I’m home, I’m clean, I’m rested.
What a grand 6 days. Yes, I know the festival is only 4, but as a volunteer we go in 2 days early, so that adds an extra 2 days of fun. And sun. And sweat. And portapotties.
So here’s the deal. When you volunteer to work at Bonnaroo, you commit to working roughly three 6-hour shifts. In return, you get a free general admission ticket, early entrance and camping in the highly exclusive volunteer campground, 3 meal tokens plus a little box lunch during your shift. At $275 a ticket, you can do the math on the hourly rate. The jobs are various – picking up trash, working the toll booth, parking golf carts, manning information booths. I’ll tell you about mine in a bit.
First I want to write about the festival. This was Bonnaroo’s 10th year. I remember when my oldest, as a teenager, asked me if he could go the first year. I didn’t let him – he was 15 and I didn’t think he was ready for that. I’d probably still say the same thing. I had that reaffirmed this year: my camping neighbors just happened to be moms of teenagers, one of whose daughter attended. I just don’t think Bonnaroo works as well for high-schoolers. They are still in the phase where they are terribly concerned about their appearance and peer conformity and not so much about the creativity of the music and the joy of the shared experience. This doesn’t apply to everyone in high school, I realize, but to a great many it does.
So the lineup, as always, was fab. There are 173 acts total. There’s one main stage – if you google aerial pics of Bonnaroo, it’s easy to spot. Then there are secondary stages, cleverly named Which Stage, This Tent, That Tent, among others. It’s a real trick trying to get to every act you want to see, and only 4 days to do it. Although Centeroo is open 24 hours, the acts mostly run from noon to about 2 am.
There are the standard festival vendors – deep fried crap on sticks, greasy pizza, funnel cake, and the hippie fare too – falafel, vegetarian rice dishes, pasta. No event is complete without the overpriced beer, but there’s also a Brooer’s Fest Tent where you can get specialty beers for about the same $6 as the Millers and Buds.
The biggest challenge this year wasn’t even the heat, which was oppressive. It was the dust. 80,000 pairs of feet over the same 700 acres can destroy grass in a hurry, especially when it’s been dry to begin with. Golf cart drivers wore bandanas, and in the end, just about everyone had to cover nose and mouth to get around. We’ve had wet Bonnaroos where it was as muddy as this year’s was dusty, so take your pic.
Tent camping explains itself, along with the portapotties that go with it. Pooping at Bonnaroo was a topic of conversation at every campsite. There’s no trick to it – just get over it. I wish I had had 1000 GoGirls, my handy-dandy girl tool that allows me to pee standing up – I could have sold them all. The tents become unbearably hot by about 8 in the morning, so plan on moving outside to finish your sleeping in.
One of the joys of the community camping is the sharing of food and drink. I go the easy route with cheese, nuts, olives, jerky, fruit – not gonna cook at Bonnaroo. Plus, those are easy things to share with your campmates. It helps if you have everything prepared – chopped and put into serving-sized bags – you want to limit the time spent digging around in the cooler, melting your ice. But I know folks who eat gourmet at Bonnaroo – I’m too hot and too lazy.
This year’s top shows: Mumford. Buffalo Springfield. Eminem. Amos Lee. Khalifa. (This is my very scientific survey consisting of my opinion and that of my campmates.) Honestly, the dust kept me from shows in the worst areas of it. The pasture in front of the main stage has retained its cool, green grass. That has a lot of appeal in 97 degree heat.
Now for my volunteer shift. The first one was a 12-hour long haul 10pm til 10am in the VIP tent camping check-in. That was fun because I’d never been in VIP and it was interesting to see (and I used their flush-toilets several times). My second shift was the doozy. It was Saturday 10-4 in…wait for it….Total Access. Oh yes. You and up to 7 of your closest friends can participate too, IF you come up with a measly $25,000. That gets you VIP limo ride from the Nville airport, delivery to the door of your rockstar motorhome inside the secret, hidden, shaded campground that is Total Access, food from the 5-star, airconditioned, white linen restaurant in your campground, access to every show backstage, golf cart rides to ANYWHERE at Roo, all the food you can eat and liquor you can drink. Blew what little of what was left of my mind on day 4. Seriously. Google it.
I’ve taken pics of Bonnaroo before, and didn’t do a very good job of it this year, but there’s scads of pics of the festival on the interwebs. It was a helluva festival – always is. It’s pretty high on the grunge factor, but worth it when you’re lying there on a quilt, listening to the jam with your friends.
Bonnaroo 2012. I’m there. Now to find that $25,000…..