Bobby Goes to Bonnaroo: Part One

Editor's Note: We here at the CityBeat editorial staff figured it would be an alright idea to allow one of our summer interns, Bobby Goodwin, to leave his post for a couple days and go out on assignment to fulfill his life's dream of attending the Bonnaroo Music Festival, provided he write a highly detailed chronicle of his misadventures in a series of four blogs. Here's part one of what transpired. —-

I’ve wanted to go to Bonnaroo since I was 17. Back then, I was a senior in high school with no money and no parental permission to attend the weekend-long music/drug fest. Four years later, I still have no money, but I made a point to attend Bonnaroo 2009 one way or another.

That’s when my friend Tony from Xavier told me about his ingenious idea. His girlfriend Kate writes for Xavier’s newspaper. She used her journalism skills to score her a free press pass (i.e. ticket) to Bonnaroo. All you have to do is apply on their Web site. So I spent the second week of May applying for a press pass through my journalism positions at Miami. Less than a week later, I got the best email I’ve ever received (unless you count the spam that made it through Gmail’s filter telling me someone in the U.K. owes me 500,000 pounds).

Anyway, the email told me 1) that I was approved for a press pass, and 2) I could pick up my pass at the will-call stand in Manchester, Tennessee the first day of the festival (Thursday).

But the work wasn’t over. It was just beginning. Turns out having fun takes effort. Lots. Step one was to go over the schedule of artists performing there who I wanted to see and make some choices — tough decisions like whether or not I should stay for the second half of Phish’s Friday night set at the main stage or go catch Crystal Castles AND Girl Talk instead. (I went with the latter option, obviously)

Not to mention the acts that I’d have to miss out on, like not being able to see Phoenix, who drew the short straw by being scheduled to play during the first half of Phish’s Friday night set. If it were up to me, I would’ve gone to see the French pop stars, but when you go with a group of 18 people, you go with the flow.

Step two was to tackle the world of emails flooding my inbox sent from Bonnaroo bands’ PR people begging for free press. This wasn’t all bad, though. I got to check out a few bands I might not have heard of otherwise, like Hockey, an up and coming group from Portland. I contacted their dude at EMI and set up an interview for Thursday afternoon. I freaked out when I got an email from Of Montreal’s representative, but I didn’t think I’d have time to be running all over the place doing interviews. I also didn’t think a band that I idolize like Of Montreal would be that interested in talking to some 22-year old kid.

Next was the lengthy task known as packing. Naturally, I waited until the day before to do so. And so began my five-day-long Bonnaroo adventure …


It actually didn’t hit me until my friend Melfi came and picked me up from my house and I put my bags in his car that I was really going. Surprisingly, going to and getting through the long workday on Wednesday wasn’t that difficult. It wasn’t like Christmas Eve, when my mind wanders, and I still feel the urge to stay up all night and occasionally peek over the banister at the presents under the tree. It was way more surreal. Like, HOLY CRAP, am I really leaving for Bonnaroo tonight?

So Tony, the unofficial leader of our Bonnaroo group, at least as far as I was concerned, decided it would make the most sense to drive down to his friend Matt’s house — who was also going — in Louisville on Wednesday night so we could get an early start on Thursday.

After I got off work in Dayton, I drove back to my apartment in Oxford to finally start packing. Flip-flops. Check. V-necks. Check. Jean shorts. Check. Athletic shorts. Check. Headbands. Check. Beanies. Check. Undies. Check. Socks. Check. One pair of shitty sneakers. Check. Actually, this is where I went wrong and what I would change if I ever return to Bonnaroo. This past weekend I converted from a Wellies hater to a Wellies supporter. I’m for ‘em. And guys can rock 'em too. But back to packing. Towel, flashlight, batteries my mom gave me, a couple hoodies, a rain jacket, my pillow, sunscreen, aloe ... yadda, yadda, yadda. I might have overpacked a little, but better safe than sorry.

In my haze of regret about not owning Wellies, I also forgot to bring a fold-out soccer mom chair. BIG MISTAKE.

For food, I brought some pretzels, Cracker Jack, M&M’s, bottled water (don’t judge me), and other assorted munchies. Yum.

For alcohol, I also overpacked, Turns out a fifth of Jim Beam (plastic bottles only as per Bonnaroo rules), and a case of Natty is more than I want to drink at a weekend music festival. Let’s not talk about the other experimenting that may or may not have gone on in place of alcohol.

Finally done packing, I drove home at 8 p.m. to eat my last home-cooked meal for a while and to grab more to-go food and a sleeping bag. While I waited for my ride, I checked out Hockey’s MySpace page and some stories written on them.

Around 9:45 p.m., Melfi picked me up and we went to go grab Chris, the third and final passenger in the Corolla (we had to fit in a tent and a cooler too). At about 9:52 I realize I’m a dumbass and I forgot my sleeping bag, so my sister drove it over to Chris’s house real quick. Just when I thought we were on our way, Melfi and Chris decided they wanted Sonic. I know, random, right? While I sat in the parking lot watching them shovel popcorn chicken with honey mustard into their mouths, Tony called. He’d been waiting for us to meet him at Xavier before he left to go to CVG to pick up Kate, who lives in Long Island. We decided it would be best if he just left to go get her without us, and we’d meet him there.

We ended up meeting them at a Steak N’ Shake in Kentucky. This fast food trend was only just beginning. There, I met Kate’s friends Pat, her cousin Alex and her boyfriend Aaron. Then we left for Matt’s, listening to Phish’s live album from Halloween 1998.

Matt and friends had been drinking in his backyard for some time by the time we finally got to his place around one in the morning.

That’s when my plans started dissolving.

Riley, another guy from our Bonnaroo group who runs for Xavier, was stranded overnight at the Dallas airport. His flight to Louisville had been delayed because of a tornado, or something dumb like that. That meant that rather than leave for Manchester circa 5 a.m. we’d have to wait until later in the day on Thursday to caravan to Bonnaroo.

The only thing I could selfishly think about was how this was sabotaging my attempts to interview Hockey.

The other guys that had been drinking at Matt’s and who I would come to know better over the weekend were Cody — who I went to high school with, Luke and Higgins — who I had met at a Girl Talk show in Columbus in February, Matt’s sister Ellen and Nick (a.k.a. McLovin). I hesitate to say “motley crew,” but we must’ve looked like a random bunch, between Xavier runners, a couple stoners, a little sister and me.

Around 3 or 4 a.m., we all decided it would probably be a good idea to pass out, so we did.

Stay tuned for part two.

Scroll to read more News Feature articles
Join the CityBeat Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.


Join CityBeat Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.