Last year, with the 40th anniversary of Woodstock and the cherished summer of ’69, I fell into the groove of peace and love. My mother took me to see an Arlo Guthrie and Richie Havens concert, and I spent many days enjoying the outdoors, nearby lakes, and styling flowers in my hair. As the spirit of peace and music filled my soul, I vowed to make the journey to the Bonnaroo Music Festival 2010, the closest I could find to that original Woodstock experience.
By five a.m. on Friday morning, June 11, the Tennessee sun was beating down on our tent. I quietly slipped out and began the Porta Potty ritual: climb through a barbed-wire cattle fence, trek through long grasses and leap a creek, wait in line, then *gasp* hold my breath. I’m embarrassed to say I quickly grew accustomed to these bathrooms.
The Friday concerts opened the weekend right. We endured the heat and guzzled water to catch as many shows as possible, including She & Him, the National, and Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers (yes, Steve Martin was in a small bluegrass band!).
At night, Kings of Leon put on a show that had every acid-tripper reeling with delight. My friends and I headed towards That Tent (the stage names are wonderful, ehh?) to hear The Black Keys, a blues-rock duo from Akron, Ohio, followed by Cleveland’s own Kid Cudi. Yes, you can say I was on the pursuit of happiness…
Saturday proved to be another early morning of suffocating heat in the tent. But the storm clouds rolling in served as, at first, a dear friend bringing shade and a breeze, then an ominous reminder of how messy rain might get. In eerie timing, as Mumford & Sons began singing “Thistle and Weeds,” (But plant your hope with good seeds, / Don’t cover yourself with thistle and weeds, / Rain down, rain down on me), the rain did begin to fall.
After the moon rose, I soaked in Stevie Wonder’s classic energy, waiting for the 11:30 p.m. appearance of Jay-Z on What Stage. When the countdown reached zero, the set illuminated the dark night, and chords of Jay-Z’s intro filled the air, I was awake, my heart-beat amplified, and Bonnaroo 2010 was permanently set as one of the best weekends of my life.
By Sunday, I hated the sun and found every bit of shade I could. At sunset, I munched on delicious pizza and enjoyed the irony of Phoenix mixing “Love Like a Sunset” into their set.
The big finale was a crowd favorite, Dave Matthews Band. This was the first time I decided to attend a Dave concert, and I’m glad I held out. It was fitting to end the weekend sitting among thousands of other tired fest-goers. Mini-hot air balloons were released into dark sky, their light getting smaller until being snuffed by the air.
The experience overall was fantastic, a time in my life to plaster in a scrapbook and remember forever. In four days, I saw pieces or wholes of 22 performances. And here are my highlights:
She & Him: I’m not into the Him specifically, but She, Zooey Deschanel, is one of the finest vocalists today. She was practically pushing back the crowd with her powerful voice, and moving us with a throwback style to soulful classics and jazz.
The National: The instrumental band members are right on, and no one sings Matt Berninger’s lyrics better than himself in that deep, sexy voice. And on top of it all, Berninger leaped into the crowd and walked around! Talk about getting in touch with the fans!
Kid Cudi: Anyone showing positive representation for Cleveland is on my “like” list, but Cudi’s fresh lyrics, catchy beats and timing on his first mix tape and album, Man on the Moon, pumped up the entire crowd… even though he started at 2 a.m.! Wonderful non-stop set list.
Jay-Z: For a “hippie” festival, this was surprisingly my favorite show of the entire weekend. I was tired and achy but Jay-Z got the crowd involved, as we sung along to new and old hits alike. The lighting and staging was unreal. Jay-Z sent us to bed happy, closing with the inspirational “Young Forever.”
The stages/tents: What Stage, Which Stage, That Tent, This Tent, and more. One classic conversation I overheard: “Who’s playing at this tent?” “Umm, she and him?” Not so vague, really, as She & Him played at This Tent.
I cannot wait to see who will grace the line-up for 2011.