Every Day That Passes is One Day Closer
Go ahead; ask me what my favorite place in the entire world is. My favorite place? The Farm. No not your regulah-ass crops and cattle shit. I’m talking about Manchester Tennesee’s Bonnaroo. I haven’t seen it all, but I’ve seen enough to know that the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival is the best camping festival the United States has to offer, and The Farm cultivates vibes not a single one of Kendrick Lamar’s bitches could kill. Henceforth, embarking on my fourth 17 hour journey down to a place I call home was a welcome expedition.
The nonstop ride from Minnesota to Tennesee is grueling, but inhibitions fly out the window the second your car enters the festival gates. There’s just something in the air at Bonnaroo – an excitement that never dies. Nowhere else have I witnessed almost 100,000 people gather and literally build a city within hours. I am always taken aback when I take a moment during setup to look around and see that where there was nothing there is suddenly thousands of tents, cars, and canopies – a city boy’s solace; urban sprawl at its finest.
Fuck the vibe, the art, the community. We came for the music, right? If anyone knows how to curate a festival, it’s the people behind Bonnaroo. This year’s star studded lineup was no exception. I didn’t think I’d ever get the chance to experience a Beatles show, but Sir Paul McCartney teleported me to the sixties. I figured Pretty Lights’ 2011 set was the last time I’d witness an electronic act go on until the morning, Derrick Smith defied sleep again. I thought the only place I could experience true Bounce music was New Orleans, Bonnaroo brought the booty shakers! I could go on and on talking about the magic of the music at Roo, and that’s the beauty of this festival – it provides the attendee with the absolute best music that the world has to offer all in one place during one weekend. The hardest part is deciding which act to leave and which act to stay at. There’s never a silent moment, so here’s to bringing your dancing shoes.
That shit I said about the vibe, the art, the community – I didn’t mean it. All of these are what truly make Bonnaroo what it is. Things like the giant clock tower, the mushroom fountain, the ferris wheel, the gigantic bobble heads – they add to Bonnaroo’s mystique. They help foster the atmosphere emitted by Bonnaroovians. If it wasn’t for the community, the artists wouldn’t come. In fact, Bonnaroo’s scene, its people, its vibe, the artists feed off that stuff. Because of the openness and love shared by the community, you actually have artists like Paul McCartney and Tom Petty thanking the crowd for being so wonderful and continuing on to play extended sets – these guys don’t have to do that.
Alas, I find myself back in Minneapolis, a place I hold dear, but Bonnaroo is on my mind and in my heart. Every day that passes is one day closer to the magic that will undoubtedly be Bonnaroo 2014.
Article by Alex Stahlmann
The Band Marches On
After being home and having the chance to decompress, I’ve been doing some thinking and I have to say that Bonnaroo is my favorite camping music festival. By a long shot. One of my favorite things about Bonnaroo is that unlike basically every other festival that I’ve ever attended, it doesn’t shut down for the night around midnight. In fact, it’s actually just getting going with their late night line-up that typically ends around 5 A.M. This year had many great bands playing after midnight, including: ZZ Top, Pretty Lights, Billy Idol, Weird Al, R. Kelly, A.L.O. w/ Jack Johnson etc. etc. Since the music is basically continuous they keep the area where the stages are located open 24/7. My other favorite unique aspect of Bonnaroo is that they host “Super Jams” each night where they invite the best of the best to perform together onstage for a couple of hours. This year, one of the 3 super jams included: Jim James (Lead singer of My Morning Jacket), John Oates (Hall and Oates), Billy Idol, R. Kelly, Larry Graham (Sly and the Family Stone), Brittany Howard (Lead singer of Alabama Shakes, which was a surprise to me since Alabama Shakes wasn’t at Bonnaroo.) Zigaboo Modeliste (The Meters), The New Orleans Preservation Hall Jazz Band, etc. etc.
