Story and photography by Ashley Zoerner
It's officially been a week since Bonnaroo 2015 rolled out of Manchester, Tenneessee, and I'd like to think that somewhere there is a man sitting in his office donning his wingtips and sports coat, tapping his toes and singing to himself, "I love bad bitches, that's my fucking problem," patiently counting down to next year.
For 14 years now, Bonnaroo has been the most anticipated music festival of the South. It's four days of non-stop music. Seriously, the music doesn't stop. With 10 stages and 150 musical acts, you can catch a show any time of the day or night on the 700-acre space dubbed "The Farm."
Of course the energy and the environment is also a large part of the experience. Crowds break into random hoots of excitement and strangers yell to one another, "Happy 'Roo." They're excited to escape the real world and enter this land of merriment. One person described it as Disneyland for adults. There's a waterslide, ferris wheel, hula-hoop lessons and hammock stations. You can get your hair braided and your face painted. It's a giant playground. (And for many, the fun also consists of taking some sort of recreational drug and spacing out even more. Walking around, you have to watch your step lest you step on someone who's obviously in another world.)
But Bonnaroo is, above all, about the music. You may come to see your favorite band or two but you leave discovering troves of other musical talent, and you walk away appreciating different genres in a whole new way. (For me, that meant gaining a new respect for Techno after seeing how those around me moved to the beats.) It's just as much about reminiscing with the old — Run DMC at Superjam! — as it is discovering the new — Jungle!
My biggest musical discovery of Bonnaroo was Alabama Shakes. Sure, I've heard of them, but I wasn't very familiar with their music. Seeing them live blew me away and I made a mental note to add them to my Spotify account (I'm listening to them as I write this). I'll never forget the goose bumps that creeped up my back as I heard lead singer Brittany Howard pour her heart out on stage.
For over 80,000 people Bonnaroo is a now but a memory as we acclimate back into the real world but fear not, only 50 weeks and 4 days until the next 'Roo!