Festival Report: Bonnaroo 2015

Bonnaroo

By Adam Depollo, Managing Arts Editor
and Karen Hua, TV/New Media Editor
and Christian Kennedy, Summer Managing Arts Editor
Published June 17, 2015

A haven for free nipples, almost deplete of pretentious flower crowns, filled with people who call themselves your family — it’s amazing how quickly a farm in the middle of nowhere can feel like home. For the past 14 years, Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in rural Manchester, Tennessee, has aimed to “Radiate Positivity” in an environment that embraces diversity. Each year, the event welcomes a lineup of eclectic musical genres and 80,000 attendees young and old, hippie and hipster, and all shades under the rainbow. For four days, people gather from across the world to not only set aside their differences, but to celebrate them – and to find the music that bonds them. From BonnaGrannies to the tiniest of toddlers, high-fives bridged the gap between stranger and friend – a kindness that begged to be reciprocated.

As a testament to the culture of kindness, the crowd members at almost every concert remained respectful of each other’s space. Despite the renowned headliners, everyone was afforded at least a 6-inch radius around themselves even in the mosh pit, which was especially impressive.

The overlapping, back-to-back set-up across such a large campus added a bit of chaos, especially when some performances had to be sacrificed to stake spots at another. However, especially with the plethora of big-name performers packed into just four days, it would be difficult to space the acts out more – especially since the event already ran 24/7 with performances starting as late as 3 a.m.

Overall, Bonnaroo proved art is universal. To be in an atmosphere that could appreciate both rap and indie music, both Amish baking and baked “Roovians” – once you attend Bonnaroo, you have no choice but to be drawn back year after year.

***

MUSIC

Ryn Weaver
As one of the first performers to play at Bonnaroo this year, Weaver kicked off the weekend with a set that stayed true to herself. As a daytime act and a lesser-known name, she did not need the flash of blaring lights or the gaudiness of a fancy band or the glam of an extravagant costume – she poured out raw energy and explained the meaning behind each song to help the audience connect with her music. She ended with her popular “OctaHate”, which pumped up the crowd for the concerts to come.

— Karen Hua

Courtney Barnett
Courtney Barnett is something of her own. Nothing quite like her has hit mainstream music before. She’s an Australian rocker-singer-songwriter. Her music has booming guitars, stream-of-consciousness lyrical style and ever-expanding, always genius insight. She spent her entire set with her guitar in front of her, but that didn’t hold her hostage, she jumped and slammed herself onto the stage in tandem with her playing. She was having as much fun as her fans — an eclectic crowd of men, women, young and old. She displayed range throughout her set, between the hard-rocking “Pedestrian at Best,” in which she boldly (and loudly) proclaims, “Put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you” and “Depreston,” in which she narrates a couple buying a home and over and over repeats the low-lying lyric, “If you’ve got a spare half a million, you could knock it down and start rebuilding.” Barnett is all about the music — no shock elements, no extravagant wardrobe, no makeup at all — just her and her tunes, just the way the crowd loved it.

— Christian Kennedy

Contrary to the opinion of the majority of the crowd, Courtney Barnett’s set was stagnant and distant. Though her music is usually fiery, ferocious with girl power, she remained in one spot for the entirety of her set, even though she was given one of the largest stages at Bonnaroo. Her passion was evident as she rocked out hardcore into her guitar, but with her eyes downcast, the performance seemed more for herself than for a screaming audience. This perhaps suited her audience well, though, which consisted mostly of guys in their 20s geeking out into their air guitars as if they were alone in their bedrooms.
I realize this is an unpopular opinion, but as one of only a handful of females in the audience, I thought I should have been able to relate more when she sang lines of empowerment: “Put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you.”

— Karen Hua

Mac DeMarco
Though he was hyped up to be one of the most exciting acts to end the first day, DeMarco disappointed. Given a large stage and the prime nighttime slot, DeMarco should have been roaring with his audience instead of lulling them to sleep. His Canadian charm and humor matched the whimsicality of his music, but even for his soothing sounds, his stage presence was too static. Unfortunately, each note dragged along with murky lyrics that convoluted the audience sing-a-long.

