Starting today, tens of thousands of festivalgoers will all touch down in Manchester, TN to experience another year of the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. It’s going to be hot, it’s going to be sticky, but it’s going to be one hell of a weekend. Like any adventure, however, there are things to know, items to take, and tips to take into consideration.
With that in mind, this year’s Consequence of Sound team worked on assembling a veteran’s guide-of-sorts. Inside you’ll read some pro-tips, including notes on getting to The Farm, setting up camp, bizarre things to expect, and what food you’ll want to bring or buy. It’s an engulfing experience, no doubt, but it doesn’t have to be too intimidating.
Oh, yeah, you’re welcome.
The Trek to the Gates: Bushy Branch road and the scenic Manchester highway has its charms, but can wear a Roonie out after a while. Try these tips to ease your stop-and-go journey.
Lilian Cai says: “Fill up your gas tank before you get in line. So many cars run out of gas and it’d be a nightmare to deal with, especially in that blistering Tennessee sun. Also, bring jumper cables if your car is notorious for crapping out on you. I’ve seen tons and tons of cars getting jumped on the side of the road.
Don’t take the back way in, either. It may be an almost non-existent line compared to hours waiting on the highway, but being only a few minutes away from Centeroo all weekend will be worth the wait going in through the front entrance. Going in the back way notoriously gives people over a 30 minute walk to Centeroo. Also, get there early. Last year we were in Nashville by 7:00 p.m. just in time to have dinner during the CMAs. We were in line by 9:00 p.m. and, of course, almost eight hours later, we finally arrived at our camping spot to watch the sun rise. We managed to get a campsite rather close to Centeroo, whereas my friends who arrived Thursday night were a 20-minute walk north.”
Caitlin Meyer says: “Make your time in line fun! It’s easy to be angry about an eight-ten hour wait on the side of a highway, but last year we hopped out of our packed car and met our neighbors. They invited us into their bus and we passed the night listening to old records and swapping stories, starting the weekend off perfectly.”
Liz Lane says: “Every year I see carpools of people at the gates frantically trying to transfer their booze from glass bottles into any errant plastic Gatorade bottles they might have in their car. Bonnaroo does not allow any glass containers on its grounds. Avoid this and buy libations in plastic bottles before you hit the gates. The local winery on Bushy Branch Road near the main gate entrance makes it easy for you and sells wine in plastic wine bottles.”
How to Tame the Campsite: No matter if you’re camping way out in Camp Griswald or closer to Centeroo, these tips will save you some strife while roughin’ it.
Liz Lane says: “If you’re taking the camping route, invest in battery-powered fans. They make all the difference, especially when it gets too hot in the tent to sleep once the sun comes up at seven in the morning.”
Carson O’Shoney says: ”Get to know your neighbors. You never know when you’ll run out of something in a moment of need, and if you’ve been friendly with those around you they’re generally glad to help you out when you need it. It also makes the down times in the morning a bit more fun — swap stories with your neighbors and pick up tips for the coming day.”
Lilian Cai says: ”I actually find it nice to pitch a giant tarp over your camping ground and just sleep outside. You don’t wake up in a hot tent, getting cooked alive. I woke up one day last year and someone had put a University of Virginia blanket on me because I was apparently shivering in my sleep. It’s a much better awakening, I can tell you that.
Also, I don’t recommend buying frozen meat and expecting it to stay fresh even with a ton of ice. Eat it by Thursday if you bring it. If you absolutely need to grill meat during Roo, bring dry ice. Works like a charm.
As for the nagging heat, a friend of mind had a cooling swimmer’s towel. In 100 degrees, it’s your best friend. The one he had can be found by googling “Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad Cooling Towel”.
DO NOT LEAVE VALUABLES IN YOUR TENT! Every year, every festival, someone thinks that their tent is some protective force field that keeps thieves out. Lock everything in your car. Also, assuming that you’ve traveled with friends, it wouldn’t hurt to bring an extra set of keys just to make everyone’s life a bit easier.
If you plan on brushing your teeth, washing your face, getting out the dreads in your tangled hair, etc., then beat the rush in the morning and go the second you wake up. I usually try to make it in line by 6:00 a.m. (it sounds early, but the sun’s usually pretty high in the sky at this time already). By 9:00 a.m. there’s a super long line for the bathroom; however, if you take my advice and bring a hose (as mentioned below), you can save time by going directly to one of the metal sinks instead. Also, just a warning, the bathroom areas are the most muddy of areas, so bringing a pair of wellies or waterproof boots (they go pretty deep!) isn’t a bad idea!
