Now in its 10th year, Bonnaroo continues to valiantly fend off challengers for the title of The Nation's Flagship Music and Arts Festival. Even with Coachella's recent announcement that they'll be doubling to two weekends in 2012, the 'Roo remains undaunted, selling out their 80,000 general-admission tickets in record time — "the first time we've sold out this far in advance in several years," Bonnaroo founder and honcho Ashley Capps tells the Scene.
For the very first time, Bonnaroo will implement wristbands with radio frequency identification (RFID) chips in each. Each chip can be registered to its owner, thus functioning as a digital ID to thwart counterfeiters.
So yes, it is the future. And as Bonnaroo X plunges us into this exciting and unfamiliar terrain, we all need guidelines to keep us from frying beneath the Manchester sun. To keep us from missing all the great, unsung, up-and-coming artists. To keep us from making bad decisions — decisions like participating in an impromptu and shamefully amateur drum circle in general camping, for one. Thus, we hand down to you 10 laws — The Ten Commandments of Bonnaroo, handed to us via divine intervention. Well, maybe it was divine intervention … or maybe all the pre-gaming we’ve been doing has messed with our gourds a little bit. Regardless, below — in addition to our interview with Mr. Bonnaroo himself, Ashley Capps — you’ll find the 10 laws that will keep you happy and healthy over these next four debaucherous days. Who are the finest rock, hip-hop, electro and local artists? What alleged funnypersons shall tickle our similarly funny bones? What about the whole “Arts” part of that “Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival” moniker? How do we all stay alive? Read on, fellow enth-Roo-siasts, and you’ll see. Follow us as we guide you through The Ten Commandments of Bonnaroo. And whether or not you plan to attend Bonnaroo, be sure to follow along with the daily coverage at our music blog (nashvillecream.com). —DPR
Guitars and drums have become increasingly foreign instruments in contemporary Top 40 radio. But, you know, that doesn't mean rock is dead. It's just more ... well, exclusive. Yet at Bonnaroo, the nation's most culturally significant and vital annual music event, rock 'n' roll — as the old folks call it — still dominates the lineup.
Crackerjack Canadian indie anthem-crafters The Arcade Fire (Friday, 11 p.m., at What Stage) taking home the Grammy for Album of the Year a few months back — beating out contenders like Lady Gaga, Lady Antebellum, Katy Perry and fellow Bonnaroo headliner Eminem — was the Crying Game twist to the year in music. Not because they're some Great White Northern drama kids who play songs about the suburbs on hurdy-gurdies, but because they're a rock band. They've never had a "hit," yet they'll headline Bonnaroo's What Stage at 11 p.m. on Friday night and play to a crowd of up to 80,000 — they're indie rock's answer to U2.
Neo-scuzz-blues punk-hop duo and Nashville transplants The Black Keys (Saturday, 8 p.m., at What Stage) also took home a Grammy or two (three, if you count Michael Carney's win for Best Recording Package) for 2010's Brothers — a record that has seen the band reach new creative heights far beyond the fuzzed-out potential their previous efforts suggested. And that explains how the band has made the slow and steady ascent to household-name status for music fans under 40. A festival-perfect band with their harum-scarum, pot-hazed aesthetic of pentatonic riffage and roof-raisin' grooves, the Keys made their Bonnaroo debut at That Tent in 2004, where they also appeared last year — and in 2007, too. This year they join the ranks of the marquee headliners with a prime 8 p.m. slot, Saturday evening on The What Stage.
Another contemporary rockin' wrecking crew who've made their way through Bonnaroo's various stages is My Morning Jacket (Friday, 8 p.m., at What Stage). The neo-psych Southern rock band's 2006 late-night marathon set is among the most legendary in the festival's 10-year history. And hopes are high that their What Stage debut — Friday evening at 8 p.m. — will reach Springsteen-like heights of monumentality.
