The release of a music festival lineup is an event sure to cause heart rates to increase, bank account balances to plummet, and prompting even the most stoic of music fans to elicit a gasp of excitement. Leading up to the oh-so-anticipated release, speculations such as “Kanye has to be there, right?” or “OK, so I did some snooping and Florence has a gap in her tour dates right around festival season. She’s headlining something for sure,” run rampant. These conjectures are exciting; they add to the mysterious cloud of anticipation that surrounds a release.

But one special festival gives the theories of its hopefuls some actual clout. With its tradition of the “RooClue,” Bonnaroo dishes out tantalizingly tricky clues to its Instagram followers, teasing them with who may or may not be playing the Tennessee festival this year. Presented in block lettering and devoid of any picture or color, the clues are stark in presentation and vague in information. With 10 clues in all, the sporadic hints let curious fans know when the official lineup will be released, as it is made known after the tenth clue is dropped.

Oh RooClues, how you haunt me. Some of your tips are obvious odes to well-known artists; your not-so-subtle allusion to “a fine coat and a furry friend” likely means that Cashmere Cat will be in attendance this year. Hoorah! Others are more opaque. “A scary flick, but where is it buried?” really doesn’t give us much to go on. But still, I find myself coming back each time another hint is posted. You lurk in my mind even when I am unaware, constantly challenging me to unlock your hidden meanings. At times, I find myself one of two things: 1) overcome with frustration at my inability to comprehend anything, or 2) in the middle of some grand epiphany regarding a certain phrase. Each clue is a maze of diction — every word is to be carefully scrutinized, stretching its meaning.

Scrolling through the Instagram comments on the clues adds a sense of unity to the deciphering experience. Followers comment their hypotheses and play off one another to work out the riddles’ meanings. Some commenters are serious in their pursuit of the truth, breaking down the phrases to flick through their musical catalogs until they find a perfect match. Others simply project their hopes onto the presented hints, twisting every clue to apply it to their own favorite artists. One user has somehow managed to justify that each clue is actually pointing toward Carrie Underwood. A fan can dream.

The clues give the festival life, a personality. Each time a new clue is dropped, it’s as though Bonnaroo itself is speaking directly to its participants — both hopeful first-time goers and seasoned Great Stage Park veterans. The phrasing is witty and multifaceted, as are the performers and fans of the clues’ origin. Adding another level of showmanship, these Instagram blasts further forge the identity and community of Bonnaroo. And, with the 10th clue having recently been released, those prospective attendees will soon be relieved from their frenzy of conjecture and rewarded with the 2016 ‘Roo lineup. 

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