Fine Arts and Fest

Bonna - Ruined

A Lesson in "Hippy - ocrisy"

Chad W. Lutz
“I never knew anything ever.” – Yours Truly
Indeed I hadn’t. Never in my life do I think have I ever been a part of something so vast and so grand and wide reaching. From the moment we got out of the car after red-eyeing it through two and a half states to arrive 25 hours deprived of sleep we knew we had arrived. They slapped bracelets on our wrists, handed us brochures and waved us through the muddy checkpoint. This was Bonnaroo.

On June 10th, 75,000 people converged on the small Tennessee town of Manchester, which held host to the 9th Annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. The festival draws big and upcoming acts alike. This year the big names were the Dave Matthews Band, Tennessee’s own Kings of Leon, Jay – Z, Stevie Wonder, John Fogherty, The Flaming Lips and basically any band that’s good and is currently touring. None of the people I made the trek down with could decide which band they were more excited to see. For me it was a clear-cut choice. Dark Side of the Moon has always been and will probably continue to be one of the best albums ever produced. And the prospect of seeing it performed live and “in the flesh” if you will, was what I had my sights on. But at the time I had no idea what I was in for.

The first day was lazy, and hot. The temperature was already in the 90’s by noon and none of us had had any sleep since the previous morning. I tried to get some rest, feeling the drain of sleep deprivation after driving nine straight hours in a car that taxed my nervous system more than the IRS. But, ya know, it’s not easy to sleep when the inside of your tent is hotter than most microwaves. The sun was actually so hot, that by eight thirty, if you weren’t up the sun would wake you up and practically melt you to the floor of your tent. Most of us slept outside for this very reason.

The first wave of concerts started at noon, but none of us wanted to move. So the ten of us laid around until the sun kindly made its way down the horizon. It wasn’t until seven o’clock that any of us really started to stir. We decided to forgo the first few shows because of the heat and waited for Miike Snow, a dance trance electronica group from Sweden that sounded like a less sinister Marilyn Manson. Other bands on the bill for the night included The Dodos, The Temper Trap, The XX, The Entrance Band, Manchester Orchestra, and Lotus.

When we finally made it to the main grounds of the festival, Centeroo, where all the stages were set up, there was already a good buzz of people swarming around the field turned fête. The grounds were laid out in rows of venders with stages set up in the corners of the affair. This Tent, That Tent, The Other Tent, and Which Stage were situated within the bright magenta walls of the main complex that probably took up the same amount of space as 5 or 6 football fields. Next to it was the main stage (What Stage) where all the headliners would play.

Already you could smell the Marijuana. Left and right; no matter which way you turned, there was weed being smoked. People brought pipes and papers, some even brought bongs right on in through the security check points and pretty much every show you went to you were enshrouded in a Purple Haze so thick Hendrix would have been choking for air. Everyone was doing it, and I don’t mean that politely. People were inviting and warm, passing it around like it was Halloween candy; big smile on every face and even though it may have been the Bud that had everyone feeling groovy, everyone was in good spirits, regardless. It probably had something to do with the music though. Probably.

There was, however, a massive deficit of people. One thing I noticed on our way into town was the line waiting at the I-24 S off ramp…5 miles back. One of my good friends said it took him over nine hours to get to his campsite from the off ramp. He wasn’t alone. Our party had to more on the way who didn’t even end up rolling in till almost midnight. But by then most of the traffic had died down or at least to some degree.

But it hadn’t stopped those in attendance, and by the time the first act let out you could already hear the enthusiastic, “BONNAROO!” that was shouted at random the entire weekend. That and “Butt Scratcher!” Thank you Peter Griffin. The first night we made our way from tent to tent; not really looking for anything in particular, more or less just sampling. For me, my most involved day would be the next with Tenacious D, Les Claypool, Kings of Leon, The Black Keys, and The Flaming Lips (I want to go back right now). So after a few shows and hours of standing on our feet most of us were ready to head back by midnight. Which in Bonnaroo time is basically 4:00p.m.

