So the Williams clan packed up our stuff and headed to Bonnaroo last week.
The four of us left Wednesday evening and drove to Nashville. We stayed in a pretty swank hotel there, and got up relatively early on Thursday to finish the drive.
We were coming from the west, and when we got to the exit for the town where Bonnaroo is held, we noticed that the exit was closed from our direction, but that traffic coming from the east was *really stacked up*. Like.. there was a line about 7 or 8 miles long. I was fearful. We turned on the local Bonnaroo radio station, and they were giving directions to get off on exit 127 or something, which we'd not reached yet. So we drove on, looking across at the seemingly endless line of vehicles, afraid that the plan was to have us join this long line of cars (cue the cake song). We got to the exit, which was backed up just a hundred yards or so, and were able to see that they were not just having us turn around to join the long line - YAY! We were in a line of our own, but it was not on the shoulder of the freeway, and it moved along pretty reasonably. Still, we were in line for two or three hours. It was fine though. Despite being hot, we rolled the windows down, and there was a nice enough breeze to cool things down a bit. So the weather was nice, and we were on little semi-rural streets, so we enjoyed the scenery as well. Finally we got to the checkpoints, where they were searching vehicles for contraband - mostly glass, drugs and weapons, I guess. We made it through fine, having none of these things, but were slightly amused by watching them pull out and throw away stuff from other vehicles. I was a little surprised that the checks were not more thorough. They were a little bit random. One or two guys would eyeball the inside of your car, open up one or two pieces of luggage, and that was about it. While it was more than "cursory", it certainly could have been more thorough. But I think that there are two things at play here: they want to get people in, like, sometime today. And they're not super serious about the drug thing. I mean, its a hippie drug and music party. Anyway, we got past that and made it to the tents area. They were packing people in pretty tight. We'd wanted to score some tent-only camping, which meant parking somewhere and walking elsewhere to do camping, but we weren't sure how quickly it filled up. We got our hands on a map and saw that the tent-only area was super tiny, and figured that it'd be full, and we'd have wasted our time. So we didn't try. Where we parked, as I said, they were packing us in tight. They'd park cars in rows, two cars long. So in front of our bumper was a clear space for about 25 or so feet, then the back bumper of another car. Another car was immediately behind us, and behind them, more open space. And on each side, cars and more cars. So we pitched our two tents, one for sleeping and one for hanging out, right in front of our car. We had neighbors on three sides of us, and our car one one side. We got our tents up, and soon headed off to Centeroo, which is where all of the events and most of the food and stuff is.
We saw Grand Ole Party, which was fun, and totally channeled the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. We ate, and hung out and saw Grupo Fantasma. We were pretty spent by midnight, from the driving and waiting and walking and sun and heat and so forth, so were were back at our tent before 1, and crashed. Some of us slept well, for others, the music from Centeroo kept them from getting a really good night sleep.
We were up on Friday around 8. I went off in search of sustenance, and found it easily. By 9 or so, we were all up and starting to move. We hung out, waited on bathrooms, drank water and goofed off until very early afternoon, and headed for Centeroo again. We got to see M.I.A., which was totally freaking awesome. I love MIA, and it was fantastic to see her in concert. There was a ridiculous crowd. We'd picked some floor space about halfway back from the stage, under the huge tent. I figured this would be a descent spot, keeping us out of the super tight part of the crowd, but still close enough. I was kinda wrong, and this is why I'm not a big fan of concerts I think. Or maybe I'm just old, either way - it was constantly annoying, being jostled, and pushed by, and stood right in front of, and so on. I guess I'm just not 22 anymore. I know its a concert, and with tons of people, but really, folks, when the crowd in front of you is a tightly packed sea of humanity, and have to shove past me to get in front, where are you really going? And "to stand right fucking in front of you" is not a sufficient answer. Anyway, despite that annoyance, the show was great. I love MIA's music, and she rocked. She interacted with the crowd, at one point getting "all the girls" on the stage - enough so anyway that she filled the stage, and then soon after, sending them off and getting "all the boys" on the stage, to play Boyz. It was a fantastic show. We split up a little, catching some of The Raconteurs, !!! (pronounced chk-chk-chk), The Swell Season, and then getting back