— Karen Hua

Jungle
Leaving the Mac DeMarco set to see Jungle was one of the best decisions. This is not to say DeMarco was abysmally awful — just that Jungle brought the appropriate energy for midnight of the first day. Their sound draws from such an eclectic array of sources: not quite as hardcore as EDM, but with a pulsating percussion; subtle hints of ’70s funk, an ethereal psychedelic quality and tropical influences that fit their name. With a beautiful cacophony of sound amid brilliant lighting and staging, the duo danced along with an audience that went wild. They left the night with an exuberance that would carry through the weekend.

— Karen Hua

Moon Taxi
Though most people had not heard of the indie-rock band before Bonnaroo, the local Nashville group made sure their sound rang loud and clear. With an amalgam of guitar, bass and percussion, the band beat feel-good vibes into the lazy, hazy afternoon — then, they suddenly burst out with hundreds of silver beach balls that turned their lax vibes into a summer-jam party.

— Karen Hua

Kacey Musgraves
Her name is Kacey Musgraves and she is here to save country music. She has a heart of gold, the sweetness of apple pie, the bite of a bulldog and boundless humor wrapped up in a pretty purple party dress. And let’s not forget her performance and songwriting skills. Her debut album Same Trailer Different Park was on nearly all best-of-2013 lists. Furthermore, Musgraves co-wrote every track on it. She exudes coolness, approachability and openness throughout her set. Her focus on her Texas-trailer-park roots turns that hillbilly trope on it’s head with her eloquence and sharp humor. The crowd came under a haze when she began her slow-rolling, high-peaked “Blowin’ Smoke.” She called out radio for taking her song “Biscuits” off the radio, which makes no sense seeing that it has one of the campiest, catchiest choruses around — something country music could use a tad more of these days. Her covers were spectacular as well. Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart” (which Musgraves wrote) had power and gravitas; TLC’s “No Scrubs” was, as always, a welcome throwback; and the closing “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’ ” fit her bill perfectly. However, the largest triumph was “Follow Your Arrow,” Musgrave’s do-whatever-you-want anthem, not only fit her personal style, but echoed anything and everything Bonnaroo is about.

— Christian Kennedy

Alabama Shakes
Next to Florence and Mumford, Alabama Shakes was unquestionably one of the best acts at Bonnaroo. Against the most perfect Southern sunset, Brittany Howard took the whole scenery by storm, shaking up the entire farm. There were seriously moments where you had to wonder if she was lip-syncing to a track or if her voice truly sounded that smooth, that precise — that unreal. Often compared to Aretha Franklin, Howard showed off her deftness both on the guitar and with her falsetto. Her every note dripped with passion, to the point where it was questionable whether it was sweat or tears on her face. Her gratitude to see such an expansive audience was extremely touching. Unlike other acts where a stagnant set too quickly bored, Howard commanded the audience with a stance. She did not need to move; she let her sound do the talking, and as she sang out, “Give me all your love,” the crowd obliged.

