Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bonnaroo Blog-a-roo: Awesome Eats

Time for another common topic for the New-to-Roo crowd: Food. Believe me, there’s lots of it. You won’t go hungry during this festival, and you can easily have something completely different for every meal. From Coffee and Eggs in the morning, to Gyros and Burritos for dinner, your meals can be just as festive as the festival itself.

When it comes to festivals, people always complain about the high price of the food. In this festival, that isn’t the case. There are a ton of vendors all competing for your business, which keeps things reasonable. Most dinner platters are $10 or under, and are huge portions. You can find sandwiches and lunch-style items in the $5-$7 range, and breakfast as low as two dollars. The best bargains are outside Centeroo, on the flea market strip known as “Shakedown Street” so keep your eyes out on your way to the stages. All in all you’d probably spend much more at a restaurant for these items.

Some of the sights you will see include Burritos that cover two full plates, giant corn dogs, turkey legs, Southern Barbecue, and a variety of Asian and vegetarian dishes. There are so many good things that, despite all the exercise you get over the weekend, you might actually gain weight during the festival!

Trust me, the vendors know what type of customers they’ll have and what kind of “munchies” they’ll be hungering for! You’re covered.

Try to resist the urge to splurge on the Bacon-and-Cheese Loaded Butterfly Fries. They cut them right in front of you and the process is hypnotic. Yet another way to attract those with “the munchies”. Not to mention the giant plate they give you will reel you in. Additionally, resist the urge to put additional ranch dressing on them. Yeah. That made up for four days of walking 10 miles in the burning hot sun. And I could only get through a third of them. But soooo good…

If you’re new to ‘Roo, there are two food experiences you need to have. Both have become Bonnaroo celebrities: The World’s Greatest Grilled Cheese, and Spicy Pie. Spicy Pie is a pizza stand in several locations both inside and outside Centeroo. For $5 you get a nice size Pizza slice, with a variety of toppings. But the one to try is the self-titles Spicy Pie slice. It’s a pepperoni-and-cayenne infused slice that’ll give you a nice mid-day kick. The World’s Greatest Grilled Cheese is located outside Centeroo on Shakedown Street and serves just that – Grilled Cheese. For a dollar. Yes, ONE dollar. $1. And this is no joke Grilled Cheese… texas toast loaded with cheese and cooked in garlic butter. Expect a long line at times, but it’s worth it. Last year anytime there was a short line I just ran up and got one. Yeah, easy to overeat this festival!

In addition, some of the sponsors hand out samples throughout the day. Got to load up on Butterfinger Ice Cream and Wheat Thins in years past. They’re hard to resist, especially since most sponsors have air conditioned tents!

Aside from that, I suggest packing your cooler full of snacks. Never know what you’ll be craving. It’s good to have some granola bars and beef jerky to munch on throughout the day… they’re both good for you, and Bonnaroo is very much a hike. Plus a few homemade sandwiches can cut down the festival food calories and save you a few bucks. Snack smart my friends!

And if you're thirsty, don't fear. There are water stations located throughout Centeroo. Look for the blue mushroom-shaped domes. The water is cold and free. The only downside is that the wait can be very long. Sometimes there's no water pressure, which can cause the line to back up. And the dehydrated masses tend to get irritable. My suggestion: try to get in back of people who are only filling up a small water bottle - Camelbacks can take forever when the water comes out drip by drip. But if you have one yourself, you won't have to worry about the lines as much.

For those craving a stronger drink, there’s a beer garden in the middle of Centeroo. There’s a lot of craft beers to try out. It’s a bit pricey, but if you want to meet some friends for a quick beer between sets, this is the place. Otherwise, I would wholly recommend bringing in a case or two of your own favorite brew, and having some fun at your campsite tailgate.

And if booze isn’t your cup of tea, check out the next section for the scoop on some of the other intoxicating-ly awesome aspects of the festival!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Bonnaroo Blog-a-roo: Campin' Out

If this is your first time going to roo, and especially if its your first time at any rock festival, get ready for the part of the show you didn’t expect to enjoy the most – the campout! Welcome to your village of 80,000 people all looking to have a good time. It’s like the largest, most chill party ever. And it’s very easy to meet people and make friends.

