Bellowing from its very core, Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival exudes a collection of cathartic experiences budding from live music and mesmerizing scenery. When wandering around “the Farm,” a common occurrence is to ask fellow Roovians the number of times they have attended the annual pilgrimage in Manchester, Tennessee. As a first year attendee surrounded by veterans at Bonnaroo’s 15th anniversary, it was all about perspective. The perspective I chose to have was that of what I would imagine Penny Lane to have. With open eyes and open ears, and a very open heart, the localized subculture of Bonnaroo proved to be unique and very much worth its 15 year run.
Coming into the festival, there is much hype that circulates around seeing as many shows as one possibly can. Though once on the camp grounds, many attendees come to accept that it is almost impossible to catch all 200+ acts. Strategic planning is key in navigating each jam packed day. There were days in which I attended every show I wanted to see, and there were days in which I attended less than half of the shows I wanted to see. That’s the beautiful thing about Bonnaroo- whether or not you miss a show- you stumble upon other beautiful happenings, like the pop-up shops on Shakedown Street or the luminescent trees tucked inside of The Grove. Planned or unplanned, the grounds that stretch through and beyond Centeroo offer you a million and one things to do.
Be it walking under the infamous arch or through the gated maze appropriately adjacent to the spray painted walls, without even realizing that its happening, egos are shed one by one, making it mindless and seemingly second nature to radiate positivity. Bonnaroo is us millennials modern day Woodstock. We’ve created and built upon a Utopia where the businessmen and flower children blend in perfect harmony and stereotypes wither away at the festival’s entrance. The intimacy exuded this year could have resonated from a decline in ticket sales. Speculated attendance ranged from 40,000-50,000, which is a bit of a decrease from past years of 90,000. Who in their right mind would want to miss Dead & Co.? Lest we forget about Pearl Jam’s unforgettable set, LCD Soundsystem’s massive dance party, or Tame Impala’s confetti-induced Late Night trip. Even aside from the precisely picked headliners, Father John Misty, Ween, Big Grams (Big Boi + Phantogram), Vulfpeck, and Tyler, the Creator all proved to be unforgettable.
For those unsatisfied with the lineup, or those out of attendance for the 4-day weekend, the decline in ticket sales meant little to nothing to the dedicated and hardworking organizers, as well as the Roovians in attendance. Bonnaroo 2016 was about those dedicated music lovers and no one put it into words better than Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder: “Bonnaroo was one of the first fests like this to take hold in the States. It’s not just the people who put it on, but the people that come here – you – who [create] the positivity it takes to take care of each other when it’s too hot, when lightning comes …”
Little did Eddie Vedder or any of us Roovians understand how much and how loud his words would resonate beyond Bonnaroo grounds. That Saturday night, freshly after Pearl Jam’s set, the deadliest mass shooting in United States history was committed at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL. How important it is to promote the code of ethics that Bonnaroo upholds not only for the weekend, but throughout times to come.
Ultimately, if you missed a few shows or looked past the festivals hidden gems, you are not alone at Bonnaroo. Rain or shine, all that matters is what you radiate. It was the positivity and the love- the open ears, eyes and hearts of those in attendance that sustained the beauty of Roo’s 15 years and there is every reason for me to know in my heart that I will see that same positivity and that same love radiating next year at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival 2017.