The entire festival just has a different kind of feel from the other festivals that I’ve attended; it feels so much more free. I was at a stage jamming out to the New Orleans Preservation Hall Jazz Band, when I checked my watch and noticed that I had 30 minutes to get to the complete other end of the park to watch Paul McCartney. I was thinking that I’d better take off in a few minutes to make it in time, but I was loving the band. Just then, mid song, one by one the band began marching off of the stage and into the crowd. The band just kept on playing, and led us on a march around Bonnaroo, including right by the stage where the Wu Tang Clan were playing. At one point the cymbal broke off of the drummers drum, the woman next to me held it for him until she got too tired, then she handed it to me. I held the cymbal as they marched for about 10 minutes, until they took a quick breather and he could re-attach it. The band then marched right into the crowd where Paul McCartney would soon be playing, and led us to the front. They played a few more songs, then disappeared through the barricades. Less than 5 minutes later, Paul McCartney was onstage for his close to 3 hour performance. Once Paul was done, we went and watched ZZ Top and Pretty Lights play. Just an insane day.
When I was watching Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, someone in the front row was holding up a harmonica. The lead singer asked them if they could play, then invited them onstage to play a song with them. The person was too shy, so he set the microphone stand down on the ground in front of the stage so that the person could play from the front row without getting onstage in front of everyone. It’s just a really cool vibe / atmosphere that I can’t quite describe.
On top of all of the amazing music, we have an amazing group of friends that goes every year. I met lots of them for the first time this year, great people and a lot of fun. I’m so happy to have met everyone! I’m really glad that I decided to go and can’t wait until next years Bonnaroo!
Article by Dan Fuller
My Journey to the Back-Left Pole
Before last week, I had never been to a music festival (besides the Basilica Block Party – and now I can emphatically state that it does not count), and I had not once camped in a tent outside! It’s safe to say that I am a type-A, city-minded, extremely clean person, so, the thought of spending time outdoors with insects, weather elements, and biffies (Port-a-potties) scared the bejesus out of me. As I shuffled about during the months, weeks, and nights before we began our journey from South Minneapolis, my anxiety soared to monstrous levels. Before last Tuesday, I was only acquainted with one person in the group I was to be traveling with, so spending 14 hours in a packed car with people who I did not know was a bit daunting. Don’t get me wrong, I love meeting people, but with the car resembling a claustrophobic’s worst nightmare, my anxiety hit mark ten!
As we squished into the vehicle, I thought about surrendering my ticket and just staying home. Not due to a cowardly heart, but rather knowing that my body and mind was experiencing some real signs of panic. My hands turned balmy and I felt lightheaded. My heart was racing. Dan, being the rock star friend that he is, did his best to reassure me, and as we passed through Iowa, I mentally gave up the idea of asking my travel mates to leave me at a hotel. I decided to focus on the groovy tunes that swelled from the car speakers. Pretty Lights. Cool. Muse. Wicked cool. I enjoy new music and find inspiration in the work of other genres of artists (myself being a performance artist). Even though my nervousness had not completely disappeared, I decided not to give in to it.
The journey was long and we arrived in sweltering Nashville around 10A.M. I am not one for oppressive heat, so that aspect threw a new challenge my way. But as we sat together and ate what was to be our last full meal for a week, I began to laugh and to get to know my other car mates: John and Eric.
Off we went to Manchester’s finest Walmart! I can say that 3.5 hours spent in a Walmart/Walmart parking lot was a new experience for me! LMAO! But it was a great spot to meet up with everyone and get last minute supplies- none of which I needed because I completely OVER PACKED! As everyone showed up with their respective partners, parties, and friends, I was overwhelmed with new faces. How would I remember everyone’s name? The group seemed sweet and definitely excited for Bonnaroo. Way more excited that I had felt- so that provided a little more hope for me!
Fast forward to a few hours later:
Chaos. Complete chaos, again! Waiting in line to get into the farm! Crazy music and cars and people and security people mulling through our vehicle. Waiting in line to get to camp, exhausted after such a long drive. Mud, mud, everywhere! People frantically trying to set up tents in the dark as mounted police and security screamed at everyone. Whoa, Nelly. Dan suggested we tap a beer and a wine. And it was a VERY fine idea, indeed! And that’s how I became a part of our little Bonnaroo tent neighborhood.
