I think perhaps the most fitting song to use in my first post is "Wake Up" by Arcade Fire. More specifically, their performance at Bonnaroo 2011. Before 'Roo, I had never been to a music festival before. I made the 6-hour road trip to Manchester, Tennessee with my friends Stephanie, Alison and Mike. For those of you who may not know much about Bonnaroo, it's a bit hard to explain if you've never experienced it. Yes, it's a music festival -- four days and five nights of music from 11am or so through the wee hours of the morning. Have you ever heard of Manchester, Tennessee? Probably not. That would be because it's in the middle of nowhere. Bonnaroo has been on a huge farm for 11 years now. Don't let the fact that it's a farm fool you -- trees are a rare sight. It's Tennesee, it's June, very little shade -- it's hot. That doesn't exactly make for the most desirable climate to camp in from Wednesday night through Sunday morning. Around 100,000 or so people go every year - so as you can imagine, the campgrounds aren't just hot and dirty -they are very crowded. So far, my description doesn't sound all that appealing. And it's not to a lot of people - not when there are cleaner, non-camping festivals like Lollapalooza. But, for those who can grit their teeth and endure the agony of inadequate camp showers, buckets of sweat, elusive and expensive water, no electricity and most likely a dead cell phone, endless thirst, constant heat, the constant smell of marijuana and cigarette smoke in the air, and insanely long lines....Bonnaroo makes for an epic, unforgettable and massively enjoyable experience. Everyone shares the same misery, the same music, and feels an awesome sense of community. People there are unlike people at any other festival.
Good marketing tactic. I did buy a hot dog.
Having said that, the main headliner for my first year at Roo was Arcade Fire. Do you know who they are? If not, shame on you. Watch this video. Read the rest of my post. Then understand why I made you watch this:
After they won the Grammy for Album of the Year in 2011, a lot of people didn't even know who they were, leading to this hilarious video and a Tumblr all about not knowing who they are.
I'm pretty sure that for the entire car ride to Manchester that I was always thinking about how good Arcade Fire was going to be. They are a large band, comprised of dozens of instruments, that are masters at writing songs made for huge arenas. Of course they had to kill it at Bonnaroo!
"Wake Up" is probably their most popular song. If you've never heard it then what is wrong with you? Haven't you seen Where The Wild Things Are? But I digress. The first 19 notes they sing in that song were the original reason that I decided to go to Bonnaroo that year. I really like this video because it's from the view of the band and you can hear exactly how loud the crowd roars those 19 notes.
I should invest in a Where's Waldo costume...
They headlined Friday night, the third night of the Festival. Remember how hot it is at Bonnaroo? By Friday, we were seriously fading and getting fed up with being so hot. I read once that 2011 was the hottest year Bonnaroo had to date. It was terrible. Over 100 degrees every day. Humid as hell. When we were hanging out at the campsite, my friends and I played drinking games with water just to make sure to stay hydrated. And we did a great job with hydration - eating was a different issue. I didn't particularly feel hungry that day - I was hot and didn't have an appetite. For breakfast I had one pop-tart. Around 4pm or so, after jumping around to Matt & Kim's set, I crashed hard and quick. Mike, Alison and I were walking to the next stage and as we passed one of the rare trees there, I pretty much gave up and sat under the shade of the tree. Mike and Al were sweet and they bought a sandwich for me. I knew that I was plenty hydrated, but not eating enough gave me a pretty bad case of hyperthermia. I felt a little better after I ate, so we went on with the day. But of course, around 8pm or so, right after I saw Florence + The Machine, I couldn't do it anymore. I barely made the 30-minute walk back to the campsite before I couldn't walk anymore. It was still 90-something degrees, but I had chill bumps! I layed down in our tent (which under the Tennessee sun transforms into a human oven), put on three shirts, and layed in the sleeping bag. I slept through most My Morning Jacket, but I could hear them sometimes in the distance. I didn't feel great after the nap, but I wasn't cold anymore and I was going to be damned if I missed Arcade Fire at 11pm.
To make an already long story short, I made it there in time. I don't know how many people went to their set, but they were the headliner and it was the biggest stage - so probably around 60 or 70 thousand people. Mike, Alison and I were able to get respectably close enough to the stage...or at least close enough to not have to solely rely on watching the big screen just to see the show. I'd guess that we were about 3 or 5 thousand people in front of us (it's really not bad). Where was Stephanie, you ask? She was hardcore that day. She stood in the very front row, pressed up against the metal barriers, from something like 10am all the way through the end of Arcade Fire all to make sure she was up front. I'm not sure how she survived, given the experience that I had in the heat that day, but she was more than happy to have been in the front row.
After the first few songs, I was so happy to be there that I started to feel much better. I felt good enough to sing my lungs out with the awesome hippies waving glowsticks in the air beside us. Then, we finally got to hear "Wake Up" during their encore. And it was exactly how we had pictured in our minds.
In the following months after Bonnaroo 2011, I spent a lot of time thinking about how much fun it was. I read a lot of articles about the festival. Did you know that the dusty farm fields were so bad that dirt and dust hovered over 30 feet above our heads? Anyway, I suppose that reading about Bonnaroo at various music blogs led to me reading about album and concert reviews, yadda yadda yadda, now I'm finding more music than I can even remember. I'll more than likely end up posting my flavor of the day or something that I've been listening to a lot lately. I hope that most of you like what you find - among those things, you'll be finding much shorter posts!
Stephanie, me, Alison and Mike looking very dirty and gross at McDonald's after leaving Bonnaroo