Saturday, June 19, 2010

Tennesee Trip

Here is the much-anticipated Bonnaroo post.....

I flew back to Des Moines on Monday, June 7. I had no cell phone, mine having been stolen the previous weekend. I still had Brian's old phone, a Droid, and actually traded that with our good friend Joy, who had a phone style I much preferred. I did not have my contacts backed up (I do now!), but at home I did find my old cell and Brian's old cell from December, so got most of everything from those. Huge shout-out to Trevor at Verizon Wireless for spending an hour and a half with us, transferring contacts, texts, and pictures.

While home, I squeezed in a haircut, a couple of appointments with window contractors, a car appointment, and an appointment with a handyman to repair my garbage disposal. Oh, and Wine Club was at my house. It was an insanely busy and stressful two days. The house didn't feel like home, and the cats took a long time to warm up. I was ready for the road trip!

On Wednesday, June 9, I picked up Mike Hart (Brian's best friend since 1st grade). We loaded the rental SUV with the tent, canopy, chairs, coolers, grill, and our luggage and headed east. We picked up Mike Wilson (another good friend of Brian's, who was also a groomsman in the wedding) in Iowa City and off we went!

For a little background -- Hart was the obsessive planner of this whole endeavor. He had prepared the four page packing list, and supplied much of the needed items himself. He had spend hours reading Bonnaroo blogs and message boards for tips and inside info. We definitely didn't lack anything! He even had made CDs for the road with all the Bonnaroo artists we wanted to see. he's a character! He's a little scatterbrained, I guess you'd say. For example, he doesn't like to plan outfits and pack them -- he just packs most of his clothes so he can choose later. The car was stuffed to the ceiling! In addition to having the biggest suitcase and toiletry bag, Wilson had random plastic bags full of odds and ends -- a mounted singing fish, a wig, a Bop It! toy, etc.....made for a full car but also a lot of fun. He brought some much-needed levity to the whole voyage.

On Wednesday, we drove to a hotel about an hour away from the Bonnaroo grounds, getting in around 12:30 a.m. Thursday morning, we were up and at 'em, hitting a gas station for ice by 10:30. Then the little wrenches began to show up.....(as an aside, my Taurus wasn't running so I had to rent an SUV -- you could call this a wrench, but I call it a blessing in disguise, as there was no way all our crap would have fit in a car, even though Wilson offered to drive his Aspire!). We hit MAJOR traffic at 11:00. According to Hart's research, 11:00 was a good time to get in line to get a good camping spot close to the stages. Not this year. There had been flooding and mud issues on the Bonnaroo grounds, and -- we later learned -- there was a traffic fatality en route -- so the line was all single file most of the way. Imagine 80,000 - 100,000 people trying to enter a campground in the same line. It was insane. Bonnaroo traffic was directed 13 miles past the site, turned around, and then 13 miles back. It took 9 hours from the time we got in line to the time we arrived at our camping spot. Nine hours!! Traffic was stopped in lines on the shoulders, people were getting out, playing music, putting lawn chairs on top of their campers, etc. We tried to make the most of it, remembering that this happened at Woodstock and hoping that would mean our experience would be similarly epic.

We got into the camping area Thursday around 8:00 p.m. Unfortunately, this means we missed some of the performers we wanted to see that afternoon and evening. We barely had time to get the tent and Bears canopy shade cover up before sunset. We found out were were about as far away from the stages as you could get -- about a half an hour walk. This, despite Hart's best efforts to snag a better spot. Oh, well, we reasoned -- this way, we'll see more of the grounds and people and really get the full impact and experience every day. After setting up camp, we walked down to Centeroo (the main grounds, where the stages, tents, and other attractions were) and caught a couple songs by The xx, and a great show by RhythMystik, a tribal percussion band. They were so intense and into the music. It was a surprisingly good show. (FYI, that show went from 12-1 am)

Friday, we watched Conan O'Brien's live comedy set, projected on a big screen on a stage. We were seated outside with tens of thousands of others. We weren't lucky enough (really, we weren't early enough) to be one of the approximately 200 who got to be in the air conditioned theater where he was performing live, or in the air conditioned movie theater where they were also showing his set. He was hilarious, and also obviously still very bitter about the whole Tonight Show fiasco with NBC. That was sort of the recurring theme of the act, which did include a cameo from Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. Conan's show went from 1:00-2:30. Our Friday looked like this:

1:00 - 2:30 -- Conan O'Brien
[back to camp to nap outside -- the heat in the tent made sleeping in hard!]
6:30 - 8:00 -- Tenacious D
8:00 - 9:30 -- Michael Franti & Spearhead
9:30 - 11:30 -- Kings of Leon

Saturday was a huge day:

1:45 - 2:45 -- Brandi Carlile
2:45 - 4:00 -- Norah Jones
4:45 - 6:15 -- The Avett Brothers
7:00 - 8:30 -- Weezer
8:30 - 10:30 -- Stevie Wonder
11:30 - 1:30 -- Jay-Z
3:00 - 4:30 -- The Disco Biscuits (yes, this was AM! I didn't stay for the full set)

Sunday, I got up early and went to Centeroo on my own for a while. This was my day:

9:00 - 10:00 -- yoga
10:00 - 12:00 -- various activities, shopping, etc.
12:00 - 1:00 -- Ingrid Michaelson
1:30 - 2:15 -- Cross Canadian Ragweed
3:00 -- Hart & Wilson came to Centeroo -- we caught a couple Blues Traveler songs, but it was too hot to stand in the sun for that show
3:30 - 4:00 -- Martin Sexton (small stage show)
4:15 - 4:45 -- John Butler Trio (small stage show)
5:00 - 5:30 -- Cross Canadian Ragweed (small stage show)
6:30 - 8:00 -- Zac Brown Band
9:00 - 11:30 -- Dave Matthews Band

And that was Bonnaroo! We took off Monday morning at 11:00 (after waking, showering, taking down the tent and canopy, loading the car, etc.) and I got home (Waukee) at 1:00 Tuesday morning. I flew back to Austin Tuesday at 11:00 a.m., arriving back home to the Austin apartment around 7:00 p.m. Tuesday. What a trip!

Now for some of the details....the best show, hands down, was The Avett Brothers. It was a favorite band of Brian's, and I knew all the songs they played, most by heart. We had a pretty good spot for that, considering there were probably 25,000 people there. It was just a massive sea of people. I was surprised at the crowd they garnered, and by how many others were as passionate and knowledgeable about them as we were. I guess Brian was onto something with these guys...

The coolest moment was during the Weezer set. If you haven't watched the video link I posted, watch that now. Chills.

Maybe I should do an FAQ.....

Where there showers? Yes. They were about a 10-15 minute walk away, there was a long line, and they cost $7. However, Hart had purchased a 5 gallon hanging shower that we had at our campsite. We'd wear swimming gear and shower at the site. Yes, it was weird showering and shaving my armpits while wearing a bikini in front of our neighbors. But it beat the other available alternatives. Plus, Bonnaroo is a place where nothing is out of place, so no one was staring or anything. Actually, our neighbors were jealous of our shower set-up. Kudos, Hart!

You really slept in a tent for 4 nights? Could you sleep?
Yes. Not very well.

Did everyone camp? As far as I know, yes. I'm sure some people came in every day, but there were probably a good 75,000 campers.

Where was this thing? On a 700-acre property just outside Manchester, Tennessee, a town of about 2,300 people that sits about 75 miles southeast of Nashville.

What was the weather like? Sunday was miserably hot. We sought shade and water most of the day while the sun was up. One person, a 29-year-old man, collapsed and died and his death is believed to be heat-related. It was in the high 90s every day. It only rained once, and that was a light rain during The Avett Brothers show that was actually very refreshing. I like to think Brian helped us out with that.

What did you eat? There were stands selling all kinds of food -- pizza, corndogs, quesadillas, curried goat, fried candy bars, kettle corn, gyros, jerk chicken, wraps, etc. We also did hot dogs and burgers on the grill at the tent, but not as often as we would have if our campsite had been closer to the Centeroo grounds.

What was it like? Imagine the Iowa State Fair times 100. And 95% of the people are visibly hippies.

Was there any violence or crime? Did you feel safe leaving your things in the tent? Never saw any sort of argument or strife. Never worried about our things. This was the most peaceful gathering I could imagine. It was actually incredible when you think of how many people were there (we heard as many as 100,000), and the fact that this lasted 4 days.

Did you take pictures? Yes, of course. I took some digital and some on disposable cameras when my digital started going haywire (another minor kink that we took in stride). I will post a few in the next day or so.

What was the craziest thing that happened? Well, I would say how dirty we got, despite our best efforts to the contrary. There was a big fountain in the middle of Centeroo, under which people would run around in their swimsuits to cool off. I did that one afternoon, and later that day, Wilson said, "Oh gross -- look at the water coming out of the Psychadelic Fountain." It was clearly not...well, clear. They must have been recycling/refiltering that water, because it had this awful brown tinge. Later, I realized that much of what I thought was a rocking tan was actually a crust of dirt on my skin from the fountain water, and from dust getting kicked up onto my sweaty, sunscreen coated body! I could seriously see a dirt line! It was soooo gross! That same day, I picked a smash of matted grass and dirt off Wilson's elbow and he said, "What was that?" I told him, and he said, "Oh, yeah, that hurt. I thought I had a scab." Hahaha! We were so dirty we couldn't tell if we were tan or dirty, or whether we had scabs or patches of dirt and grass stuck to us!

Any other good stories? Yes, actually. Hart had a bandage on his thumb and at one concert, it fell off and onto Wilson's lap. I had the perfect vantage point -- I saw this happen, and I saw that Wilson didn't see it happen. He looked down to see what had fallen out of the sky and landed on him. You should have seen the horrified look on his face when he realized it was a dirty, bloody Band-Aid! His jaw dropped, and he said, "Please tell me that came from Hart." Instead of answering right away, I looked at Hart and then we just cracked up. It was priceless.

I could seriously write so much much happened during this six-day, five-state road trip. I will say, it is a testament to our friendship that we were able to be around one another pretty much round-the-clock for that amount of time and in such close quarters without going to blows. In fact, there were several times on the way home that something would be said or would happen that would just have us all rolling in laughter -- things that probably wouldn't be funny to anyone else, or wouldn't strike the same chord among any other three random people. We laughed together the same way my dad and his brothers laugh at holidays -- the way only best friends can. I felt blessed to have these friends in my life and to share this experience with them. We are lucky that Brian brought us together, and I know he was there with us the whole time.

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