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. So we wished him godspeed, and off he went. Bobby really lets it go off the rails in this, the third installment of what transpired. —-(To begin at the beginning and read part one, click here. For part two, click here.)
Waking up at 11 a.m. inside a hot Corolla isn’t the best way to start your day. As I stumbled out of Melfi’s car and walked around to the trunk, I slipped on an empty garbage bag left over from the night before and fell right on my ass. In front of everyone. I could tell Friday was going to be a ridiculous day.
At noon I attempted to email my boss lady, Maija, at CityBeat. My phone battery was dangerously low, my 3G connection was even worse and at this point I gave up trying to use the Internet for the rest of the weekend. Lots of people who’ve lost their phone or gone without one for a while have told me how relieved they felt or how it freed them from the stress of texting and calling.
I didn’t feel like that at all.
In fact, I had to will myself into having a good time due to my cell phone being dead. Guess that’s just the dorky mobile journalist in me speaking.
After only one day of festivaling, the port-a-potties sucked. They were so gross. Not just an “Eww, gross, people poop in here and walk away” type of gross, but an “Eww, gross, there’s poop on the floor with a footprint in it” or an “Eww, there’s no toilet paper left in this one” or an “Eww, why are there empty beer cans and old tampon wrappers in the urinal part?” type of gross.
Rather than focusing on feces, I directed my mind elsewhere: to food. Sitting in our lawn chairs around the camp, I was informed about the one-dollar grilled cheese stand on Shakedown Street.
Now, before I get to the food, Shakedown Street is what the group of guys I went with called the road you take to get into Centeroo and walk to all the other camp sites. The food is cheaper, there are thousands of bowls and incense sticks for sale and there are lots of drugs. You can’t walk down the street without people whispering in your ear “’Shrooms,” “Mollies,” “doses,” etc. Pretty awesome and hilarious at first, but by the end of the festival it’s kind of too much. Too much drugs.
Back to grilled cheese. Although I didn’t end up trying one until Sunday morning, it didn’t take me long to realize it was the best thing going at the festival. Besides the awesome price, they throw some garlic butter on the bread. Surprisingly, the cheese isn’t good old American either. I forget which kind it was exactly but I’m super picky with cheese so whatever kind it is they use, it’s real good. Maybe Havarti.
Also, “special” grilled cheese and “special” brownies and other assorted baked goods came up as a topic of conversation. If you’re looking for stuff cooked with weed butter, Bonnaroo is the place to find it. Just don’t look for it at the stands. Check out the personal tents instead, where random campers sell sketchy things.
So around noon we decided we should probably head back to Centeroo to check out the bands.
Bowls were packed.
I learned that it’s a good idea (and considered fashionable) to rock board shorts all day, everyday, at Bonnaroo. Luckily, I had packed my highlighter-pink, -orange and -yellow Billabong board shorties, so I threw those on and put my pack of Silvers in my back pocket, the only pocket I had. Most of the guys went shirtless. Me too. It was so hot outside.
With nobody in particular that I was looking forward to seeing, I tagged along with the group to see the end of Toubab Krewe’s set, a band I had never heard of before. They were super cool and pretty entertaining. They play instrumental stuff that sounds like a mix of American and African. I’m pretty sure for their last song they were all playing some form of percussion instrument.
Also, Cody had smuggled several Bud Heavies into Centeroo (he waited until the security guards let everyone through without checking bags), which we were forced to consume rather quickly after a security guy approached us. He was actually really nice about it and instead of confiscating the beers or making us pour them out, he just told us to finish all of them right in front of him. So I guess that technically their security guards encourage drinking.
We asked him why they enforce the no-smuggling-beers-in rule, and he told us that it’s mainly because of pressure from festival sponsors. The guys I went with told me that after MTV took over Bonnaroo and got a bunch of big corporations in, the whole vibe changed just a little—for the worse. Even though we were drinking Anheuser-Busch products, that wasn’t good enough. We were supposed to buy $6 drafts instead.
Obviously, we said, “Fuck that,” and luckily for us, the security guard didn’t really give a shit and didn’t notice the few beers Cody still had hidden, wrapped in his jacket at the bottom of his backpack.
Then we walked over to another stage.
Animal Collective was playing at 2:45 p.m. at the Which Stage and I wanted to see them really bad, hoping they’d play a bunch of stuff off their newest record, Merriweather Post Pavilion. Before they came on, we sat up against the wooden boards off to the side and sat down (where people had probably peed the night before, we soon realized). Gomez was finishing their set.
Somebody packed a bowl.
So did somebody else.
Before Animal Collective came on, I got antsy. Matt, who had gotten a press pass for a previous Bonnaroo, knew where the media tent was: conveniently located right next to the Which Stage, where we were.
So I checked it out.
