Tuesday, June 19, 2018

How Do You 'Roo Part One- My First Bonnaroo Experience + Where Are The Girls? + Fortune Cookie Wisdom

My First Bonnaroo Experience

"What the he!! is a Bonnaroo?!" i'm sure i was asking myself in some form or fashion back in 2002.  Sure i had been to multiple Dave Matthews Band concerts and a few other shows at that point in my life, then a spry 24-year old man, but at the time i couldn't have even imagined what i was getting myself into.  All i knew was my friends were pumped about it and that's all i needed to know.

2002 just so happen to have been Bonnaroo's first Bonnaroo, too.  To hear co-founder Ashley Capps talk about it, they weren't quite sure what to expect either.  We were both about to embark upon the adventure of a lifetime!

We bought our tickets early that year and good thing because tickets sold out within 3 weeks of going on sale that year.  If you were on the fence about going that year, you were just plain sh!t out of luck so despite my reluctance, i early adopted.  For anyone who knows me well, that isn't typically my style.  I much prefer someone else testing the waters before i try most things (especially technology!) and then have them tell me about the pros and cons before i'll commit.  This was different though.  All my friends at the time were convinced this was gonna be worth taking a leap of faith.

The time between the ticket purchase and hitting the road for the 'roo are blurry (i blame Bonnaroo!) but at least i can fast forward a bit.  So we're on our way to Bonnaroo.  I had packed some camping supplies, a sleeping bag and some alcoholic beverages in my brand new 2002 Nissan Altima ("Ruby").  

One thing should already be jumping out at you as a HUGE red flag especially if you're a Bonnaroo vet.  For those uninitiated, here's a tip: don't bring a brand new car to Bonnaroo. #protip  Probably also good to ask a 'roo vet what to pack if you've never been.  No one in my group of roughly 8 or so had ever been (obviously!) so we clearly had no idea although some were better prepared than others.  I just wasn't one of them.

The ride to the 'roo was smooth and fast the first 152 miles of the approximately 153 mile trip.  We were all filled with anxious anticipation as we cranked our music loudly down the I-24 corridor through Chattanooga and back up the mountain toward Manchester (it's a U-shaped route from Knoxville to Manchester going that direction, but it is still the fastest way there).  We thought the rest of the trip would be so easy.  Little did we know.

1 mile from the entrance to "The Farm" as it's fondly known to many 'roo vets, we hit what seemed to be a never ending line of cars waiting to get into the festival.  This was the first real sign of what was to come.  I remember thinking "how long could this take?"  Even though we were a total standstill on the side of the interstate, we were all convinced it wouldn't be much longer before we were inside.  In the meantime, we did what any young 20-somethings would do in such a situation.  We drank and danced in traffic!  

We started slamming beers and every so often we'd jump back in our cars (and some times on top of them), go another 150 feet and then repeat the process.  Thinking back on it, i realize how dangerous that might have been, but we were kids and there were no smartphones back then so what else were we suppose to do?  Even wi-fi was a somewhat new concept back in those days.

After waiting approximately 11 hours, we were finally in.  We were drunk and warn out from the long wait, but once we found our campsite and got set up, we were back in good spirits and ready to experience what Bonnaroo had to offer.  Again, there's a bit of a blur between arriving and the next thing i remember, but i remember the next thing viscerally.

I had never been camping before in my life so sleeping on the ground was a brand new concept i wasn't quite prepared for.  I did manage to eventually fall asleep at around 5 or 6am that first night i think, only to be roo'dly awakened by the hot almost summer sun at around 7 or 8am. I was literally baking inside my tent (and not in the good way;-)  as i crawled out that morning already sweating my @ss off.  I feared this might be a harbinger for what was to come and i was right!

We had a pop up canopy, set up a table and camping chairs under it and cracked open some more beers.  We munched on some of our breakfast provisions and then eventually made our way inside "Centeroo" which for those of you who've never 'roo'ed, is where all the action happens.  It took us about 20-30 minutes to get there which would have been fine if we didn't have to make that trip 4-5 times a day.

Although i was a bit sleep deprived and maybe a bit hung over, i still remember how mesmerizing it was walking into Centeroo the first time (the mushroom shaped fountain blew my young mind!) and how hot it was already getting at roughly 11am that morning.  I also vividly remember the Mounties.  Yes, real life Canadian Mounties.

Well maybe not actual Mounties, but they looked like Mounties and they were the peacekeepers on site.  They were all on horseback and they didn't speak or interact with festivalgoers in any way.  (I don't even remember them speaking to each other.)  Admittedly they were a bit intimidating at first, but they were super chill.  After a while, i thought they may have been just for show, but i can't verify that with any certainty.  All i know is they didn't much mind any activities bonnagroovians were engaging in... legal or otherwise.  And otherwise was the name of the game at Bonnaroo 2002!

There were SO many drugs floating around that first year.  It seemed like any drug you'd ever want was available to be had with relative ease.  There were people walking all out in the open shouting "Shrooms, acid, Xtacy" like the mobile vendors you see at a baseball game.  There was one particularly good sales person with hippie dreads proclaiming "i got that hydro bubonic chronic" to passersby right in front of a Mountie and the Mountie didn't bat an eye.  It was as if Bonnaroo was sending a subliminal message that you can have your fun, just not TOO much fun. ;-)

The first show we saw that day was the Dirty Dozen Brass Band on the main ("What") stage.  I don't remember it being too terribly crowded because i remember being pretty close to the stage for that show and as a horn (tenor saxophone) player, i was happy to start my Bonnaroo musical journey this way.  Plus i'm sure i knew they had played with DMB which is all i needed to know back in those days.  I think the next show we saw was Les Claypool's Frog Brigade which i remember being quite strange to me.  I didn't know who Les Claypool was at the time so i didn't get.  I do now!  #ThanksBonnaroo.

