Never in a million years did I ever think I would travel to good ol Manchester, Tennessee for the annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. I can confidently say, however, that going to Bonnaroo was one of the best impulsive decisions I have ever made (even if it took a liiiiiiittle liquid courage to get me to hit "Complete Order"). Just a month after I bought my ticket, I was on my way down south to The Farm.
I must admit that I was a bit apprehensive about the experience. A long list of worries filled my mind, mainly zabout the ten-hour drive, camping, showering situation, heat, going with people I didn’t know all that well, food, etc. Getting into the Roo spirit, I tried to remain positive and let my excitement take control.
The only major festivals I have been to are Coachella and Outside Lands, so I was interested to see how Bonnaroo would stand up to both. Coachella is forever #1 in my heart, and I had so much fun at OSL last year. On the first afternoon of the four-day festival, I had texted one of my friends who was arriving later that night telling her how much she was going to love it. The Farm has this unmatched energy and truly does radiate positivity (one of the pillars of Bonnaroo, I would quickly learn). While the grounds definitely were more packed over the next three days, I knew that there was something exciting and special going to happen.
One major difference between Bonnaroo and other festivals, and I think a lot of this had to do with whom I went with, was my lack of need to consistently be updating everyone with my every move. I decided I wasn’t going to make a video, and once I was there, I realized how much more important it was to be present rather than getting the perfect drop for my Snapchat story. The lack of content in my camera roll goes to show this as well. Even my (brave) decision to leave my contour kits at home and not even really wear makeup was super telling.
Here’s how the weekend went down.
Nineteen hours. That’s how long it took from leaving my house in Maryland to finish setting up our campsite in Manchester. Nineteen. I knew the drive would be long, and we would stop a few times for gas and food (and endless Dunkin Donuts iced coffee), but I don’t think any of us expected the six or seven hours it would take for us to get into the campgrounds (more on that later). We also didn't anticipate beind pulled over. So.
While it probably would’ve cut the time down to fly into Nashville or something and drive from there, we had to bring all of our camping tingz, which would have been more difficult with flying.
The drive itself wasn’t terrible, which is a lot coming from someone like me who really cannot stand being in the car longer than three or four hours, especially if I’m not driving. We ventured through Maryland, Virginia, (possibly North Carolina and Kentucky — still a little unsure here) and Georgia for .5 seconds before hitting Tennessee. I hadn’t been to many of these states so it was cool to see them for the first time, even if it was through my window. I always forget how green and lush it is on this side of the country. Instead of vast desert lands and windmills, I was surrounded by crystal rivers, rolling hills and stunning barns.
No trip to the South would be complete without Cook Out, so I made sure we made a stop there on the way down so I could get my favorite spicy fried chicken sandwich.
The drive home wasn’t too terrible either, but patches of traffic definitely made it seem like it was lagging on a little too long. I had never been happier to hit 495 and then the Maryland state line.
The one thing I swore I would never do at Coachella is camp (especially after hearing my friend’s horror storytelling from her experience this year). Knowing that Bonnaroo was pretty much camping-exclusive, I tried to get past my concerns. Forget the lack of running water and air conditioning — there is no feeling better than jumping into a real bed after a day of festival shenanigans, even if your smushed sleeping Famous-video-style with five other people.
It was freeeeezing at night (practically morning on some days) and blaaaaaaazing hot in the mornings meaning I slept in a wide array of layers. TG I decided to bring a pair of sweats right before I hopped in the car on Wednesday morning to shield me from the cool weather and dew (!!). I truly wouldn’t have made it without them.
We got in line for the camping entrance around 10 PM on Wednesday (which was really 11 PM EST), where we would wait until about 3 or 4 AM to enter from the East Gate. The wait was definitely the most brutal as we anxiously watched the cars miles dwindle down on the dashboard. Alas, we were finally in and started to set up at the sun began to rise along the horizon. This was definitely a surreal moment I don’t think a single one of us had anticipated.
We would lounge around all day and start drinking before heading into the festival around 5 or 6 PM every day. Each of the “pods” had different activities or centers with food and vendor booths, etc. I got to venture off to the Grooup Camping one day and saw The Grove, which is a shaded area strung with hammocks. If I went again, I would try to be over here with more people, for sure.