Yes, this year Bonnaroo will rock. And it'll rock mostly with bands who carved out their niche in the genre over the same 10 years that the festival has carved out its niche in Manchester. The Strokes (Sunday, 6:45 p.m., at Which Stage) — the defining rock band of the early Aughts — released their debut LP Is This It? (now a bona fide classic) within a year of Bonnaroo's inaugural run. And at the time, the idea of the two being mentioned in the same sentence was laughable. The Strokes were a thoroughly un-jammy, heroin-chic quintet of 100-pound Velvet Underground and Television fetishists, while Bonnaroo was ... well, Bonnaroo. In the summers since, the festival has gone on to host nearly the full spectrum of rock acts — from Phish to Metallica — making it a perfect venue for New York's favorite post-Y2K sons, whose recent comeback record Angles proved that they're still The Strokes. How's that for full circle? —AG
First and foremost, if you say you like music and you don't see Dennis Coffey play Saturday at 1:30 p.m. on the What Stage, you don't actually like music. Coffey is hands-down one of the most influential guitarists of all time — even if you've never heard of him, you've heard his guitar on a hundred different hits from Motown Records, and you've heard him sampled by a billion different hip-hop artists. The dude defined the psychedelic-soul sound that became the foundation for hip-hop, but he's also got a new self-titled album out via Strut Records that rules something fierce. Don't be a chump — don't miss Dennis Coffey. And for that matter, don't miss Bootsy Collins and the Funk University or Dr. John with the Original Meters and Allen Toussaint. As the old saying goes, respect the architects. More on the legacy acts a bit later on.
OK, now that we're done berating you, it's time to fill up the rest of your schedule with ye ol' boom bap. This year's lineup isn't as heavy on must-see up-and-comers from the hip-hop community as in years prior, but it's really, really heavy on must-see established acts — a fair trade-off, frankly. Say what you will about Eminem — and we know you've got an opinion — but the dude has a billion hits and his headlining slot (Saturday, 11 p.m., at What Stage) is going to be an epic party. Mark our words, naysayers: This is going to be awesome.
Also awesome? Catching Big Boi (Friday, 12:45 a.m., at The Other Tent) at his first Middle Tennessee appearance since the epic "Fail in Floyd Stadium" in Murfreesboro a few years back. That time it was just Big Boi, us and a hundred or so other people in a fucking football stadium in the rain — this time is sure to be a hell of a lot more fun. Lil Wayne's set (Friday, 1:30 a.m., at Which Stage) will surely have one of the most intensely intoxicated audiences of the festival. You better have your rolling papers ready for Wiz Khalifa (Saturday, 5:50 p.m., at What Stage), and you can be sure that Dam-Funk and Master Blazter's set (Thursday, 1 a.m., at This Tent) is going to be, uh, damn funky. Hell, this whole weekend is going to be damn funky. —SLM
You have made the pilgrimage to your music festival, and are rightfully reveling in the myriad sights and sounds (and smells) Bonnaroo has to offer. But, fair wanderer, do you not tire of the crowds, the self-seriousness of those "artiste" types and the goddamn heat? Fear not, for Bonnaroo offers air-conditioned respite from your woes: The Comedy Theatre, Bonnaroo's must-do spot for, uh, "indoor kids," is ready to accept your weary bones.
If you're, like, pissed at stuff, then Lewis Black (with opener Eugene Mirman) is a must (Thursday at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., Friday at 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.). The man has turned YELLING about STUPID SHIT into a surprisingly thoughtful routine: He's the comedian your terrible uncle wishes he could be.
Henry Rollins of Black Flag (and random media) fame is also taking to the theater (Thursday at 10 p.m.), likely pontificating about social justice, hopefully in a comedic manner. If you see him, ask him about The Chase. Also in the "not actually a stand-up comedian" category is fey auteur of trash culture John Waters (Sunday at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.). If you only know Waters from his Lonely Island cameo, you are in for a bizarrely delightful treat.
It wouldn't be a music festival without due deference to weed, which is where "Comedy Blaze" comes in. Curated by Cheech Marin, the (insert drug reference) set also features Ralphie May, whose (different drug reference) talents are probably not your speed if speed's your thing. Drug references! (Thursday at midnight and Friday at 12:30 p.m.)
