The Diverse and Heady Bonnaroo Changes Lives

Bonnaroo
Bonnaroo

The legend of Bonnaroo continues this year with its 18th rendition of the event. People that have never actually experienced the unexplainable magic of it can not even begin to imagine how truly epic of an adventure that it is.

The undying question will always remain following a Bonnaroo experience, how does one explain that to somebody that was not there? The answer is simple, it is impossible. Words will never do it justice, there is not a way to describe it and capture the enchantment; one must experience it for themselves to understand.

Since its beginning, Bonnaroo has always been located on a 650-acre farm in Manchester, Tennessee, called Great Stage Park. After nearly two decades of the event, the production team and management have found a way to turn it into a well- oiled machine. They have the magic recipe to stay ahead of the game, the festival is next level.

One of the coolest dimensions of Bonnaroo is the diversity in the groups of people that they are able to unite. There is something for every type of music fan, they bring in all walks of life. As connections happen, people wind up following new friends to performers that they normally would not listen to, and in the process, they help open the doors for people to step outside of genre confines and learn that good music does exist outside of their traditional music realms. That is what music festivals are all about, opening minds, connecting people, jamming, and love.

This year the diverse and eclectic lineup again paves the way for connecting people of different musical backgrounds. Headlining artists (Thursday) Grand Ole Opry featuring special guests, (Friday) the jam band sensation Phish, Childish Gambino, Solange, The Avett Brothers, Brockhampton, GRiZ, RL Grime, (Saturday) Post Malone, Odesza, Hozier, Kacey Musgraves, The National, Lonely Island, ZHU, John Prine, (Sunday) 2 more sets of Phish, The Lumineers, Cardi B, Brandi Carlile, Illenium, and Walk the Moon, all join forces with Roo to bring together a variety of music heads from around the country and beyond. For the EDM lovers, the list of talent does not quit, and the late night rave areas are sure to fulfill everyone’s dance party needs.

Another stellar angle of Bonnaroo is the fact that people can arrive as early as Wednesday to set up their campsite and kick into festival mode. Music does not really take place outside of the campgrounds at that point, but it is still an incredible experience and a great way people to transition without rushing around trying to get to a stage immediately. Where typically Thursday nights are pretty chill for music festivals across the map, Bonnaroo brings the heat. Those that have the time can turn it into a full five day adventure.

Prior to their 2017 event, Bonnaroo hit a wall in terms of attendance numbers, and local news outlets were reporting that there was public talk from the event that they were considering either shutting down or moving on from the farm. The 2017 event was the first year that they introduced a heavy electronic dance music lineup to the mix. They invented a new stage area for it called “The Other Stage”.

While the Grammy Award-winning Flume played on a different stage that year, some of the other major EDM acts to perform were Big Gigantic, Borgore, Ganja White Night, NGHTMRE, Claude Vonstroke, Snails, Yellow Claw, and Marshmello.

Incorporating EDM into the lineup was a wise decision by Bonnaroo, because the wavering numbers sky-rocketed towards success and brought new life to Great Stage Park. The success did not go unnoticed by the Bonnaroo team, and the next year they decided to keep the rave going. Where it still does have plenty of things, music, and experiences for people to do that are not into the dance party lifestyle, for those that want to rave, they could easily make Bonnaroo a rave for the duration of the event.

Last year we were able to witness one of the most magical sets in the history of music at like 5:00 in the morning, where Kaskade totally set it off. After the set we went to the late night stage areas and caught a secret set by Slander, they were absolutely killing it and the stage had amazing lights, lasers, and huge flames shooting out of the top of it, at the time the fire seemed to be as tall as the trees.

We were running around calling it Bonnarave the whole time due to the fact that around 7:00 each morning we would be walking back to our campsite with bass still thumping from the background; it was awesome from a rave standpoint. Not disregarding the other genres, but other major EDM acts to perform mind-bending sets in 2018 were the legendary Bassnectar, Virtual Self, Allison Wonderland, The Glitch Mob, Gryffin, K?D, Said the Sky, Boogie T B2B SQUNTO, Space Jesus, Rufus Du Sol, and What So Not.

What separates Bonnaroo from other festivals is the experience that they bring to the table. They offer an array of fan interactive experiences which are available to view on their website. One example is the Bonnaroo yearbook which allows attendees a chance to take free booth style pictures with their squad, that they get to keep, as well as get added to the yearbook which is accessible online for years to come. 

Bonnaroo loves its fans and it is apparent. It bleeds through the experience by way of stage production, the lit up fairy tale style atmosphere, the vendors and shopping choices, the ease and flow of the gigantic festival area, the magical campgrounds full of all-night adventures and options, the bathrooms which are a mix of portable toilets, and permanent fixtures with actual toilets that flush, and also the endless activities that allow attendees the opportunity to just be free, regardless of the music that is surrounding them. Bonnaroovians can take a break from the music anytime that they want and find some very interesting things to take part in. That is the Bonnaroo way.

Sound quality is an important aspect of hosting an extraordinary music event. As if the sound that they incorporated into their events were not already world class, last year the Other Stage had giant speakers behind the crowd, so everybody around the staging area could hear the music just as well as the rail riders and people that like to cram into the fray. Space Jesus put on a low tempo set, and the intricacy of sound is important for artists like him. We were in the back and we could hear every single note in his music. We were standing there with our jaws dropped in amazement, while the bass shook our bodies. Every artist that played on that stage was able to really connect with the crowd with their sound, simply because of the powerhouse sound system; let’s hope that it is the same this hear (hint-hint Bonnaroo).

An honorable mention goes out to Space Jesus for his 2018 performance. It was truly sole in terms of opening minds. Anybody that missed it should find a way to watch it online, it will not be quite like the real thing, but it will at least give a solid idea of the set. Towards the end of it, he did a tear-inducing segment where he proposed to his girlfriend. The digital graphics on the background screen showed an animated version of himself walking through different portions of his life while he was walking toward the animated version of her as he asked her to marry him in real time. He put his heart out there, and much like the Bonnaroo experience, words can not do it justice. It was beyond a wow moment; she said yes by the way.

Mixed reviews come from long-time attendees of Bonnaroo. Some will tell you that it is still amazing after all of these years, and others will tell you that they sold out and it is nothing like the first years of the event. It is recommend for people to not listen to either side and going to figure it out without preconceived notions regarding the event. Lasting nearly two decades is a tremendous accomplishment for any mainstream music festival, one best believe that the magic will once again unleash from the 2019 Bonnaroo event. Do not miss one of the best music festivals on Planet Earth, it will change your life.

Adam Beckett
Adam has watched the EDM scene change from tiny underground warehouses, to massive festival grounds. A firm believer in spreading love and light, and dancing till the break of dawn. Life motto: So we dance

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