Fanny Packs + Waterslides: Bonnaroo Part 1

Alright, so apologies for the length of time between the actual festival and this article but it took me quite a while to gather my thoughts (and I was too lazy to put it up). SO MUCH HAPPENED AT BONNAROO, that I had to put it into two parts. One of them up today, the other will be up tomorrow. I don’t have any pictures from the first few days, but part 2 will have pictures, I promise!

PRE-FESTIVAL

I guess I’ll start from the beginning. After traveling through some lovely Tennessee mountains we arrived on Tuesday because we were volunteering and met a bunch of people who we ended up camping with. We created a gigantic camp with 8 of us. We had a canopy, chairs, and even a grill. We were a lot better off than many of the camps that we saw. Our camp area was called Swaggleton (except I called it Buckingham Palace because I didn’t like their name for it). We were volunteering on Toll Booth so after trying to escape the heat for 24 hours, we did our first 7 hour shift. Our job was to put wristbands on people in cars and get them pumped for Bonnaroo. Easy, right? Yeah, it was super easy. Me and Pedro started a rumour that Nicolas Cage was going to be performing on stage with Arcade Fire, we told pretty much every car this. I was amazed at how many people were actually excited for it. After the easy first shift, my next shift was 6:30am the next morning til 8pm at night. But guess what, it got cancelled! So volunteering was done and I was left to enjoy the whole festival for free.

THURSDAY

After the cancelled volunteer shift, I went into Centeroo (the center of Bonnaroo…in case you didn’t get that) and checked out the main festival area, which was already fairly busy. There is a fountain in the middle that people were already taking their clothes off in. I noticed that the water was already turning fairly brown…not a good sign for the weekend ahead. I split up with my friends and went to camp out at That Tent (the names of the stages at Bonnaroo are super annoying) for the evening. The first band I saw were Futurebirds from Athens, GA and they were like a rockier Avett Brothers. After that were Freelance Whales and School of Seven Bells, who were both completely awesome. But nothing compared to Band of Skulls. I had listened to Band of Skulls before but never really realized their amazingness. They only have three members, a drummer, female bassist, and singer/guitarist but their sound is bigger than most bands with more members. I promise you that they are going to be gigantic. They are definitely the next Black Keys, but better, I would say. They killed every song that they did and pretty much kicked off the festival for me. The last band that I saw in this tent were The Walkmen. Before them, I made a friend from Alaska, who I ended up hanging out with the whole weekend. Everyone at Bonnaroo is super friendly. I think it’s because they are all there for the same reason, so why be mean. The Walkmen hit the stage wearing suits and performed a killer, energetic set. They pulled a gigantic crowd, who loved every second of it. I met up with Pedro after this and watched Childish Gambino’s set from the very back. Having loved Childish Gambino for years, I felt like a proud parent, watching one of the most important shows in his career so far. Every person in the crowd was loving it, and he was more hype and excited than I had ever seen him before. We were only planning to stay for a couple songs, but we had to stay for the whole set because it was so incredible.