Adorable multi-hyphenate Donald Glover will actually be manning two stages this year: In addition to his comedy performance with noted Brit wit Bill Bailey at The Comedy Theater (Saturday, 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.), he'll also appear at This Tent Thursday night at 11:30 as Childish Gambino, his hip-hop act. What a man! It's certainly a lot to take in, but if you can't make the trek to Manchester, Comedy Central will stream a three-hour highlights show hosted by Jon Benjamin on June 12. The comedy gods, they smile on us all. —AS
We're only halfway through 2011, and it's already been a strong year for the local music scene. The presence of Nashville-based and Nashville-related artists at Bonnaroo 2011, as a matter of fact, is stronger than ever before. Now in its third year, BMI's Road to Bonnaroo series at Mercy Lounge culled an especially diverse trifecta of locals to play the fest, from party-hop MC Chancellor Warhol (Friday, noon, at The On Tap Lounge) to lilting, powerhouse pop ensemble Cheer Up Charlie Daniels (Saturday, noon, at The On Tap Lounge) and electro-pop wunderkind Ross Wariner's outfit Uncle Skeleton (Thursday, 1 p.m., at The On Tap Lounge). Uncle Skeleton, as it happens, has the honor of playing the whole damn festival's opening slot, meaning the very first notes to ring through Centeroo shall be the resounding blips of a Nashvillian's synthesizer.
Several local up-and-comers have earned national praise, landing on the "Must-See at Bonnaroo" lists of big-name music rags like Spin and Rolling Stone. There's the sludgy, psychedelic garage-punk of JEFF the Brotherhood (Friday, 10:40 p.m., at The On Tap Lounge), who recently inked a deal with Warner Bros. and are now fetching more attention than ever before. There's the thoughtful folk-pop of Nashville songstress Tristen (Saturday, 9:20 p.m., at The On Tap Lounge), who has been touring relentlessly behind her critically heralded Charlatans at the Garden Gate. Then there's the old-timey crooning of trad-country-leaning roots artists Abigail Washburn (Friday, 4 p.m., at The Other Tent) and Justin Townes Earle (Friday, 2:30 p.m., at The Other Tent) — the latter of whom skipped town for The Big Apple a while back, but we won't hold it against him.
Also playing are indie power-pop ensemble The Kopecky Family Band (Thursday, 2 p.m., at Solar Stage), heartland rock-inspired Americana outfit The Apache Relay (Sunday, 8 p.m., at The On Tap Lounge) and the Nashville-frequenting former Tennessean Jessica Lea Mayfield (Friday, 12:15 p.m., at This Tent), whose band features beloved local and Ghostfinger frontman Richie Kirkpatrick. Mayfield's brother's outfit, The David Mayfield Parade, will play Thursday, 11:30 p.m., at The On Tap Lounge. There's also, of course, supermodel-turned-alt-country-songstress Karen Elson (Thursday, 5:45 p.m., at The Other Tent), an English-born Nashvillian whose notable spouse we'll be keeping an eye out for throughout the fest. —DPR
So, how big a deal is it that the surviving members of Buffalo Springfield — Neil Young included — are counting Bonnaroo among the seven down-Memory Lane reunion gigs they have on the books for this summer (Saturday, 9:30 p.m., at Which Stage)? Well, considering how the Canadian ensemble wholly launched the legendary rock careers of elder statesmen Young and Stephen Stills (and LOL-endary soft-rock career of Jim Messina), contributed the indelible, seminal '60s staple "For What It's Worth" to the classic-rock canon and played their farewell show in 1968 ... well, it's a really big fucking deal. But apparently not a big enough deal to merit a primetime, main-stage slot.
Even more than other festivals, Bonnaroo has a reverence for classic-rock, pop and (sigh) jam-band elders. Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Tom Petty, The Police, Elvis Costello, The Allman Brothers, John Fogerty, Neil Young, Robert Plant, David Byrne, Buddy Guy, Jimmy Cliff and Metallica are among the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-honored artists who've graced the festival's marquee as main-stagers. And with this being the festival's 10th installment, names like Prince, Paul McCartney, U2 and The Rolling Stones were thrown around the 'Roomer mill with highly concentrated levels of believability. None of them was true.
