“After all the scintillating, big ticket performances (Panic in ’02, Radiohead in ’06, MMJ in ’08, and Jay-Z last year immediately come to mind), strolls through the mud, epic late nights (STS9 in ’05, Nine Inch Nails in ’09) and subsequent sunrises, and once-in-a-lifetime SuperJams (G.R.A.B. with Phil Lesh in ’06, John Paul Jones, ?uestlove & Ben Harper in ‘07), it’s hard to believe this thing has been around for 10 years now. The story of the festival’s formation is already the stuff of rock & roll legend. Selling out the initial allotment of tickets on word-of-mouth advertising alone to a music festival set in Middle Tennessee for a 3-day event in the heat of summer seems impossible now (without the benefit of hindsight). As many of you know by now, that’s exactly what happened when Superfly Presents and AC Entertainment decided to put on the very first Bonnaroo in Manchester, TN back in 2002…”
Since its inception in 2002, Bonnaroo has become the nation's ultimate music destination, garnering an exponentially larger amount of media coverage each year. From hardcore music examinations to societal campground investigations, the words written leading up to, during, and in the wake of the event have proven to be as compelling as they are varied. Musicology, travel, anthropology, gastronomy, sociology, and technology collide for four days, providing a range of subjects.
While Bonnaroo's organizers have long shunned the "jam-band" festival tag, the annual steamy gathering on a 700-acre farm in Manchester, Tennessee, has hosted its fair share of noodle-tastic talent over the years...But from its very first lineup, Bonnaroo has supported rap, booking such indie groups as Blackalicious and Jurassic 5, adding in more over the years, mostly of the variety that appeal to its core audience, including RJD2, frequent guests the Roots, Common, Cypress Hill, El-P and Aesop Rock, and in 2008, Kanye West, M.I.A. and Lupe Fiasco. Though they've always had a place on the bill, rappers began to have a bigger presence by 2009, with the addition of Murs, the Knux, the Beastie Boys and Snoop Dogg. Then again, in 2010, even with Jay on the roster, last year's lineup had rappers in mostly support roles, with Wale, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Jay Electronica, Kid Cudi and B.o.B hitting smaller stages.
The last time Radiohead played at Bonnaroo, in 2006, it seemed to metamorphose on the spot: from a cerebral, futuristic, anxiety-driven band playing its arcane songs to earnest theater audiences to a cerebral, futuristic band that could make tens of thousands of people dance like crazy. Friday night at Bonnaroo was the follow-through: Radiohead the rhythm band, hitting groove after groove and riding them to darkly kinetic places.
The $40 million company was co-founded by four young men desperate to avoid the finance and accounting careers for which their college studies had seemingly predestined them. They are Kerry Black (graphic design), Rick Farman (festival operations), Richard Goodstone (marketing), and Jonathan Mayers (programming).
Jonathan Mayers: Three of us were in college in New Orleans. I graduated first, in 1995, and got a job booking talent at Tipitina's, which is this legendary R&B/jazz/rock/funk/you-name-it uptown club. Rick and Kerry joined Tipitina's while still students at Tulane.
Rick Farman: I had promoted bands in high school on Long Island. In New Orleans, Tipitina's was my favorite place. I walked into Jon's office and said, "Let me help you."
Kerry Black: I was a friend of Rick's and had a car, so they hired me, too.
The single most important thing at ‘roo. It can get so damn hot you have to work at it to stay hydrated. In the stage and camping areas they have water stations where you can get as much water as you want for free. It's well water and sometimes has a rather displeasing sulfur taste, but its drinkable. Bring bottles or a camelback.
There were 368 citations issued and 44 arrests made in the latest numbers available for the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, according to the Coffee County Sheriff's Office command center at the campgrounds.
The majority of arrests were for drug possession and theft, according to the sheriff's department. The majority of citations were drug related.
This has to be one of the most important things. It can be very very sunny in Tennessee in the summer. I bring SPF 15 to start with and 40 for later in the weekend. Put it on as soon as you get there.
Attendance has held steady at 80,000 each year since 2005—the festival has sold out every year, with 70,000 in 2002 and a peak of 90,000 in 2004. Bonnaroo is almost twice as big as the population of Coffee County, and nearly 10 times the size of nearby Manchester. Campers have come from all 50 states, and they do get in some trouble—arrests have increased from 18 in 2002 to 73 last year. It can be dangerous, too; heat, drugs, and booze can lay a whammy on you.
The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival is a four-day, multi-stage camping festival held on a beautiful 700-acre farm in Manchester, Tennessee every June. Bonnaroo brings together some of the best performers in rock and roll, along with dozens of artists in complementary styles such as jazz, Americana, hip-hop, electronica, and just about any contemporary music you can think of. In addition to dozens of epic performances, the festival’s 100-acre entertainment village buzzes around the clock with attractions and activities including a classic arcade, on-site cinema, silent disco, comedy club, theater performers, a beer festival, and a music technology village. For its peaceful vibe, near-flawless logistics, and unrivaled entertainment options, Rolling Stone magazine named this revolutionary entertainment experience one of the 50 moments that changed the history of rock and roll.
Jessica Robertson, the managing editor of MTVHive.com, says Superfly and AC Entertainment, the production and marketing teams behind Bonnaroo, achieve the perfect balance by featuring headliners like Eminem and Bonnaroo veteran Widespread Panic alongside jam bands like String Cheese Incident and the legendary classic rockers that make up Buffalo Springfield.
Some people might criticize the mainstream shift, but, Mayers says, "If we just kept doing the same thing, we probably wouldn't be relevant right now."
And with tickets costing about $240, it's important that Bonnaroo maintain its relevance -- especially in a time when people are wary of paying full price for individual shows.