Note from the hippy: This turned into a very long post that will be broken up into 3 parts. This is part 2. Part 1 is here.
TL;DR: Was a completely intimidated and worried about logistics. Turns out, Bonnaroo was amazing.
When I last left the blog, we’d found our way to VIP camping and set up our Reddaroo VIP Groop site. Now I’m going to tell you what we did all weekend … This will be the longest of the 3 posts. Please stay tuned for part 3 where I wrap it all up in a feel-good kind of way.
So, what did we do there?
After setting up camp, getting our bearings and having a quick lunch at our campsite, we wandered around out in General Admission for awhile to see what that was all about. It didn’t take long to notice how much more packed in everyone was, and how much hotter it seemed out there. We made our way out to the group camping area and then decided to head into Centeroo. It had been very dusty and dirty in GA, and I’d read a lot of posts about irritated eyes and lungs because of the dust. So, I was surprised how green and grassy it was in Centeroo.
Centeroo itself is fairly small and easy to navigate. There are 4 main stages in Centeroo (Which Stage, This Tent, That Tent and The Other Tent), and the Main Venue area is considered adjacent to Centeroo and is where the What Stage is – where the headliners play. Our campsite was right in front of the Main Venue.
For reference, in the map above – our campsite was in the purple area in the lower right corner, the “row” closest to Centeroo in the second-rightmost purple section. We’d walked to the green area in GA underneath the Bonnaroo logo where the group camping is.
The two favorite bands that Nick and I discovered after the lineup was announced were both playing on Thursday night – Django Django and Alt-J. We headed in to Centroo for the 9:00 Django Django show at That Tent. Being our first Bonnaroo show, we didn’t have any idea what to expect and we kind of stuck to the back of the crowd – which was disappointing since the sound was not great there and I couldn’t see the band at all. But, there was amazing people watching and I could tell which songs they were playing so it was all good.
Alt-J went on at 11:30 at This Tent. We got there early enough to take a quick nap on the grass before they started playing, but we were still fairly far back from the stage. We were in a much better position to hear, though, and their performance was great. We called it a night after Alt-J, hanging out for a bit in our campsite and then going to bed.
We were up kind of early, not knowing what to expect from “the first real Bonnaroo day” and I wanted to catch a ride to Walmart with Jason since our air mattress held no air the night before and so we needed a new one. Getting out of VIP for a quick trip to Walmart is really that – a quick trip. It was easier than I’d expected, and the store was very well stocked with things Bonnaroovians would need. For example – I had no trouble finding an air mattress as there seemed to be various camping displays all over the store. There was also a huge display of canned beer in the main grocery area with almost any kind of canned beer you could want (I also saw some canned Woodchuck cider!).
While waiting in the entryway at Walmart for Jason to finish shopping, I was amused with the crazy amount of Bonnaroo traffic coming in and going out. The majority of the carts going out were mostly full of canned beer and ice. I also watched guy from the ice company restocking the freezer; when his pallet was empty, he went back and brought out another. I imagine that’s how his whole day was spent.
I’ve heard that the residents of the area don’t really mind Bonnaroo and seem to embrace it, but I feel for anyone who just needed to grab milk or toilet paper that weekend.
After my shopping excursion, we went into the Main Venue to see Trombone Shorty at 12:30 which was fantastic. Its not often the trombone is the star of the show, and man does this guy ever have some talent! It was hot in the sun, with no shade, but not too terrible (Friday was the best weather day by far) and the view was great on the VIP hill. Trombone Shorty put on a really great show.
After Shorty, we stopped in to the VIP tent by the Which stage for some free Ben & Jerrys (served daily in the VIP tent, but ya gotta be there early to get some) caught a bit of Calexico playing at This Tent, had some festival lunch, took another trip through GA to check out Shakedown Street and then settled back in at our campsite for a few hours. Nick took a nap in the tent, I dozed on and off in my camp chair.
Shakedown street is a public road that runs through the campground area. The vendors who set up on this street are not officially affiliated with Bonnaroo and seem to pay local residents for space on their front lawns. There was everything here from hippy clothes, to marijuana paraphernalia to $2 grilled cheese sandwiches, to organic meals.
Before the lineup was announced, I said to a friend “I don’t care who’s playing, but if the Disco Biscuits show up, it’ll make my year”. Well, there were no Disco Biscuits in the lineup, but we did discover a band called Conspirator which is bass and keyboard players from Disco Biscuits (the two who make the band what it is) with a different guitar and drummer. Conspirator was our “band we must see”.
Conspirator played at 7:30 at The Other Tent – and because Paul McCartney was playing at 9 on the What Stage, Conspirator was not very crowded, but full of die-hard fans. This show was incredible. We were up fairly close to the stage, but after an hour (they played for an hour and a half!), I wanted to sit for awhile to rest the ankle. I found a spot on the side of the stage in the grass where I could still see the band and watch the crowd. Nick got up real close after I stepped out and he had a blast.
