The past few weeks have been busy, busy, busy! Memorial Day Weekend marked the start of summer, the Penguins won the Stanley Cup and Bonnaroo kicked off my music festival season. I attended Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival for the first time in June 2016 and I was severely bitten by the festival bug.
Bonnaroo is a four-day, multi-stage camping festival held on a 700-acre farm in Manchester, Tennessee, about an hour south of Nashville. As you walk the grounds of Bonnaroo, you can feel the positive vibes and sense of community spread by its 65,000 Roovians. Think about it: four days and four nights camping in the Tennessee summer heat. Preparation is the key to survival. City festivals are a great alternative if you aren’t the camping kind.
Music Midtown was next on my calendar. Held in Piedmont Park in Atlanta, the two-day festival featured a stacked lineup which brought 129,000 attendees. No tents needed, just a cute Airbnb cottage and a few good friends. Day 1 was incredible; day 2 was a mess, literally. Just after the gates opened on Sunday, the park was evacuated due to heavy rain. We were allowed to re-enter just in time for Grouplove, but during Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats, we found ourselves in a monsoon.
I added a few more festivals to my calendar and lessons have been learned along the way. These are a few things I am sure to bring to any music festival.
Music Festival Must-Haves
Camelbak = Lifesaver. Seriously. Minutes after buying my Bonnaroo ticket, my mom appeared in the kitchen with a Camelback backpack. Hydration is important when you’re dancing your way through the weekend. Though the Camelbak was a small bladder, I truly believe I survived the 100 degree heat because of it. For Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival, I upgraded to a 2.0L bag from Vibedration covered in pizza slices. Their bags are affordable and many patterns to fit anyone’s personality.
Some festivals won’t allow backpacks, so a re-useable water bottle is a perfect alternative. Grab a carabiner clip and hook it to your belt loop and you’re good to go!
Mini Misting Fan
My friend Lauren was on her second Bonnaroo, so she knew what she needed this time around. The greatest gift she brought for us – mini misting fans. These were perfect for the middle of the day in the sweltering Tennessee sun or late at night in a packed LCD Soundsystem show. It was also Keri’s lifesaver after a day in heat and humidity of Atlanta.
I knew that I wouldn’t be the cleanest person during my time at Bonnaroo and I had accepted it. Showers were $10 -$5 during Happy Hour – and most campers showered next to their cars using a gallon of water. I wasn’t afraid to get a bit dirty. After the first night, I looked at my feet in disgust. Everything you walk on is either grass or dirt, so if you wear sandals, they will be dirty all the time. Solution – body wipes. Grab a big pack for camp. Believe me, everyone will use them. If you’re carrying a backpack or purse, put some in a Ziploc baggy to have them on the go.
Tissues and Toilet Paper
Imagine 129,000 people using porta-potties over a 12-hour day. A little pack of tissues saves you from waiting to drip-dry in a smelly porta-potty. While you’re at it, throw in a mini-hand sanitizer.
Each year, Bonnaroo mails a ticketholder’s wristband and camping pass in a little packed filled with Bonnaroo goodies. The reoccurring goodie – a Bonnaroo bandana, unique to the year of the festival. You’ll see Bonnaroo veterans sporting their bandanas from festivals past. A bandana can come in handy for many reasons. Feeling a little hot? Soak your bandana at one of the filling stations and wear it as a headband.
I checked my FitBit after 2017 Bonnaroo to see that I had walked 40 miles over the 4-day festival. Your feet will hate you if you don’t invest in some comfortable shoes. Comfortable shoes are a music festival must-have. I researched this topic heavily before I purchased. Teva is a Bonnaroo partner and if you purchase before the festival and pick them up when you get there, you get a discount. You’ll find many festival goers suggest Chacos, similar to Teva in price and style. They aren’t the most attractive shoes, but this is all about comfort.
I chose the most affordable option and fell in love with Sanuk sandals. If the shoes weren’t permanently filthy from wearing them all weekend, I would wear them to work every day. Between my Sanuk sandals and worn out Vans, my feet were
What is a totem you ask? Imagine trying to find your Roo Croo in a population of 60,000+ people… Difficult? Of course. A totem is pretty much your light at the end of the tunnel. Typically made of some kind of plastic pipe, you’ll see them while walking around decorated in all kinds of ways. Flags, lights, animals, anything and everything you want… or that Bonnaroo will allow. Now imagine looking for your friends in the crowd knowing one of them is holding a 5-foot pole with a light up Minion high above the crowd… much easier.
Totems aren’t just a way to find your friends. They show who you are, where your from, your favorite football team, how creative you can be. Totems can also be great conversation starters.
Tips for Totems
- Follow the festival rules for totems.
- Don’t go to big or too heavy – you do have to carry it around and hold it up.
- Light it up! LED wire is great for totems.
- Don’t be that guy with the totem that blocks everyone’s view.
Does this even need to be explained? Sunburn is possible even under a shaded tree. Protect your skin! You don’t want to end up fried your first day and miserable for the rest of the weekend.
An Open Mind
Other than a weekend at Nelson’s Ledges in Ohio, Bonnaroo was my first big music festival. I consider myself a social liberal. I’m pretty open minded. I’ll try anything once… or twice. I knew there would be many goodies around during the festival and attendees from all over the world.
Everyone is at the festival for the same reason: a love for the music. The fashion, the people, the atmosphere… it’s all a unique, judgement free-zone. Escaping from reality to a music festival bubble is my remedy to that stuck feeling.
When I say Bonnaroo changed my life, good vibes were the largest contributor to that change. Never in my life have I been in one place with 60,000 people who were so genuinely nice and welcoming. From the moment I pulled up to the security gate and received my first high five, I knew I was going to love it.
Over the weekend, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of joy and comfort because of good vibes. Accidentally bump into someone? You’ll both apologize, high-five and maybe even end up talking for a bit. Forget something? There are hundreds of people around you that are willing to help.