Bonnaroo: Music, Arts, Camping, Masquerade and Sheer Insanity

Tickets are still available for the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, 2005. This incredible event takes place June 10 - 12 in Manchester, Tennessee. With eight stages, 100 acres of entertainment and nonstop action, there is so much to do, so many bands to hear, so many people to meet and so much fun to have that it's easy to get overwhelmed trying to plan. The key is to be organized yet flexible. You want to have an idea who you are going to see and what you are going to do but still be ready for last minute changes as you hear great things about new bands and events.

The Bonnaroo website designers have done their best to help you with the planning dilemma. The site has a tool that lets you customize and print your schedule. There is also a useful FAQ PDF file with lots of information you can find under the general info link. Every name in the artist lineup will take you to a short bio. Many of the artists have links to their websites from there with even more information to help you decide who to see. I want to see Steve Bryne simply because he says "blah blah" in his bio; rather an appropriate text choice for a comedian.

Bonnaroo began in 2002 and was a huge hit immediately. Rolling Stone named it one of the 50 moments that changed the history of rock'n'roll. I notice that last year there were 90,000 attendees and this year there are 3000 festival employees. That is about one employee for every 30 fans, or about the ratio of teachers to students in elementary school. What are all these employees doing? They're putting together a list of activities that range from yoga to DJ school to a comedy club to a beer festival to a music technology village. Oh and they're doing things like making sure that when, as happened at the 2004 Festival, a naked man crawls up a couple of stories into the giant temporary lighted arch with glass jewels, built as a decoration for the entranceway to a stage, that the very drunk, very nice, naked man makes it back down to the ground with no mishaps. Doesn't that make you feel safe?

The best thing about Bonnaroo is the mellow yet vibrant atmosphere. Nowhere else will you find tens of thousands of happy people who are so kind and considerate. The hardest part of Bonnaroo (besides deciding which things you just can't do because you can only be in one place at a time) is actually driving onto the farm where the Festival takes place. A member of the Quality Time team attended the 2004 event. It took twelve hours for his car to make it through security/check-in. Other attendees have told me it took them about eight hours. You would think that when you have a bottleneck of people who have driven a thousand miles and now have to wait forever to get in, that everyone would be terribly grouchy but they aren't. People play Frisbee, hackeysack, guitar, make out in the woods, listen to music, drink beer and just hang out. It's quite different from the Baltimore to DC commute we make every day that takes about as long.

Once you get inside the Festival the attitude just gets better. You're grooving with a huge group of people who are all looking for the same good time you are. Last year there were thunderstorms and mud everywhere but the prevailing mood was still sunny and bright. Speaking of sunny and bright it is going to be way hot. You cannot bring enough water. You need lots and lots of water. You need a rag you can soak and put on the top of your head to keep you from passing out. You need some sunscreen and you need a hat. Seriously, ne'er do well happy go lucky teenagers are stressing how important the water and head protection is so you had better listen.

You absolutely can't miss Modest Mouse. The commercial success of their latest CD, Good News for People Who Love Bad News, has made this band the hottest new band to have been touring for a decade. How could you not fall in love with a band clever enough to come up with a title like that? I'm certainly not strong enough to resist. They put on a terrific live show and I expect their Bonnaroo performance to be stellar. Other bands we'd like to see include Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters 2005, Jurassic 5, Jack Johnson and Dave Mathews.

The comedy tent sounds great, as does the Masquerade Ball taking place Friday night. I love that you cannot get in unless you are in costume. That's the way a masked ball should be run. Bonnaroo is promising a surprise band and wacky happenings. If you're in the mood for some Old Skool arcade action be sure to hit the Bonnaroo Discotèque for some games, both classic 80s arcade and very new Xbox. Of course if you are feeling positively Ancient Skool you should try the Bonnaroo Game Room, which will be chock full of board and card games. You can get a tournament going or just relax. Worried about your cell phone batteries running low or getting socked with roaming charges when you get home? Check out the Broadband Internet Village where you can make free VoIP phone calls to your heart's content.

The Bonnaroo website says if you dig great beer and good times then go to the Brooer's Festival for music, divine microbrewery offerings and other wicked cool special features. I guess that means every single person at the Festival will head over to Brooer's because who doesn't like great beer and good times? Besides aren't you supposed to have a beer when it is hot? I'm pretty sure I read that somewhere. Once you've quenched your thirst you should repair to the Scratch DJ Academy and find out if four turntables and three microphones is five times as good as two turntables and one microphone. I strongly suggest you make time for the digital music village. The staff will be passing out blank CDs so you can burn licensed Bonnaroo artists' tracks and make a CD sampler to take home with you. There is also an air-conditioned lounge where you can give your feet a rest and let your body recover from the heat.

Be sure to watch and listen for the Buskers who will be roaming the Festival. They don't just play and sing, there will also be town criers, jugglers and fire breathers. (Remember, you can go back to the air-conditioned lounge if just the sight of the fire breathers overheats you.) Sonic Village will have reps from Gibson, Harp, Relix, Cat's Music and much more. Festival performers will be in and out doing fun things like signings and interviews. Yikes, I forgot to mention there is supposed to be a 24-hour cinema tent hosted by New Line Cinema.

There is an awful lot going on and a lot to remember. The most important things to keep in mind are to stay hydrated, try to get at least an hour of sleep for each four hours you are up and don't forget to live up to the name of the Festival. The word Bonnaroo is Cajun slang for a great time so get out there and have one.

Follow-up on the Preakness - favorite Afleet Alex won the race with an amazing display of bravery and athleticism. Despite a fearful blow from Scrappy T, which nearly brought him to his knees, Afleet Alex avoided disaster, recovered and finished first. I'm astonished and thankful that jockey Jeremy Rose was able to stay aboard. Jockey and colt are now looking forward to the last race of the Triple Crown, the Belmont, running on June 11th.