Best experiences of the week (there were so many!):
- Being accepted for who I am by an incredibly diverse group of amazing people. As the week went on, I trusted their smiles and felt their warmth of character and hearts. They, in turn, trusted me with stories of their pasts and their hopes and future aspirations. I found myself sitting, talking and dancing with caring, intelligent, and creative, kindred spirits! I am definitely introverted by nature, so the fact that so many people in the group were inquisitive about my art and my work felt great. I am not sure that I completely overcame my shyness, but I know that I was more extroverted by the end of the week than ever before! And I really loved that Clara, from Argentina, was among the terrific people in the group. Latino power! YAY!
- The experience left me thinking about the construction of community and community care. The people who I met outside of the “Back Left Pole Roo Crew” also exhibited wonderful qualities. My tent neighbors were three young, exceptional women from Maine. My “across the way” neighbors were a new couple from Georgia and Emma reminded me of a good friend that I have here at home. They were calming influences and I felt like I had known them for a very long time. We shared food and cocktails and dialogue.
- I found that 95% of the people who I saw, met, and even just walked by at Bonnaroo made me think that people really are good at heart. It is so easy and feels so intrinsic to help people who are in need, even before they ask for something. Offering food, asking questions, starting conversation that is based on caring for one and other. Seeing people treat each other with respect and gentleness was so moving. And it is not that I don’t see or feel this outside of Bonnaroo, but there seemed to be a unique place of peace from which the goodwill and positive vibe originated.
- The music! I fell in love with some new artists! Especially The Vaccines! (Time to get on itunes and use up my credits!) And along with the music, I felt that everyone was able to dance and move without fearing any sort of judgment from others. Being free to move one’s body opens up new, mindful spaces.
- Using a biffy RIGHT AFTER the cleaning truck passed by to empty them. THAT was magical!
There were, indeed, some challenging parts of the week, but I now know that they were moments that were intended to provide growth and learning. I never thought that I could survive without running water, soap, flushing toilets, and a usable kitchen. I never thought that I would be okay sleeping in a tent during a pouring thunderstorm or enduring the Bonnaroo “scents” that were around during and after the festival (body smells, wet feet, ick!) And the heat! Woah! But most of these moments faded quickly into the background, as I learned to enjoy and experience something positive and brand new.
I want to say thank you to the “Back Left Pole Roo Crew” for being such beautiful and amazing folks! I am proud to call myself a part them, and I do believe that I will be packing up my tent (and waaaaay less food and clothing) next June to venture to Bonnaroo again! That is, if these strange bug bites that I have don’t kill me!
Article by Esme Rodriguez
Photos by Anna Britta
Fatoumata Diawara and Amadou & Mariam
With a daunting lineup of extremely talented acts ranging from the timeless Paul McCartney to the hilarious David Cross, I’ve had an incredibly hard time narrowing down my favorite acts from this year’s Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. But with little time left to decide on who I should review, I chose to share two shows that far surpassed my expectations and turned me onto a new genre of music – Malian worldbeat groups Fatoumata Diawara and Amadou & Mariam.
Playing back to back on a hot Friday afternoon, both bands brought world beats and their own funky African vibes to center stage. Up first was Fatoumata Diawara, combining her background as both an accomplished theater performer and musician – the show featured her band’s string sounds, percussion beats, and her own style of dance into one incredible performance. At times it was hard to tell if this show was intended to be a musical concert or dance theater production, which only lends to her unique style. Quickly rubbing off on the crowd was Fatoumata’s infectious steps and the energy that the crowd shared all the way through her encore, to which even her own band cheered her back out for one final jam. Reluctant to leave, and ever gracious of her fans, she and the band left the stage with a giant theatrical bow.