— Karen Hua

Kendrick Lamar
Part of me really, really wants to tell you Kendrick Lamar’s set on the main stage at Bonnaroo was, like his masterpiece To Pimp a Butterfly, a revelatory experience that will revolutionize the way artists do hip hop in the years to come, a slap in the face to an increasingly exploitative and predatory music industry, a thesis-grade reflection on being Black in America in 2015, a cultural milestone that we’ll still be studying 20, 30, or even 40 years from now. Part of me really wants to say I witnessed a turning point in music history, one of those freak occurrences that only happens once in a generation, the sort of moment where you watch an artist become a legend right in front of you. Part of me is writhing in pain as I write these next few words, but the other part knows this needs to be said: Kendrick was just good, not great. True, he got the crowd jumping with old favorites from good kid, m.A.A.d city, such as “Backseat Freestyle” and “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe,” and yes, the live versions of “Alright” and “These Walls” (featuring singer Anna Wise as the only guest appearance of the night) were clean, energetic and masterfully executed. Kendrick’s flows were as tight and complex on stage as they are on tape — giving credence to my view that he is the most technically proficient rapper in the game — and his live band’s metal-tinged sound worked surprisingly well with a decidedly more funk- and R&B-grounded oeuvre. But, again, meandering back to the main festival grounds after his set, I felt the only unique aspect of Kendrick’s performance was that it had happened on that particular stage and on that particular day. He has some work to do before his live set turns into the stuff of legends, but if any hip-hop artist could make that happen, it would be Kendrick. As he promised at the end of his last song of the night, he’ll be back — and I have a feeling he’ll be back with a vengeance.

— Adam DePollo

Earth, Wind & Fire
“To some, these songs are nursery rhymes,” they began. The beauty of Bonnaroo is its diversity – there is a musical genre fit for every audience demographic. Those born before the ’90s understand the importance of paying homage to older bands that contributed to funk, disco and soul — bands that paved the way for modern R&B. Earth, Wind & Fire still worked the crowd with age, but their two-hour set was too long even for the older crowd. The band revisited many of their classics, but the unfortunate truth was that the majority of attendees anxiously waited just to hear the closer, “September.”

— Karen Hua

Odesza & STS9
On opposite sides of Centeroo and both at 1 in the morning, it was difficult to divide time between these two very similar acts. Nevertheless, both bands riled up the late-night crowd with their electronic-meets-ethereal sound. Though they played many songs from their 2012 album, Odesza reversed their "Summer’s Gone" sentiment, kicking up the summer heat by including newer favorites such as “Say My Name.” Meanwhile, STS9 finished the night off with their popular “When the Dust Settles In.”

— Karen Hua

Rhiannon Giddens
Giddens, though an up-and-coming name, took to one of the largest Bonnaroo stages and filled its entirety with her powerful voice. Pre-show, she practiced impressive opera warm-ups backstage, which still would have impressed the entire audience. However, Giddens is not about gaudiness — she took the stage virtually makeup free, with a five-piece band to back up her classically smooth voice. Her band uniquely included a cello and eclectic array of percussion which made her folky-soul aura unique.

— Karen Hua

Phoebe Ryan
I’ve found my new musical obsession in Phoebe Ryan, and soon, everyone else will, too. Not only did I get the pleasure of seeing her set twice (The Who Stage and The Backyard presented by Ford), but I also got to meet her in the press tent. She is a short girl with more spunk and passion packed in than imaginable. She has ombre black to green hair and wore jean shorts, a flowy black shirt, boots with many silver clips and a silver tooth. Her aura is stoner/pixie with a heart of gold. Her songs are catchy, and after hearing them once at the first set, the words were ingrained at the second, making it an even more special experience. Her debut EP Mine was released on iTunes last week. The manner in which Ryan rolls through her lyrics with a flow that is as infectious as it is beautiful only adds another layer to the already fantastic pop songs. The highlight, “Chronic”, which (sadly) isn’t included on her EP is an uptempo song whose chorus explodes into fluid pop magic. She moved to the beats as she powered through her set and interacted with the audience the most of any act at Bonnaroo. She was visibly ecstatic to be there. Us too Phoebo, us too.

— Christian Kennedy

SZA
SZA (pronounced sizz-ah), as her name suggests, seriously sizzled the stage with smoky-smooth set that turned sultry. She emerged to a young audience chanting her name and her songs drew curious passersby into her tent. She began with softer melodies that showed off a vulnerable side and breathed fresh air into the stuffy summer day. But, she slowly built up momentum until her lax Sunday crowd turned into a roaring energetic one. “We're not going to be a chill crowd. No, fuck that!” she declared as she dropped the beat. She recounted her past bartending and being homeless — and with falsettos and neat raps, she proved how she has truly transformed into a power vocalist. To end her set, she brought out special guest Chance the Rapper, which evoked a collective scream across the entire west-side vicinity of Centeroo.

