It’s just two weeks away, the 12th annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee! I feel very lucky for it to be my 9th trip to the farm this year and I’m as excited as I’ve ever been. I’ve seen it all (almost) and I would like to share with you, dear reader how to best prepare for the greatest music festival on the planet.
There are a few things you just absolutely have to survive, let alone make the most of this glorious weekend. And if you aren’t among the fortunate to arrive in style with an RV, you need to be ready. I’ll show you the ropes, kid. I’ll show you the ropes.
1. Water and Sunscreen. Bring lots of this…it is usually a humid 90 degrees (at least) throughout the weekend and if you’re going to survive you need to drink water and wear sunscreen. I have teetered on the edge of passing out from heat exhaustion in a port-a-potty once upon a time. The darkness was closing in on me and it was not a fond moment. Around 30 minutes later I jumped in the mushroom fountain to cool off, and 3 hours later I woke up lying next to a merch tent. It happens. For every two beers, drink a bottle of water, at least until the sun goes down. Trust me.
2. Shelter. BRING SHELTER, preferably a canopy for to hang out under while you eat breakfast, laugh with your friends and drink and smoke and whatever else strikes your fancy. You will need a break from the sun from the time you wake up at 7AM until the music starts cranking on the stages around noon. Do you really want to bake in the sun for 5 hours before the real party even starts? I did it in 2004 and it was downright hellacious. Extra tarps are also a great idea.
Furthermore, I prefer bringing a canopy to sleep in, using tarps to block out the sunlight as I rest peacefully on my cot in the shade. Using this method, I can usually sleep until around 10:00AM or later if I’m really lucky…which is crucial if you’re going to be going absolutely ape shit with Animal Collective till 4AM. For me, it is not even worth bringing a tent to sleep in. Why? If you sleep in a tent, you WILL wake up at 7AM on the dot and crawl into your shelter wishing you weren’t awake yet. It is like clockwork.
My system with the cot and canopy has worked well and provides optimal comfort. My system also will prevent further misery if it rains like crazy. If your tent floods, you might be sleeping with your head in the mud like Forrest and Bubba – or worse – in a damp car – and THAT is a whole other level of hell, not to mention the stench of Bonnaroo stuck in your car when (or if) you return to the real world.
I also highly recommend a battery powered fan to set near your face to keep you cool as you sleep – this also goes a long way! I am also throwing ear plugs in the mix this year. If you are ultra high maintenance, you can buy misting systems for as little as $50 that you can wire up in your shelter, but this option could get a little muddy. Just a thought.
3. Glass. Don’t bring it. Especially bottles of liquor! The security/safety staff WILL search your car when you enter, and they will dig through your coolers like crazy looking for glass. In 2007 my friend Aaron and I grimaced as the staff confiscated our fresh bottle of Patron tequila. “They won’t really search your car and dig to the bottom of the cooler, right?” Yes, they will. Pets, weapons, and fireworks are not allowed either, and for good reason…
4. Rain Boots. It tends to rain every other year at Bonnaroo, and by rain I mean mud is everywhere. It’s impossible to walk in it with sandals, and any shoes you like will get RUINED walking around in the mess. Cheap water socks have also worked for me in the past, but they aren’t so cool looking. I spent $20 on a pair of rain boots at Tractor Supply years ago and it has been a great investment.
5. Food. Food isn’t that expensive at Bonnaroo, but keep in mind you are doing A LOT of walking and dancing, burning tons of calories and energy in the sun. I eat like a maniac from the vendors at Bonnaroo (hot dogs, crepes, burritos, oh my!) but preparing in advance can save you some big time money. Same goes for beer, if you bring too much, your friends or neighbors will help you finish it. I tend to bring in a few Clif Bars, beef jerkey, and a couple pieces of fruit to snack on during the day.
6. Schedule your day! There’s an app for that! There are so many incredible acts playing at any given time and it’s kind of a chore to figure out who you’re going to see. For instance, Wilco and Jim James are playing at the same time Friday night. Really? It’s unfair and cruel, but what do ya do? At least have a plan so you know where your priorities lie. If there’s a band in particular you really, really want to see, I suggest showing up as early as possible for a prime viewing spot. Also, some of the best times I’ve had at Bonnaroo have been just wondering around and discovering new bands.
7. Make friends with your neighbors at camp. You never know when you might need a favor, plus they will look out for suspicious activity at your camp. And just be smart – I’ve never, ever had a problem with anything getting stolen from my site, but play it safe and don’t leave anything valuable in plain sight.
A few other vital items I recommend:
Baby Wipes (crucial! Especially if you don’t shower for 4 days, like me)
Gold Bond powder (unless you want to get chafed like mad)
A book or two (in case there is downtime in traffic or at the campsite)
Condoms (just sayin’)
Coolers (ice is available onsite, at a reasonable price)
Beer/mixers/soda/liquor (and I repeat: not in glass bottles!!)
A flag/kite/something to identify your site from afar…or just remember a flag that’s close to your campsite.
A good attitude, rain or shine!
No campfires, pets, or weapons allowed either. This will bring you big trouble.
That’s that, have fun you guys! I’ll see you on the farm.