Bonnaroo 2008: Travelogue Part 1

Exhaustion hasn’t quite set in yet. The drive from Baltimore to Pittsburgh was smoother than I’ve ever experienced taking only the 4 Google-predicted hours to get there. After getting some logistics out of the way, we embarked at 8PM on the 10-hour trip to Manchester, TN and the 100-acre farm owned by the now 7-year old Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival.

The trip was a bit hazy through the wee-hours of Wednesday night/Thursday morning, punctuated in my memory only by flashes of the fantastic “All the way” hash browns at a random Kentuckyian Waffle House and random bits of various rest stops.

Stepping out of the car in the parking lot of the local radio station (Fantasy 101) designated for press will call, the weather was cool and breezy and I was right on time for the opening of will call.  And just maybe it won’t be as hot as people complained to me.

I neglected to realize that I did, in fact, cross over into the central time zone, thus I was an hour early for the press pick up.  This is also why 7AM was so cool.  Because it was 7AM Eastern/6AM Central. As I sat and waited in the parking lot and our old enemy the sun began peeking over the tree-line, I could feel the weight of the air as it heated and I began to understand everyone’s complaints.

The pick-up was clear sailing, but entry was truly an exhaustive process on the festival organizer’s side. Things were meticulously done, searching every car for prohibited equipment, which led to the fear-building wait to secure a camping spot. A valid one at that, since camping sprawls out like a fan from the handle, comprised of the Bonnaroo complex, stages, merchants and all. This leaves some unlucky late-comers stuck with a 30+ minute commute to the action.

The oversized, Bonnaroo-emblazoned, arched gates metaphorically opened around noon, but people milled around the entrance long before then. By the time noon rolled around, the near-mythical heat which initially seemed to be sparing this year had returned, as expected.

The music on day 1 didn’t start until 5PM, but Bonnaroo has evolved into much more than a music festival. An entire city, dubbed Centeroo, is erected. This year’s entertainment comes in the form of 7 music stages, a movie theater, a comedy tent, and dozens of specialty merchandise, arts and food vendors ranging from personal wellness and hygiene (Garnier Fructis’ free hair salon, massage parlor), foods generic and exotic (the Samosa-man!), a build-your-own drum station and internet cafes (Microsoft charity-oriented, the FuseTV barn complete with bull-riding and pie-eating contests).

Basically, the entire place is like a more organic, less garish and gambling-oriented version of Las Vegas.

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