Picking up right where Diawara left off, Amadou & Mariam quickly brought the infectious energy back to the stage. Veterans of the game, the blind duo has been making music for nearly 30 years and has never looked back. Their musical style shares in the similar string sounds donated by Amadou’s finger-picking electric guitar, but has a timeless quality that they have perfected over the years. Mariam’s voice has a trance-like echo that reminds me of an indigenous chant with a chill undertone. I will be the first to admit that I did not understand a single lyric of their set, but everyone in the crowd knew when Amadou would say ‘let’s go!’ before each song, they were going to make something magical happen. It is safe to say that the group has been making music since before much of the crowd was born, but that did not stop anyone from getting down to some great tunes. At one point, a limbo stick was spontaneously brought into the middle of the crowd proving that these positive vibes can be enjoyed by all ages.
This good-mood music has had me hooked ever since hearing it live, and it really pays no justice to say these incredible artists are worth the listen. You owe it to yourself to take a listen. If I take one thing away from the 2013 ‘Roo experience it would be these two lasting impressions. So in turn, take a listen, turn it up, and try not to enjoy these two international sensations!
Article by Kale Fischer
1:30 A.M. Friday night marked the beginning of my most anticipated show of the year. It was at this time that Pretty Lights, also known as Derek Vincent Smith, took the stage at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival. Smith is no rookie when it comes to throwing down in Manchester, Tennessee – this being Pretty Lights’ third performance on The Farm. Smith has established himself as a big time Bonnaroo player, and he has worked his way from a tent slot to the renowned Which Stage.
After seeing Pretty Lights play into the wee hours of the morning in 2011, I had high hopes for this year’s performance. Needless-to-say, I didn’t leave Centeroo disappointed. Smith took the stage and delivered beat after beat once again until 6 in the morning. The set list bounced smoothly across many of his albums, and debuted fresh tracks from his upcoming album A Color Map of the Sun. A mixture of hip hop and dubstep, with even some disco, wrapped all together captivating a high energy crowd that had no intention of going to bed – even when the sun began to rise over the Bonnaroo arch.
The crowd was enthralled by new tracks such as “Around the Block,” soothed when Smith took it down a notch with low tempo tracks, and then aroused again with fan favorites such as “Finally Moving” and “Can’t Stop Me Now.” At one point Smith exclaimed, “Bonnaroo I’m just trying to throw a partyyyy!” That is exactly what he did for five magical Bonnaroo hours.
Once again, I found myself at Bonnaroo with the sun rising to entwine with Pretty Lights’ jazzy electronic sounds and large mesmerizing light show. 5 hour long sets like the one dropped by Smith are what keep me going back to Bonnaroo year after year. Pretty Lights once again left me with the feeling that I had witnessed musical history in the making.
Article by Anna Britta
One of the beautiful things about Bonnaroo is that you never know what surprise awaits you around the corner. One such Bonnatreat came my way this year after checking out the Rock n’ Soul Dance Party Superjam and while roaming the grounds waiting for Empire of the Sun to come on stage. A little put off Empire of the Sun hadn’t arrived, and knowing Boys Noize was starting soon, I started to wander away from That Tent. It didn’t take long until a captivating machine gun beat tickled my ear drum. I turned to my companions, and proclaimed, “You hear that! That shit’s BOUNCE!” As I turned the corner I was blasted by the ratatat of the speakers, and became mesmerized by all the bodies on stage shakin harder than Polaroid pictures. I had stumbled across New Orleans’ diva Katey Red and her entourage! To my excitement, on stage backing Katey Red was none other than Rusty Lazer himself – one of the originators of Bounce music.
I’m a 6’5” white boy, so let’s be honest, I look ridiculous when I start shakin’ dat ass. Nonetheless, you play Bounce, I’m gonna make that ass quake! I mean, you’ve got a repetitive melody coupled with a quick beat and lyrics like “A wiggle wiggle. A wobble wobble. A hippie hippie. Shake dat ass!” What the hell am I supposed to do? I wasn’t alone either. Katey Red had almost 100 people twerkin’ all round the tape deck side stage. The energy was high, smiles wide, and the sweat was dripping.
My girlfriend, probably a little embarrassed of her over excited booty shakin man, eventually pulled me away so that we could catch Empire of the Sun who had finally decided to show up. I reluctantly left Katey and the Bounce crowd, but I had a smile as big as the Bonnaroo arch, and the energy to continue dancing the night away.
Article by Alex Stahlmann