— Karen Hua

Kevin Garrett
I had never heard of Kevin Garrett before coming to Bonnaroo, and as he and his bandmates set up for their set at the smallest stage on the festival grounds, I wasn’t expecting much from the unassuming Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter. Wearing a plain white T-shirt and exuding the opposite of self-confidence, Garrett looked nothing like a powerhouse pop singer who could easily hold his own against anyone doing it today, but as soon as he started belting out an incredibly potent falsetto over perfectly crafted synth keyboard patterns, I knew I was listening to something special. He worked the crowd over to his side with charmingly self-deprecating between-song banter, and his stage persona — somewhere between Yung Lean and Sam Smith — is almost as entertaining as his incredible voice. This is an artist to watch out for, and he’ll be performing at Mac’s Bar in Lansing on the June 26th if you want to be able to say you saw him before it was cool.

— Adam DePollo

Hozier
Hozier didn’t hesitate to bring out the tears on his very first song, “Like Real People Do.” With British charm and the smoothest, rawest voice, he rocked the audience and reminded them of the collective love on the farm. It was enough to induce chills on even the hottest of days. He sang most the songs off his most recent EP Eden, but he unexpectedly added a cover of Ariana Grande’s “Problem” — taking an indie spin on the pop favorite. Hozier ended with his most popular single, “Take Me to Church,” and with an audience of thousands singing along “amen,” his performance will be remembered as a truly spiritual experience.

— Karen Hua

Childish Gambino
To be at Bonnaroo, to have Childish Gambino illuminated in an almost God-like light before your very eyes, to dance along to his songs live — “Don’t be mad if I’m doin’ me better than you doin’ you” clearly ran through everyone’s mind. Though his set mostly consisted of older material, the crowd lit up when he sang songs from his recent Because the Internet album. He even treated the enthusiastic audience to a never-before-heard song that captures more soulful singing than rapping.

— Karen Hua

Mumford and Sons
For those who were “too cool” to see Mumford (even if it meant standing in a massive, sweaty crowd at 11 p.m.), they missed one the best performances at Bonnaroo this year. It’s Bonnaroo — you can sit, sleep, shower when you’re dead — but you have to see Mumford live now. There was no shortage of tears in the audience, as their two-hour set moved through their classics and poignant favorites from their most recent album, Wilder Mind. The audience poured their souls into “I Will Wait” and “Believe,” and Mumford magically united a farm of thousands. Just as the band seemed like they would exit, they brought out Hozier, My Morning Jacket, Dawes and War on Drugs to collaboratively sing a cover, and the audience practically burst beneath the night sky.

— Karen Hua

D’Angelo and the Vanguard
During a press conference held Saturday morning, actor Denis Leary and Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo had a lengthy back-and-forth about the importance of preserving the rebellious spirit and legacy of rock ‘n’ roll. Although their nostalgic reverence for musicians like Jaco Pastorius quickly started to sound like the music criticism equivalent of “You kids get off my lawn!,” I think they made an important observation about music in 2015: In the age of internet rap and streaming services, the idea of the rock star — an artist defined by his allure, charisma and, above all, physical stage presence — doesn’t quite have a place any more. Live performances no longer pave the way into the music industry, and at festivals like Bonnaroo that bring together veteran acts like Earth, Wind & Fire with up-and-coming artists like Chance the Rapper, the difference that experience doing live shows can make becomes incredibly, often painfully, apparent. But at no point was that difference more obvious than Saturday night, when R&B/neo-soul singer D’Angelo and his new band The Vanguard performed the tightest, most virtuosic set in a four-day weekend of incredible performances. The reclusive singer turned classics such as “Brown Sugar” from his 1995 album of the same name and new masterpieces from December’s Black Messiah into irresistible pieces of musical pageantry with perfectly choreographed dance routines, gospel-style call-and-response, and his signature falsetto moaning. He channelled James Brown’s elongated pauses with false endings to deadly effect on a more-than-twenty-minute-long encore performance of “Left and Right” off Brown Sugar and ended his set by throwing his microphone stand to the ground and walking off stage with more self-confidence than any other musician on the festival lineup could possibly muster. There’s a reason why 2,000 people stayed in front of the stage screaming for a second encore at the end of the night — D’Angelo showed them what it feels like to watch a real rock star at work.

