The 13th annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival is a four-day event held in Manchester, Tennessee. This year’s festival is set for June 12th through June 15th, 2014. Unlike Coachella in Southern California, this festival count on a somewhat heavier medley of bluegrass acts, folk rock and jam bands. Yet, its wide-ranging selection delivers everything from hip-hop, reggae and pop to electronica, jazz and indie rock.
Launched in 2002, Bonnaroo is relatively new to the music festival scene. Jonathan Mayer, co-founder of Bonnaroo production company Superfly, recalls how the Bonnaroo name came into existence. Superfly wanted a name that formed a connection “to where we were and what was inspiring us.” Mayer came across the New Orlean’s R&B singer Dr. John’s album, Desitively Bonnaroo online. When he looked up the meaning, Mayer knew that Bonnaroo was a perfect fit. The word Bonnaroo is Creole slang meaning, “good stuff” or “a really good time.”
Early on, the music festival took its inspiration from 90s music festivals like Coachella and Glastonbury. By 2003, Rolling Stones had named Bonnaroo as “one of 50 moments that changed Rock & Roll.”
This year, the Candle in the Wind singer, Sir Elton John has been given star billing for the music and arts festival. Other headliners include Kanye West, Jack White and Lionel Ritchie. With over 125 bands on 13 stages, other artists and bands include Vampire Weekend, Arctic Monkey, Wiz Khalifa, Skrillex, Dr. Dog and Cass McCombs to name a few.
Bonnaroo features five “main” stages with smaller set-ups on the grounds. At night, The Silent Disco becomes a popular venue. Each attendee is given headphones that sync with the music so that everyone is listening to the same song. When viewed from outside, it appears as if the crowd is dancing to no music.
The event draws a crowd of 80,000 people on 780-acre farmland with most attendees camping on the grounds. A wall, aptly called, “the Graffiti Wall” separates the campsites from the stages and is also a place where street artists can express themselves. Ticket prices for the event begin at $249.50 and run up to $1,499.50 for a pair of VIP tickets. When not listening to music, attendees can choose a hands-on project such as learning how to garden, swivel a hula-hoop or take drum making.
The festival also boasts film screenings, a comedy tent, craft beer and grow your own shiitake mushroom classes, a 5K Roo run and even yoga. Since its beginnings, Bonnaroo has also donated over $1 million to Coffee County organizations.
A big component of Bonnaroo is raising awareness for the environment, and attendees being part of the solution. The festival provides free filtered water stations. Attendees can purchase a Bonnaroo water bottle to use the duration of the festival to help cut back on waste. Green Ambassadors stroll the festival grounds to direct attendees to the environmental and social groups at the event. In the area called Planet Roo, attendees have an opportunity to familiarize themselves about global warming to human rights issues.
Mayers sums up what the Bonnaroo Festival is all about. He said the festival is about “people coming together for a shared experience that’s never going out of style.”
by Dawn Levesque