The rest of that first day is you guessed it, blurry but i do remember it being extremely hot ALL day with next to no shade.  I typically don't have to worry about sunburn because of my dark complexion, but I got my first sunburn at Bonnaroo that year.  There were also no showers anywhere to be found... well unless you count the in Centeroo Mushroom Fountain.  The problem with it that first year is that the water coming out of it got progressively browner and thicker as the weekend wore on.  By the end of the weekend it took on the color and consistency of chocolate skim milk.  Also, there were barely any clouds to speak of let alone even the slightest chance of rain.  There was no manner of beating the heat that year or ever feeling fully refreshed.

Me?  I was miserable to be completely honest.  I was not having much fun and hadn't really heard anything musically that distracted me from the negative elements.  At the time, Dave Matthews Band was my musical existence and if i was listening to anything other than Dave, i wasn't really listening too well.  (I looked back at the lineup from that year and in hindsight do remember really enjoying Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, Jack Johnson and the North Mississippi Allstars).

And last but not least of which, there were the porta potties.  I'm not sure where to start with how bad they were so i won't.  Just know i avoided them like the plague.  Since it was the first Bonnaroo ever, Bonnaroo literally didn't have its sh!t together when it came to porta potty maintenance.  This unfortunately would cloud the entire festival experience for me.

The first night ended with Widespread Panic on the What Stage.  I was less than impressed.  There were no horns, no violins, no soaring vocals.  Just John Bell's raspy voice and a lot of guitar solos which at the time i didn't really get.  In retrospect, I regret not understanding how sick Michael "Mikey" Houser, WSP's first lead guitarist was at the time of that performance.  It would turn out to be one of his last live performances.  (Since that first time seeing WSP, i've probably seen them as many times as i've seen any other band with the exception of maybe DMB.  I  was so ignorant back then it's almost embarrassing.)  I would have enjoyed it more if i had allowed myself too, but i had pretty much written off the Bonnaroo experience already.  I was tired, i was hot and i couldn't use the bathroom.  

We went back to camp that night exhausted, but happy the sun was down.  I remember dreading going to sleep again that night because of how brutally i had been awoken that morning.  It was only the first day, but i was longing to be back home in the comfort of my own bed.  I was ready to go, but knew i was trapped there for at least another two days.

Fast forwarding again due to the fog of time, to the last show, Trey Anastasio on the main stage on Sunday night which had just ended and i had made the decision long before i was getting out of there as early as possible the next morning.  I didn't bother even sleeping in the tent that night.  I slept in my car.  I wanted Bonnaroo to be a distant memory and i was doing my best to make it so as efficiently as possible.  

I woke up before the sun that Monday morning.  I had already said my good byes the night before so i started my engine and headed towards what i thought was the exit.  I was in rough shape.  I was tired, smelly and desperate to get out  after 3 long nights and days on The Farm.  I was finally about to escape this nightmare, thank God... or so i thought.

I got about 1000 feet or so from where we were camped and immediately confronted another long line of cars... parked.  At first i thought "did these people camp here?"  No.  They like myself were trying to beat the rush to get out only to get stuck waiting to get out.  I couldn't believe it.  How long would it take to get out,  2-3-4 hours maybe?!  I was angry but didn't really have a choice but to wait.

12 hours later (yes you read that right, 12 hours later!) i was completely fed up with waiting.  I had gone maybe 500 yards in that span of time and was at my wits end.  It was probably the hottest day of the year so far (i remember the thermostat in my car reading the outdoor temperature at 100 degrees) and despite the efforts of the air conditioner in my new car, i was still melting.  I didn't have much food left nor the desire to eat.  Not sure i had much to drink either which is a huge festivalgoer no no.  Hydration is your friend. #protip

I finally decided i had enough.  I was busting out of that place and decided to follow the lead of a few other rebellious types who made their own path out.  It required crossing some barbed wire, driving through a ditch and popping up on the main road.  It was a chance i was willing to take at this point and i did.  Ruby did end up sustaining some minor damage, but otherwise the improvisation was a success.  I was finally on my way vowing to never return...  

But then i did the next year, and the next year, and the next year after that.  In total, i've been to Bonnaroo 11 times!  For the life of me i can't figure out what prompted me to even consider going back the second year.  I do remember why i went back for year 3 because year 2 was freakin' blast!  Why i went back that 2nd year though still baffles me to this day.  Maybe it has something to do with how magical Bonnaroo is, all peaceful and detached from the real world or maybe i just got peer pressured again.  Either way, i'm glad i went back.

Stay tuned for How Do You Roo Part 2- My Last Bonnaroo Experience coming soon and thanks for reading.  It's been fun taking this trip back in time!

Where Are The Girls?

First of all, no, i didn't just realize i was straight after all.  The girls i'm referring to are the ones that were taken from their parents at the border.  The Administration told us where the boys are being "housed" and even sent footage from inside ONE of those facilities.  The Administration has yet to produce images or even the locations where young girls are being held, however.  This is disturbing to say the least, but what might be more so is we also haven't seen where they're keeping infants.  This is NOT okay!

Fortune Cookie Wisdom

"Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future."

A Small Favor

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