That's not to say this Bonnaroo won't be without its fair share of legacy acts. Spread across the bill are names like Robert Plant and his Band of Joy (Sunday, 6 p.m., at What Stage), Dr. John (who, in effect, named the festival to begin with) as backed by Allen Toussaint and lifelong funkifiers The Original Meters — a New Orleanean justice league of Teflon blues, boogie, funk and soul (Saturday, 12:30 a.m., at That Tent), the Jack White-made-over queens of rock and country, Wanda Jackson (Friday, 5:45 p.m., at The Other Tent) and Loretta Lynn (Saturday, 6:45 p.m., at That Tent), Gregg Allman (Sunday, 4:30 p.m., at That Tent), James Brown bassicologist Bootsy Collins and the Funk University (Saturday, 7 p.m., at The Other Tent), famed bluegrass picker Del McCoury (Friday, 7:30 p.m., at The Other Tent), noted knob-twiddler Daniel Lanois (Sunday, 3:30 p.m., at This Tent) and Stax songbird Mavis Staples (Sunday, 1:15 p.m., at What Stage). Dr. John will also participate in Superjam with Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach (Sunday, 7 p.m., at That Tent).
Still, this year's throwback nods to Monterey Pop will mostly be momentary. With the exception of Buffalo Springfield — playing on The Which Stage sandwiched between The Black Keys and Eminem on What — 2011's Bonnaroo headliners are in an incoming class of legacy acts: ones who just might still fill halls when this generation is old enough to feel the side effects of all that ecstasy they've ingested.
With the exception of Widespread Panic (Sunday, 8:30 p.m., at What Stage) taking Sunday night's jam band-obligatory granola-and-acid-eaters' closing slot, this year's big-ticket draws — Eminem, Arcade Fire, The Strokes, Mumford and Sons, Lil Wayne, Girl Talk, Gogol Bordello, The Decemberists, Big Boi, et al. — are mostly artists that emerged in the past two decades, while '90s luminaries like The String Cheese Incident (Saturday, 12:45 a.m., at Which Stage), Primus (Friday, 9:15 p.m., at Which Stage) and polka-pop-punkers NOFX (Friday, 7 p.m., at That Tent) fill in the gaps between zeitgeisty lineup dominators like Deerhunter, Deer Tick, The Walkmen, Wavves, !!!, Robyn and Cold War Kids. —AG
Below you'll find our list of stuff that didn't quite fit into the other categories, but most certainly shouldn't be missed. A catchall section of sorts, featuring everything from electro-pop, garage rock and metal to good, old-fashioned bar rock and sunshine pop.
Wavves (Thursday, 5:30 p.m., at This Tent)
Self-proclaimed "King of the Beach" and Wavves mastermind Nathan Williams' sunshine psychedelia and stoner persona make him a no-brainer for the 'Roo. With his girlfriend Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast also on board, one can only hope they respect and maintain Bonnaroo's convenient special-guest-jam tradition. —SG
Best Coast (Thursday, 7:15 p.m., at The Other Tent)
Nothing says both "summer" and "Bonnaroo" like the hazy, lazy indie-pop grooves of Best Coast, who'll be playing at 4:20 no matter what time they're scheduled. If frontwoman Bethany Cosentino's public praise of pharmies and heady nugs is accurate, she'll be having a better time than anyone. —SG
The Walkmen (Thursday, 10 p.m., at That Tent)
When it comes to awesome, no band fucks around less than The Walkmen. Still not the biggest band in the world, but easily one of the best, New York City-cocktail-cool-gone-tropical's reigning art-rock quintet will probably steal the festival — and your face — Thursday night just by showing up and plugging in. —AG
Sleigh Bells (Thursday, 10:15 p.m., at The Other Tent)
There was a time when the headbangers and the cheerleaders attended separate events, but the fun of a Sleigh Bells show is that it makes a Venn diagram out of riffage and wig-flipped rah-rah-rah. Anchored by huge beats, electro-squelch and the occasional Parliament sample, they're the perfect Sleigh-tanic festival party band. —SH
Deerhunter (Thursday, 11:30 p.m., at That Tent)
Don't get confused: This isn't a Cinema Tent screening of Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter. This late-night set of dreamy noise pop and halcyon hypnotics from Atlanta indie rock's favorite native sons, however, promises to be just as brilliantly devastating as the 1978 celluloid classic that inspired their moniker. —AG
Sharon Van Etten (Friday, 12:15 p.m., at Which Stage)
