Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bonnaroo Blog-a-roo: Welcome to the Show!

Most of what we’ve covered so far had to do with the action outside the Centeroo stage area. See, there’s more to Bonnaroo than you think! This part will give you some pointers on how to thrive on the inside.

There are two main gates to get in, one by the main “WHAT” stage and another by the “Other Tent” stage. It’s just an additional security gate to make sure you’re not bringing in a carload of crap. Typically they check your bracelet, look in your bags, and maybe pat your pockets. Most guards don’t really care if you sneak in a beer or glow stick, but some will take it away immediately. As stated, volunteers get to keep what they confiscate, and I know guards who greatly increased their ‘glassware’ collection if you know what I mean… At times, these gates can get backed up, especially in the morning and before the headlining acts, so give yourself a few extra minutes if you’re in a hurry. Not sure how things are going to work out with the new RFID bracelets, but from Coachella videos, it does look like a faster process.

So you’re in. Awesome. The first thing you want to do is find out where the five stages are. They are aptly named the WHAT Stage and WHICH Stage, and the “THIS”, “THAT”, and “THE OTHER” tend, as if to send thousands of concertgoers into an Abbott-and-Costello-enraged fit. But you’ll get the hang of it soon enough, even if you end up calling them “the big one” or “that one by the beer tent”. For the most part, the big name acts will be on the stages, and the up-and-comers in the tents.

Tip: it takes about 15-20 minutes to walk from “The Other Tent” to the “WHAT Stage”, depending on how distracted you get with everything on the way there.

But it’s not just about the music. There’s also a Comedy Tent, a few smaller stages for acoustic sets and local bands, an all-day Silent Disco, cabaret shows, a huge neon ferris wheel, the Adult Swim games tent, giant waterslide, and much much more! And tons of artsy-and-crafty things to check out. There is something for everyone and then some!

That said, what you have to realize is, you’re not going to be able to do it all. There’s just no way. There will be bands that you will want to see that will have conflicting times. It’ll be hot out, so you might just not feel like moving, let alone walking for 20 minutes. Or the Comedy Tent may be filled to capacity when you get there. It sucks, but it’s the way it goes. Don’t worry about it so much, you’re gonna have an amazing time anyway. In fact, it’s a good excuse to stop in on, or wait around for, smaller name acts. Last year I missed headliners because there were bands I saw en route to the main stages that kicked enough ass for me to stay around for. Thievery Corporation over Jay-Z any day!

Tip: the shade from the tent stages is enough to get you to park it for a few hours no matter who else is playing.

While talking about the Comedy Tent, it works on a ticket system. You line up about an hour (check this, it changes) before the set and get a ticket, and then you can come back right before the show begins. The morning shows (which includes Cheech Marin this year) tend to have ticket lines starting 2-3 hours in advance, so you may want to get to Centeroo a bit early. If they are out of tickets, don’t worry, they typically have room for a bunch of extra people. And if that doesn’t work, come back 10-15 minutes after the show, people will have left and chances are they will not even ask for a ticket. Lots of people show up there just for 10 minutes in the air conditioning. Which is amazing by the way…

You’re also going to have times where there aren’t bands you want to see. These are times when you can ask your camping neighbors if they have anyone to recommend. Or, check out the artsy stuff going on. It’s not Bonnaroo until you take a photo with each of the Bobbleheads. And it’s definitely Bonnaroo when you see people having “conversations” with them -this will happen... You’ll also find some cool things in the Sponsors’ tents. Honest. Not being a corporate shill here. Most have air conditioning and give out some form of food or beverage, along with some music or art. Some will even wash your hair, charge your cell phone, or let you check your e-mail, all for free! It’s a great way to spend your time between shows.

Tip: Some sponsors have clean water hookups in their tents. Get in good with them, and they’ll let you fill up your water bottle without the long wait of the water stations.

And make SURE you keep hydrated. 100 degree Tennessee days are grueling without the stage-to-stage trekking. Heat exhaustion sucks, and heat stroke is even worse. Take advantage that this is one of the few festivals where water is cheap and plentiful, so long as you don’t mind standing in a potentially long line.

After the headlining acts end, the raves begin. The tent area is lit up from laser light shows, strobes and the party goes until the sun comes up. The tent stages are fairly close together so you can easily check out what’s going on at all three. Each DJ has his own unique charm, and a crowd to boot. Whether it’s the neon costumes and dance-offs during Deadmau5 or blacklight beach balling during Girl Talk, there’s plenty to watch and plenty to groove to. Wait, can you groove to a rave? Who knows. What I do know is that it’s gonna be hard to stay at Shpongle while Ratatat is playing….

Tip: Don’t trip on acid before going to see GWAR. Just… believe me on this one.

You’re allowed to stay in Centeroo 24 hours from the time it opens to the time it closes. But there’s kind of a lull in the action from 5 to 9am. You can hang out for a bit in the air-conditioned Cinema Tent which is a nice way to cool off after some late night dancing. But watch out, inside or outside they’re wholly uncool about people sleeping there. I guess if they didn’t give you a hard time, everyone would try to crash out in the ice cold tent…

So that should be all you need to know. If you haven’t made up your schedule yet, check it out on; they even have a way to personalize your planned lineup. I’ll follow up with some more pointers if need be... Please leave a comment if you crave more info!

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