On Your Own, But Never Alone: Bonnaroo 2014

*written by Lizzie Moore for Electronica Life
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In mid-June, Manchester, Tenn welcomed Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival back for it’s thirteenth year of production. Cars lined up along the interstate as the campgrounds began to fill up with attendees, or “bonnaroovians”, ready to experience four days of music and performances by artists of multiple genres. This year marks my second year attending Bonnaroo and, interestingly enough, the first festival that I’ve ever attended by myself. I pulled into my camping spot in the pouring rain and took a deep breath as I watched everyone get out of their cars and start assembling their tents. I grabbed my tent out of my car and started to pathetically put it together by myself. After a half hour of struggling and nearly giving up twice, my tent was set up and I was feeling an overwhelming sense of girl power. I grabbed a beer out of the cooler and sat in my lone chair, wondering what I was supposed to do next. I realized something that surprised me… I had no idea how to entertain myself. I left my campsite to go on a walk and it wasn’t long until I had found myself a wolf pack of three guys that slowly grew into a giant posse of people just hoping to have some decent conversation. I told a man I had met, “I came alone, I have no friends here” to which he stoically responded, “that’s where you’re wrong, everyone here is your friend.” I rolled my eyes and laughed and walked back to my campsite to fall asleep and wait for the festival to begin.

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Thursday’s lineup was the least known of the days, beginning with an early set by upcoming Robert Delong that showcased not only his mixing skills but also vocal and percussion talents. Later, Break Science pumped up the crowd with an incredible sunset set and played an unreleased track featuring Tycho and Kendrick Lamar. On Friday, a return performance of Kanye West to the festival created mixed reactions as he ranted on stage about his history of bad press with Bonnaroo. Later, Disclosure delivered a highly anticipated set with a live performance of their hit “Latch” by soulful vocal powerhouse Sam Smith. Skrillex continued the party dropping his signature sound that could be heard throughout the expansive campgrounds. Overall the energy was high and like Ice Cube proclaimed during his set, I eventually fell asleep concluding that “It Was A Good Day”. Saturday featured the most electronic-heavy lineup of the festival, with artists such as Zedd, The Glitch Mob, and Kaskade who played an extra hour later than his end time through the sunrise. Other notable performances included Chromeo, Jack White of The White Stripes, The Flaming Lips, and a “Bonnaroo Superjam” featuring Skrillex, Big Gigantic, Robby Krieger of The Doors, and Damian Marley among other diverse artists. The grand finale of the festival was a flashy performance by Elton John on Sunday, prompting the 80,000-person crowd to sing along to major hits such as “Benny and the Jets”, “Rocket Man”, “Your Song”, and “Crocodile Rock.” As John concluded his last encore, the crowd looked up at the huge fireworks show that marked the end of the festival.

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I can’t remember the names of each person I met at Bonnaroo, but I can tell you the impact of the decision to swallow my apprehensions and introduce myself to someone. Most people responded to me with so much respect and kindness that I wondered how many friends I had let pass by throughout my life just because I was too afraid to just say hello. Bonnaroo is a unique experience because it’s one of the biggest and longest running festivals that the southeast has to offer. Because of this, Bonnaroo has become a tradition for people who love different kinds of music but are located in a region that prides itself being the country capital of the world. Overall, my first experience as a lone ranger at a festival was overwhelmingly positive. I thought that I was going to Bonnaroo alone, but every single person I told that I was alone responded that in reality I was actually part of an “everyone” or a Bonnaroo “family”.  I left the campgrounds with a new found respect for the power within myself to be independent and self-sufficient because, like everyone had said, at a festival you are never truly alone.  That’s what is so cool about the festival community; it’s a common ground that links people with common interests- a love of music and a passion for celebrating life.unnamed-4