Bonnaroo Festival 2011 – Day One

Today we woke up and headed straight to the conveniently located Starbucks right next to the Holiday Inn. After a quick caffeine jolt, we checked in at the Coffee County Conference Center and went on our merry way to the campgrounds. The line was much more manageable than the previous night and we breezed through security, answering the question “Do you have anything illegal?” with a firm “No.”

We were able to stake a plot in the Bonnaroo-named “Luke Skywalker” Camp along the makeshift rope-line fence. This location should be helpful considering our early leave time on Sunday. Unlike everyone else we are not blocked in by tents and cars. All we have to do is raise the rope and we are out on the main exit road. Unfortunately, while we were pitching our borrowed tent we suddenly realized it was the smallest tent ever. It’s barely a two person. More like one and a half.

The first band we wanted to see had a settime of 4:15pm giving us about three hours to get situated and see what Bonnaroo was really like. Walking to the festival entrance will take you awhile. The campsites are so large that there are street signs to keep you from getting lost. Luke Skywalker is located near 2nd Street and Eighth Avenue. By the time we entered the festival grounds we were basically dripping in sweat. Everywhere people are telling you to keep hydrated and they’re really not kidding. Your body continuously sweats out your water supply. We are not camels so waiting in the water fill line is an essential as they make you toss out any liquids before entering.

Futurebirds played on the “That Tent” stage. Before this gets more confusing let me explain. All of the most used stages are named facetiously. There is “This Tent,” “That Tent,” “The Other Tent,” “Which Stage,” and my personal favorite “What Stage.” Asking someone to help you find a specific stage or tent just might devolve into a massive Abbott and Costello skit.

And so Futurebirds from Athens, GA played a welcome mixture of folk, country, bluegrass, and even a twinge of psychedelia. Amongst the large crowd were young folks and old folks. I heard one guy say he wanted to buy their album when he got home. It was a good performance and you could feel the good jam vibes radiating from the stage. At the end they performed a cover of the Stevie Nicks hit “Wild Heart” with grand vocal harmonies.

Up next on the same stage were Freelance Whales, an indie pop group from New York City. Eleanor had seen them before at the Austin, TX festival South By Southwest. She said their sound had been terrible and in effect ruined the overall performance for her. It was definitely a younger audience and most seemed to recognize opening chords and get excited upon hearing favorite songs. The band seemed very humble to be playing Bonnaroo and it was nice to hear them thank the crowd and state the sentiment that they felt privileged to perform. Also, this time around Eleanor gave them a thumbs up on sound quality. I totally geeked out during a lull in the music when I saw a minute Sophia Bush exiting the tent. Celebrity TV drama actor sighting number one.

We took a food breather and sat on a bench between the Best Coast and School of Seven Bells sets. I’ve seen Best Coast before and frankly wasn’t that impressed, but I hadn’t really paid much attention to Seven Bells. From what I could tell, it sounded pretty alright. The selection of food at the festival is varied. Everything from stuff you’d get from the state fair like fried Oreos, cheesy fries, pizza, and corn dogs to items you’d find at a nice food trailer park like stuffed burritos, vietnamese baguette sandwiches, and chicken skewer plates. Needless to say, there is a little something for everyone.

We caught The Drums at The Other Tent which turned out to be a pleasant sized dance party. I really love the surfer boy band sound and the way the lead singer uses his lackadaisical vocal style. One thing about Bonnaroo that totally freaks me out is all the underaged girls wearing nearly nothing. The Drums crowd was probably 70% female and many of them were 20% clothed. So think about that before you drop your children at some random music event without doing your homework. Pro tips; use them for life.

There was a rather short winded debate on whether we should stick around for Sleigh Bells that became decided on the amount of people stuffing themselves into the tent. Twin Shadow played at This Tent to a much smaller, but better suited audience. The band collectively has awesome fashion sense and to prove my point some bro opined “They are all dressed so cool!” George, a.k.a the Twin Shadow guy, was wearing what can only be described as a black Nefertiti hat, yet not quite as tall as the one the Queen wore. With bumping bass and sensitive lyrics, Twin Shadow got the emotional dance party started. One song, it may have been “Castles in the Snow,” was written about or for some lucky lady in attendance.

The show was great and Childish Gambino was up next, but we were exhausted. We needed sleep like a junkie needs their fix. From our distance we could hear muffled bass and low chatter, a perfect lullaby to end our first full day at Bonnaroo.

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