Still wondering about that hose? As desperate as it sounds, it’s quite magical when you hook it up to the sinks by the bathroom areas–you no longer have to pay $7 for those ridiculous Garnier sponsored showers! And if you’re feeling generous or want to earn a buck, you can let others use it, too!”
Photo by Max Blau
Essential Items for Centeroo Survival: From a misting fan to Gold Bond, we’ve got you covered.
Lilian Cai says: “After a long day of sweating and potentially playing in the fountain, you’ll find your clothes chaffing every part of your body. Solution? BABY POWDER. Having a few bandana type clothes to dunk in the water and tie around your neck, head, whatever helps too. It can be really hot during the day.”
Caitlin Meyer says: “Don’t forget snacks to survive the long afternoons when hot food sounds less than appetizing. Dried fruit, trail mix, and high-energy foods such as Clif bars are excellent ways to make it through the day without getting sick.
This goes for general festival-going, but I thought I’d throw it in. Go to a couple shows by yourself, and don’t feel obligated to stick with your friends the entire weekend. There are bound to be scheduling conflicts, and sometimes the best Bonnaroo memories are the ones where you found yourself alone in the middle of a drum circle or in a parade with feather-clad, dancing strangers between sets.”
Michael Zonenashvili says: “Two words: Gold Bond.”
Carson O’Shoney says: “If you’re on Twitter, set @bonnaroo’s tweets to be sent to your phone for the weekend, or sign up for their text message service. It’s a good way to get up to the date info and sometimes they even send details about “secret shows” and other happenings around the farm.
If you’re looking to find a sliver of shade, don’t go looking for it on the outer walls of Centeroo. These walls can double as a toilet for those who can’t make it to a port-a-john.”
Liz Lane says: “If you come across a parade line marching through Centeroo, hop in line and join in the fun. You never know what you’ll see – one year I ended up marching right beside members of My Morning Jacket and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, in a parade line that led to a secret Portugal. the Man show. Little did we know that SuperJammers Dr. John, Patrick Hallihan, and Dan Auerbach had planned to lead an early-a.m. parade through Centeroo to a location where a suprise concert took place. We were almost trampled by their parade. In true Roo spirit, join in or at least follow the BonnarooNews Twitter feed or download the Bonnaroo app to know these kinds of things crop up.”
Photo by Ben Kaye
From the Field: Yes, there are sometimes painted naked people.
Lilian Cai says: “Watch out! No matter how hard you try to avoid him, you WILL run into “that nekkid guy” at least once during the weekend. My first year at Bonnaroo, I had a 70-80-year-old hippy man stumble onto my campsite. He told us about how he came to Roo with $30 and had already made $2000 by flipping drugs and how The Farm was his true home–of course, pausing mid-sentence to do a line of who knows what off one of his bills. He then said to my friends, “Close your eyes and open your mouth. I have a treat for you.” Hmm…avoid mystery pills when possible.”
Carson O’Shoney says: “Keep your eyes peeled! You never know who you’ll see. In 2010, I was reading the back of a random dude’s shirt in front of me, and when he turned around it was none other than McLovin himself — Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Donald Glover walked out of a port-a-john I was waiting on another year, and I’ve bumped into Zach Braff and Zach Galifianakis in random spots on the farm before.”
Fest-Food Heaven: 700 acres of farmland + Southern cookin, food trucks, and festival vendors? Mmmhmmmm.
Liz Lane says: “A portion of the food booths at the What Stage (main stage) are usually local Coffee County businesses (read: a little cheaper than most festival food and really good). Check out some of the local vendors at the back of the What Stage field and help support the local economy. The same goes for the beer booths– local organizations staff these in an effort to fundraise. So, put a little extra jingle in their tip jar while you’re making a pit stop. Also, two words: gator bites. I look forward to seeing the cajun food vendor every year.”
Carson O’Shoney says: “I second this. Since you’re in the South for the weekend, go all out on the southern food and try everything and anything fried. The fried Oreos at a booth near That Tent are particularly delectable. It’s a food truck oasis, too. If you haven’t hopped on board the red hot food truck trend, Bonnaroo is a great place to try out some of the best trucks from across the southeast. This year’s lineup: Gastropod (Miami, FL), Petros Chili & Chips (Knoxville, TN), Roti Rolls (Charleston, SC), Pot Kettle Black (Charleston, SC), eatbox (Ashville, NC), Savory and Sweet (Knoxville, TN), Blackbird Heritage Farms (College Grove, TN) and Good You (Kansas City, MO).”
Lilian Cai says: “I haven’t tried these personally but my friend kept raving about this really good garlic grilled cheese vendor. Apparently it’s only $1 and a great snack when you’re going back to your tent at 4:00 a.m..”
Carson O’Shoney adds: “Spicy Pie. Year after year, this is the best slice to be found on the farm.”