Everywhere she goes, all Sharon Van Etten does is blow minds. And while some bands have gimmicks that work better or worse depending on the venue or the time of day, it doesn't matter much where the former Murfreesboroan sets up her guitar and harmonium — she's got a voice that makes the world stop. —SH
Kylesa (Friday, 1:45 p.m., at That Tent)
Let's be honest: We can handle only so much of that love, peace and happiness bullshit. Frankly, we need some brutality in our lives — preferably of the Southern and psychedelic variety — and quartet Kylesa fit the bill perfectly. Fuck off, good vibes! —SLM
The Sword (Friday, 3:30 pm That Tent)
Since there's a snowball's chance in hell that Bonnaroo will shell out the cash to bring Ronnie James Dio back from the dead and rescue Ritchie Blackmore from that weird Ren fair shit he's doing these days, we'll take The Sword. Seems like a fair trade. —SLM
Hanni El Khatib (Friday, 6:40 p.m., at The On Tap Lounge)
Is there anything finer than dirty-as-sin fuzz guitar on a summer afternoon — the sort of guitar tone that sends shivers up your spine and a cold sweat across your flesh? There ain't a damn thing better, except maybe throwing a little R&B shimmy and a cold beer into the mix — and that's exactly what you can expect from Hanni El Khatib. —SLM
NOFX (Friday, 7 p.m., at That Tent)
There's simply no better example to make the case for Bonnaroo overcoming the "jam-band fest" tag than this year's inclusion of flagship SoCal skate-punk stalwarts NOFX — a band that in 1996 celebrated the death of Jerry Garcia with the lyric, "August 8th is a beautiful day." Does this mean The String Cheese Incident gets to join Warped Tour next summer? —AG
Deer Tick (Saturday, 3:15 p.m., at That Tent)
As casually and as frequently as Deer Tick is labeled "Americana" or "alt country," that doesn't exactly cut it. Nuanced and idiosyncratic, John McCauley and his crew have a way of turning a dusty, lonesome melody on its head, and that's something you just don't see from your dime-a-dozen Americana singer-songwriters. —DPR
Black Uhuru (Saturday, 3:35 p.m., at What Stage)
It's pretty much a given that sinsemilla is our favorite thing ever of all time. Er, wait ... that should read Sinsemilla, like the album by Black Uhuru. We like the melodies! It has nothing to do with that plant in our backyard. It's a fern, we swear! —SLM
Man Man (Saturday, 5:15 p.m., at This Tent)
Man Man sounds like evil Frank Zappa from another dimension. Defiantly challenging and gleefully twisted, Honus Honus and the rest approach their sets like a wrecking ball — never stopping so much as to take a breath before launching into another frenzied indie-rock jam filled with Moby Dick references and vampire metaphors. —LC
DeVotchKa (Saturday, 5:15 p.m., at The Other Tent)
On Saturday, The Other Tent transforms into the Global Gypsy Punk Revue, a lineup of gypsy-influenced bands (and, uh, Bootsy Collins) handpicked by Gogol Bordello's Eugene Hutz. Though not particularly punky, DeVotchKa's Spanish folk roots are sweepingly romantic and, at times, devastatingly heartbreaking. —LC
!!! (Saturday, 7:00 p.m., at This Tent)
LCD Soundsystem may have gone on to indie-band heaven, but !!! is here to stay. Pronounced "Chk Chk Chk," !!! is a mad combination of dance-punk forefathers Public Image Ltd. and Prince at his absolute freakiest, liberally alternating between funky breakbeats and post-punk righteousness. Be prepared to dance. (Also playing at 3:45 p.m. at The Sonic Stage.) —LC
J. Roddy Walston and the Business (Saturday, 9:30 p.m., at Cafe Where)
How will J. Roddy Walston and the Business' boisterous barroom stomp fare in an open-air tent rather than in, say, a smoky Midwestern dive or a Texas juke joint? It's hard to say. But their piano boogie and rip-roaring riffs are as big as their name is long, so as long as you've got a beer in hand, you'll probably like 'em just fine. —DPR
Scissor Sisters (Saturday, 12:45 a.m., This Tent)
A little Queen, a little Bowie, a little Elton John — if you're going to claim to be influenced by the best, at least do what Scissor Sisters do and make sure those progenitors come out loud and clear. Or, depending on your style, proud and queer. —AS
Gogol Bordello (Saturday, 2 a.m., at The Other Tent)
Every year, we say we're going to make it to the wee morning hours. And every year, we wind up passed out in our tents. Not this time! Gogol Bordello's promise of a hyper-kinetic Eastern European gypsy-punk show is the best excuse to chug a Four Loko at 2 a.m. we've heard yet. —LC
Girl Talk (Saturday, 2:30 a.m., at This Tent)