When you get to the camp site, try to grab as much room as you can. Every inch will count. You want to make sure you can fully open your car doors, and that a tent and a few chairs can fit in front/behind you.

So quickly set up your tent… you’ll notice that everyone around you will be so pumped up that it’s almost like a race. Very likely you will notice a neighbor who needs help setting up. This is method numero uno to make an introduction.

When the tents are all up, grab a beer and pass some around. Chances are they will reciprocate. It’s easy to get into random conversations at ‘Roo… “where are you from” “who are you here to see” “have you been to Bonnaroo before,” etc. are all common topics. Always good to have some buddies around. They can point you out things you wouldn’t have otherwise thought of checking out, and it’s just cool to have some people to chill with during the shows.

So that said, let’s get to the roughing it part. The first thing to realize is that it is either going to be extremely hot, or extremely rainy. Trust me, the latter is better. Make sure your tent can handle both conditions. If you have a canopy tent, place it over your sleeping tent. This will keep it both dry and shady. If you want to put in the effort, place a tarp under the tent too… this can help keep additional dirt or bugs out. Put a sheet down and then your sleeping bag and you’re good to go.

But what if you can’t stand the idea of sleeping in a tent? Well, here’s a trick I used last year. Note that this might not work (and could be dangerous) if you’re parked in direct sunlight, or it is extremely hot out, so try at your own risk… Yup sucks you gotta disclaimer this stuff if ya don’t wanna get sued…

Take two solar reflectors and put one in the front and back windows. Make sure no light is getting in. Then drape a thin, dark sheet over the roof so that it covers your side windows. Tie the corners to part of the car, or close it in the door. Roll your windows all the way down, and there you have it. I found this to be much more comfortable than sleeping in the tent. You can even turn the AC on in short bursts if you’re confident about your gas and batteries. (keep both in mind before leaving the AC on)

Two things you’ll need while sleeping: something to cover your ears, and something to cover your eyes. When you go to sleep, no matter what time, there will be someone just waking up to party, blasting music or walking right next to your tent. So don’t expect a quiet night’s rest. Bring some earplugs to minimize the effect. And as for a blindfold, well, the sun will be beating down from 5:30am on… it’s gonna get bright!

One of the best things about Bonnaroo is that you can bring food and booze into the campsite. I’ll cover food in a later section of the blog. But for now, let me suggest you keep your cooler in your trunk. That will keep it as cold as possible through the weekend. You can also bring in some barbecue food and set up a small grill if you feel so inclined. Most just bring sandwiches or stick to fair food, but some grounds come armed with gas grills and coleman stoves. Depends on you.

Another pointer: Keep your valuables locked in your car. Bonnaroo is fairly safe, but that doesn’t mean you can just leave stuff lying around. Every year I’ve had some neighbor have cash, ipods, beer, etc stolen from their site. Leaving it in a zipped-up tent isn’t enough. But there’s nothing to fear if you just use some basic common sense

Now how do you keep clean? There are indeed showers at the campgrounds. But they might not be near your tent, cost like $10 and you should expect at least an hour wait. But I hear they do have plenty of hot water and they’re not bad for getting clean. But I’d say most people rough it. Now hygiene will be a joke to a lot of people this weekend, but if you’d like to have some semblance of cleanliness, here are some two pointers:

Baby Wipes – Kind of like a portable shower. Keep them in a cool place and use them constantly. Great to get the sweat off and clean those hard-to-reach areas. You’ll go through a lot of them, and it will be worth it

The soda bottles filled with water - Ok here’s what those are for… When you get to Bonnaroo, place them on the back shelf of your car (or otherwise sunny area). It’s basically a solar hot water heater. Take a bottle, test the temperature, and pour it on your head, stopping every few seconds to soap up. If you pour it right, one bottle should be enough to clean one person. So there’s your shower. If you want to get fancy, they do sell portable ‘shower stalls’ at Walmart and sporting good stores, but this method is quicker.

There are also sink houses spread throughout the grounds. They’re good to freshen up, and typically will have soap. The water kinda smells bad (sulfur filtering) but it can help get mud and other dirtiness off you. You typically won’t seen people bathing here, but go later at night if you want to give yourself a thorough rubdown.

FYI the Mushroom Fountain and water stations are off-limits for bathing.

