Good ol’ Tennessee! Home to some of the most distinguished names in music history, this Southeastern state boasts not only its knack for continuously producing music greats, but the food culture and beautiful landscapes add to its national notoriety. With the Appalachian Mountains providing stunning visuals, the Volunteer State is ideal for road trippers, food junkies and music lovers alike. So as I gear up to start making important decisions regarding my June road trip, I am provoked by Tennessee’s enticing reputation to research what it is that has people talking.
Although I am not hitting the road for another four months, planning now is essential. Tennessee has long been a desired travel destination for myself, so I want to make sure that all expectations are met by sealing the more technical aspects of this trip in advance. Renting an RV is going to be a pretty penny ($267 per person for five people for the rental not including 2k miles of gas), so saving money while keeping friends on the same page about funds and budget is crucial. Hey, none of us are Daddy Warbucks. Adequate time is necessary to save, and to know what to save for!
First, the reason I am going: the Bonnaroo Festival. The acclaimed music gathering is coming up on its 10-year anniversary, and I am anxious as ever to pack my bags and join the tens of thousands of music lovers for a weekend of moving and grooving. The dates are set for June 7th through the 10th, and although the lineup has yet to be released, past acts predict epic tunes. The most alluring aspect of this particular festival is the mesh of old and new musicians. Throughout its run, Bonnaroo has hosted old school favorites such as The Police, Phil Lesh & Friends, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Bob Weir and Ratdog, B.B King, Phish, Bruce Springsteen, The Allman Brothers and Robert Plant. While these heavy hitters prove to bring in the masses year after year, it is the alternative bands that has me reserving my spot before a lineup is even announced. Favorites such as Kings of Leon, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Black Keys, Weezer, Pearl Jam, The White Stripes, Nine Inch Nails, Death Cab for Cutie and The Strokes have all made Bonnaroo history. If you want to see for yourself what the hype is about, check out their past lineups here.
Located in Manchester, Bonnaroo is an hour drive to country music capital, Nashville, and only 40 minutes to the Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg. My idea is to visit Jack Daniels prior to setting up camp at Bonnaroo, because let’s face it, I am going to be a strung out mess after four days of nonstop partying.
Twenty-year old Katherine Dussan, Connecticut native and Psychology Major at West Virginia University, says she cannot wait to attend the Tennessee festival again this year.
“Bonnaroo was the first festival I’ve ever attended this past summer, and it was the craziest thing I have ever experienced,” she said.
“After going, I couldn’t imagine being home that weekend while everyone is back there having a blast and seeing, listening, and experiencing all the artists… I would be heart-broken if I wasn’t there.”
Katherine is a perfect example of how a fan of any type of music will find a welcoming spot at Bonnaroo.
“I have such a variety in [music] taste. It goes from rap to pop to dub and house. My favorite artist is Eminem. I absolutely love his music and lyrics. I love listening to Tiësto and Steve Aoki, along with David Guetta, Kaskade, and all other house and trance artists.”
Another favorite band of hers, Mumford and Sons, is quite the change from club-thumping beats, and played the festival back in 2010 and 2011.
“Their songs are so peaceful. I couldn’t help but to keep them on repeat,” the aspiring couples therapist explained. “I’ve never heard a song or seen someone live where they have put me into tears, and Mumford and Sons did that. Their music was beautiful , it’s the best word I can choose for them- simply beautiful.”
So what is it about Bonnaroo that has people road tripping across the country to attend?
“Ahh, the atmosphere of Bonnaroo was amazing! It is seriously crazy how once you step into the festival- even just the camping ground- how genuinely nice and warm people are. I did not witness one fight, people arguing or anyone having a bad time,” she went on to say.
“It wasn’t weird to just walk up to people and start conversation. Girls were walking around half-naked with no shirt on and their chests painted… no one hesitated to look at them differently. People were free, in the sense, in being whoever they wanted to be, and doing whatever they pleased while not being judged.”
I know, as well as my friends, that after more than half day driving, we want to set up camp without a hassle. Katherine explained that although the line into Bonnaroo may seem huge, she waited no longer than 8 minutes to get in. With thousands of cars creeping into the campgrounds, the crew apparently worked hard as hell in that summer heat to keep things moving smoothly.
Her story goes on, and the experience she had this past summer provides pretty solid evidence as to why this particular festival is a sensation of a musical gathering.
“My group and I camped. I wanted to experience the festival to the fullest, so I told myself that I was going to suck it up; forget about all the bugs and the showers I wouldn’t be taking. We got there on Wednesday night (the festival started Thursday), and set everything up so we could walk around. People were seriously just coming up to us and offering us beer, water, (typical festival treats!), everything and anything we needed,” she said.
Well, Katherine, what about the Tennessee heat?
“The weather was 95 degrees every day with not one cloud in the sky.”
And while that sounds lovely on a freezing cold day like today (Damn you, New England weather), what can one expect when traveling in the summer down to the South?
“I remember the next morning, I woke up at 7 a.m. crawling out of my tent drenched in sweat. Oh my God, it was horrible. We had no shade whatsoever. Sitting in the tent was not even an option, it was way too hot. Luckily, our neighbors (who I will never forget) were at Bonnaroo for their 6th year in a row and had everything down to a tee; shade, tents, canopies, everything we didn’t have. They were so nice, they let us chill at their camp site whenever we wanted to,” Katherine detailed.
Okay, so now that we have the logistics down, tell me more about the music.
“Eminem, my absolute favorite, was headlining, so all of Bonnaroo was around his stage. I was able to be right up front since it was right after The Black Keys (one of my favorite acts of Bonnaroo, as well). Their light show was amazing and they worked the crowd so well.”
The Black Keys have been Bonnaroo veterans for four years, debuting in 2004 and playing again in 2007, 2010 and this past summer in 2011.
“Later that night, Pretty Lights, Girl Talk, Bassnectar, and String Cheese Incident (a new band I discovered while there) came on and amped up the crowd. You can tell how much love was in the air, it was crazy. I loved that I was able to blast out of rap, listen to folk and then rage to house and techno. That was my favorite thing about this festival,” she said.
Now, to leave all you potential festival-goers with some advice from this kickass young lady: bring car chargers, water, comfortable shoes and the most helpful, pull up to your camp site with a full tank of gas!
“Bonnaroo was a blast. I would recommend this festival for its variety in music, and knowing that no matter who you are, there will always be someone performing that you will love,” she stated.
I may fall out of my chair in excitement just proofreading this post. And just when I thought it was too early to start stocking up on tie-dye and glow sticks, Katherine reminded me that I am not, in fact, crazy for being hyped so far in advance.
“I remember my count down started months before Bonnaroo actually came, so I know how excited you [sarah On The Go] and your friends must be! I promise you, it will be an epic time with the best memories.”