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.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Tent City, 6 p.m.
“You got adderall?!”

This was my warm welcome to our camping grounds. As I first made my way over to the wooded area where I’d be roughing it for the next few days, this sweaty, bearded white dude sporting a tie-dyed bandana was sitting at a fold-out table and calling out to passersby for uppers. I paused. “Um, do I give off a vibe like I do?”

“No, I’m asking everyone,” he said. “If you know someone who does, tell them I’ve got weed in trade.” “Can do,” I said, then walked off.

Since our spot happened to be close to his, I had the pleasure of overhearing him call out to about another hundred pedestrians before either giving up, or maybe deciding to be a little more inconspicuous. He was the first but definitely not the last dude I’d come across with a soft spot for pills.

Among others on the prowl for narcotics (ganja, in particular), was an acquaintance that my friend Alex’s roommate had bumped into. With nothing better to do, we followed him to a tent dimly lit by a few Tiki torches, the residents sitting in a camper chair circle, passing a bowl around. We lurked awkwardly in the opening before said friend stepped forward and offered to pay them for some of their herb. The guy commandeering the conversation refused to take his money, and instead surprised us all by giving him a few nuggets to take on the road. But there was a price to pay: we were expected to sit down and hang out with them. Erf.

I remember smiling and nodding a lot, but what I really wished was that I could find a way to discreetly pull out my recorder to tape some of the ridiculous shit I was overhearing. Among some of the best morsels:

“My band member had a dream where he was standing at the foot of the pyramids, playing a guitar, while balls of fire came raining down from the sky on his face.”

“Burning Man isn’t just something you go to, you just do it. It’s human nature. Why wouldn’t you want to be your purest form of self, man?”

“The universe is compressing, the speed of light is increasing, and our world is shifting. And there’s only one place on the planet to observe the shift…this remote island 400 miles off the coast of Chile.”


I had to stare at my feet the entire time to keep from catching one of my friends’ eyes and losing it. Thankfully, my friend KP called me a few moments later and I was able to make a clean getaway. Saved!


Neverending Port-o-Potty Line, 6:56 p.m.
If you think this port-o-potty line seems hellish, you don’t want to know what awaits the victims at the end. The gas station bathrooms we stopped at on the way to Bonnaroo suddenly seemed like the height of luxury. Using these required unleashing all kinds of crazy Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon maneuvering to avoid the grime.


Silent Disco, 7 p.m.
The Silent Disco, in my humble opinion, is one of the coolest attractions at the fest. It’s a huge dance party, but rather than music pounding from speakers, it blasts through everyone’s individual pairs of headphones, making it look to passersby like the revelers are shaking their asses in total silence. Genius. However, it’s really around 3 or 4 in the morning when the place picks up and gets packed to capacity. The line extends for days, and masses gathered around to watch grow larger and larger. However, heading in before then kind of feels like the equivalent of heading to a highbrow NYC club on a Tuesday at 8. Meh.

Click to the next page to learn what shrooming festivalgoers should avoid.

Terrifying Bobble Head Statues, 7:39 p.m.
I’m not sure who it was that decided these frightening statues would make a positive addition to the Bonnaroo décor, but I’d really like to find them and throttle them. I’ll probably have nightmares about these for months.

Also: These can’t possibly be good for shrooming festivalgoers. Just saying.


Beer Fest, 7:41 p.m.
The Centeroo beer hall carried awesome brews from what seemed like every purveyor under the sun. It almost made up for the disturbing statues.