The first thing I thought to myself when I awoke the next morning was, “what am I doing up this early?” Followed by, “why did I say I wanted to go to yoga?” And then topped off with, “why is it so hot?” As you can tell, there were a lot of questions swimming around in my head that morning (among other things), but I did my best because, as my credo rolls, “anything worth doing, is worth doing right.” And if I was going to drive nine hours across three states then I was going to experience as much of the festival as I could. So, to yoga I went.

I went with my neighbors, Emily and Tom, who were from the D.C. area. Unusual pair that they were, Tom and Emily slept in their car with the engine running most of the weekend, hiding from the heat and the brutish reality that they had probably baked themselves one French fry short of a Happy Meal. Our walk there, however, was intense. Sun beating down on us the whole way, we walked over a mile in the 100+ sun. The whole way I just couldn’t believe what was going on around me. The day before I had been racing around my local Target and Wal Mart shopping for things I thought I’d needed. Now I was walking ridiculous lengths of distance in the hot sun, baked to a crisp with two people I had never met in my life before yesterday.

“When the going gets tough, the weak get weird.”

And without even thinking, “I never knew anything, ever,” fell out of my mouth.

“What?” said Emily, unsure if she should laugh or not.

“No I meant… what I was try…” At this point they were both hysterical.

“What I was trying to say was I’ve never seen anything like this before.” They both just laughed and said in perfect unison, “Well, you were way off.” By this point I was laughing too, which was good because it made the time pass and before I even knew it we were standing in front of 250 people saluting the sun. Aside from yoga, Bonnaroo was also host to seminars that talked about anything from Green Energy to the modern philosophy of society. Unfortunately, attendance was something to be desired.

Afterwards we made our way back to Camp Venkman to waste a few hours before heading out for our first show of the day; Damien Marley & Nas. By the time we arrived at What Stage just after four there was already a pretty good crowd considering it was the hottest part of the day featuring temperatures in the 100’s once again. But despite the good turn out people were dropping like flies.

As veterans of the festival world we knew how important staying hydrated and keeping cool means when you’re out in the sun for over an hour. But, what generally tends to happen at big events like this, is that people either don’t give themselves the means to stay hydrated or pay attention enough to the time. It only takes about twenty minutes in sun like that to start to feel dehydrated, and by that point it’s already too late. The water stations usually had about a five to ten minute wait and the overall consensus by most of the people in attendance was that, “the lines are too fucking long.” By the time Nas and Damien Marley made their way off stage, four people’s limp and lifeless bodies were being pulled up off the ground to be ushered away by event personnel right before our very eyes.

The heat was getting to everybody. Men and woman alike walked around topless. Shade became almost as valuable a resource as water. Hundreds of people would sit gasping underneath the very few trees the grounds had and would shift every half hour or so when the sun would move across the sky. It would have been funny, if it hadn’t been so fucking hot.
Next in our sights was Tenacious D, and we were all really excited to see them. It’s kind of weird seeing people like Jack Black who have been in so many countless good movies. You get that kind of awe struck kind of feeling, like you’re meeting someone you already know but have never seen in the flesh, even if you don’t like them. All I could think about was Shallow Hal (2001), Tropic Thunder (2008), and The Pick Of Destiny (2006).
Their show featured a giant metallic man that danced during their popular song “The Metal” (2:46), and a man dressed in a devil costume to act out the end scene from POD. They even acted out parts of their debut album. The best part was when Jack Black started thanking the crowd for coming out, saying, “thanks for being a part of our one show tour. We’re really tired but we’re going to try our best to fucking rock you.”

“Just like the Phoenix…we’ll fucking riyeeiyeeiyeeiyee ride agaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaain!”
-Jack Black

The rest of the afternoon was spent farting around Centeroo, taking in the different bands that were playing. Also playing that afternoon were Irish punk band, Umphrey’s McGee, Apple-pop sensation OK Go, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band from Long Beach, Tori Amos, The National, Conan O’Brien doing stand up (who also doubled as the MC for the headliners) and comedy legend Steve Martin with his band the Steep Canyon Rangers. Michael Franti and Spearhead were also playing, but when pitted against Les Claypool, my heart pounds for Primus.

