*and other music festivals but Bonnaroo is the best.
It has only been in existence for twelve years and I’ve only been going for two, but Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival has already climbed to the top of my list of favorite traditions. The palpable sense of community and excitement, the incomparable selection of musical acts, the head-turning outfits, not to mention the fact it all takes place twenty minutes from my house—these things and more draw me and so many others back every year. Hopefully, all of you experience a music festival at some point; here’s a guide to get you through your first one.
- First of all, your Bonnaroo partner is the most important ingredient for a successful festival. He/she not only has to be someone who shares your taste in music, but you also must be able to trust this person with your life. Come up with basic rules, such as where to meet up at the end of the night if you get separated and someone’s phone dies. Compromise. If you are dead set on seeing The National but your buddy is leaning towards Tame Impala (one of the most infuriating conflicts in Bonnaroo history), go to both! The more shows that you can see without having to split up, the merrier.
- Make a plan. Immediately stray from the plan. You might have your day completely scheduled down to bathroom and food breaks—however, a little spontaneity goes a long way, especially when you’re walking past the Silent Disco and have the sudden urge to dance to music that only you and others bearing headphones can hear. Attempting to abide by a tight schedule will only result in frustration, because on planet Bonnaroo this is practically an impossible effort. Come up with a daily strategy, but leave room for and appreciate the unexpected.
- Water is your FRIEND. Alcohol is your frenemy. Hydration is the most important, and you should be constantly drinking out of and refilling your water bottle. Alcohol is all (mostly) fun and games until you’re dehydrated and hungover walking amongst 80,000 people in 85-degree weather. I’m not saying DON’T pregame Paul McCartney’s show and subsequently find yourself perched on the shoulders of a random Canadian dude belting out “Eight Days A Week” as though you’re a sixties Beatles fangirl. I’m just saying do it in moderation. You definitely want to remember these moments, just in case you have to write a blog post about them someday.
- The three C’s of Bonnaroo fashion: Comfortable, Cute, and always bring a Change (you never know when an extra pair of shoes will save your life). Usually, a festival is HOT, and so an outfit can literally make or break your day. Avoid anything tight, and instead opt for flowy sundresses, loose shorts, light tops, and maxi skirts (unless it’s raining). However, Bonnaroo is also the time to be adventurous. Leave the plain t-shirts and athletic shorts at home and get creative! You’re going to a place where you don’t know anyone and they don’t know you. It’s kind of like freshman year, a.k.a. the time to be the coolest version of you and slip on that outfit in the back of your closet that you have always fantasized about wearing. Just please don’t be That Girl wearing a Navajo-style headdress.
- Find a new favorite band. Sure, hit some of the headliners to fulfill lifelong dreams of seeing the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Radiohead live, but also, make a point to follow around that friend who knows that some of the best acts will be performing at the smaller tents and stages. Who knows, you may even find yourself wondering who this trio of Jewish sisters is and why their music is so damn catchy and what was their last name again? Hime? Haym? Ha-eem? One of the many beauties of a festival is the opportunity to experience music the way that artists meant it to be heard; loud, live, and personal. If anything, do it so that you can tell people that you saw Kendrick Lamar perform before 2013 happened.
- Meet new people. I can’t guarantee that you will meet a drunken Molly McAleer in the crowd after a Solange show, but planet Bonnaroo is the home to some of the wackiest people on Earth. Talk to them, dance with them, enjoy them, MAYBE even make out with them, but don’t take drugs from them. Hopefully, by the end of the weekend you’ll have seven new contacts in your phone, all with the last name “Bonnaroo.”
- Finally, even if it isn’t good ol’ Roo, make your local festival a tradition, and have the absolute best weekend of your summer/year/life. I’m not going to pretend that as I’m writing this I’m not dreaming of samosas and sweet potato fries and listening to my “ROOOOOOO ‘13” playlist with tears in my eyes.