— Adam DePollo

Twenty One Pilots
Sunday was the hottest of the four days, melancholic with the collective understanding that the weekend would soon draw to a close. Nevertheless, the band riled up an enthusiastic crowd. With consistent audience interaction, they truly connected through their charisma. At one point, they asked people to get onto each other’s shoulders — and besides the incredible view, the higher vantage point allowed viewers to fully appreciate the sheer size of Bonnaroo. The band had the crowd sing back, “yeah yeah yeah,” they initiated a wave through the sprawl of viewers; they ended their set with an explosion of confetti. Twenty One Pilots showed off their range of capabilities beyond stage presence, too, as their songs moved from bluesy to indie, even incorporating a bit of rap and reggae. Even during the slower balladic melodies, each band member poured passion into the microphone, embodying how powerful music truly can be.

— Karen Hua

X Ambassadors
This past year, X Ambassadors bloomed into recognition as they finished touring as the Imagine Dragons opener and their song “Jungle” was featured in the Pitch Perfect 2 trailer. Their set, albeit on a small stage, bursted with energy, as the four ultra-dedicated band members pulsated the concert by putting their whole bodies into their music. They played their classics from their EP “The Reason,” but then hyped up the crowd with releases from “Love Songs Drug Songs,” their first record to come.

— Karen Hua

Freddie Gibbs and Madlib
While Bonnaroo’s hip-hop lineup consisted almost entirely of young pop-leaning artists like Childish Gambino and Dej Loaf, veteran rapper Freddie Gibbs and legendary producer Madlib gave the festival crowd a taste of classic hip hop with absolutely no frills and flourishes that was still the most spontaneous and memorable of the entire festival. Their stage set-up was incredibly sparse — just a table with the turntable and MPC Madlib used to mix and compose beats on the fly throughout the set — but it was Gibbs’s actual birthday that day, and he let us know early on that he was there to party. Between downing an entire bottle of Patrón, smoking two blunts and eliciting the largest number of exposed breasts I have ever personally witnessed in one place during the course of his hour-long set, Gibbs somehow managed to remain standing and spit technically flawless performances of tracks from Piñata and a cappella previews of new material. The highlight of the set — besides shouting “Fuck Police” along with Freddie Gibbs at least 50 times in the span of an hour — was a freestyle cypher with Chance the Rapper, who provided a vocal backdrop for Gibbs to rap over as Madlib laid down a sample-based drum pattern, all entirely improvised. It was easily the strangest and most uncomfortable collaboration in a festival filled with strange get-togethers (Chance looked visibly scared when Gibbs asked him if he wanted to freestyle), but the surrealist absurdity of the whole thing was even better than watching Jon Hamm throw gummy bears into Zac Galifianakis’s mouth while whistling “Flight of the Bumblebee.” If any single performance could justify spending $350 for a ticket and going four days in 90-degree weather without a shower or flushing toilet, this was it.

— Adam DePollo


The Danish singer, best known in the U.S. for her Iggy Azalea collab “Beg for It” is soon to be a household name. Her songs are catchy, her attitude is on point and her moves leave the audience in a trance. I began to think of her as a more refined, more mature Miley Cyrus. She strutted on stage in a white Calvin Klein bra and black-and-white parachute-y pants (which soon came off the reveal black-and-white spandex shorts). Her set really took off during the second song “Walk this Way” and electro-pop track that takes the beat-to-death title and the idea of “marching to your own drum” and turns them into something fresh. Her Spice Girls’ cover of “Say You’ll Be There” was also stunning. Stripped down, and MØ-ified, the track had more meaning than it ever had before. Her stage presence was complemented by a montage of artfully shot black-and-white images alternated with her name on the backdrop. Beyond the music and stage, her dance moves were the highlight of her set. Her moves, while loosely constructed, have an edge of perfect imperfection.