Not knowing at all what to expect and entering the media tent by myself, I was overwhelmed by the oasis of (outdoor) air conditioning and electrical outlets. Still had to pay big bucks for food and drinks though. There were a couple press conferences going on, but with nothing on me except board shorts and a pack of Silvers, I looked rather out of place, and definitely not like a journalist. But then again, nobody looked that journalistic.
After standing around feeling awkward for circa five minutes, I wanted a cig but I didn’t have a lighter, so I asked the guy next to me if he had one. He did. It was one of those sweet, cheap, clear plastic ones that come with a bottle opener on the side too. I told him I liked it. He told me his name. It was Justin, a guitarist from Toubab Krewe.
I was like “Oh yeah, I just saw you guys play.”
So that made me dumb, thinking this guy was another journalism nerd and he turns out to be a musician I just watched perform, but he was really nice and we shook hands and parted ways, cancer sticks in mouths. It was getting close to 2:45 p.m. and I was paranoid that I wouldn’t be able to find my group since my phone was dead and not on me, so I left the press tent after only 15 minutes.
Thank goddess I ran into Matt and Ellen when I walked back outside to the main area.
I made a mental note to definitely go back to the press tent A.S.A.P. to re-juice my phone and see what it was really all about. But that was Saturday.
My friend Jordan from Dayton later told me from home that Animal Collective had some sound problems with their set. Maybe that’s why I got bored so fast. They even played their trendy, new, accessible songs that I wanted to hear, like “My Girls,” “Lion in a Coma” (which I think they opened with), “Bluish” and other good tracks. But the group wasn’t really feeling it, and it didn’t seem like a lot of other people were either (except for this kid who looked like he was tripping really hard), so we walked out of the middle of the crowd to go see somebody else.
That’s when we discovered Galactic. I personally had never heard of them and knew nothing about them. They’re this Funk/Jazz band from New Orleans, and they had this killer tenor sax player up there who goes by Boe Money. He had an approximately 15-minute solo where he ended up in the middle of the crowd. Boe Money was so ridiculous that the trumpet player who had come out with him just stood up on the stage not even knowing what to do. It was such a long solo that it kind of got awkward. Good, though.
This was during the heat of the day so Ford and I walked to go get fresh-squeezed lemonades for four bucks. When we got back, Tony and Kate had found the rest of the group.
A dragon bowl was packed.
At this point I had already run out of cigs so I bought a pack of stupid 99’s off Chris, who had them in his backpack. Six bucks a pack is an awful lot to charge a friend for a fucked-up pack of cigarettes, I thought.
After Galactic’s pretty lengthy set, we started walking back. Some people bought gyros. Finally back at the campsite, the guys put shirts on for the first time that day. It was around 5 p.m. Also around the time my phone finally died.
Before putting on a shirt, I took a “shower” at the public sinks, which are used for tooth brushing, hair washing, feet rinsing and other cleansing activities. Gross, right? I was the first person in the group to attempt to get clean, which made me feel extra newbie-like, but cleanliness is next to godliness to me.
Around 7:30 p.m., our neighbor from Pittsburgh came over and offered free hits of acid to anyone who wanted them. There were stipulations though. 1) You had to put it in your mouth in front of him (I know, that’s what she said), and 2) You had to tell him you had tripped before.
Several of our group members took him up on his offer.
With the Beastie Boys set to play at 8:30 p.m.—right before Phish—everyone took his or her drug of choice (someone had found and purchased a bunch of Mollies — which are capsules of MDMA in pure form), and we went back to Centeroo. We were pretty much in the dead center of the crowd when the Beastie Boys came on. Sweetness.
Their light show was AMAZING. Of all the bands I saw there, they had the most visuals coming off their giant projector screens. As for the show, it was pretty good. High energy, good sound. They’re just three old guys in a band that I never really got into back when they were big.
Come to think of it, I’m not that into Phish either. But they were on next, from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. I was excited to see them for the first time, though.
I can’t emphasize what a great location we were in. Center of the main stage for Phish’s Friday night show was unbelievable. Everyone around us was so messed up and so into it. Except for Riley, who was so messed up that he just wanted to see Crystal Castles at 12:15 a.m. I mean, so did I, but I wasn’t announcing what time they came on and what tent they were playing at in the middle of a Phish show. If it were a less stoner-friendly show, he might have gotten his ass kicked. It was really funny though. He was actually wearing a Crystal Castles shirt at the time, and he told me he’d had it on for three or four days without taking it off or something amazing like that.
Phish fans fucking love glow sticks. When they took the stage, the sky lit up with rainbows of glow sticks showering upon us. Later on Sunday when we saw them again, I’d get hit in the head by a couple, which really hurt. Ellen had two boxes of glow sticks, so she gave me a couple that were the bendy kinds with connectors to make into bracelets. It was awesome. I guess I fucking love glow sticks too.
