How to Do Bonnaroo

In 2002, Bonnaroo was a music fest on a farm in Manchester, Tenn., attended by people who loved music. They didn’t bathe while camping under the hot Southern sun for four days, and they listened to bands with large followings but without much mainstream appeal such as Robert Randolph and the Family Band, the John Butler Trio, and the String Cheese Incident.

Then, Bonnaroo transformed into an event attended by people who loved to party first and listen to music second. It’s a mad house — an estimated 80,000 people packed Bonnaroo last year — and the line of cars waiting to enter the fest (less than four hours from Evansville) stretches 10 miles along the highway.

The 10th Bonnaroo (June 9-12) still offers moments of quirky fun: Who doesn’t want to see more than 60 various musical acts such as mainstream sensations Eminem and Lil Wayne and the more underground sounds of Gogol Bordello and the Scissor Sisters? For maximum enjoyment, follow these rules from a Bonnaroo vet and Evansville native, Gary Gurtcheff.

Do buy a VIP pass. It grants access off the interstate that helps you avoid the 10-mile backup. Other advantages: a VIP Thursday night “welcome reception” boasts a free dinner, beer, and private concert; the VIP area for concert viewing includes a bar and porta-potties; and the VIP camping area has air-conditioned and regularly cleaned bathroom and shower trailers. These VIP tickets, only sold in pairs, are expensive (more than $1,400), but the price is worth it.

Don’t rely on vendors’ pricey items; bring plenty of water and other beverages.
Do plan your day prior to setting out to the venue. Multiple bands perform at the same time. You won’t be able to see everybody. Accept it, and know your musical priorities.

Don’t expect perfect weather. It seems as though it always rains or storms at some point during the festival.

Do download the Bonnaroo smart phone app, which includes updated schedules, maps, and breaking news.

Don’t limit yourself to the main stages. Great, up-close performances are found at the Troo Music Lounge, the Solar Stage (powered by solar energy), and other small stages.

Do take a ride on the Ferris wheel and marvel at the size and scope of the festival. Great photo opportunity.

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