Friday, June 12, 2009

Bonnaroo: Day 1

OK, so Day One of Bonnaroo is in the patchouli-scented bag and—other than the creeping realization that I’ll be loofa-ing dried mud off my lower half for the next several months—I managed to survive reasonably unscathed.

I merged onto I-40 West around 6:30 yesterday morning with an overstuffed backpack full of impractical outfits1 and three cases of Diet Coke, you know, in case of emergencies. Most of the drive was non-eventful, save for my screechtastic singalong with whatever spilled out of my iPod, although I could’ve done without the torrential rains. Little did I know, that was to be the theme of the day. HELLO, MY NAME IS FORESHADOWING.

After three pee stops (caffeine, you diuretic minx) and a swing through a Subway/Exxon hybrid, I got to my hotel around 1:15 and I’m pretty sure I recognized my room from an episode of CSI. I can’t say I’ve ever stayed in a place where the staff stands behind a plate of plexiglass and passes your key through a slot. “You’re in the handicapped room,” the cashier said, leaning toward the keyslot.

“What exactly does that mean?”

She sighed, as if I should be well-versed in the latest innovations in universal design. “It means your sink is lower and your shower don’t have a door. Sign here,” she said, passing me a credit card receipt and a pen with a logo from the regional medical center. “Checkout time’s noon on Sunday and remember, occupancy by more than six people is unlawful an’ violates the fire code.”

“Six people? You have more faith in me than I do.” I gave her my best student council smile. She responded by closing the slot and turning up the volume of the small television behind the scratched window of her cage.

I quickly showered, changed and ironed my shirt. The iron rained rust flakes and white pellets onto the front of my garments but that stopped mattering when I flipped it over to find I’d melted a centipede into the back of it. Grabbing another shirt, I tossed 90% of my things (including anything that touches my face and/or my gums) back into my backpack and carried it out to the car, where it will spend the rest of my stay living in the tailgate of my earth-mauling SUV.

My luxurious accommodations are close to 20 miles from the ‘Roo grounds and, although it took six and a half hours to cover 450 miles, it took almost three more to go the final 15. I had to swing by a radio station to pick up my Media Wristband, an accessory which is reasonably cool-looking but its dangling ends get in the way of my Portajohn maneuvers.

After several false starts at going in the right direction, I stopped at a Kangaroo gas station to casually bat my eyelashes at at Tennessee State Trooper to see if I could get any assistance. “You’re with the press,” he said, unable to hide his surprise when I nodded. “You ever interview Metallica?” I told him I hadn’t. “You’re young. You still have time. They’re my favorite band, you know.” We swapped stories about Master of Puppets, covered the years he spent stationed in Germany and, ten minutes later, I was directed back onto the interstate, back to the same endless line of traffic. Flirtfail.

Officer Metallica did direct me to a different exit on the interstate, but that was one for VIPs and artists, not for minor members of the internet press. A girl in a shirt stamped 'Security' made me bang a U-turn in the middle of the road and on each unsuccessful attempt, the honks and one-fingered salutes from the other drivers made me wish I didn't have a personalized license plate.

After another stop and another chat with concert security, I was directed toward a field where I waited for the staff shuttle and within ten minutes, I was lodged in the back seat of an Astrovan, wedged between two Canadians who had come to sell dreamcatchers. “You get your car searched on the way in?” a bandanna wearing twentysomething asked me. I shook my head. “Lucky. Cause that sucks. They had us on the side of the road, going through our shit. What I learned last year though is that anything you want, you can buy here anyway.”

“Yeah, after waiting outside I could use a glass of lemonade.”

He looked at me like I was speaking in tongues. “Um. Yeah. Anyway, we hid some stuff in our taillights. If you’re interested, I get off from work around ten.”

After a quick trip down a rutted road, we were deposited at the far end of the facility. If Bonnaroo needed an enema, they’d insert it where the staff shuttle rolls in. But I was there! And all that stood in my way was a thick grey mudsludge that made me understand why the media info suggested that you wear wellies.

The rest of the evening went by quickly. I’d hoped to see indie popsters the Delta Spirit but they had some weather-based travel delays (or maybe they just talked to the same cops I did) so instead I caught the Alberta Cross, White Rabbits, and Hockey—the latter of which should be your new favorite band.2

Just after ten, severe thunderstorms and tornado warnings sent me screaming for the press tent, where I cowered on an inflatable sofa and hoped that my life wouldn’t end with mud-caked feet beside people wearing ironic t-shirts. When the weather calmed down and the angry red splotches disappeared from the local radar, I made a break for the shuttle and rolled back into the hotel by midnight.

As I write this now, I’m waiting for media orientation and the beginning of what promises to be a very busy, very full day with a couple of interviews in the early afternoon and the David Byrne show tonight, where I’ll test the limits of this multicolored wristband and see exactly what I can do with it. Cause, you know, Once in a Lifetime and all that…

1 Note: Don’t wear anything white. Or anything that you don’t want to stain. Or anything you don’t want someone else to stain for you.
2 Reviews of the shows and a couple of videos are on my main gig at Bitch Buzz.


The Dutchess of Kickball said...

Being searched on the way is a typical occurrence for anyone in a car larger than a MG Midget or anyone without clean hair. Last year we witness someone get caught with a helium tank full of hash. 365 days later I'm still trying to figure out how that was done, I just can't wrap my brain around the concept, and I saw it with my own two eyes.

Felicia said...

I like that song you posted by Hockey. I'm going to Lolla for the 5th year in a row in Aug. so I'm excited to hear some newer bands!

MonsteRawr said...

They hid it in their taillights? Seriously, you can't make that shit up...

Lisa Page Rosenberg said...

This reminds me of the Us Festival.
That means that I am very old.

emmysuh said...

I'm so behind in J-Money Land. I blame the Internet, because, really you can blame the Internet for everything these days.

I am very much looking forward to more Bonnaroo stories, mishaps, and interviews, and I'm sure you won't let us down.

Have fun!

Herding Cats said...

Hockey! I love them and went to college with them. I also occasionally stalk them everytime they are in LA, and am amazed when they remember me! I'm excited they are making the rounds!

Studley said...

If you have time, would you review Bonnaroo regulars Gov't Mule, pretty please? That is one of my all-time favorite band names.

Melanie said...

I live like 40 minutes from the field that is Bonnaroo and have yet to go. I REALLY wanted to go this year and couldn't find anyone willing to go with me. I wish I had know you were going... I would have come and we could have at least pretended to be instant friends and enjoy good tunes before going our separate ways again. :)

Blackbeard's Wyfe said...

I take it that this is your first time among the frustrated hippie crowd..... said...

My rule of thumb for any music fest it "throw away clothes ONLY!"

Alya said...

I'm so glad I get to read your adventures because God knows I could never do 1/10th of the stuff you do!

By the way, I've got fantastic pearl earrings to giveaway at my blog. Come check them out :)

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

Loving the fact that all being disabled gets you is a lower sink. I'd at least want a bunch of flowers or chocolates on the bed.

v8grrl said...

For some strange reason it just doesn't sound as fun as it should be.


maybe more booze needs to be pouring.

hurry and post some pictures!!