Surely y'all know how this works by now. Mix Master Greg slices and dices everything from Yo La Tengo B-sides to Busta Rhymes singles, coalescing them into a two-hour-long dance party. Girl Talk celebrates pop music like it's humanity's defining achievement, and at 2:30 a.m. in Manchester, it's hard to argue against him. —LC
Smith Westerns (Sunday, 12:30 p.m., at This Tent)
They're not even drinking age yet, and their two full-length releases have already earned comparisons to glam heavyweights like T Rex and Bowie. Let's see if Smith Westerns' dazzling melodies and shimmering guitar hooks shine in the midday sun. —DPR
Ryan Bingham (Sunday, 1:30 p.m., at That Tent)
Let's face it: Sunday afternoon at Bonnaroo is kind of a low-energy affair. Everyone's a little bit beaten and a little worn out from three days of running their heads into the party wall. Which is the perfect time for this Oscar winner's brand of sun-scorched, minimalist country. —SLM
Robyn (Sunday, 4:30 p.m., The Other Tent)
Synth-heavy Euro pop is often maligned as unfeeling, but Swedish-born Robyn is a master of demonstrating that those beats are made for dancing. Any sound that compels the body to move (with all the heated and visceral consequences that entails) is by no means icy. —AS
Beirut (Sunday, 6:15 p.m., at The Other Tent)
Zach Condon has done the unthinkable: He has made world music cool. Performing under the name Beirut, he and his songs steeped in Balkan folk and French chansons have gone a long way to steal "world music" back from the nefariously dull grasp of Enya. Beirut manages to be sonically innovative without betraying the European roots that Condon is clearly so fond of. —LC
"If we didn't listen to our fears," the great American thinker Andrew WK asks rhetorically, "how much partier would our lives be?" The answer, of course, is a whole hell of a lot partier — and potentially a lot shorter. Fear keeps us alive! We're all gonna die someday, but let's not do it in the middle of a field in Tennessee.
Listen, unless your name is, well, Andrew WK, Bonnaroo will probably be the partiest four days of your year — so there's no reason to ruin it by offing yourself needlessly. If you're the kind of person who's considered autoerotic asphyxiation and thought, "What a way to go!" I suppose there's nothing I can say that will dissuade you from chasing the dragon with no regard for your own continued existence. But I'm here to tell you: Fear The Reaper, a little bit.
Drink a lot of water — seriously, a lot — take shade breaks and know your limits. If you hear thunder, get off your stilts and don't hold onto anything that's metal or lightning rod-like, including those juggling sticks, which ... c'mon. Of course all of this is just common sense — something you will feel yourself slowly detaching from the longer you're inside the 'Roo bubble. If a tornado touches down, well, we're all so completely fucked it's not even worth discussing. (I might build a concrete igloo at my campsite, though.) Don't climb on anything taller than a Subaru. Just trust me on that last one.
You know what's a good way to get killed? Lying unconscious on the ground where 80,000 people are stumbling around in the dark. So a good way not to get killed is not to do that. Or at least, if you feel yourself passing out, put some glow sticks around your face or something so your mindgrapes don't get trampled into wine. Speaking of your mindgrapes: Some of you reading this will be coming to Tennessee from places that don't have thousands of cicadas flying around shrieking like Teabaggers on tax day. If you're easily freaked out by bugs — even harmless ones — maybe lay off the heavy stuff this year. The last thing you need is to have a 3-inch-long insect with red eyes flap into you and try to lay eggs in your neck while you're deep in a K-hole. Is it possible to die of a blown mind? Let's not find out. Bonnaroo: It's more fun if you're alive! —SH
Sometimes — with so much awesome music going on — it's easy to forget the "Arts" portion of the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. But this year, it'll be unavoidable. No seriously, local graffiti crew WorkForce Rebellion has been commissioned to paint a mural that spans "thousands of linear feet" — and recounts all 10 Bonnaroos — on the walls separating general camping from Centeroo. Basically, you're gonna have something real purdy to look at as you stand in line waiting to get the party started — a serious improvement over staring at that Wookiee trying to hide his contraband in his ass crack.
