24
Jun
11

official opinions: old and new at Bonnaroo

The Bonnaroo Music and Arts festival celebrated it’s 10th anniversary this year.  This massive festival allows some 80,000 guest to be completely immersed in the music!  One week each June from Thursday to Sunday night, Bonnaroo-ers pitch their tents on a 700 acre farm in Manchester, Tennessee.

Once within the festival fences visitors get to see dozens upon dozens of bands perform live, ranging from chart topping superstars to complete unknowns.  For those who aren’t music buffs there are lots of other attractions, including a ferris wheel, arcade, and hair washing station (which can be a godsend in the scorching southern sun!)

Since it’s inception in 2002 there has been tremendous buzz surrounding Bonnaroo.  The unique, grassroots feel of the festival immediately gained attention (as did the impressive lineups offered each year.)  The start of Bonnaroo is even hailed as one of Rolling Stones “Top 50 moments that changed rock and roll”.

As someone who was taking the long (9 hour!) journey down to Manchester for the 3rd time, I already had some expectations for what Bonnaroo would be like.  The last time I went was in 2008 and I figured the set up would be (more or less) the same.  In some ways I was right…it was still the fun and over-the-top summer hippie fest from my memory.  But some things had been changed, updated, and spiced up.  Improved?  Well I guess that’s a matter of opinion.  Here are a few of the highlights, some that are old classics and some additions that are part of the new ‘Roo:

OLD:  Graffiti free-for-all!

True to the artistic theme of the weekend, Bonnaroo has always allowed festival-goers the freedom to paint up the fences!  The giant walls that surround the concert area are open canvases upon which people can graffiti anything they want.  Needless to say, it made the mile walk from our tent to the festival grounds much more entertaining!

NEW:  A growing hip-hop habit

Though the ‘Roo has featured big names in rap and hip-hop in the past (such as Kanye West and Jay-Z), this was the first year that the #1 headliner was a rap superstar: Eminem.  His wildly energetic performance was impressive, and even though his graphic and violent video displays seemed to clash with Bonnaroo’s peace-loving message, he was well recieved by the sold out crowd.  Big hip-hop artists this year also included Lil’ Wayne and Wiz Khalifa.

OLD:  Wait, where are we going?

Festival organizers aimed to keep the ‘Roo crowd on their toes by giving the stages and tents where the musicians perform very confusing names.  The massive concert grounds contain What Stage, This Tent, That Tent, The Other Tent, and Which Stage!  The crazy titles baffle Bonnarooers each year.

NEW:  The need for neon

Something that has changed about the Bonnaroo stages is how they are marked.  In the past, each stage or tent had a modest sign above it saying if it was the “which stage” or “the other tent” etc.  They weren’t even lit, which is dramatically different from the new, blazing-bright neon signs that have been put up!  Most even flash, like the giant SUPER STORE sign with an arrow that runs down, beckoning people to the merchandise tent.

OLD:  Gettin’ down at the Silent Disco!

One of Bonnaroo’s most beloved attractions began around 5 years ago:  The Silent Disco!  A large white tent is transformed into a wireless dance party, where dancers tune into the music through gigantic Bose headphones.  Various DJ’s take turns spinning for the wild (silent!) crowd while passersby enjoy the strange scene.

NEW:  A Bonnaroo…sports bar?

For those who wish for giant screen televisions while at a music festival, you are now in luck at Bonnaroo!  Perhaps due to the fact that the NBA finals took place during this years festival or maybe just because of popular demand, StubHub! sponsored a full Bonnaroo sports bar this year.  The bar was complete with wooden floors, flat screen tv’s, and even darts and ping pong!

OLD:  The infamous mushroom fountain

The mushroom fountain is a Bonnaroo staple.  Each year it is decorated differently and lit up every night.  It’s the ideal way for dirty hippies to clean up!  On day one of the festival, the water is decently clean…but by Sunday afternoon the fountain creates a completely brown waterfall! (ewwww)

NEW:  A slippery, slidey escape from the heat

People are always looking to beat the heat at Bonnaroo, so this year they added a new attraction to help them do just that!  The “Big Ass Water Slide” is a giant, 40 ft, inflatable water slide that festival goers can pay to use.  This was the newest addition to Splash-A-Roo, which also offers kiddie pools and smaller “practice” slides.

After ten long years of successful Bonnaroo festivals much has come and gone.  As a 3 time ‘Rooer, I can tell you for certain that you will come across the good, the bad, and the dirty…but it is definitely worth the trip 🙂

If the journey to Manchester seems too much to you, be sure to visit our blog again within the next few weeks to check out the many Chicago music festivals that happen annually (especially in the summer time!)

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