In 48 hours, Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival will have perhaps the best 12th birthday in history. Sir Paul McCartney, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, hip-hop legends Wu-Tang Clan, the world’s first analrapist, Tobias Funke, and lauded indie acts for miles all blend into the makings of one of the best Roos to date. Whether you’re a seasoned Bonnaroovian or journeying to The Farm for the very first time, these are the essential tips to finding success in Tennessee, as told through Larry David, Liz Lemon, Lucille Bluth, and many other familiar faces from the boob tube.
1. Be nice to everyone
If you’ve been, you know, and if you haven’t, you will: Bonnaroo is a magical place. We’ve all paid upwards of $300 to camp with 80,000+ strangers on a dusty farm in the middle of June for four days. Music has brought us all together, and with that, a type of “charitable pixie dust” floats over the land. So, if you typically subscribe to Larry David’s thoughts-but-not-action camp on an every day basis, attempt to “pay it forward” during these four days.
2. Plan your day accordingly
Does one leave Wilco to catch Jim James or The xx even though Paul McCartney follows Chicago’s beloved on the main stage only an hour later? On Sunday, is it The National for a little while and then David Byrne and St. Vincent’s collaborative set or just one and not the other: full-assed, not half-assed? Whether you’re going to side with Ron Swanson and put all your eggs in one band from each timeslot’s basket or you’re down with running from What to Which, at least put some effort into planning your days and evenings accordingly before you trek into Centeroo.
3. Use the buddy system yet don’t be afraid of independence
Like most festivals, Bonnaroo is best to be experienced with people you love (or at least really like). The weekend’s heat, alcohol, and exhaustion are all reasons why sticking together is an ideal. It’s not easy: Cell service is often spotty or completely non-existent depending on your carrier. Instead, communication gets tribal with “rage sticks” — basically a pole with some sort of distinguishing factor atop like a giant Sponge Bob or an Australian Flag or whatever you’re into. Every now and again, security might give you trouble, but the poles can be seen everywhere across the grounds. As long as you and your friends know what stage you want to meet in front of and maybe on which side, the stick will do the rest raised high in the Tennessee sky.
However, this advice can be two-fold. Sometimes Mr. Donaghy’s counsel holds true. If no one in your group wants to see your favorite band, journey forth into a solo mission, and make plans to meet later. The set you see sans friends could possibly end up being a favorite.
4. Pace yourself
Bonnaroo is a place for parties. Small ones at your campsite, medium-sized ones at the Silent Disco, and giant, thousand-person ones in front of the What Stage while a living legend blows the crowd’s collective mind. Just remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Allot for enough toast to account for that vodka, i.e., don’t be Lucille Bluth.
5. Accept fans of all types of music
This lineup’s diversity attracts classic rock lovers, EDM heads, indie worshipers, jam band fans (an assumed smaller amount of those this year given the genre’s gaps in the lineup), and those who enjoy a mixture of it all. You could make friends with your camping neighbors Thursday afternoon and only experience one or two overlaps in set (extremely doubtful anyone is missing the chance to sing Beatles songs with Macca while no one else is playing Friday night). So no hating if you meet a girl (or guy) who don’t even know who your own personal version of Ginuwine is.
6. Find lots of shade
Possibly the most important piece of camping gear for Bonnaroo, even more so than the tent in my opinion, is the shade canopy. One per car is ideal, and tarps, tapestries, and sheets, along with duct tape and other MacGyver-esque tools prove helpful as well. All of the above are the makings of a shady oasis for a campsite – especially nice for early napping when the sun is in full-force by seven or eight a.m. Urban sombreros, an umbrella hat like the one Bill Murray wears while golfing in Space Jam, or at least pair of sunglasses (an obvious must) are smart packs, too. And an accompanying no-brainer: hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. A CambelBak should be your best friend.
7. Live Large
If, come Thursday, June 13th, you’re sitting in a lawn chair at your campsite on the farm, you’ve gotten to the point where you straight up deserve all the champagne-filled croissants Curb’s Leon could imagine. End every day with a funnel cake. Buy as much beer as your heart desires. You’re disconnected with the outside world, so take advantage of this Disneyland-for-music-fans vacation and just treat yo-self.
8. Bring the proper amount and type of snacks
Snacks are a staple on the path to Bonnaroo success. Some simply can’t survive the presumed heat (fruit, various chocolates), some are purchased for the fun they provide when eaten (Fruit by the Foot, Capri Suns), and some are there for simple sustenance (almonds, granola or protein bars). Basically, emergency rations of all things delicious are never a bad idea. While the food for purchase there is fantastic (spicy pie pizza, gyros, cheeseburgers, etc.), snacks are paramount.
9. Bring wacky attire/Also be aware of Daft Punk
If you’ve always wanted to spend a night in a robot suit, if Greenman is basically your alter-ego, or if face-paint and glow-sticks really help you let loose, Bonnaroo is the place. The festival recently posted another installment of their advice from a Bonnaroovian on Facebook: “Bring fun stuff. Weird stuff! Dress weird, be wild! Where a costume! Help make Bonnaroo what it is!” Preach. On an unrelated hand, let’s hope all attendees have a great understanding on who comprises Daft Punk than Murray.
10. Dance it Out
Liz Lemon needs no further explanation. Just dance it out. All. Weekend. Long.
11. Bonnaroo is a nocturnal place
This is a place where dreamy thoughts like, Wouldn’t it be the coolest to see Animal Collective at 2 a.m.?, come true. On Friday and Saturday, tunes continue until the sun comes up, so prepare to have your sleep schedule rocked (looking at you, twentysomethings who are now committed to 9-to-5s back home).
12. Become a fan of new bands
Contrary to beliefs held on Flight of the Conchords, you can join any and all fan lists, both pre- and post-festival. Before June 13th is upon us, look up bands you’ve heard of but haven’t heard or ones whose names appeal to you or sound vaguely familiar and see if anything tickles your fancy. Bonnaroo has a great Spotify playlist so vast there’s sure to be at least a few artists you’ve yet to listen to among its tracks. But this advice is even better put into practice while actually at Bonnaroo. With countless acts playing almost around the clock, head into Centeroo a little early and wander around without any goals. What you find is sure to delight.
13. Lastly, don’t eat people’s old french fries. And maybe talk to people, not pigeons.