And what about bathrooms? Bathrooms shouldn’t be terribly far from your campsite, but will likely not be a convenient stroll in the middle of the night. But it’s a wooded area, so you shouldn’t have trouble making your own. Probably cleaner than the porto-potties too. Did I mention that the ladies should really practice their squatting before this weekend? Luckily, the bathroom situation is better (but not necessarily cleaner) once you get inside Centeroo.

So lets start heading that way… a few stops before we get to the inner sanctum of the festival

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Bonnaroo Blog-a-roo: Getting There
a.k.a. The Road to 'Roo

The first thing that shocked me about Bonnaroo is from just how far away the fans come. I probably met more people from Philadelphia than the whole South combined. Canada, Australia, Brazil, England, you name it, they’ll be there.

This section will be for those driving into the festival. This is probably the most, but only, annoying part of the weekend. My first year I got there early and it still it took over 9 hours to get in. Luckily Green Day just released a new CD so the music went non-stop. Hopefully this won’t happen to you, but prepare for it.

The first thing to take note of is the appearance of your car as you approach Manchester. I’ve heard stories of cars being pulled over and searched as far away as Kentucky and Virginia for blaring hippie memorabilia. From what I’ve noticed this is definitely true as you get within a few miles. But these were the only cars pulled over. Your best bet is to go incognito. Don’t hang peace flags from your windows, write “Bonnaroo or Bust” on your trunk, cover your tail with hippie bumper stickers, or drive up with fun-smelling smoke bellowing out the car. That basically sends an instant signal to the cops saying “Drugs on Board!!!” Play it smooth, and things will go smoothly. Personally, I go a step further by loading all my camping gear in the trunk and putting on a collared work shirt, just so I don’t look like trouble. Most cops in the area don’t want to be dicks this weekend (unusual but true)… they want to get you into the festival and out of their hair as quickly as possible. Just don’t give them a reason to pull you over and you’ll be fine.

So as you pull up to Exit 111, you’ll start seeing the cars lining up on the northbound side of the highway. This can go back 10-15 miles. The year I waited 9 hours, I had come from the north. They made me drive up to exit 127, and the line was backed up past that point. I got rerouted through the back roads, but needless to say both lines were equally long.

The waiting can get very boring. So make sure you have some awesome tunes to listen to. What will happen is you’ll likely stay stopped for 15-20 minutes at a time, then move upwards of half a mile, just to stop again for another 20 mins. So you’ll have time to get out of the car and stretch. Or maybe throw around a Frisbee. I walked around and talked to some of my ‘new neighbors’. So you could say the traffic is part of the party.

Make sure you are gassed up before you go. This whole process can take a long time, and if you have your AC blasting, it can really eat up your gas.

So it’s been asked “what if you need to go to the bathroom?” Well, I can’t speak for the highway line, but if you’re on the backroads, there are many sections that are lined with bushes or behind haystacks and dirt mounds. So you should be safe. Ladies, you might want to practice your squatting, or figure out a good way to do it in the car.

This is one of the areas where fortune favors the prepared. If you do some research, you can try to find an alternate ‘locals’ route through the side streets. I’m not giving away my secret (lest it be secret no more) but lets just say it only took an hour to get to the gas station at the end of the exit 111 ramp that signifies the entrance to ‘Roo.

So you’ve been waiting for hours, and you finally get to the gates to get in. Don’t worry, there’s about another hour or two from this point. Keep calm, and resist any urges to crack a beer or light up. You’re gonna be amped up as soon as you pull in, and that’s an amazing high on its own.

The reason why is because they have a checkpoint before you enter the grounds. And they can be very thorough. The rumors of cars torn to shreds on the sides of the “tollbooths” are true. But you really need to attract attention for that to happen. Still, you never know when the security guard is going to be a dick and want to go over every square inch. Another good reason to look professional! I’ve had them check in my door pockets, glove box, center console, trunk, cooler, and spare tire compartment one year, and another they just peeked inside my windows, popped my trunk, and looked in my cooler and that was all. So if you plan on bringing in anything you shouldn’t (which you weren’t planning to do anyway, wink wink), make sure it is extremely well hidden.

