How I feel about....
Peanut Butter and Jellys: Love em. Would I choose to eat them at every meal for days? = Maybe not.
Camping: Hit or miss. Give me millions of pillows and great friends I’ve known less than a week = Into it. Give me a flood, ants and a dust storm. = Maybe not so into it.
Showers: Wow, do I love a good, clean refreshing rinse. Going a few days without them = Questionable times.
Music: Obsessed. Concerts all-day and night for days = The dream.
Bonnaroo: All of the above, but so much more = Worth it.
In May of 2012 I went on a road trip up the coast of California with some recent acquaintances. We didn’t know each other all that well at first, but we drove in a Sector 9 truck that could only go roughly 50 mph max (think Harry and Lloyd in the Shaggin’ Wagon) for 14 hours, and quickly became close friends. We decided last minute to go to a Music Festival in Monterey, California. Unexpected, spontaneous, and entertaining describes the car ride and weekend as a whole pretty accurately. We camped out, watched live shows, discovered new bands and best of all, met new people.
The 14 hour car ride back from Monterey, going at a turtles pace, was not quite as thrilling as the car ride up there. Between the 25 bathroom breaks (sorry!), 15 skateboard stops (not my favorite time), and endless snack breaks, my new friends and I had turned into bickering brothers and sisters ready to bust a move out of there (our pet’s heads were falling off! haha, but seriously). The love was still there of course, but when we reached San Diego we all wind sprinted out of that truck and into our cars at lightning speed. Silence, showers and our own beds were a calling.
While I was ecstatic to be back in my own bed, I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend engaging with people I had not met or known that well previously. Something I truly enjoy is being in a situation where I don’t know many people. It forces me outside of my comfort zone. I have to try really hard to get to know someone, rather than just conversing with them on the surface level. It’s so intriguing to me to find out where people are from, what makes them tick, what music they are into, how many siblings they have (if any), what their dreams are and so forth. It fascinates me how siblings can be raised by the same parents, but turn out opposite and unique in their own ways. How we are shaped into who we are meant to become by where we are from, our families, friends, and schools really resonates with me. How people from all over the world, can be so different and so similar all at once -- it is such a beautiful thing. All of this to say, I met some lifelong friends that weekend in Monterey, friends that I would not have known existed had I not taken a chance and gone on this random adventure. I’m thankful I did! I met two girls there in particular, and we clicked instantly. They were warm and welcoming, so welcoming. In fact, they invited me to camp out with them at Bonnaroo two weekends later. I thanked them at the time, but unfortunately I knew I couldn’t swing it. I was just about to start a new job. Not to mention, I didn’t exactly have the funds. I couldn’t simply travel across the country without a ticket to the nearly sold out festival, without really knowing anyone, and without the budget to do so. I couldn’t, right? Or could I…
When the morning came for the girls to fly out to Tennessee for Bonnaroo, I had a mini melt down (FOMO was raging). In addition, my good friend Matt called me to let me know he was going to be working there as well! He assured me he would help me with whatever I needed when/ if I arrived. At the final hour, I called my boss right before I was due into work and asked if there was any chance I could go (can’t believe I asked that now, ha!). He said “You only live once. Do it!” I was just at the end of my time working at the company, but seriously what an awesome boss. Okay, here goes nothing!, I thought. I quickly packed a bag and booked a ticket for a flight leaving in less than two hours. Needless to say, I was going to wait to tell my parents about my stellar idea that was unfolding. Looking back, they probably were not too shocked, but it’s funny that even as a 20 something I still get scared of what my parents might say at my sometimes impulsive decisions. I would figure out the logistics later, including how to pay for it… But like my boss said, “You only live once!” And off I went.
I arrived at the Nashville airport and reality sunk in a bit. Ok, I just met these girls. Will I be able to find them? What if they don’t answer? I don’t have a tent. I don’t have a ticket to the show. How I am even supposed to get to the show? Well frick… I guess I could’ve made any sort of a game plan. But you know what, sometimes the things in life that are completely unplanned are the most fun. Plus, there was no going back now, so I was going to make the most of it. I stopped dwelling and looked around to see if anyone else appeared to be going to the festival, which was about an hour and a half away from the airport in Manchester. I mean there had to be some people going that way. I saw a group that was dressed in “hippie chic” outfits. They must be going to Bonnaroo, I thought. I followed them from a distance, lingering far enough behind them to avoid seeming too creepy. I heard them talking about a bus to the festival. I then decided to stop being a full-on weirdo and ask them about this alleged bus. They said that anyone could buy tickets for the bus to the festival grounds and pointed to a table. The only hitch was that you needed a festival ticket to ride on the bus there. Ah yes, the good ole festival ticket - I had yet to get one of those. I bought a bus ticket, got on the bus, and sat next to the one person that didn’t seem to have a big group of friends with him. At last we pulled away from the airport. We were festival bound.