Once you're inside, be sure you check out The Academy in Planet Roo. Part chill-out room, part art studio and part environmentalism workshop, The Academy has become one of our favorite places to pop into when the sun gets too hot and we need a moment's respite from our quest to lose all our hearing. It's a good spot to recover some of those brain cells you've probably lost, and maybe fire up a few new ones you didn't know you had. Also, make sure to check out the Bonnaroo Poster Art Exhibit presented in conjunction with the American Poster Institute — it's always a feast for the eyes and possibly the most convenient way to empty your bank account in one fell swoop. —SLM
Bonnaroo is a place you're likely to find yourself engaging in debauched undertakings and displaying ignominious depths of depravity you (and especially your mother) never could've theretofore imagined. It's kinda like Vegas: In the day it's nasty, brutish and hot; at night it's an intoxicating, magical fantasy world of arts, music, lights, community and indulgent release, in a setting that's disorienting by design.
But instead of free-basing with automatic weapons, accidentally tossing Keith Richards off the hotel balcony instead of the television set, betting on cockfights and burying prostitutes in the desert, you'll find yourself clapping quarter-notes to the throbs of sub-bass, painting yourself purple, yelling your favorite Titanic lines from atop a Ferris wheel and, yes, talking to strangers.
Only at Bonnaroo are you almost assured to, with the sunrise looming, find yourself interminably walking around in the mud with a questionably ... uh, underdressed pseudo-gypsy voodoo chile, telling him or her your life story, sharing your lame-brained thoughts and theories on everything from the mercury levels of funnel cake to the Kennedy assassination for hours before asking, "Wait ... who are you? You mean, we don't know each other ... in real life? Wait ... you don't speak English, do you? Or do you? Wait ... do I?" before ending with, "Ohhhhh, right. Well, I guess you weren't trying to rip me off after all. Here. Eat a peach, friend!"
While the friendships you make at Bonnaroo aren't likely to last a lifetime, they're ones that will rekindle summer camp memories for ... well, at least until you come down. But they might come in handy the next day, when you and your companions run out of rolling papers (for your tobacco) or lighter fluid (for your grill), or mushrooms (for your hamburgers), or high-fives (for your soul), and you lock eyes and say, "Hey, I'm almost sure I know that fellow festival-goer. Maybe they can hook us up." —AG
As far as the Scene is concerned — since our bosses are reading and everything ... hey guys! — the hardest stuff we'll be looking for at Bonnaroo is a cold glass of milk in that sizzling dustbowl. But hey, we're no narcs, man. Our watches still hit 4:20, like, twice a day, and someone who isn't us has the 411 on keeping your mellow unharshed at the 'Roo.
As far as the wheres, "Shakedown Street" can be any number of places, but if you find it, the 'Roo's unlicensed vendors will likely find you. If you're bringing sand to the beach and plan to ride dirty, use the utmost discretion — The Heat is as ubiquitous as the sun, and gate security will definitely bogart your contraband unless you get mad creative.
On the psychotropical tip, we don't personally condone a journey to the center of the mind, but if you're gonna go, it's a trip best taken at night and in good company. Chiefing out in the open is typically a safe bet, but home etiquette still applies: puff-puff-give, share and share alike, etc. If the sauce is all you plan on hitting and Centeroo's $8-plus drinks aren't kosher, we'll just say that water bottles hold more than one clear liquid, and who knows what the hell's in that soda can? Most of all, your brain on drugs is a frying egg — and Bonnaroo is the stove. Keep your insides wet, and for everyone's sake, leave your bath salts in the tub. —SG
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