Well, by the time Tenacious D let out, Claypool was already a half an hour into his set, and there were about five thousand people plugged up in front of The Other Tent’s stage. It was mind bottling (ya know, when your thoughts get all trapped like in a bottle). Claypool was sporting his signature pig mask with a dapper suit on for good measure. Instead of playing the bass, he was playing an upright cello for the first to songs I was able to catch, and played the Whamola, his brainchild instrument he built from scratch for the last two. I would have stayed for more, but there were bigger fish to fry at hand. Fish fit for Kings.

Ever since the single, “Use Somebody” came out back in 2008 I really never gave the Kings a chance. Overplayed and completely corny, along with the mildly creepy obsession my brother and his fellow University of Cincinnati crew had with the band, I couldn’t stand them. Not once did I ever think I would be at a Kings of Leon concert. Nor did I ever want to find myself at one.

But there I was, forcing my way through the crowd for a good spot with “Crawl” from Only by the Night (2008) as the only redeeming quality I could find in the family foursome that would make the push worth it. But the boys Followill made a believer out of me from the moment the “red curtain” was lifted, so to speak.

As if they knew just how to win me over, Kings of Leon came out strong with their politically charged “Crawl” and played to the crowd the rest of the night.

“Ya know…” started lead singer and rhythm guitarist Caleb after announcing that he was, “a little drunk” which drew applause and cheers from the crowd, “this is probably the only profession where the drunker you get the more people applaud.” Ah, Rock N’ Roll. Their stage set-up was a collage of bright white lights that look like stars whole-punched out of a black backdrop that would rise and fall in intensity or flashed at random depending on the song. Near 75,000 people were in attendance. No other band played during the Kings set.

After the Kings our group split up and went respective ways. Some of us went on to see The Flaming Lips play their signature songs during their first set, featuring Wayne Coyne’s crazy antics of bright lights, balloons, walking across the crowd in a human gerbil ball, giant hands that shoot green lasers, and confetti; lots and lots of confetti. If you were prone to seizures you would have had one.
The rest of us headed over to That Tent to watch Akron’s own rubber soul The Black Keys. Everywhere you looked you could find at least one person wearing shirts sporting Akron’s “330” area code, no doubt from Rubber City Clothing. From the very start of their set there were no holds barred. They jumped right into the swing of things with fan favorites “10a.m. Automatic” and “Stack Shot Billy” from Rubber Factory (2004) and didn’t stop there. Unfortunately, Wayne Coyne had us completely distracted. He just kept repeating, “Do you realize? Do you realize? Do you realize? Do you realize?” over and over and over. You could just barely hear it above the thunderous sound of the Carney’s drums and Auerbach’s blues, but it was just enough to eat at the better senses.

After a quick group pow-wow, and a communal fear of missing out on Dark Side without even realizing it, we ditched the Keys and set course for the Lips. They were just finishing up their last set, which consisted mainly of songs from their 2002 release Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. But before they dipped behind the curtain to regroup, the Lips lunatic-fringe front man had a few words to say to the crowd.

Lights all dimmed except for one single spotlight shining on Coyne, he exclaimed, “Marijuana should be made legal in the United States of America!” The crowd erupted from the still silence that had eerily befallen everyone the instant the lights went out. “Alright, we’re going to take a quick break and then we’ll be back out to play Dark Side of the Moon.”
A couple trips to the overflowing port-o-pots of doom later the lights came on and the stage was set. The Flaming Lips originally got the idea of doing the whole album live after successfully covering “Us and Them” and “Speak To Me/Breathe” in previous shows.

According to the band, once they started dissecting the music, they really began to realize what they could do with it and also realized they could give a whole new meaning to the work.

From beginning to end it was every Floyd fan’s wet dream. Psychedelic bright lights pulsed waves of the visible spectrum in an echoing pattern across the giant backdrop screen. Everyone was singing along right from the beginning of “Breathe” all the way to the end of “Eclipse” as if lives depended on it. I’m pretty sure the first, “breathe,” could have been heard from space. Their added space crunge made the album more visceral and easier to dance to, unlike the more dream-like journey of the original. The only flaming lip in the performance was “Money.” The loose interpretation held hip-hop roots with enough synth-distortion to make Duran Duran blush. No solo, no jazz, just money.

And money there definitely was. Normally, I think it would be safe to say that the average person would probably agree to the statement, “starting riots is bad.” I’m sure some are out there right now scheming like the Wile E. Coyote’s they were born to be but Wayne Coyne took it to a whole new level.