Once you’re past the tollbooths its only a few minutes before they direct you to your camp site. They’ll try to pack you in like sardines, so try to pull as far away from the adjacent cars as possible. Once you make friends you may be able to work with each other to rearrange them for maximum space. So set your tent up, say hi to your neighbors, and meet me for the next chapter!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Bonnaroo Blog-a-roo: What to Bring


Lets start with this, since much about the festival will be revealed through the items that will help you get through it. Pay attention, there are some things you wouldn’t necessarily think of bringing.


· 5+ comfortable t-shirts

· Cargo shorts

· A fanny pack if you’re not fashion conscious (no one will judge you here)

· As many socks and underwear as you can hold

o You will want to change ‘em as often as possible

· A bathing suit

o Will be more comfortable than cargo shorts. The more pockets the better. Most will have velcro or buttons to keep your stuff safe. The best part is, it will get filthy, and you can just hop in a pool to clean it!

· Something colorful and fun to wear during the raves

o Yeah, no one is judging. But you’ll see some crazy outfits during the late night sets. Raver or not, it’s fun to put on flashy clothes for the all-nite dance jams!

· A hooded rain poncho

· A hooded sweatshirt

· Old ratty sneakers that you won’t mind throwing away

o Because you probably will want to at the end of the festival. I’ve tossed mine without regret the last two ‘Roos.

· ** Cushioned insoles (the thicker the better) **

o You’re gonna do a lot of walking and standing and this will make it so much more comfortable

· A watch

o A cheap one will be fine

· A pedometer

o For fun and bragging. And your health. I walked between 9-10 miles each day last year!

Food, Drink, and Toiletries:

· *** A CASE of bottled water

o Freeze as many as you can before putting them in the cooler.

· Four additional soda bottles or bigger filled with water

o Tap water is fine. Will be explained later.

· *** Sunscreen. As high a SPF as you can find and tolerate

· *** Baby Wipes

o Probably the most important thing you will need. This is the best way to clean up at your campsite, which will likely be nowhere near sinks and showers. It will also make your ‘business’ time much quicker and cleaner. If you can find individually wrapped wipes, go for it.

· The biggest and strongest cooler that can fit in your trunk

· Granola bars, Beef Jerky, other high-protein easy-to-carry snacks

· Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches. If you trust your cooler, prepare a few cold cut wraps.

· Those serving-size packets of iced tea/fruit punch/sports drink that are made for bottled water

o Usually have some added vitamins and simple sugars. And good to mix with vodka!

· 4 bottles of sports drink

o Freeze at least 2. Good to replenish fluids throughout the day.

· Multivitamins

· A camelback

o Not mandatory. But the lines for the drinking water often back up, so might as well grab as much as you can when you get there. Trust me, others will…

· Alcohol in CANS/PLASTIC

o I suggest sticking with beer. Light beer, believe it or not. It will dehydrate you the least. Bring enough to last you four days, plus some to share with friends! Don’t overdo it on liquor. Hangovers SUCK when you gotta walk a mile to the stage in 100 degree weather.

· Plastic ziplock bags

o Keep the contents of your pockets dry in case of rain or spontaneous fountain jumping. Seriously. Not to hold illicit substances… ;)

· Baby Powder / Gold Bond

o Lots of walking means lots of chafing. Even the strongest crotch will feel the burn. Don’t forget this.

· Deodorant

o Out of respect for your fellow festival-goers, please don’t forget this…

· Addl. Spray Deodorant / Cologne

o Quick easy way to freshen up

· Condoms

o Bonnaroo is nowhere near the sex romp that Woodstock was. Remember, most people go unshowered the whole four days, so you probably won’t even be thinking about getting laid. But hey, best to be on the safe side…

For the camp site:

· Tent, Sleeping Bag

o Self explanatory. Make sure the stakes are with your tent. Otherwise it will blow away.

· Gazebo tent

o Those awning-style tents. They’ll help keep the sun off your tent and give you a cool place to sit

· Small flashlight

o The battery free ones work great and will safely last the whole weekend

· A bed sheet or two

· Those solar blockers for your car windows. Get 2 if you can…

o I’ll explain how to use these and the sheet to comfortably sleep in your car

· One of those quick-folding field chairs

· Hackey Sack

o Ya know, in the past two years, no one brought a sack with them. WTF?!? Can’t think of a better place to have one.