together. We went and saw Metallica, and it was great. I love Metallica, and enjoyed seeing them. They played a ton of old stuff. It was a little weird having them, and some of the heavy bands at Bonnaroo, since they're metal, and bonnaroo is kinda folksy and hippy. It started drizzling a little before dark that evening, and so we sat in the semi-rain for Metallica. Again, we bundled in and were trying to get to sleep before 1. Shortly after 1, the sky opened up and the rain setting was on "FULL!". Sadly, we'd taken a shortcut when setting up our tent, so instead of shedding water completely, we were getting some pretty serious drips and water in the tent. It wasn't flooding in the tent, but it sure wasn't sleeping conditions either. Maddie and John gave it up and broke for the car. Krissi and I stayed in the tent and made do. It slacked off after awhile, but it was a really good storm. Saturday, Krissi and I got up and moving a little before 8, I think. We got our breakfast on, and soon the other Williams' were up as well. Again, we goofed around a bit before heading to Centeroo around noon. On Saturday we saw Gogol Bordello which was fucking awesome. I love me some Gypsy Punk Rock. It was a seriously awesome show. They have an amazing stage presence and show. The crowd was super into it, and it was all kinds of awesome. We also saw Pearl Jam, which I have mixed feelings about. I love Pearl Jam.... I love Pearl Jam's music. And I certainly identify with Vedder's political stance, and environmentalism and all of that. Pearl Jam played a great set, doing lots of stuff from the old albums that everyone could sing along with. But Eddie kept taking time between songs to mumble about Bush and gas prices and Iraq War veterans. Eddie is just not a good speaker. He writes and sings amazing songs, but his little mumbly political rants were annoying at best. He also encouraged the crowd to take action and change the world. I wonder if he was aware that he was talking to 60,000+ hippies, who's biggest concern right then was whether or not there would be enough pot to last them until the end of the festival.
Again, we crashed "early", shortly after 1. It got pretty cold overnight, and eventually M&J headed to the car, while Krissi and I stuck it out with our sleeping bag.
Sunday we got up, and started packing. There weren't any bands that we were super keen on seeing on sunday, and we all wanted to get back. You take showers and amenities for granted, until you don't get them for a few days at a time. So we headed back to M-town, and made it here before 3pm. Caught the new Hulk movie, started working on the 700+ items on my feed reader, and called it a night.
We also caught a good number of comedy shows, which were great. We saw, in order I cannot recall: Janeane Garofalo, Brian Posehn, Jim Norton, Mike Birbiglia, Louis C.K., and one or two others that I cannot recall. They were all very very funny. Janeane was a little disappointing, simply because.. well, she really didn't do a standup show. She rambled a little about racism and politics, and then kindof ran around the audience area a few times, and then was done. I mean, she was still sorta funny, but it wasn't really a comedy show. With that said, I still love Janeane and would gladly have her babies.
The food was plentiful, kinda pricey, and very delicious. On Thursday when we walked into Centeroo, we immediately grabbed Gyros, which was THE BOMB. (Kwik Check on Madison's are better, but these were super good). We also had pizza, burgers, brauts, hot dogs, corn dogs, and a number of other delicious goodies. The crowd and the staff were mostly easy going, friendly, and good natured. There was SO MUCH POT.
Funny stuff: On Saturday, we rolled up to the main stage area as Jack Johnston was wrapping up, and before Pearl Jam was gonna play. For both Pearl Jam and Metallica, we made do with "way in the back". We could see the stage, and hear everything well, but we didn't want to have to fight for breathing room. So we sat down on our little tarp-blanket, and Krissi pulled out the little glowsticks and stuff that she'd brought, since it was getting dark. She and Maddie made headbands and wristbands and such out of them, and were having a grand time, when the solicitations started. Some girl came over and knelt down beside them, and smiled real wide at them and asked "So what are you guys doing this evening? Are you partying?" It was immediately apparent to me what was happening, but - bless their innocent hearts, Krissi and Maddie were totally clueless. And then terribly embarrassed, after the girl made a few seconds of awkward conversation, and then wandered away. By the third solicitation, Krissi was thoroughly disheartened that people were coming up to her and asking her how much ectasy she was trying to sell. But it was still mighty hilarious.
We all had a great time. I am doubtful that we'll even consider going next year, but that it not because we did not enjoy ourselves.
Also, since I mentioned that we saw the Hulk, I'm compelled to give my two cents. And they are:
I liked it. I have some gripes, but I thought it was fun.