Bonnaroo 2011 marks the 10th anniversary of the Tennessee music fest, which features a surreal roundup of influential artists—from hallowed hit-makers to old-school royalty, and everything in between. However, the antics onstage hardly compare to the madness off—the grounds have become synonymous with sex, drugs, and hippie shuffling. Complex City Guide reporter Lauren Otis will be forgoing sleep and hygiene to go live on the ground and blog from the bonna-fied event. Come on feel the noise.
Thursday, June 9, 2011
This Tent, 10:58 p.m.
Though they’ve undoubtedly caused equal amounts of confusion and frustration for intoxicated festivalgoers over the years, I thoroughly enjoy the clever stage and tent names, which are kind of a heady play on “Who’s on First.” Your favorite artist could be appearing in “This Tent,” “That Tent,” or “The Other Tent”—or alternately, on “Which Stage” or “What Stage.”
‘Roo creators probably laugh their asses off watching lost friends on the phone trying to find one another.
Centeroo, 10:50 p.m.
Centeroo, as the name indicates, is the epicenter of the festival’s grounds. Like a carnival, there are vendors for days, all housed in different tents, each hawking some quirky kind of merchandise or “experience.” In addition to your standard henna and funnel cake stops, there are places to nab full body massages, craft your own conga drum, pass out in a hammock (I noticed nappers taking full advantage of this), and even get your hair done by a squad of Garnier stylists, assuming you don’t mind the fact that the humidity will have you looking like Don King minutes after. There’s also a red-lit tent urging guests to come in, hang out, and “take a Sheet.”
Sheets, as I learned from a press kit I received before the festival, are sort of a weird cross between Listerine breath strips and Red Bull, and they are no joke. I was pretty skeptical about the idea of an “energizing breath strip,” but figured it couldn’t hurt to pop one to see if it’d help me perk up after a draining day in the car. I have no idea what kind of speed they secretly mix into the formula, but my eyes felt like they were about to spring out of my head. I was ready to run laps, do jumping jacks, rush mosh pits and start banging people around. Proceed with caution.
Mushroom Fountain, 11:00 p.m.
Of all the bits of advice I’d received from Bonnaroo vets, the one I seemed to hear most frequently was “STAY THE FUCK OUT OF THE MUSHROOM FOUNTAIN!” Aside from frolicking and noodling, fest hippies apparently did all sorts of other unmentionable things in the water, which in turn got recycled and dumped right back out on the heads of more naïve individuals just looking to cool off.
I maintained my distance. God, it looked refreshing though.
Click to the next page to read about Lauren's encounter with Donald Glover.
Waste Cases, 11:44 p.m.
I came close to stepping on this kid on my way into the Childish Gambino show. There were a few others like him, sitting cross-legged in the dirt, heads in hands, rocking slightly back and forth, looking like they wanted to shoot themselves in the face. Thursday’s shows had only kicked off a few hours prior, so I was a little surprised to stumble upon partiers who’d outdone themselves so early in the game. Don’t get me wrong, I was expecting plenty of this, just not quite so soon. This kid’s weekend is looking pretty bleak.
Childish Gambino at This Tent, 11:59 p.m.
After having a chance to sit down and chat with Donald Glover a few hours before his show, it was really exciting to see the renaissance man take the stage as his alter-ego, Childish Gambino, and completely kill it. The tent was flooded with fans, some of who went as far as to flip over the nearest garbage cans and jump on top of them to try and get a slightly better view. There were also those who attempted to crowd surf their way to the front, but none made it very far; the Gambino fans beneath them were less than enthusiastic about supporting the weight of various 200+ lbs. bros trying to air-cut them. And there were quite a few. In fact, a pretty impressive portion of the rapper-actor-comedian’s cheering fans seemed to be the sort of guys he might’ve had his way with in his 2006 viral hit, “Bro Rape.”
Almost as entertaining as Gambino’s fanship was the overwhelming number of dudes who seemed to know all the words to Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” During a brief interlude, a screen behind the artist invited fans to clap and sing along to John Legend’s cover of the hit. The voices crying out in response were almost all male. Not that they didn’t know every last word to each of the performer’s other hits, because they certainly did. It became evident right away when viewers weren’t familiar with Glover’s music—they were the ones you’d notice flinching when he’d rap some of his less-PC lines with abandon. However, once they got over the initial shock, they too gave into the rapper’s charms. The guy is undeniably likable.