Everything was Bonnaroo and Nothing Hurt

On December 6, 2011

    "It's like Disney World with drugs."

    A very wise woman from Minnesota shared that sentiment with me upon parting this June.

    Bonnaroo is not just a music festival – it's an experience.

    This past summer, I made my first pilgrimage to the 700-acre farm in Manchester, Tenn. (much to my parents' dismay). But, at 20 years old, I knew it was time.

    I signed up for a credit card, rented a car, packed camping supplies, and hit the road with my two best friends for a 12-hour drive to the time of our lives.     

    It's hard to say what I expected Bonnaroo to be. Visions of Woodstock danced in my head – four days of music, bare essentials camping, and a seemingly safe-haven where real-life rules don't apply. What could be better?

    We pulled into the campgrounds around midnight – hours of driving and hours of waiting in line had us past exhaustion. We unpacked our car, set up our tent, and explored in the pitch-black darkness that you can only find in the rural South.

    The next morning was when the real beauty unfolded in front of us. Hundreds of thousands of tents, hundreds of thousands of people from different walks of life united for one reason: music.

    I can't tell you what the first show was that we saw, and I can't tell you every single act I was privileged enough to see. But, I do know that being surrounded by music for four days was a completely euphoric experience.

    Not only did I witness what I consider to be some of the greatest musical acts of my generation – Arcade Fire, Mumford and Sons, The Black Keys, Florence + the Machine, Cold War Kids, Ray LaMontagne, and The Strokes, just to name a few – but I was able to do so with thousands of other people who were there for the same reason as me.

    I can tell you exactly how it felt to be front row for The Strokes – yes, Julian Casablancas is just as stunning as you could imagine – and I can tell you how it felt to witness what I consider to be the greatest concert I've seen in my whole life – Arcade Fire (in case you were wondering) and the performance of their album, The Suburbs, was simply phenomenal.

    Who could forget the moment when the whole festival showed up to watch The Black Keys and I wondered how so many people could be in one place? Or when Mumford and Sons played "White Blank Page" and it seemed as if Marcus Mumford's voice was haunting the entire venue.

    But, it was the sense of community I felt on that farm in Manchester that I consider the best reason to go to Bonnaroo or any type of music festival. My parents were extremely worried that they were sending their sweet, naive, 20-year-old daughter into a drug-infested colony where people would steal my money and my innocence.

    My campsite neighbors came from Minnesota. They shared not only their camping essentials, but would watch our things if we went to the festival grounds and saved us spots at our must-see shows. We left Tennessee promising to keep in touch, and they even gave us a toy duck that still proudly sits on my car's dashboard.

    Our neighbors on the other side came from Kentucky. One night, they spilled something, but lacked paper towels to clean it up with. We shared our supplies and were welcomed with free Miller High Life and hugs. Southern hospitality was alive and bountiful on that 700-acre farm.

    I'm not lying when I say Bonnaroo was an experience of a lifetime, and I would pressure anyone who has the funds and time to go to a music festival: go. Not only do you get the chance to experience the greatest live music that you possibly can, you also come back with many great memories.

    Bonnaroo, until death do us part. I can't wait until my sweaty, dust-filled summer days return.

Email: rebecca.bratek@ubspectrum.com


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