Our plan was to meet our Groop at the What Stage for Paul McCartney, but the crowds were too huge to get there. At one point, we were stuck in the thick of the crowd and I wasn’t even sure if we’d make it out. We decided to just go back to our campsite where we could hear him as well as we could have from the venue. In hindsight, we could have slipped in through the What Stage entrance and watched from VIP hill, but it didn’t occur to us until, well, Sunday, which was no help. We still enjoyed what we heard.
When the helicopters started flying over (presumably taking video or pictures or both), we couldn’t really hear much anymore, so we decided to go back in to the Which Stage to check out The XX. They were super boring. It was like they decided to sing their slowest songs, and then slow them down for further dramatic effect. We left partway through the third song for fear of falling asleep. ZZ Top was playing at This Tent so we listened to a bit of that and then walked around a bit, landing in the mini-donut tent. We were hoping to catch a Trombone Shorty encore at 2:15 on a small stage next to the mini-donut tent, but while we were eating donuts, I realized there should have been someone playing on the stage that was dark and empty. This is when I looked closer at my schedule to see that his encore was at 2:15 PM .. and here it was at 1:45 AM. Reading Fail.
The donuts were delicious though. And the coffee was fresh roasted and fabulous too.
By Saturday, we were starting to understand how it all worked. Our plan was for an easy day followed by a long, fun night. We mostly hung out at our campsite listening to the What Stage acts (Gov’t Mule, NAS). I’m pretty sure I chair-napped through NAS.
Just before the sun started setting, I went for a shower (awesome idea) and we headed in to the What Stage to catch a bit of Bjork, then over to Which Stage for Lumineers, then back to What for Jack Johnson – although we left after a few songs to listen back at camp. (Full disclosure, neither of us had ever even heard of Jack Johnson before, and while he did put on a great show, we still don’t really know who he is.)
When Jack was done, I was inspired by the fireworks and the cool, fresh air, so I pulled Nick back out to The Other Tent for Weird Al Yankovic. We were surprised at how many people were there for Weird Al, and we were so far back we couldn’t hear anything, so we walked over to catch the Super Jam (we were actually going for Billy Idol, but went to the wrong stage and stayed because it was awesome). We danced to Super Jam until it ended sometime after 2am, then went to see what was going on behind us on the “boom box stage”. There was some electronic/techno sounding music blasting and I really wanted to know what it was. This is where we found Katey Red. I’d never seen or heard of Bounce Music before (or more specifically, Sissy Bounce Music), but it was pretty amazing to see and hear. We didn’t stay too long because I couldn’t really see much unless my head was in the speaker and it was loud and I was hungry and tired, so we grabbed a snack on our way out (Cheeseburger for me and Pizza for Nick) and crashed for the night.
Sunday was another mellow day – we figured out on Saturday that after-dark is where the best fun happens, and the later you can go, the more fun you’ll have. And since we could hear all of the main acts so well from our campsite, we mostly just stayed there.
We headed in around 5 to check out Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros on the Which Stage.
Unfortunately, partway through the second song, the VIP section was evacuated due to an impending hail storm (that never happened). Not sure why they kicked us out, but didn’t stop the concert to evacuate the GA folks, but whatevs. We hung around and listened from the VIP tent for awhile, but decided to just wander around instead and see what else was going on. I was bummed, because they seemed to be putting on a good show, but its how it goes sometimes, I guess. And Sunday was really all about Tom Petty anyway.
There was some racket coming from This Tent, so we went to check out Swans. It was some seriously awful experimental rock noise (although I’ve read a couple articles since then that suggest it was awesome – I guess you have to like that kind of thing. I just don’t get it). We switched gears completely when the Ed Helms Bluegrass Situation Super Jam came on at That Tent, but we could only listen to that for a few songs before it was time to go secure our seats for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
Jason and Nichole had gathered enough chairs for our most of our Groop. It did rain pretty good for a bit at the beginning, but cleared up nicely after that. Tom Petty put on a great show. I was so excited for that show and was a little worried, because so many people told me Tom Petty was bad in concert. I loved him. It was a great cap to an amazing weekend.
After the show, we all hung out at the campsite for as long as we could stand it before we had to go to sleep. None of us wanted it to end, but we were all cooked and had a long day of driving ahead of us. It was probably near 1am by the time we went to bed.
We were woken up at 5am by thunderstorms. After laying there for a bit, Nick got up to head to the bathroom and was making coffee when I got up a little bit later. The rain came down hard for a couple of hours, but by 7 it had mostly stopped raining and we started packing up. Packing was remarkably uneventful and we were on the road by 8am. Nick drove for the first few hours and I took over for the rest of the trip. It was a long, but very easy drive and we were happy to make it home by 8. But sad to find out a big storm came through and took out the power in our neighborhood.
After pulling the wet stuff out of the Jeep, we went for dinner and a beer. By the time we got back home, the power was on so we settled in to watch a bit of TV. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even make it 10 minutes into that episode of Star Trek Voyager before I was asleep on the couch.
Part 3 coming soon ……