A small army of music fans descended on Manchester Tennessee during the early morning hours of June 12th for the 18th annual Bonnaroo Music Festival. Many gathered at the nearby Walmart to stock up on supplies and met other concert goers. Some arrived Tuesday night and set up tents in the parking lot waiting for the grueling process of being screened to enter the festival when the gates opened Wednesday night.
The usually arduous process of entering the campgrounds was made even more difficult this year for a few reasons. Firstly, the sheer number of people caused a bit of chaos, with the first sell out crowd at the festival since the 2013 event headlined by Paul McCartney. But that wasn’t the only problem that led to many festival goers waiting in long traffic lines venting their frustrations and frequently bantering the dreaded Fyre Festival comparison. Some festivalgoers, especially with RV’s, were rerouted for hours through disorganized security checks. A bomb threat last week was coupled with an incident in the town of Manchester, where an idiot, angry at his girlfriend, threw pipe bombs in her front yard. The mishap triggered concerns from local law enforcement to homeland security officials who were also on site. Unsure at first whether the incidents were related officials decided to err on the side of safety and brought in bomb-sniffing dogs. The process created a log jam at the entrances to the camping areas.
But once festival goers were able to get inside, they were greeted to a much more organized event than in years past. Gone were long lines waiting for porta-potties, food, drinks, and showers. The organizers have spent millions of dollars over the years to improve the camping experience at Bonnaroo. Real working toilets, drinking water fountains, and showers have been installed across the site. Food and beverage stands offer up many treats all across the vast expanse. Bonnaroo has always been unique in the festival world by offering up experiences that relate to many different target audiences. The result is a sort of a gathering of the tribes. The campsite offers many different areas designated to the needs and wants of specific groups of people. There is a soberRoo area for people wanting to abstain from the temptations of amounts of party supplies found all about the festival grounds. There is copioussheRoo campground were women of any sexual orientation can feel safe from harassment, a family Roo, and many more. Nine of the vast camping areas have their own facilities for entertainment, including a cinema installation, a live comedy installation and the latest installment the Where in the Woods electronic music village.
Where in the Woods garnered the first big crowd of the festival Wednesday night as many campers finally made their way into their respective campsites. The festival has continued to evolve each year, primarily concentrating on the camping areas outside of the Centeroo festival complex over the last several years. The newest area may have been inspired by the critically acclaimed but short-lived Okeechobee festival in Florida. That festival featured beautifully shaded groves where multiple hammocks were hung from the trees, and an EDM stage was erected in one of these groves. The new Where in the Woods stage at Bonnaroo integrated these ideas into a wonderland of fantastically lit trails through the woods with hammocks hung all about. Along the path were various kiosks of art and interactive gaming areas with vintage pinball and video games, retro games and interactive art installations. The trail ended at a fully functional EDM stage with its own sound system, advanced lighting, and video screens. The festival has really become a five-day event with thousands of campers arriving Wednesday, the day before the opening of Centeroo and partying at locations like Where in the Woods. The stage was not only the first taste of the festival for many in the campground but also offered up the final party for hardcore EDM fans early Monday morning after Phish ended their closing set.