lots of water, beer and other unmentionables and it adds up to a really gross proposition.  Kristina has brought a pack of wipes so off we go.  Thank God there is Purell in there.  And this is only day one.  We have 3 more days to go.

We don't have any other bands on our agenda (hey - we're engineers - we plan everything!) so we decide to scope out the rest of the site.  We check out The Temper Trap and Mayer Hawthorne & The County.  Both bands were great.  We find our beer tent that we're working on Saturday.  Check out one of the food vendors.  Pricey but the servings are generous.  Perfect for someone with the munchies and there were a lot of those there.  We pass the Mushroom a.k.a. the hepatitis fountain.  It's a great concept for a hot night.  A big giant fountain where you can rinse off the dust and other unmentionables.  What they don't tell you is the reclaim and recycle the water.  Without filtration.  Ugh!  Hope they kept that in mind when they got a mouthful of the brown water!  We passed on this awesome opportunity to cool down :)

On the way back we stop by the Silent Disco. We grab a pair of headphones and go on in.  Keep in mind that those watching can't hear a thing.  I'm told this is rolling music.  Remember - I'm soccer mom.  I have to be educated on these kinds of things.  I thought it was just really cool Bollywood music.  Shows what I know.  We step around the people passed out on blankets or just in the grass.  At this point I don't understand how anyone can just sleep with all of the noise and people walking over them.  Alright - I'm not naive - I know most of them have a few illegal substances in their bloodstream, but laying right out in the middle of everything?  (Remember this later in the post). We head back home for a hot shower and clean toilet seat.  Never underestimate these.  Ever.  Trust me!

Day 2 - I have to work Friday until 4 and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band starts at 5:30.  We hightail it to day parking and trek back to the gate.  It seems longer today.  Maybe that's because it's still 95 degrees.  We get to hear a bit of them but it's a lot more crowded today.  We head over to OK Go.  You'll have to check out their "Here It Goes Again" video on YouTube.  It's great.  They play this song just as we get there.  Without the treadmills though. Another cool band.  I glance over and realize the girl next to me is not wearing a bikini top as I thought.   She's not wearing anything on top.  Oh yeah - I'm at Bonnaroo.  I forget that just about anything goes.  More power to her.  Perhaps if mine were 20-yr-old perky ones and not soon-to-be-40 ones I might be doing the same thing.

We head over to the main stage.  Tenacious D is playing and we want to get a good spot.  Bathroom break again.  I'm beginning to dread these.  A necessary evil though with all the water we're drinking.  Jack Black is great!  Not just funny but really talented.  And truly understands what a woman wants (for those of you familiar with their songs, you know what I'm talking about).    Kings of Leon are next.  We move up closer for them.  They were incredible!  Kristina wants to see the Black Keys, so we proceed to walk back over to the other side of the farm.  We have a few minutes before they start so we crash on the blanket.  Remember yesterday when I couldn't believe someone could sleep here?  Well, here we are after 5 hours yesterday and 7 hours already today.  I am beat!  We sleep for about 30 minutes before we realize The Black Keys are already playing.  It's a concert.  And really loud.  And we were sleeping!  We stayed for Kid Cudi but decided to call it a night before B.O.B. came out.  It's 3:30 a.m. when we get to my house.  Everything into the wash.  I'm starting to reek of hay and smoke.

Day 3 is an early one.  Imelda May is playing at 12:15.  She's an awesome jazz singer that used to be with Blue Harlem.  Long lines today, so we are hiking quickly over to her tent.  We missed a little bit, but caught most of the show.    The tent is small and there is only about 40 people in it.  A great venue to see Imelda.  Even the band is melting now though.  The tent does little to keep us cool in the close to 100 degree weather.  After she finishes her set, I buy a CD and head behind the tent for autographs.  They band is there so I go up to the guitar player.  He's nonchalantly smoking a joint and completely unfazed by the fact I've come up to them.  They are more than happy to sign my CD and even seemed surprised that I wanted their autographs too.  I head back in the tent to get Imelda's.  She's great!  Bless her heart - she takes pictures with everyone even though we are all dripping with sweat by now. I can't believe I actually got to meet her!