Right before “Money” was about to begin, he stopped the show to reveal that the balloons released earlier during the first set did, indeed, have, “real fucking money” in them. Jaws dropped to China.

After that most people were helplessly wandering through the grounds, and probably through their own minds. Bassnectar and a few other shows let out right about the same time, pitting thousands against thousands as the crowd from the Lips tried to make their way through the crowds leaving This Tent and That Tent to see Kid Cudi and L.C.D Soundsystem. Some of the people from our group were big L.C.D fans and braved the wave to see them up close. I felt perfectly content just plopping down in the middle of the field to stare at the stars, which I corralled six other people to do. One by one the rest of our group started collecting. We ended the night by laughing at the sound of our own laughter and fell asleep under the stars.

The next morning came on hotter and harder than the last, with temperatures already in the high eighties by 8:30. I poured sweat the entire time I was at yoga and by the time I finished my last downward dog I had made the decision no concerts till dinnertime. It was probably the only rule I held myself to the entire weekend. But thank God I did. People were still dropping from the heat. The rest of the afternoon was spent idle underneath the tent, this time with even less movement than the day before. People looked like they were on the verge of sunstroke. Pale porcelain white bodies were beginning to turn lobster red by the second full day. Just being in the sun was tiring, let alone walking and standing on your feet all day.

Our original plan was to get all dolled up and watch the U.S Men’s Soccer Team face England in the opening round of the World Cup. But it was just too damn hot. I even brought face paint and enough patriotic pride for the entire festival, but it still wasn’t incentive enough to want to walk more than fifty yards (the exact distance of our camp from the nearest port-o-pot’s) beyond our shaded compound. However, it did not stop others…
Conan O’Brien and Margaret Cho were both doing stand-up again at the Bonnaroo Comedy Theatre, but, again, nobody really felt like braving the sun. We all decided that it wasn’t worth budging until Jack White’s Dead Weather took What Stage at six. Luckily, because of how hot is was and, unluckily, because rain usually spells musical disaster (case and point Woodstock), this was the only other time it rained the whole weekend. For fifteen minutes the skies had us all convinced we were about to finally get the thunderstorms that had been forecasted all weekend. But fifteen minutes later, and a few spits here and there, that was all the sky had to say. Irony found us laughing at the fact the only time it rained was during a band called, “The Dead Weather.” Thank you, Jack White, for the celestial refreshments.

But we didn’t last long at The Dead Weather, maybe a half hour at most. Most of us were still wiped from the night before. There was also something strikingly odd about both original members of The White Stripes standing on stage, but none of the music that had made either of them famous coming out of any of the speakers. And so, we left, with a couple people from our group heading with me over to This Tent to watch Yardbirds O.G. Jeff Beck shred forty years after the fact. The rest walked over to Which Stage to catch Los Angeles “Island in the Sun’ers” Weezer. Folk legend John Prine was also playing across the field at That Tent.

In order to get a good spot for Stevie we left Jeff Beck around eight and met back up with the other members of our group. On our way over a gypsy assaulted me (that’s right). I barely had enough time to react. All I really remember is a long brunette-haired girl about my age with puffy cheeks and a long leather bound necklace with Indian beads coming at me from basically out of nowhere asking for my water. I happily obliged, but when she went to give me back my gallon jug, she leaned forward and whispered, “thank you,” softly in my ear before planting the softest kiss I’ve ever felt in my life on this planet on my left cheek.

After the dust settled behind my galloping stride, I found myself in the middle of the What Stage field waiting for my friends to catch up.

“Did that really just happened?” asked Frank, who watched the whole thing and was just as dumbfounded as I was.

All of us continued to laugh about it as we waded our way through the crowd to a spot along the left side of the stage about halfway back. The grounds were already pretty packed by the time we took our seats. So far it was shaping up to be the biggest show of the festival. And that’s when we heard it.

From somewhere backstage came out a cry like Jimmy Page’s tears. A funky electric guitar riff played over and over came soaring over the crowd, and within minutes we all knew the source: Stevie. Dressed in all white with his signature shades swaying side to side, Stevie Wonder, in all his glory, walked out onto the stage to a roaring standing ovation. He played everything. “Superstitious,” “Higher Ground,” Signed, Sealed, Delivered;” the hits were all there. For two straight hours Mr. Wonder did just that, left us all in wonder how anything was going to be able to top watching one of the greatest performers of all-time rock out right before our very eyes. But that was before Jay – Z came on.