The whole time I was secretly freaking out inside. I still did not have a ticket, but I was on the bus into the festival, soo I had to figure it out somehow. The kid next to me appeared to be a bit sad. I struck up a conversation with him and he soon told me his life story. I found out he was seeing a girl for a while and she just bailed on him that day for the show. With a distraught look on his face, he pulled out her ticket that was now going to waste. Such a bummer, I thought. But wait… an extra ticket. Did he say that was her ticket she wasn’t going to use? While I did feel for him, I was eager to buy that off of him ASAP, before the bus driver/ticket police came around and threw me out into a cornfield. He was also about to let a couple hundred bucks go to waste, so I was doing him a favor by buying it (with what little I had to offer him), right? Regretfully, he said yes! I had a ticket. It was HAPPENING.
It was getting late when we arrived at Bonnaroo. I couldn’t believe I had actually gotten this far. I got off the bus, consoled my “pal” one last time, even though he was not stoked about his payment, and I was off! But wait, where was I off to? I was in a massive plot of land with thousands of people, tents, cars, and music from all directions. Where in the hell was I going and how did I begin to find Lauren and Alice? I called them a few times without an answer and started to get nervous as the cell reception was terrible. I envisioned my weekend just sleeping in the dirt with the one too many dresses I packed as my blankets…. but alas they answered! They were under the big red magic ball in the sky. Perfect, this will be easy. I looked up and saw a plethora of them for as far as I could see. Oh joy. I jumped on a near by golf cart with some others and asked them to follow the directions I had just received. As we drove, fellow campers/festival goers tossed us ice cold beers and high fived us as we passed. This is it. This is Bonnaroo: a weekend of good jams and great people. I felt my heart race with excitement. I was so close to finding the girls, too. We drove for what felt like ages. Then finally, the driver of the golf cart dropped me off with my bags where the girls were supposed to be. I didn’t see them. But before I could say anything, he was a distant object speeding away. All at once I felt really alone. I was decently far away from the actual stages, too. I would have to walk, what seemed like, miles to ask any employee for directions. As I looked around I didn’t see any familiar faces. Ugh, Bridget what did you get yourself into! Suddenly, I saw two girls sprinting towards me with open arms yelling, “Bridget, Bridget, you made it. I can’t believe you made it!!” It was Alice and Lauren. I felt a huge sigh of relief wash over me. I made it. Let’s gooo Bonnaroo!
In the days to follow, we had the absolute time of our lives. We spent most of every day and night dancing (until we face planted into our “home”), meeting new friends, running into old ones, face painting, making cocktails, doing yoga, sunbathing in the grassy lawns, napping in any shade we could find, washing each other’s hair (score!), watching those ethereal Tennessee sunsets and sunrises, spooning in our baby sized tent, fighting through the dust storms, delighting in any rain storms (it was so hot!!), putting back pbjs like they were going out of style, and forming special memories that we will always have together. We watched some of my favorite concerts to date, including shows by Foster the People, Bon Iver, City and Colour, Red Hot Chili Peppers, PHISH, The Civil Wars, Grouplove, Ben Howard, SOJA, Radiohead, The Temper Tramp, Fitz and the Tantrums, Santigold and many many more. From the first to the last show, I was continually blown away. Bonnaroo is unlike any other festival I have been too. The hospitable crowds, the remote location, the talented performers, the nonstop positive energy, the all around pleasant atmosphere -- it has it all. Although it wasn’t the most planned out trip I’ve taken, in fact it wasn’t planned in the slightest, it was full of curve balls, but it all contributed to making it an unforgettable journey. I will always remember that hot, hot campground, that sweet music day in and day out and that feeling of terror, uncertainty, and exhilaration all at once. Festivals are not for the faint of heart, but for a few days, they bring a variety of people together, from all over the world. All for the love of one thing: MUSIC. Now that is a beautiful thing.