This summer, SCAD Radio DJ Olivia Kline attended several music festivals. In this series, she relates and reviews her experiences.
At 2:35 p.m. that Thursday, I submitted my last final, drove home, burned my sketchbooks and notes from that quarter, and celebrated the end of my first year at SCAD. Over the next three days I moved to a new apartment, said summer good-byes, drove home to hug my parents, and headed to Tennessee for the musical mecca, Bonnaroo. This was my third year attending Bonnaroo, so I thought I knew what to expect. But then Lionel Richie made a surprise appearance with Kenny Rogers…
If you haven’t been to Bonnaroo, here’s a snapshot: you and your friends pile yourselves and all your gear into a compact car, drive to a small town in Tennessee, camp ten feet from your neighbors, wake up every morning feeling like a truck ran over you, go to sleep every night to the distant sounds of electronic music, become friends with everyone you meet, and snag bottled water from the security guards at the barricades you’re pressing too close to. When it’s all over, the first night you sleep in warm bed feels like heaven on earth.
The lineup for this year’s Bonnaroo was fantastic! First up was Radiohead. I knew the feeling of true transcendence once I saw Thom Yorke’s ponytail lit by 12 huge screens filled with pink lights. They opened with “Bloom” and ended with two encores, fireworks, and a nod to Jack White. Next, The Beach Boys seemed to radiate sunshine from their 70-year-old bodies during a gloomy Sunday afternoon set as three hundred beach balls bounced above the crowd and Mike Love led us on a journey to 1960s Southern California. After this high, the crowd held each other and wept as Justin Vernon from Bon Iver—in burnt orange corduroy pants—pulled out an antique resonator guitar and sang “Skinny Love.”
Amazing music is to be expected from these bands, but some of this year’s best music and most fun shows were from some unexpected acts. tUnE-yArDs held a dance marathon and performed the live score to a collection of Buster Keaton shorts—probably the coolest thing I’ve ever seen at Bonnaroo! Phantogram solidified the classic summer feeling in their Thursday night set. Flying Lotus paid homage to the Beastie Boys with “Intergalactic” during a set that no one wanted to end.
I missed Trampled by Turtles on the big stage, but I caught a smaller, 30-minute set that ended with a cover of Bob Dylan and The Band’s “The Weight.” By happy accident, I caught a screening of Crank 2 with commentary by Doug Benson, Dax Shepard, and friends. Questlove led a Superjam session in which D’Angelo surprised everyone after 12 years, and Eric D. Johnson of the Fruitbats played with The Shins for the second half of their set.
The worst part of Bonnaroo—even worse than the portable toilets—is how much you must inevitably miss at a festival this size. This year my regrets were missing Charles Bradley and the Extraordinaires, The Avett Brothers, The Antlers, The Temper Trap, Aziz Ansari…you get the idea.