Camping was definitely not as bad as I had expected, especially considering it was me and four boys. Also thank goodness I played sports growing up and knew how to do quick car-changes.
Another key thing I learned is that the whole Farm is called Bonnaroo, and the actual festival area is referred to as “Centeroo.” We would reach Centeroo after about a 20-minute or so walk from our Pod, where we would then be greeted by the famous Bonnaroo arch and a seemingly-never ending snaked line of Bonnaroovians (who I said should be dubbed "Farm Animals") eagerly high-fiving one another, wishing a “Happy Roo” to each person.
Centeroo was home to ELEVEN stages and tents — yes, ELEVEN. Suddenly the trek from the Sahara Tent to the Coachella Stage or Twin Peaks to the Main Stage felt like a warmup lap. While we mainly spent time at the What, Which and Other stages, it was cool to walk around see what was going on at the other tents and stages. I definitely wished we had gone into the Christmas Barn and spent more time at Silent Disco, but what can you do.
There is also a lot of late night activity that we didn’t get too much into, mainly because we were so dead by 3 or 4 AM and just wanted to chill. I also wish we had more time to go to the other events, like the sing-a-long of R Kelly’s Trapped in the Closet or Twerk it Out with Big Freedia.
We all know that my favorite part of a festival is the food, but I did not make it to as many booths as other festivals (RIP fried chicken from OSL). Of what I did eat, however, I was thoroughly impressed, but I do wish I had been able to try more things.
Overall, the people are the nicest I have ever come across at any festival or show. Everyone is super friendly and accommodating, absolutely radiating positivity. This really helped encapsulate the energy of the festival (it always starts from within!!).
I knew Bonnaroo would be 1000x more lax when it came to outfits, so I tried to keep that (and the heat) in mind. Plus since it’s a bit less scene-y than Coachella and definitely OSL as well and I figured I wouldn’t be photographed like at Coachella this year (never forget), I tried to be lowkey. A lot coming from me, I know.
I invested in my first (!!!!!!) Camelbak, which was majorrrrrrr, so I carried that every day. It took some getting used to as I usually try to opt for the fannypak but having water (usually) readily available was key.
Here is what I wore amongst a sea of guys in shorts and basketball jerseys, topless women and PLUR babies decked out in their favorite DJ's gear.
Dress — Forever 21
Bralette — Urban Outfitters
Dance bottoms — Amazon
Sunglasses — Wildfox
Socks —Brandy Melville
Shoes — That Santee Alley place
Top — Red Bubble (cut into a halter from a tshirt)
Skirt — ASOS
Sunglasses — Quay
Shoes — Converse
Bralette — Urban Outfitters
Pants — Urban Outfitters
Sunglasses — Urban Outfitters
Socks —Brandy Melville
Shoes — That Santee Alley place
Bodysuit — Blood for Mercy
Skirt — ASOS
Sunglasses — Amazon
Socks —Brandy Melville
Shoes — Vans (duh)
The most important part of a festival is the MUSAK! I was sold on Bonnaroo upon first glance of the lineup, so I was soooooo hyped to see some of my most favorite acts. The sets were definitely much later than other festivals I had been to, so I wondered how sets would change. Overall, it was an amazing weekend for music. We got our very fair share of DJs and EDM, and although my ears need to be rested, I can't stop listening to my favorite tracks from the weekend. (The * means I've seen that artist before.)
James Hersey — Tbh I only really wanted to hear “Coming Over,” but he was very talented.
Two Feet — Two Feet was the only act we saw that I 100% had never heard of before Bonnaroo. He only played like five or six songs on this tiny stage, but the set was sooo good and everyone was vibing. His song production and attention to sound detail is so sharp, and I cannot wait to see him blow up.
Haywyre — Mellow. I personally was getting anxious to see Herobust, so the set felt kinda long. He was cool but nothing I was too hyped about.
Herobust — Herobust was heavyyyyyyyyyy and definitely one of my favorite sets of the weekend. The set featured a great mix of songs, and any DJ who plays “Mosh Pit” TWICE gets an A in my book. I just wished he had played a fuller version of “Dirty Work."