With a backdrop that could have doubled as the New York Skyline, Jay – Z showed that the 40 year-old “Jigga-man” was still “The Man” when it comes to rap entertainment
After claiming even more fame with his eleventh studio album to go number one, Jay – Z had the crowd going from the very moment the spotlight silhouetted his ominous figure standing alone on stage. But it wasn’t just his music that captured the crowd. It was his showmanship. The entire time he had the crowd eating out of his hands. We raised the diamond “HOVA” symbol, took over singing for parts of songs. He even brought one girl on stage for her birthday. He spied her out of the crowd towards the end of the show and called for her to come up onstage, as if it were already her right. When she got up there he simply asked her name (Maggie) and then turned to the crowd and said, “Watch this,” as he, and the entire crowd began to sing happy birthday. Afterwards he said some more thanks, pumped a raised fist to the crowd and then “left the building,” as it were.

There were six other shows that were going on later that night, The Disco Biscuits, Deadmau5, and Gwar most notably, but we could barely keep ourselves standing, let alone awake long enough to make it to 4:30 when the Biscuits were scheduled, “scheduled,” to end. So, like most of the people at Jay – Z we made our way back to our tents to regroup, hang out and then get some sleep for the last day.

Meanwhile, below where all our feet go, the ground was being punished with everything from plastic bottles to tampons. Disgusting wrappers and half used napkins were littered about half eaten black bean and hot pepper quesadillas that began to look more like the guac on the side that came with them than edible food. Some of my friends even found a nasty 8-inch “your name here” cigar on the ground in the middle of all the hustle. I almost ralphed when they smoked it the next day.

The next morning I was alone once again in my cosmic quest for inner peace and balance of the mind, body, and soul. After yoga, which I only caught five minutes of, I decided to take a little stroll around the Centeroo grounds. I walked through the grassy aisles and rows of vendors listening to the raw sounds of the festival. The faint mesh and sound of music surrounded me from all sides as people achingly groaned out stories of how, “fucked up,” they were the night before. There was talk about the concerts, about the looming trip home, but really all people talked about was how excited they were to finally shower after a week.

But what really stood out in my mind was the lackadaisical Laissez-faire attitude people took towards Marijuana, and really the whole drug culture. I watched one guy pop in and out of about ten different merchandise tents with a J sitting between his lips as innocent as a pacifier. I followed him around for a while just to gauge his, and others, reactions. No one cared. He even asked a few vendors if they minded him smoking in their tents. No one cared. He was polite, courteous, and even made sure to blow it in the opposite direction of the people he was standing around, most of whom actually ended up voluntarily hitting the joint, which smelled absolutely intoxicating I might add. Casually he went about the rest of his morning, high as a kite in the Himalayas, without a trace of social paranoia, laziness, lost sense of reality, or even the munchies! No one stopped to bother him, and pretty much everyone readily accepted him, although it never really seemed to be called into question.

By the time I finished following the Renegade Smoker, as I later dubbed him, the sun was at its height so I found some shade under a tree near The Other Tent where Ingrid Michaelson was playing. I sat there for a while just taking in the soft melody of Ingrid’s music while jotting a few notes on a short story I had been penning throughout the weekend about cigarette butts that avenge their fallen filtered friends, which was in part spawned by the massive sea of garbage that was being left behind by concert goers. But it was then that it dawned on me that I was spectator to something that has been a growing trend in America; it seems, over the last decade or so.

As kids, and I can remember as far back as kindergarten, we were part of the generation that was brought up on the “Save the Rainforest” campaign. That “looting and polluting are not the way,” we were all shown what Captain Planet had to say. But there I was, sitting next to a tree in the middle of a field with about 10,000 other fellow- “Save the Rainforest,” kids who were doing their best to apparently ignore everything they were taught about reducing, reusing, and recycling by blanketing the ground with basically anything they didn’t feel like carrying anymore.
People were careless, clueless even. I watched several people throw cigarette butts out that they had intentionally killed the cherry on just to pitch right next to, not into, the garbage can sitting less than three feet to their immediate whatever. And even if they were aiming for the can, if they missed, oh well.