— Christian Kennedy

Brandi Carlile
Brandi Carlile brought her sweet Southern hospitality before the mayhem of Florence. As the final evening set in, she swayed to country tunes that calmed the farm down. Her audience had a laxer enthusiasm — more of music appreciation than hype. Though her songs often pinch influences of indie and folk, her country vibes still ring true.

— Karen Hua

Betty Who
It was unfortunate that this up-and-comer's set was jammed between headliners Florence and Billy Joel, which didn't leave much opportunity for people to hear her soul-piercing voice. However, she performed at a packed smaller venue earlier in the day, which had a more private backyard feel. There, she rocked her new blue ‘do and remixed one of her new songs as the De Lux duo backed her up. Her voice electrified the small space, moving the whole audience to chills.

— Karen Hua

Florence and The Machine
How can you describe Florence Welch? You really can’t. She is an indescribable performer. Florence and the Machine’s hour-long set broke any bar any other performer may have set over the weekend. Welch is a witch … or maybe a priest … or a god … or, most likely, one of the most mesmerizing rock stars of our time. From the moment she emerged barefoot in flowing white pants and blouse to her way-too-soon exit, the crowd was completely committed to her. Not a second of distraction, no lulls in their set: a rarity in today’s world of immeasurable attention spans and lengthy interlude and costume changes. She ran across the stage, jumped and skipped, only adding to the passion behind her music. Not to mention, she ran through the crowd multiple times, to the dismay of the security guards running after her. It was during Florence that the most surreal moment of the festival ocurred. After introducing the title track of their newest LP, “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful” she gestured to the sky and shouted “Look at it!” And we did. A crowd of tens of thousands all turned up their chins to take a moment to admire the sky that has always been above, but today, in Tennessee, with Florence and the Machine, it never looked bigger, bluer, or more beautiful. The fluid set was a tight 10, covering all three of their albums and Welch’s Calvin Harris collab “Sweet Nothing.”

— Christian Kennedy

It’s difficult to define what, exactly, encapsulates a “good performance” — it’s visceral. Florence was far more than simply a sight of flaming hair that raced around the stage; she was more than her voice that saturated the Tennessee sunset — Florence was a sensory explosion. From the way she danced across the stage even in the 90-degree heat, the audience could almost taste the sweat and passion she exuded. Dressed in an all-white, loose-fitting outfit with no make-up to mask, no jewelry to detract, no shoes to hinder — Florence’s performance was pure – like the clearest of waters, like cocaine. She tirelessly rushed across the stage and thrust her body into her own music — in a way that gave every note urgency, jolting the audience to unending uproars. With unbounded energy, she even leapt into the audience multiple times, racing through the crowd as if the massive Bonnaroo stage couldn’t contain her freedom. Though she couldn’t physically reach every person, she captured and caressed everyone with an embracive aura. Florence is much more than a performer — she is a work of art.

— Karen Hua

Billy Joel
As a whole, our question was, “Who is Billy Joel’s audience?” My question was “why is his set 2.5 hours?” All of our questions aside, the crowd roared as Joel took the stage, and even the millennials who didn’t know the songs danced as if they did — because they’re at a fucking Billy Joel concert. How could you not? Clearly, the entire crowd joined in for cross-generational jams “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” “Uptown Girl” and “Piano Man.” Seeing those live is some bucket-list material right there. Despite his age and lack of any serious movement, Joel exudes energy as a performer, whether it be through his feverish piano skills or his comments toward the crowd. While he wouldn’t have been my first thought as who should close out Bonnaroo, he was certainly an experience to remember and brag to my parents / grandparents about.

