It's clear and warm here in Manchester, TN, where Bonnaroo has called home for the past dozen years. It is an impressive set up, to say the least: two main stages, four "tents" (each the size of a football field), six smaller stages—even a cinema. One weekend a year, this farm becomes the seventh-largest city in Tennessee, validated by the fact that there's a post office in the middle of the (extensive) craft village.
Unlike most modern-day music festivals, Bonnaroo encourages its customers—affectionately called "Bonnaroovians"—to stay on site for the duration of the festival, either in a tent, RV, or one of the gazillion luxury liners parked backstage. Staying on the grounds helps propagate the vibe of a musical utopia where, for one weekend at least, all the cares of the world are left outside. "Be in here" as the organizers say.
But, contrary to the notion that this is some kind of hippie mudfest, there are plenty of creature comforts for those of us for whom college days are far back in the rear view mirror. There's a craft beer tent, a food truck "oasis," even their own brand of Ben & Jerry's—perhaps unsurprising given that these are the same organizers who brought The Great Googa Mooga to Prospect Park.
Organizers also take great pains to take care of the land they've come to call home, using biodegradable products and composts, and drilling wells for clean, cool water. They are also the first major festival to use solar energy, providing some 20% of the site's power.
But, Bonnaroo is first and foremost about the music, and the lineup they've secured this year is incredible by any standard: everything from New Orleans jazz and gospel, to indie rock and electronica. It's an embarrassment of riches, so that the only issue becomes choosing who to see: Wu-Tang Clan or Wilco? Björk or Beach House? And, what other festival puts Animal Collective on at 2AM???
Speaking of music, I hear Trombone Shorty warming up the What Stage right now. Check back for updates, or follow us @feastofmusic.