From the time I was fifteen, I spent every weekend at concerts and local shows. A divey all ages club called Swayze’s in Kennesaw was my regular for Friday nights and I seemed to know everyone there. I would spend every dime I had on seeing my favorite bands and during those years I saw The Format (whose lead singer went on to form fun.), Limbeck and Copeland dozens of times each.
But eventually my priorities shifted and all my money went towards travel instead of concerts.
I’d wanted to attend Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee since that time. It’s about the only thing that has remained constant in that time period. A friend of mine went last year, so when tickets went on sale and I had money in my account (for once…), I decided to go for it, particularly when I saw the lineup.
I was exhausted after nearly three months away from home and from arriving back from Canada only days beforehand, but I pulled myself together and hit the road. While I could rant and rave about each and every performance (Yes, mostly all amazing. Paul McCartney, for crying out loud!), but the four days taught me more about myself.
1. I am not outdoorsy. Oh yes, I knew this already, but when it came time to put together the tent, I forgot most of what my sister, from whom I borrowed said tent, had told me. I also wasn’t that jazzed about not showering for four days and using baby wipes and hand sanitizer as a substitute. The worst part of the entire experience was the port-a-potties, but that’s a given. I’m significantly more comfortable in a situation where I can go see a concert and then crash on my own bed.
2. You have to roll with the punches. As soon as we pulled into our campsite (named after Billy Zane, obvi), it was announced that headliner Mumford and Sons, the reason I bought my ticket, had cancelled due to injury. It was tough to hear, especially when we found out they would be replaced by Jack Johnson. Not.the.same. Luckily, it gave me a chance to see New Orleans’ Preservation Hall Jazz Band instead, which I enjoyed just as much.
3. Big crowds are not my scene. This is also something I already knew, but is exacerbated in situations like this one. Every time I went to see a concert, someone slammed into me. It makes me very aggressive and prevents me from enjoying the show, particularly when one guy stood ON me to see if I would move. I was never close enough that I could see much and would definitely have enjoyed some more intimate performances.
4. Despite over 100,000 people, it’s a small world (after all). At the Lumineers show, I looked in front of me to see two of my sister’s friends. I know even more people who went, but I didn’t track down. The Roo is it’s own community, so sometimes it doesn’t even feel like that many people. We spent a lot of time hanging out with our tent neighbors, who shared beer, food and stories with us.
5. Be prepared. I did a lot of research before I went (thanks Kristin!) and thought I did fairly well. But others didn’t. A man at our campsite literally slept on a towel next to his car the whole time. A number of people killed their car batteries by constantly charging their electronics and had to be jumped off on Monday morning. I was glad to pack an extra rechargeable phone battery, even if it only helped a little.
There are a few things that I would do differently, namely bringing a big group so that we could break off into smaller ones if not everyone wanted to see the same bands. I would have splurged on a $7 shower, even if it meant immediately getting dirty again. I would have sucked it up and stayed out for a few shows. I would have fought for bands I wanted to see. I would have researched the “up and coming” acts who could be the headliners next year. But that’s what next year is for.