— Christian Kennedy

FOOD

Spicy Pie
Of all the incredible food at Bonnaroo (given it’s also on a farm) — Spicy Pie pizza is not that extraordinary. Conceptually, it is simply a thick slice with standard toppings, plus jalapeño peppers across the whole surface … However, for the drug-happy Bonnaroovians, it’s highly worshipped to be the slice of life, of love, of eternal happiness. Spicy Pie is a sensation — a flame inside your mouth hotter than the end of your joint.

— Daily Arts Writer

Amish Baking Company
ABC has successfully ruined any other doughnut in the world for me forever (and I’m sure the same applies to anyone who has feasted on their magical dough). The doughnuts, huge and warm, are covered in a thick glaze that can only be described as euphoric. Of all the drugs floating around Roo, this doughnut gave me a better high than anyone else experienced that hot Tennessee weekend, and I say that with absolute certainty. Dunkin’ Donuts is a lie. Tim Hortons is a lie. Krispy Kreme is a dirty lie. Amish Baking Company is the truth, and this doughnut is my God now.

— Christian Kennedy

CULTURE

Big-Ass Waterslide
Riding off the Spicy Pie heat amid the hot Southern haze, a 40-foot inflatable waterslide seems to be the ideal way to cool off. However, located all the way next to The Other Tent at the furthest end of Centeroo, the extra sweat to walk there and back, in addition to the time sweltering in the big-ass line, the $5 cost and five-second slide did little to offer relief.

Shrooms
Props if someone did not sell you fake drugs — but the most important ‘shroom at Bonnaroo is the renowned mushroom-shaped fountain. Unlike the Big-Ass Waterslide, the fountain was free and open to Roovians all day and all night to their slashing, washing and prancing pleasures. Located centrally on the farm with a big “Radiate Positivity” message on it, it was one of the only activities at the event that did not require any waiting — another huge relief. The fountain was the perfect location to cool off in the middle of a sweaty day — and, to get the only “shower” available for five days on a farm.

The Art Walk
On the first evening, Bonnaroo’s head of visual design, Russ Bennett, led the first-ever Art Walk that explored the prominent and hidden splashes of art across the premises. Bonnaroo has become more than just a music festival — it is now a cultural experience where attendees are exposed to not only new bands, but a new appreciation of art. Bennett, who has held his post since Bonnaroo’s inception 14 years ago, detailed the creative process behind the mushroom fountain and several graffiti murals, most of which embody the event’s motto, “Radiate Positivity.”

The Grove
Tucked deep inside Pod 7, this hidden gem sat quietly away from the Centeroo commotion at one of the outermost points of the campgrounds. Hidden during the day, the small patch of forest lit up with the most brilliant lights at night, changing the colors of the trees and accentuating the beauty of nature all around. With multiple hammocks hanging between trees, the Grove offered a calmer respite from the chaotic festivities as the day began to cool down. Unfortunately, many people came early to claim hammocks for the night, even dozing off until the next morning’s sunrise awoke them.

The Ferris Wheel
With general admission tickets starting at a hefty $350, it seems absurd that anything within the premises should be an additional charge. However, the seemingly juvenile, archaic Ferris wheel proved itself to be a classic, worth every penny of the $6 attendees waited an hour to pay. With the most incredible view of the entire farm and surrounding Tennessee rural area, a ride was the perfect way to wind down after a long day at nonstop back-to-back concerts.

— Karen Hua

***

Bonnaroo, we love you. The lights, the headliners, the excitement — that’s all wonderful. But even the moments catnapping under a shady oak, the times lounging in the Miller Lite tent, the lax days basking in Roo culture and Roo family — those completed the experience. Thank you for introducing us to new music, for culturing us to appreciate art, and for inducting us into this community. Next year cannot come fast enough, but we’ll be sure to see you on the farm then.