Once my weekend at the 2012 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn. was over, the only question I had to ask was … why was this my first?
The entire weekend was a blast. There was much to see and many activities catered to a variety of interests. According to festival organizers, the 80,000 festival-goers at Bonnaroo increased the population of Manchester to the seventh most populated city in the United States.
Upon entering the festival grounds for the first time, it was obvious that it was the most well-organized music festival I had ever attended.
Prior to Bonnaroo, I had been to several smaller festivals, all of which were fun, but many important amenities were unavailable to the crowd, such as free water.
Bonnaroo‘s organizers made sure that no one was dehydrated. There were multiple water stations in convenient locations where festival-goers could fill their water bottles for free. For anyone who has run out of water during a summer festival, this is an awesome feature.
I heard that the festival was big, and there were a lot of activities, but I underestimated the sheer magnitude of the event.
For one, there is no way to see everything. Although I was able to check out many artists who I have been waiting to see for quite a while, there were still many areas that I was unable to visit.
For example, my fiance and I wanted to go to the Silent Disco, which was a dance hall where everyone danced and listened to music through headphones – no music could be heard by passers-by. It was funny to see a huge crowd people dancing to no music. Though we wanted to partake in this, we never found the time (and the popularity for the Silent Disco usually produced an enormous line).
Bonnaroo is truly a music lover’s paradise. Walking through CenterRoo (the main festival area) usually ends with at least a couple of fun surprises, such as an unannounced performance by Jacob Hemphill of the reggae band SOJA at the Relix magazine tent.
The headliners for this year’s Bonnaroo were nothing short of amazing.
Radiohead’s stage show was the largest and most impressive of the weekend. The band played mostly newer songs, but satisfied long time fans with a few older ones – the set ended with my personal favorite, “Paranoid Android.”
The Red Hot Chili Peppers gave a phenomenal performance as well. The band’s new guitarist, Josh Klinghoffer, had the opportunity to prove to the large crowd why he was worthy of filling the shoes of RHCP veteran John Frusciante, who departed in 2009. The band played many favorites, including “Under the Bridge,” “Suck My Kiss” and “Give it Away,” as well as new songs such as “Rain Dance Maggie.”
If I could give a Bonnaroo MVP award to any artist, it would be the Chicago-based jam band Umphrey’s McGee. The band was scheduled to perform the Friday late night set from 2–4 a.m., but surprised fans with a tweener set from Big Gigantic at 4 a.m. and went back on stage and rocked until 6 a.m. This was Umphrey’s Mcgee’s sixth Bonnaroo appearance, and it was clear why the band is asked to come back again and again.
The Saturday late night was the only letdown for me. Having been impressed by other electronic acts such as Bassnectar and Pretty Lights, I was excited to see Skrillex perform. His show was good, but not great. His light show wasn’t as creative as I anticipated and he ended his show 15 minutes early. Because Umphrey’s McGee went all out during its late-night set, I expected Skrillex to go above and beyond as well. Unfortunately, he fell short.
All in all, the weekend was a success, and I encourage anyone who has not been to Bonnaroo to make sure they attend next year – you won’t be disappointed.