In less than a month, tens of thousands of my best friends will convene on a farm in the middle of Tennessee to enjoy music, art, food and endless good vibes.
They will be celebrating Bonnaroo — perhaps the most wonderful four days of the summer.
Roo started in 2002 as a jam-band music festival and has since evolved into a massive production that features every type of music under the sun. Attendance some years numbers more than 80,000.
My first Roo experience in 2012 was transformative. My friend Tommy and I threw a tent and couple guitars in the back of my rusted-out 1994 Jeep Cherokee and headed for the promised land. Roo delivered beyond our imaginations.
During the evening of our first night, we set up camp with our neighbors and soon-to-be-friends. Our neighbors were from Chicago (not far from our hometown, Milwaukee) and together we formed what would be known that weekend as the “Wolfpack.”
We got there a night early and before the music officially started. That didn’t stop the tunes from flowing, though. With my trusty guitar, I walked through the campgrounds singing Bob Dylan songs. At one time, the Wolfpack was joined by a swarm of people to sing “The Times They Are a-Changin.’”
As soon as the sun rose the next morning, we were forced outside of the tent by extreme heat. There’s no “sleeping in” at Roo.
Then the music festival formally started. To use the parlance of the times — it was dope.
When we weren’t hiding under trees to recharge in the shade, we were watching concert after concert. The quantity and quality of music at Roo in 2012 was amazing. One of my all-time favorite bands — the Red Hot Chili Peppers — were one of the headliners. Pure bliss.
Who’s headlining in 2017? The Red Hot Chili Peppers, of course.
Unfortunately, I won’t be at Roo this year. It just wasn’t in the cards. Since my maiden voyage, the only other year I missed the festival was 2013 (regrettably the year Paul McCartney headlined). And while the quality of Roo’s lineups has declined the last couple years, the farm’s magic is alive and well.
I know it sounds super corny, but there is something in the air at Roo that fills attendees with joy. The exchanges of high fives, the sing alongs, the Spicy Pie, the unforgettable late nights and the charming Southern drawl of a cute Bonnaroo girl … these things changed me forever.
Have you ever sang “Tiny Dancer” with Elton John and 80,000 other smiling, sweaty hippies in a wide open field? I highly recommend it.
Many of my friends are making the trek again this year, and a part of me is a little jealous. But it’s all good. I’ll be with them in spirit, and I’ll probably return to the farm some day.
As for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, I will see them next week when they take over the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. Life is beautiful.
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