By Trenna Field
The sun’s rays are beating down on dry trampled pieces of hay and grass. The dirt is dry and the dust is carried through the air by the sound waves that the music creates. At night, glow sticks light up the dark and people dance freely with arms in the air and heads towards the clear sky.
Music festivals add a completely new and exciting vibe to the music scene. Although ticket prices may seem expensive, averaging around $250, they are worth every dollar. Some of the headliners sell tickets for over $100 to solo shows, so when a fan can buy a ticket to see many of their favorite performers over the course of a weekend, it is definitely a discount.
However, with the economy in the state it is in, some fans cannot afford the $250, so the better option is to volunteer. Many festivals offer discount tickets to people who are on the street teams, advertising and marketing the festival in cities across the country, but volunteers have to work a few short shifts and have a free ticket into a few days of musical paradise.
2009 marks the eighth year of the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee. It is in a remote location, however for four days Manchester becomes the most populated city in the state, beating out Memphis, which has roughly 60,000 people. Individuals from all over the world attend Bonnaroo for many different reasons; some are first timers while others are founding followers of the event.
This year marks the third year in a row for one attendee. In the beginning she went because of friends who had gone in the past, “it sounded like an amazing experience that I didn’t want to miss out on again”. During her second year, she volunteered for the first time and said working did not interfere with seeing her favorite acts. “It actually enhanced the experience”.
This summer, Bonnaroo seems to have taken a different turn. It started slowly, but over the years Bonnaroo has joined the mainstream music community rather than the jam band festival that it was previously known as. The headliner for 2009 is Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, however he will be sandwiched on Friday and Sunday nights by Phish, both bands making their first appearances. Bonnaroo showcases all types of talent, ranging from the Comedy Tent, this year featuring Jimmy Fallon, as well as blue grass band David Grisman Quintet, and rap star Snoop Dogg. The artists vary as much as the fans, but in the approximate 600 acres of empty farmland, everyone finds a common beat, the love of music, meeting new people, and being free from the everyday routines.
When the sun is too hot to sit and bake at a show, you can walk around and cool off in the giant mushroom water fountain that features a new paint job every year. When your legs are tired from walking simply grab a copy of the Bonnaroo Beacon, the festival’s newspaper which is run by Relix, and read of the upcoming events as well as reviews of the previous day’s shows. Find shade under This Tent or That Tent and drink a cold bottle of water or frozen lemonade and relax until it is time to dance once again.
While waiting for the night performances to begin, visit the many tents and stands that sell items ranging from cowboy hats to flowing skirts, glass beads to hammocks. If it is possible to get tired of dancing at live shows, put on a pair of headphones and dance in the Silent Disco. There is never a dull moment, and never a time when you can’t find something to do.
Some might refer to it as the Woodstock of today, however it is something all its own. It is a place where people are friendly, music is always good, ages range from infants with their parents to people who did attend Woodstock in the sixties. Perhaps I am biased because 2009 will be my third Bonnaroo, however every year when the set list is announced and the countdown begins, the excitement starts anew.
Bonnaroo is what you make it and as long as you go with a positive attitude and an open mind to all that is around you, then you will have the most amazing four days of summer 2009. At the end of the weekend, while slowly driving down the long dirt and gravel roads, you won’t be able to keep your mind from wandering and begin counting down the days to next year’s festival. But for now, it is an end to Bonnaroo 2009, out of the gates and back reality.