Traveling from our cabin to the local Walmart in Tennessee is part of our yearly Bonnaroo ritual. The parking lot fills to the brim with festival goers and locals alike, creating an interesting mix of hippy aesthetics clashing with the southern backdrop. If you’re not in the network of people tracking official notifications on their phones, it’s just as easy to wait in Walmart for the crowd to start moving if you want to get in the front of the line to get in on Wednesday.
In reality, what pod you end up in is kind of a crapshoot. You can do your best to get there early and line up on the highway, but there will always be people ahead of you and there will always be the chance that you will get the best spot of your life and the worst festival experience or vice versa. Shout outs to pod 10 in 2015. You should go in with the attitude that you get what you get and you make of it what you will. Any other strategy will result in disappointment eventually.
Case in point: the first thing we ran into after getting into Bonnaroo was seeing the Great Fire of 2018.
Our first impression was that we were going to have to pack up all of the things that we had just unpacked because the festival was canceled. How could a fire that big not be bad news? Well, thanks to Reddit, we found out that it was actually an automotive plant that was on fire, not Bonnaroo itself. With that mystery solved, we proceeded to unpack our stuff and set up camp.
I always suggest moving in on Wednesday if you get the chance. Not only is it less of a hassle, but you get a full day to explore the campgrounds, vendors, and the secret sets/smaller shows that pop up in the pod tents.
Last year, I spent most of the evening in the House of Yes’ barn near Pod 3. The House of Yes is a Brooklyn-based theatre production that set up in their campground venue and was promoting their dress rehearsals on Wednesday. I went in expecting a dress rehearsal and instead got one of the most entertaining experiences of the whole week. Here’s a little taste from my Instagram.
Needless to say, Wednesday was a resounding success! Not only did we see one of the best shows of the event at the House of Yes, but we also had the chance to relax after setting up camp and enjoyed a few leisurely walks through the campgrounds. If you can take the extra day off, arriving on Wednesday will make your entire Bonnaroo experience better.
Next week, I will go over what happened on Thursday, the first official day of Bonnaroo proper. My goal is to have a post for each day of the festival and then one for our trip home.
For those curious, here are a few tips for moving in and setting up camp at Bonnaroo:
- Follow Instructions: Don’t be a jerk to the volunteer staff and always follow instructions.
- Claim Your Ground: Once your vehicle is parked, get out and unpack your biggest stuff first. This will help claim the ground around your car, just in case nearby attendees feel inclined to encroach on your space. It’s always a good idea to radiate positivity, but there are also practical things you can do to make your experience better.
- Set Up A Marker: Unless your vehicle is a giant neon orange truck, you may want to set up some sort of land mark or flag for your campsite. This will especially help at 4 AM when you and your friends are crawling back to bed.
- Check Your Exhaust: Unless you brought a separate generator, you may need to turn on your vehicle to charge batteries, etc. In that case, you want to ensure that our exhaust is not blocked or headed straight into someone else’s camp/tent. The way that Bonnaroo has been setting up camp lately, this is less of an issue, but it is always a good thing to check on just in case.
- Secure Your Valueables: Yea, yeah… radiate positivity and all, but also lock up your crap. I have been robbed at Bonnaroo before (nothing more than a few bucks, but still a bummer). Lock your valuables in your vehicle if possible.
- Get Some Rest: This is especially true if you’ve just finished a 1,500 mile road trip to Tennessee. Your legs are going to thank you for it in the long run.
If you’d be interested in reading more about my experiences traveling and visiting music festivals, feel free to shoot me a comment to let me know.