For as much as I wanted to see Crystal Castles and Girl Talk, I kind of felt bad leaving in the middle of the Phish show. It was a pain in the ass to maneuver through thousands of people tripping balls, laying on dirty blankets in the grass in the dark.
It took a while to get to That Tent where Crystal Castles were playing, but it was a very fun walk. Crystal Castles were kind of disappointing, though. I don’t think drummer Ethan Kath even came out, and it was really hard to see singer Alice Glass from where we were standing. I wasn’t in the right state of mind for their speed-freak set list either. I also heard that Alice was acting extremely cracked-out, but who knows? We weren’t incredibly close.
Then Girl Talk came out at the same tent at 2:15 in the morning. So absurd. I’d already seen him a couple times before, so I wasn’t expecting anything new or crazy, but I was wrong. First, Matt and I decided to get ourselves in the right state of mind for the show (like everyone else in the group already had), and then people starting getting smashed up against the stage. Gregg actually had to stop playing for five minutes or so and make an announcement because people were getting so squished up front.
About 10 minutes later I thought I was gonna pass out or maybe die again, and Riley ran out of the crowd with me with his CamelBak on, and we got more water for everyone. All we wanted was water. So much water. After that, I felt awesome. Lots of people at Bonnaroo walked around with CamelBaks, which I had never really seen before. Great for outdoor sports and outdoor concerts.
Then the usual crazy Americana trash visuals started showing up behind Girl Talk (sneakers, burgers, stuff like that), and then inflatable rafts started going out in the crowd. And of course there were a ton of people on stage with him. One of them must’ve unplugged his cords by accident because he had to quit playing again for a second after the sound got messed up, but overall it was a great show. Lots of drunk d-bags there, though. Girl Talk’s popularity has spread a bit too far into the college “Chug! Chug! Chug!” party scene.
I don’t remember if Girl Talk played for longer than he was set for but it was about 4 a.m. when he was done. We weren’t, though. While some of our group went back, Tony, Matt, Kate, Cody, me and maybe somebody else stayed in Centeroo until daylight broke, dancing our asses off to Paul Oakenfold, the world-famous Trance DJ. He was supposed to be done at four but he ended up playing until 6 a.m. The people who were still there were the most fucked-up people I’ve ever been around. This one gross fat girl had a pacifier necklace and was basically having sex standing up with this Dungeons-and-Dragons-looking guy. Puke.
Then there was maybe the funniest story of all. The same guy had another girl with him, who some of the guys I was with recognized as some hardcore Christian girl who goes to Xavier. She used to be roommates with one of their friends. So weird. She wasn’t acting like a Jesus freak at Bonnaroo, though. She was also having creepo dry sex with that guy, and at one point she literally started spazzing out like she was having a drug-induced seizure. Then the D&D guy went up behind her and started cracking her back and giving her fucked-up pressure points on her neck and spine, which seemed to have made her orgasm. Meanwhile, she had the facial expression of a rabid, crazy woman. It was really disturbing.
But Paul Oakenfold might have been the best show I saw there. I had never listened to his crazy-ass music before, and I may never again, but that night I danced harder than I ever have.
Then maybe the second funniest story from the weekend happened. Towards the end of Paul’s set, this dude around our age with a little Track backpack on comes up to me, looks me right in the eyes as seriously as possible and asks, “Hey, do you know where I can find any scene pussy?”
At first I didn’t even understand the kid, we were so fucked up, but when I did I couldn’t stop laughing. I told him, sorry man, but that I came here with a bunch of dudes. Then he asked if I was gay. Then I stopped laughing. Then he went up to Kate (trying to hook up with her) and proceeded to tell her that he hadn’t slept at all so far at Bonnaroo, that he just bought a whole roll of Mollies and that he wasn’t going to sleep the whole weekend.
When I read the Pitchfork article the week after about the person who died at Bonnaroo, I thought it might be that guy. For reals.
I think it goes without saying, but pretty much everyone dancing to Paul Oakenfold at 6 in the morning under a muddy tent was on Ecstasy. “Spoonfuls out of the brain.” Hmm.
So, Paul finally stopped playing (to our extreme dismay), and, exhausted, we walked back to camp very slowly and very much like vegetables. Coming down was really hard on everybody I was with, and when we got back to the site we just sat and smoked hookahs and bowls for an hour, just dead to the world. I tried eating some Baked Lays but my mouth was so dry I couldn’t swallow anything. Pathetically, I passed out in the tent around 8 a.m. Good night/good morning.
After about 30 minutes it got so damn hot the sun woke me up again. I had to lay down in random shady areas in-between our parked cars for the next few hours to get any sleep.
Whew. We're really hoping Bobby survived and will be submitting a fourth and final conclusion to his detailed accounts of Bonnaroo's rampant Bacchanalia. Check back for more.