Allan Rayman — Literally ran over and caught the last half of one song and walked home.
Ganja White Night — Caught the last few songs and sat in the shade in the back cause it was hot af.
DRAM — I was pretty excited for DRAM because people said he was fun at Coachella. I felt like the energy was too low during the show and definitely needed more production.
Illenium — The boys were vvvvvv excited for Illenium. I can’t say I’m as big of a fan as they are, but I thought that the production was extremely well done and the set was really strong. Plus who doesn’t love a good magic hour set?
The xx* — This was the third time I saw The xx this year (the other two times were the Coachella weekends), so I assumed the show would be the same or very similar. I thought that they sounded much better than Coachella, truthfully. We also had a bunch of room around us, making it a little easier to dance. They always are beautiful and their lights are amazinggggg. I was expecting for Jamie to mix for a little longer like at Coachella, though. I still really want to see their solo headlining show.
NGHTMRE* — I was SO excited to see NGHTMRE since I had seen him a few weeks before in DC. I looooved his show in DC, and his Diplo and Friends mix is one of my favorites. While I can admit it wasn’t the most amazing, spectacular, out-of-this-world show, the set was still really good, and I heard everything I wanted to. Plus at that time in the day, all you wanna do is lose your mind and break out all your best dance moves.
U2 — I really feel like I didn’t appreciate seeing U2, but we just laid in the grass and watched the stars until I ended up leaving for Major Lazer. They definitely played more songs than I thought I knew, but the vibe just brought the group morale down.
Major Lazer* — This was going to be my fourth time seeing Major Lazer and third in a year. I figured the show was going to, like The xx, be very similar to what I had seen. They opened with “Cold Water” and then played a bunch of popular songs without the Lazer Gyals (their dancers, for the fake fans), which really bummed me out because they’re my favorite part of the show (besides Diplo ripping his shirt off). Anyways, the Gyals emerged and the whole place was packed and the energy was so high. Probably not my favorite Major Lazer show ever but still a ton of fun — I’ll love them forever. I do wish we had gone over earlier to get better spots and that Jillionaire had been there. However, I did end up getting a couple towels and Diplo ran through during “Know No Better.” Plus, it was exciting to hear the songs they had dropped on the EP a week before.
Big Gigantic* — I think everyone I know likes Big G, so I was very hyped to see them at Roo, especially in that 2-3 AM slot. Since I saw them at 5 PM at the Sahara Tent, I knew the production would be very different. Definitely was a lot better late night overall.
San Holo — I honestly don’t remember a lot of this set, but I don’t think any of us were too into it except for some parts here and there.
Rezz — I REALLY wanted to see Rezz because everyone has been talking about how sick she is live. Her set was super heavy and the production was great, however, I wold have preferred to see her in a club venue or even one of the tents.
Chance* — I have seen the dude FOUR times now, and I still am waiting to understand the hype. LMK.
Louis the Child* — I just saw Louis the Child at Air + Style in February, so I was v pumped to see them again. I could not stop laughing because they’re literally so young and always kill it. Plus, there weren’t that many people when we saw them at Bonnaroo, so we had a ton of room to dance, and we were definitely the oldest ones there. Moving on, I thought they were sooo good and very fun — always just FEEL GOOD music. Additionally, their production and visuals were one of the strongest of the weekend, I felt. I have not stopped listening to them, and I’m quite excited to see them at Bumbershoot in September.
Red Hot Chili Peppers — Like with U2, I thought I could have been a bit more appreciative of RHCP. I was excited to hear “Dani California,” but I think we were just too far away to really be in it. We ended up leaving pretty early on.
Flume* — I always tell myself that monumental numbers of seeing my favorite artists is like a weird sign or something, so I had high hopes seeing Flume for what would be my fifth time. The show was absolutely incredible, even though I had seen pretty much the same thing in February (rip “Higher” remix). We were all on cloud 9 and just so into it. Each noise sounded better than the last, and the production was top notch as always. Forever one of my favorite artists to see live. The set was insanely beautiful and such a special moment of the weekend. And I was totally geeking out hearing “Hyperreal” for the first time along with my favorite remixes by Flume like “Get Free” and “Core.” Just wish he added in “Take a Chance.”