I watched people with Green Peace shirts, save the planet gear, hippies for Christ’s sake, people you would never imagine would be so careless about something as grave and as serious as the sustainability of our planet literally not give a fuck and throw trash around as if it was already falling from the sky. All this at an event that proudly touts that they’re, “making as many efforts as we [Bonnaroo] can to minimalize our environmental impact…” (See picture above). And there I was, amidst thousands of self-proclaimed “hippy’s;” people who historically stand for Peace, Love, and Planet Earth. People who notoriously piss everyone off at neighborhood barbeques because they won’t just buckle and eat beef or eat off of non-recyclable plastic plates. And here they were, calling it, “vacation,” and giving the world a first-class lesson in neo “Hippy-ocrisy” in the process.

After I finished up with a few more quick notes, I packed up and headed back to the campsite, where just as I got there everyone began informing me that they were just about to head out to Centeroo. So just as quickly as I got there, I turned around and headed back.

Sunday’s lineup held yet another powerhouse selection, ranging from the anti-folk antics of Russian ruby Regina Spektor to John Popper’s Blues Traveler, and even “Whistler” himself, Kris Kristofferson. The bands that made up our to-do list consisted of the John Butler Trio, John Fogerty, Phoenix and the illustrious DMB, who seems to headline every festival ever held. The sun had us on a slow start so we ended up missing most of the John Butler Trio. By the time Fogerty started playing we barely wanted anything to do with that either. We tried to distract ourselves from the heat by getting a game of hacky sack going with a couple random hippy hacky enthusiasts (which you can find pretty much anywhere you bust a hacky sack out), but that didn’t even work and by the time the band finished playing “Born on the Bayou,” the group consensus was shade over show.

The next half hour felt like an eternity. I’m pretty sure it’s what walking through the Sahara Desert must be like, only with grass. The sun was unrelenting. At that point anyone would have given his or her left arm for the forecasted thunderstorms to rain down. But there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It was like walking through Mexico City during siesta. Bodies packed into every available space of shade like sardine corpses, and the smell was right on par, too.

Even as national acts Ween, the Dropkick Murphy’s and Ska bra’s They Might Be Giants took the stage, they came out to fusion-filtered crowds. It wasn’t until around 7:00, right before Paris dance trance pop sensation Phoenix were set to play that anybody really started to move. But as soon as the sun dipped past the hip of the horizon, it was back to business as usual. And as their final note dissipated into the air a harrowing realization hit us; there was only one show left and our Bonnaroo adventure would be over.

With nothing but the Dave Matthews Band left to stand in our way, we moved through the crowd of almost 80,000 tired and sun beaten peoples to get as close to the front as possible. Well, about fifteen thousand other people had the same idea and we only ended up getting as close as a couple hundred yards away. But it didn’t matter. Dave was Dave and always will be Dave and if you’ve never been to a live performance of his you probably have no idea what I’m raving about.

They took the stage just past nine to a rousing ovation. The band members saluted the crowd and Dave asked his usual, half-drunken mumbled “How we all doin’ tonight?” before the band broke out into the first bars of “Don’t Drink The Water” from their 1998 release Before These Crowded Streets. And just like the 1998 release, Tim Reynolds joined the Dave Matthews cast to accentuate their signature bluegrass, country, rock-jam brand.
Crowd favorites “Jimi Thing,” “Too Much,” and the powerhouse 12 minute live staple, “Two Step,” which featured a five minute drum solo from the one and only Carter Beauford, made the cut, along with, ‘Time Bomb,” “Shake Me Like a Monkey,” and, “Why I Am,” all from his most recent album Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King (2009). For his almost always expected encore, Dave did something that pretty much nobody expected by walking back out on stage alone and playing a spine-tingling cover of Neil Young’s “The Needle and the Damage Done” from Young’s critically acclaimed 1972 release Harvest. And then came the big guns.

