After 15 Years, Bonnaroo is Still the Best Music Festival
The second Thursday in June marks the beginning of 15 years of music magic and radiating positivity on the Roo Farm.
Not familiar with the addictive slang surrounding Bonnaroo? Here’s a short guide to that loaded intro:
Radiating Positivity: One of Bonnaroo’s main mottos is “Radiating Positivity” through kindness, sustainable respect of the Earth and good music vibes.
Roo: Short for Bonnaroo (which can be a mouthful).
The Farm: What the 700 acre land is referred to as. Bonnaroo is located in Manchester, Tennessee, and since 2005 has been owned by the creators. The area is relatively rural, and since Bonnaroo’s beginning has benefitted the county greatly with millions in revenue.
Centeroo: Literally, the center of Bonnaroo. There is only one way to get in and out (the infamous arch), and here holds all of the merchants, activities, sets and attractions including (but definitely not limited to) a ferris wheel, the Comedy Tent, the Silent Disco Tent, Planet Roo and the Christmas Barn. In short, a lover of life’s dream space.
Now, back to the history. Since its inaugural year in 2002, Bonnaroo has grown to become a music lover’s cult obsession.
Members of Superfly Productions created Bonnaroo, and cited New Orleans music legend Dr. John as inspiration for the name, a Creole word meaning “a really good time.” Fun fact: they were just a handful of college grads trying to pay of their student loans in a fun way. Safe to say they are no longer in debt.
Accolades are extensive for this energetic event, which has literally transformed what it means to put on a modern-day music festival.
In 2002, USA Today called Bonnaroo “The culmination of a music movement” and CNN hailed it as “Music and subculture melted together into a pot of creative bubbling energy.” In 2008, Rolling Stone Magazine not only named Bonnaroo the Best Festival, but included it in “50 moments that changed rock & roll.” In 2012, The New York Times cited Bonnaroo as having “revolutionized the modern rock festival.”
In short, it’s a big deal.
Different from popular music festivals of present-day, Bonnaroo producers strive to create the most eclectic music lineup, with almost every genre of music being represented with over 200 bands of varying fame. Those that start at the end of the line-up often work their way up to becoming well-known artists thanks to the help of Bonnaroo (can someone say My Morning Jacket? Twenty One Pilots?).
So make sure you follow these festival rules, and you’ll be ready to Bonnaroo like a pro.
It’s Cool to Be Any Age
Those who were teens back in 2002 at their first Bonnaroo are now adults sharing the love with their own kids. People of all backgrounds, races and generations come together and strip their cultural and societal identity to simply be a Bonnaroovian. All are equal in the coolest way possible. Last year I saw babies still nursing, herds of OG grannies and gramps groovin’ to Kendrick Lamar and of course, college lads raging in bucket hats and camel baks.
A little side note…
Not only are all ages welcome, but the dress code is is arguably the most laid-back of all music festivals. No one gives a shit if you’re wearing rave clothing or designer brands that should be left at the gates of Coachella. Wearing an old t shirt and jorts is often the best of outfits, because hell, it gets hot. I’ve seen folks wear nothing, which, I mean…you do you.
What also isn’t cared about: social media. Stop obsessing over the perfect Instagram photo and enjoy the festival vibes and big Tennessee skies. You are in a beautiful utopia of music and love, soak it all in while living in the moment.
Sustainability and Music Go Hand in Hand
It wouldn’t be Bonnaroo if sustainable practices are not used. Each year Bonnaroo strives to not only be the best music festival, but the most sustainable. Radiating positivity is extended to radiating positive thoughts, actions and results of Earth-friendly efforts.
Unlike other music festivals that would rather put extra money towards wasteful practices, Bonnaroo believes in spending a little extra and sweating a little more to ensure it is the greenest it can be, year in and year out. For the 90,000 Bonnaroovians heading to this year’s event, $1 of each ticket will be used for permanent, sustainable improvements on the Farm.
That’s almost 1 million dollars of making the festival, and in turn Mother Earth, a better place.
Now you may be thinking that those who put on something as grand scheme as Bonnaroo can talk the talk, but not walk the walk. What we mean is they may be full of shit. That is why they release an annual report after every year’s festival for all to read that articulates just how much good was spread during the year’s event, including sustainable camping, waste management and water conservation.
But wait, there’s more! Bonnaroo has a very special area in Centeroo called Planet Roo (that’s a lot of Roo). Here, festival goers can sit, relax and take a breather amidst the action at each stage. Over 25 non-profit organizations are set up here making sure you’re not only resting, but learning about how to save the Earth. From gardening classes, to peaceful yoga sessions and The Clean Vibes’ Trading Post, this oasis is meant to really show the impact just one person can have on creating a more sustainable world.
Check out Gainesville’s very own non-profit, We Are Neutral, who will be set up at Planet Roo and let them know you’re from the Dirty G.
Their Core Message of Radiating Positivity
It’s no joke when Roo regulars claim Bonnaroo is the happiest place on Earth. From the minute your car pulls into your camping spot, you look around and everyone is smiling. I mean everyone. This is still the case when people are waiting in line to get into Centeroo, when waiting in the scorching heat to get front row spots to their favorite band and even when in line for port-a-potty’s.
Not only are there smiles and laughs wherever you go, but these people want to get to know you. Not like some creep at Cantina asking what your major is. I mean, the person standing next to you at Alabama Shakes is genuinely interested in your music taste, where you travelled from and how you both share a love for radiating positivity.
So don’t dismiss the stranger trying to strike a conversation as a creep trying to get in your pants. Everyone could use some more positive friends in their lives, and what better way to make these friends then at the happiest place on Earth?
Radiating positivity also extends through a little bump and physical action, ya know? You’re thinking right – high fives! High fives are the BEST way to spread positivity to people around you at Bonnaroo. I think I high-fived over 200 people last year. Who cares how gross your hands are and how sweaty you feel, give that person walking by a damn high-five!
Now if you’re thinking about pushing forward to get closer to Ellie Goulding or are trying to dodge thousands of sitting and standing folks, pressed together like a herd of cattle during Pearl Jam in order to get some air at the back of the crowd, be kind. Say “excuse me” and “thank you” like it’s your job, because that’s what it means to radiate positivity. No one wants to get shoved and not receive an apology. Be kind and kindness will come to you.
It’s Not the Second Woodstock, But…
It’s damn close.
No where else will you get to dance freely, feeling the music ringing in the core of your body, looking up towards a pink sunset that seems to go on forever amid gorgeous Tennessee farm land with thousands of exuberant friends.
This is as close to real music as it gets. You won’t care if you are dirty, sweaty and exhausted after three days of no showering and little rest. You won’t have any cares, not here on the Farm at least. You leave those behind when you experience Bonnaroo.
“Music is music, ultimately. If it makes you feel good, cool.” -Prince
All photos courtesy of Bonnaroo’s Official Website.