Marshmello — As we were still on the Flume high, we eagerly went to see Marshmello. We had been joking about “Mello Gang” all weekend, so we had to go see him. Plus, being so hardcore HDY Nation, I understood what that fanbase could feel like, so I figured there must be something to the hype — especially after seeing how many kids were covered in Mello gear at Coachella and Bonnaroo. He was absolutely terrible, and I would never pay a single cent to see him again. I just don’t know if I can even feel bad for all those kiddos in the DIY helmets. I think I’m gonna laugh about how overhyped we made it till I die. The one point he scored was being the only DJ we saw to drop "Chicken Soup."
Umphry’s McGee — Okay, I definitely had never heard of Umphry’s either before, and I didn’t think we would see them because we were gonna be Mello Gang, however, we ended up at Umphry’s. We didn’t know any songs and only caught the last few, but it was super fun to dance to in the back of the tent and their lighting was amazing. I just knew that this wouldn’t carry over…
Umphry’s McGee — …into their day set. I think we saw like a second of it from afar before walking away.
Vanic — We only caught a couple of the last songs, but it was good from what we saw. Would see Vanic again.
Skepta* — The last time I saw Skepta was at W2, and I left early because it was 10000 degrees in the Sahara Tent (and went to eat Kazu -- NO REGRETS). The Other was a much, much better set up for Skepta. I think it was cooler to see his visuals in Sahara but the scene was better for him at The Other. Obviously I was amped for “It Ain’t Safe,” but the rest of the set was good.
Borgore* — I had seen Borgore in 2014 at Made in America and remembered it being so fun, so I decided to skip Lorde (gasp! I know, ugh) and stay for Daddy (see his Twitter). We also were worried a bunch of people were gonna come for Yellow Claw and wanted to make sure we got good spots. Anyways, the set was fine — just a lot of loud noise, but I heard a bunch of songs I liked. It was very exciting to hear “Forbes” live since I randomly love that song.
Yellow Claw* — I think this was the set I was most excited for, TBQH. I saw Yellow Claw in Vegas this year, but it was only Nils (ilysfm) and it’s not like a *real* show. The last time I saw YMFC, Bizzey was still a member and it was before Blood for Mercy had even come out. The set was ABSOLUTE FIRE!!!! I listen to their sets and mixes (like this, this and this) all the time, so I made sure to not listen to any from the past few months so the show felt fresh. Every single song I was geeking out, especially for the Los Amsterdam tracks and some other older ones I didn’t expect. Believe it or not, YC’s set was the only one that I moshed at during the whole week (sad!). They, of course, played “Mosh Pit” with a Kill The Noise drop and everyone was going for it. I don’t think I stopped moving the whole set. 100p worth it. I left drowning in sweat and ten pounds lighter. I’ll love them forever. (Also, they Instagram Story’d my photo!!!!!)
Travis Scott* — I was willing to risk not seeing Travis because YC’s set was the same timeslot, but when we were leaving The Other, we heard “3500” and BOOKED IT to Travis. We caught the last couple songs from the back. I would’ve loved to see the whole set and been deeper in the crowd, but I do not regret choosing Yellow Claw.
The Weeknd* — Everything after Trilogy to me has been less than great, so I was nervous about seeing Abel. Also, nothing will beat the only time I had seen him (TLDR Coachella 2015, closing set of Saturday and we watched it from the handicap platform. Nuts.). The set was short but very good. He sounded great and did a ton of stuff I wanted to hear, EXCEPT I would have loved to see “House of Balloon/Glass Table Girls,” “The Morning,” “Rolling Stone,” “Drunk in Love Remix,” etc. It was definitely a great end to the week(e)nd.
Well, Bonnaroo 2017 was a success. Who would have thought? I don’t think I’ve stopped talking about it since I got home. Bonnaroo will forever hold a special place in my heart, and I am hoping to return to The Farm soon and for many years to come.
Matcha Had Me...looking thirty shades darker, continuing to catch up on sleep and feverishly radiating positivity.