It's hot. Really hot.  We stop to eat and then hang out at the mist tent.  I hope that's mud we are standing in.  At this point, it's up for debate.  We head over to Norah Jones.  We chill (in the hot sun and it's 100 degrees now) until she comes out.  We stand right behind the VIP area which is essentially empty, so we have a great view.  We listen to about half of her set, but give up because it is just too hot.  Our beer booth is right in front of her stage and we end up going to work early. The workers are glad to get off early and we finally get out of the hot sun.  We get all the water and cokes we want and our hands are digging the beverages out of ice water.  Norah finishes up and it gets busy in the booth as people are leaving for the next venue and filing in to listen to the net band here.  The Avett Brothers and Weezer both play as we are working.  They were awesome.  We got to meet a ton of great people, stayed cool and got to listen to the bands we would have gone to see anyways.

Here are a few pics I managed to get while we were working, but I missed the guy with the Union Jack thong.  I'm sure this is burned into Ryan's mind whether he likes it or not.  I didn't notice the thong at first because I was checking out his body paint.  Then he dropped his sunglasses and had to bend down.  I don't know how Ryan kept a straight face but the rest of us were rolling on the floor.  I hope this sight was erased for him by the three not so clothed girls that walked by a few minutes later. 

We get off a little early which is a good thing because my feet are killing me by know.  Keep in mind I've had no beer and I don't do drugs.  So I'm working off of Tylenol and adrenaline.  We're soaked, but it's still a million degrees out.  We get off in time to see part of Stevie Wonder.  Well - hear him.  Everyone is at the main stage, so we are all the way in the back.  My mom said it's OK since Stevie couldn't see us either (groan!).  After we move up closer and camp out until Jay-Z comes on.  Another long nap.  Jay-Z put on a great performance.  I honestly didn't know most of his songs, but the backdrop was really cool and he really put on a non-stop show.  Next Kristina wants to see GWAR.  I'm up for it.  We're here and I'm not looking forward to the hike back to the truck.  We crash again only to wake to the guys next to us hollering how the hell can we sleep through this band?  So I didn't know who or what GWAR was.  I do now.  Not much surprises me at this point, but they came close.  We get home about 5 this time.  I think I'm going to have to bleach these clothes.

Day 4 - Sunday.  Is it really the last day already?  I end up oversleeping and I missed Ingrid Michaelson.  And Blues Traveller.  We had to wait in a looong line to get get tickets for Bo Burnham.  It was worth it though since the Comedy Tent was air conditioned!  We caught a little of the Dropkick Murphys and Ween on the way to get a spot for the Zac Brown Band.  What a show!  I'm always up for a little Chicken Fried!  Dave Matthews is on next so we decide to take it easy and not lose our spot.  Dinner and bathroom break (along with a lifetime supply of Purell).  We were both really disappointed in the Dave Matthews Band.  His band is awesome.  But Dave was stoned, didn't play anything we knew except a Lynyrd Skynyrd song and seemed really self-indulgent.  I guess when you are that famous and played Bonnaroo a bunch of times you can do what you want.  But disappointing anyways.

So the insanity is over.  I have a ton of great memories and strange pictures from this weekend.  Thanks to my partner-in-crime Kristina for going with me and putting up with me all weekend.  I would have never done it without her.  My shoes are still covered in mud and hay (and God knows what else) and I really don't think I'm going to get this smell out of my clothes ever.  I think I'll just have to pass if I see another port-a-potty!  Would I do it again?  Hell yeah!  I'm sunburned and worn out, but it was an experience I won't forget.  Next year is the 10th anniversary.  I can't wait to see the lineup.  I won't be living here, but I may have to schedule a few days vacation for the second week of June 2011.

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