After a short, impromptu jam out, Dave and Co. began playing their signature cover, Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” to much fan approval. But about halfway through the song something happened. All the cues were there for the final epic solo to take the song out, but instead of playing the original melody, Tim Reynold’s led the band through the final rising solo of Stairway to Heaven, and finished out the set, the concert, and the entire festival with Jimmy Page’s hair-raising musical genius reverberating off a finale of fireworks fit for 1812 Fort McHenry. People didn’t know what to do. They didn’t know whether they should be watching one of the most intense, improvisational finales to one of the biggest music and arts festivals in the history of the musical note, or to watch as millions of dollars of fireworks burst into an astounding display of every color imaginable just beyond the tips of their ears. People just shouted, “Bonnaroo,” instead, with closed eyes raised to the heavens. I’m pretty sure I knew in that moment the full extent of what it means to “bask,” and it’s a place I hope to one-day call home once again.

After we collected our minds up off the ground and pitched the last clung notions of, “another one tomorrow,” we waded our way back to the camp with the rest of the crowd staggering awestruck just as much as we were. Once again forced to do what everyone else didn’t have enough conscious to do, we stuck around a bit to pick up not one, not two, but three GIANT bags of trash that could have filled one of our six person tents to the brim. At one point, there were so many bottles piled in one place you could have stepped out into the center of it and been covered up to your mid-calf.
Our spirits were almost, “Bonna-Ruined,” once again, but there are few things in this world, I think, that could ever deprive me, or even pry me from the feeling at that moment. So once our act of charity was through, we found ourselves back at our camp site for one more night of fun and memories and headed to bed knowing that every penny of that 5X7 golden ticket was worth its spent.

It’s not often that something of this magnitude, with this much force behind it, actually comes to be. I can’t tell you how many times people followed up, “Hey, I’m going to Bonnaroo this year,” with, “Fuck you!” It seems that music and arts festivals have recaptured the imaginations of music lovers again. If Woodstock was the prototype, Bonnaroo is the new protégé. But what’s strikingly odd is that the very things that made Woodstock such a success back in the days of Peace, Love, and power ruled by the flower are the very downfalls of the new kid on the block.

I think it’s important for every generation, no matter how much they hate it or how much bitching and moaning they do at the very prospect of it because it involves that dreaded eight letter word, “learning,” to take a look back at the times past to draw from and move forward with all the follies and foul-ups in mind. I feel that steps towards the future can’t be made without a firm tether to the past. But something still has me flipping through history book after history book as if something was reported and recorded terribly, terribly, terribly wrong. I watched over 80,000 people that weekend, all of whom would probably self-apply the label “hippy” proudly, and with a happy green grin emblazoned on their grill if asked. But it’s a fad. A trend. None of it is real. It’s just an illusion, one as powerful as the one created by the drugs all of them ingested under the blanket of security they all naively felt that weekend. There wasn’t any thought to the past, there wasn’t any thought to the future. Though it might not be a bad thing to do from time to time, all of the 80,000 people seemed to be there under the notion that nothing they did within those 7 foot tagged purple walls would have any gravity or consequence on the outside.

But it’s like when you train a dog. You blow a whistle to coincide with something or give it a command at a specific moment in order to condition the dog to do the same thing every time it hears or sees some sort of visual cue. Even without its knowing, the dog, over time, will begin to develop a psychological pattern of behavior associated with the cue and, without thinking, will instinctively do exactly as it’s been taught each and every time. If true, the same can be said for the opposite of that. Every moment you tell yourself, “this one won’t matter…just once can’t hurt,” you automatically begin winding down a conditioned path of behavior that you don’t even know you’re teaching yourself.

That’s how we get an alcoholic, that’s how we get crack users, or winos, or how being abusive can become so instinctively second nature. In the case of Bonnaroo, that’s how we get lazy, hippy want-to-be’s who feel that being respectful to the planet and other’s is just a fad that’s “cool” to follow. Within ten years this culture will cycle it’s way back when millions of people from our generation wake up and realize all the things they wanted to do with their lives were wasted on the moments they thought they’d have a better time living, if it came down to that or fitting in. It almost cost us dearly that weekend, and it may as well still have; we won’t know the effects for years. But what started out as a festival that offered up the possibility of personal exploration and fun with friends amidst some of the best music currently hitting ears across the world, almost ended up being, ruined. And it might end up being the lesson we all should have learned.

No sympathy from Time.