This year’s Bonnaroo marked the fifth time, since the festival’s inception nine years ago, that a four-day format was used over the original model: a trio of dates. In the past, top tier acts like The Allman Brothers, Dave Mathews Band, Bob Dylan, and Wilco brought zealous pastoral patrons out to the farm in flocks (the site of Roo-Fest rests on a 700-acre farm in Manchester, Tenn.) on day one. Now, music fans have a new motive for gathering on opening day…the discovery of the next big thing.
With every impending summer festival season since the Roo’s inaugural shove off in 2002, its popularity has grown. An event that once struggled to produce three full days of music had to expand by a day in 2006 to accommodate the throngs of artists that desired a slot on one of the many stages and tents on site. The evolution of this gala’s headliners is staggering. Producers have migrated away from procuring the likes of Jack Johnson and Trey Anastasio and have since booked legendary acts like Metallica, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Pearl Jam, Stevie Wonder, and Jay-Z to be the top dogs on the bill.
Since the aforementioned addition you won’t find those with the furnished plaques in Cleveland anywhere on the day one schedule. This period of time has grown into a creature of its own, a special entity, reservations set aside for the up and coming.
Crowds pack together, back to back, uncomfortably scraping elbows with every minor muscle spasm. They jockey for position to best view the future of music. The past tells the story better than I can…MGMT, Vampire Weekend, Passion Pit, and Zac Brown Band are just a few of the names jettisoned toward stardom on the back of a first day Bonnaroo performance.
So spectators bump bodies, they grind extremities, fighting for the extra foot, and always looking for the coveted crevice, the part in the sea that will lead them to the railing. Everyone in the tent knows the inevitable question pending from their ponderous friends: “How close were you for ______?” And nobody wants to be in the outskirts looking in at a career making performance.