For the show:

· Your ticket

o Duh

· ** A notepad and pen **

o The second most important thing. It’s so much fun writing down your thoughts and observations when chilling in a huge open field with music blasting and people acting all sorts of awesome.

· 4 copies of the Bonnaroo Map

· 4 copies of the Bonnaroo Lineup schedule

o Try to print double-sided so you can have two days on each sheet. Regardless, bring at least one copy of each day. The more you bring, the more you can share with your new friends!

· ** Digital Camera with video **

o Soooo many things you’ll want to take photos of. Especially if on substances that enhance visualizations. Make sure it has videos, cause at some points, still photos just won’t give the story justice!

· Cash

o Don’t expect anyone to take credit cards even if you know how to do it on your iPhone… There’s food, drinks, and snacks everywhere. And nearly a mile of flea market style arts and crafts leading towards Centeroo (stage area).

Now for the Do Not Bring. This list could go on, but these are things that tend to get lost or confiscated:

· Glow Sticks

o Hate to say it, but they WILL take them away at the gates if they find them. Yes, it does say it on the official website’s “Bring” list. But every year you’ll see a pile of them in garbage cans on the way in. They’ll be easy enough to find once you’re inside Centeroo.

· Balloons

o Same deal with the Glow Sticks. Don’t know why they say you can bring them in. They will get taken away. I think they’re afraid people will use them for whip-its.

· A cell phone

o Fine to leave in your car, but you really won’t need it on festival grounds. Especially if you’re solorooing. There are many areas where you can, and will probably want to, get wet, so don’t let your expensive phone get fried.

· Too much cash

o Lack of sleep, dehydration, booze, drugs… you’ll lose it or spend it all. If you’re not looking to go souvenir or “party favor” shopping and have a homemade sandwich each day for lunch, $100 should be fine. The food isn’t terribly priced for a festival (<$10 for dinner) and you can find cheap snacks around if you know where to look.

· Sandals or fancy footwear

o Remember, you’re gonna do a lot of walking. Uncomfortable shoes will ruin it for you. And your feet will get stepped on when dancing up to the stage…

· Glass

o They’re really strict about it and don’t take it lightly. I’ve seen them toss bottles of cologne away. If they find glass bottles in your car, you can guarantee you’re getting a thorough search. Don’t chance it when you can easily buy cans and plastic.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Bonnaroo Blog-a-roo

Hey Kids! It’s that time of year again. The days get longer, the cicadas swarm non-stop, and the annual Bonnaroo Music Festival comes to Tennessee. Four days of music, comedy, raves, art, camping, some more music, and chilling with new cool people. Nearly 80,000 converge in the Nashville/Chattanooga suburb of Manchester, TN, and for those who haven’t been there yet, well, I’m gonna teach you how to survive it all.

Ok, Bonnaroo is nothing to be afraid of, but to have the best time possible it takes some due diligence. Expect to sit in traffic for several hours before you get to walk several miles each day in possibly 100-degree weather with minimal bathing facilities. Yes, all those rumors are true. But don’t worry, it’s all fun from there.

Most of my friends take off for the summer, so the past two years I did the ‘Roo alone. Solorooed it! And I gotta say, for someone who isn’t the most outgoing person, the experience was so much better for it. Consider Bonnaroo a “social boot camp”. The people you meet at your tent will become your best buddies for the weekend, and you get to meet plenty of interesting folks at the many activities, art exhibits, stages, food tents, or passing around a proverbial HIMYM-style sandwich.

he's not giggling cause of the lettuce...

If there’s one way to describe Bonnaroo it’s this: An Experience. Simply put. There is so much going on it will seem overwhelming. Chances are in the four days you will not even get to see everything you want. But you will also get to see a ton of new things you never thought you’d stumble upon. And it will be AWESOME!!!

To be honest, I don’t even care for any of the bands playing this year. But I’m going just for ‘The Experience’. Relax for a weekend, meet new people, see some crazy things, and maybe discover a brand new favorite band.

So stay tuned. My next few posts will walk you through everything you need to know about preparing for, getting to, checking out, and surviving the greatest festival this side of the bible belt!

And if you got questions, ask away. I’ll throw a FAQ together if I get anything good!