FRIDAY

After being forced to wake up at 8am from the heat, Pedro and I got ready for our huge day. We were planning to camp out at the main stage in the intense heat for most of the day in order to get a good spot for The Decemberists and Arcade Fire. Before this, I saw Jessica Lea Mayfield and it was a very pretty set, especially when her brother David Mayfield played with her. Then, we embarked on our main stage adventure. Now, on the Bonnaroo main stage there are two barriers. One of them is the only thing between you and the band, but the other barrier blocks off the pit area. They switch out the fans in the pit every set so that everyone gets a chance to be at the front. First, we saw Anthony B from Jamaica. The one thing I remember about this is that he kept saying “Nashville” even though we were in Manchester, TN. It wouldn’t have been that bad if he didn’t say it once every 10 seconds. Next up were Grace Potter and the Nocturnals who were good, but played for too long, and it was a bit too hot to completely enjoy it. We were up at the second barrier for The Decemberists, who put on a brilliant set, focusing mainly on their new album The King Is Dead. Lead singer Colin Meloy has recently grown a beard, and now looks AND acts a lot like Zach Galifianakis. It was real fun. At first we decided we were content with staying at the second barrier for Arcade Fire but then we spotaneously decided to give up our awesome spot and get in line for the pit, with hopes of making it to the front barrier. The line for Arcade Fire was already massive, but we got in it anyways. My Morning Jacket were before Arcade Fire, and I had never heard them before, but I was absolutely impressed. They destroyed the stage for two hours. Every song was about 10 minutes long, and they just jammed on their instruments and ripped apart the stage. It was insane. After they performed, we still had another hour to wait before Arcade Fire started. Suddenly, while we were in line, three parachuters came over top of us and released these sparkly, purple things into the sky. No one knew what it was, but in no time at all, the whole sky was flashing purple. It’s extremely difficult to explain how magical this was, but it was. After making friends with a man who looked like he could play Captain America (he was blonde and wearing an american flag shirt) we finally got let into the pit and ended up about 5 rows away from the front of Arcade Fire. They were the band I was most looking forward to and they exceeded my expectations. Every song was a new beast, with all members putting all their energy into everything. I would have to say that the three Neighbourhood songs that they played (Laika, Tunnels, Power Out) were the huge highlights. I have been obsessed with Funeral forever so seeing all those songs live blew my mind. It was astounding. Now, their first encore song was Wake Up, and Pedro and I were still in the 5th row at this point, but as the tempo of the song changed, we looked behind us and the light was shining on Captain America who was crowd surfing towards us. When he got near us, I ended up carrying him all the way to the front and appeared suddenly at the very front row of Arcade Fire. It was amazing. I can’t explain in words, but just know, that it was an almost perfect moment. After the show, we were too tired to see any of the late-night bands (Lil Wayne, Big Boi) so we went to bed.

Part Two will be up tomorrow. As the weekend went on, all the concertgoers got more heatstroke and less water, so except a lot more crazy stories.

About the Author

Yes, I was named after famous british polar bear Rupert. In fact, I was named after a cat that was named after that cartoon bear. This is exactly the reason why I’d have to say an orange cat is my spirit animal. Though, it’s kind of more like this cat is my spirit goddess. My spirit animal is a bit more like a grizzly duck, which is a grizzly bear with a duck’s beak. Two reasons: 1) When I wake up I am angry and grumble a lot, like a grizzly bear but once I wake up I am (usually) friendly and I quack a lot, and 2) I own a sweater with a grizzly bear on it and one with a duck on it. I am obviously obsessed with music and everything to do with music. I have been to over 80 concerts, I am in a band called One Two Skidoo, and I also co-host a radio show of that same name on WUSC. I was born in a country called London (I would say England, but you Americans seem to be set on the fact that England is only London). I was actually born in Brighton, England, but I don’t wanna confuse you too much so we’ll say I’m from London. I then moved to a super freezing area of Canada. You’re probably thinking “but all of Canada is super freezing!”. That’s not true. Well, kind of not true. I do that school thing at the University of South Carolina, and I write about music on this website, obviously. David Stringer is my hero.

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  • Kurt Rambis

    Futurebirds are one of my favorite bands, and a band I have been on Dave to mention for over a year now. They had the best set I saw at SXSW. I’m not sure if I’d compare them to the Avett Brothers though. Much more like early My Morning Jacket. I think they have lots of good things going for them. They are opening up for Drive-By Truckers some this summer and (shudder) Widespread Panic also, as well as playing Austin City Limits.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLe8URSzDgg

    • David Stringer

      Blah

    • Rupert Hudson

      I don’t know why, but the whole time I was thinking Avett Brothers. Maybe it was just the energy and the harmonies. Nonetheless, they are definitely a band worthy of the attention they are getting.

      • Kurt Rambis

        Dave is just jealous because he can’t grow a ponytail or a beard as badass as guys in this band can.

        • David Stringer

          DUH